Friday, August 22, 2014

Singapore Night Festival 2014: Bold and Beautiful

The Singapore Night Festival 2014 is set to impress with performances, light art and activities anchoring on this year's theme, Bold and Beautiful.

After a quick browse of the festival guide, these will be my personal picks for the Singapore Night Festival 2014:
William Close and the Earth Harp at the National Museum's front lawn.
Photo courtesy of Belinda Tan.
Special thanks to her for the permission to use her photos taken at the media preview.

William Close Featuring ZingO and Sound of Sirens
National Museum of Singapore, Front Lawn
Fri 22 and Sat 23 Aug 2014
7.30 p.m. : ZingO
8.00 p.m. : William Close and ZingO
9.15 p.m. : William Close
10.30 p.m. : Sound of Sirens
11.45 p.m. : William Close and Sound of Sirens
(Each show is about 30 minutes long in duration. )

This set of specially commissioned performances is a collaboration between international artist, William Close (United States), and Singapore's Sound of Sirens and the local trailblazing drum group ZingO.

I am curious to witness the larger-than-life instrument, "Earth Harp", that William Close has invented to explore the connection between architecture and music. According to the festival guide, William Close, is inspired by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright's belief that "architecture is frozen music".

ZingO. Singapore Night Festival 2014.
Photo courtesy of Belinda Tan.

Night Lights
I was told that compared to previous years of the Singapore Night Festival, this year's Night Festival has the most number of Night Lights projects. This year, the Singapore Night Festival pays tribute to the power of nature and the creation of light.

For more information, please visit

Night Lights. Taken near the National Museum of Singapore.
Photo courtesy of Belinda Tan.

ALSOS* By Scenocosme (France)
Armenian Church
This interactive installation will give me enough reasons to visit the Armenian Church. In this interactive installation, visitors are equipped with flashlights as they walk into a clearing that is hypnotically lit. From the descriptions printed on the festival guide, it seemed like visitors have to prepare ourselves for surreal experiences which involve light and sound.

Dresses of Memory (France/Korea) By Taegon Kim
Armenian Church
Who would have thought that the dresses floating in the dark would be made of fibre optic cables? Each dress tells its own story. This night light installation seems enthralling.

Divine Trees By Clément Briend (France)
National Museum of Singapore, Main Ground
The festival guide cautioned "As you approach the Main Ground in front of the National Museum, don't be alarmed if you see a majestic visage of a divine figure looking down at you." These surreal light projections onto objects of nature are said to be a study of the divine and the spiritual in the world.

Divine Trees by Clément Briend.
National Museum of Singapore, Main Ground.
Photo courtesy of Belinda Tan.

Greenhouse Effect By Maro Avrabou and Dimitri Xenakis (France)
SMU Walkway (Opposite Kopitiam along Bras Basah Road)
This light installation questions the impact of industrialisation on our environment and what we perceive to be nature. Possibly a tongue-in-cheek installation to discuss about serious environmental issues.

Festival Village
Cathay Green (Opposite School of the Arts)
7 p.m. - 2 a.m.
After feeding the soul with good art, remember about feeding the stomach with good food too. This year, the Festival Village at Cathay Green is a dedicated zone for festival-goers to chill out, eat, drink and be merry. This is the place to listen to the performances of local bands and to catch film screenings.

I recommend that festival-goers go for the delicious and fresh salad made with love by Spinacas. It is possible to enjoy delicious food that is healthy too at the Singapore Night Festival. Many of my friends who have eaten the salads from Spinacas have given positive reviews of the salads. I heard from a friend who has attended the media preview of the Singapore Night Festival that the meatballs that went with the salads from Spinacas were very good. The truth is, this Singapore Night Festival 2014 will be my first time eating the salads from Spinacas. I hope I will be able to get a serving of it before the salads are sold out!

Singapore Night Festival 2014
22 and 23 Aug 2014
29 and 30 Aug 2014
8 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Free admission

Festival Venues:
- Basah.Bugis Precinct (5 zones)
- National Museum of Singapore
- Armenian Street (including Peranakan Museum, The Substation and Armenian Church)
- Singapore Art Museum and Queen Street (including National Design Centre)
- Singapore Management University and School of the Arts
- Cathay Green (Opposite SOTA)
Nearby MRT stations: Dhoby Ghaut, Bras Basah, City Hall MRT stations

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Queenstown Heritage Trail: The charms of the Queenstown Community

Tanglin Halt.

Special thanks to the civic society My Community and the Queenstown Community, I took part in My Queenstown Heritage Trail on 27 July 2014. This guided tour brought us participants to various parts of Queenstown including Tanglin Halt and Commonwealth Drive.

It was announced by the Housing and Development Board on 27 June 2014 that a total of 31 residential HDB blocks at Tanglin Halt Road and Commonwealth Drive will be redeveloped under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme together with the Commonwealth Drive Food Centre, Tanglin Halt Market and about 50 shops and four eating houses in seven shophouse blocks in the Dawson estate. Before these huge changes will take place, it is worthwhile to make a visit to Tanglin Halt and Queenstown to witness its old world charm. One of the interesting aspects of the tour was that participants get to interact with a few of the long-time residents living in Queenstown.

The start of My Queenstown Heritage Trail at Queenstown MRT station.

My Queenstown Heritage Trail is a guided tour of Queenstown. These tours take place on the last Sunday of every month. The tours are conducted by volunteers from civic group, My Community. Each tour starts punctually at 9 a.m. from Queenstown MRT station, and is about two hours long. At the start of the tour, each participant was given a copy of the booklet titled My Queenstown Heritage Trail published by My Community in April 2014.

The former Queenstown Driving Test Centre. 15 Commonwealth Ave.

The first stop of My Queenstown Heritage Trail is the former Queenstown Driving Test Centre. The abandoned three-storey building was Singapore's second driving test centre. I learnt that in the past, due to the limited literacy level of the candidates sitting for theory tests at the driving centre, candidates had to move a miniature-sized car on a model in response to questions asked by the tester. As I looked at the areas nearby the former Queenstown Driving Test Centre, I realized that Queenstown has changed a lot since my last stopover at Queenstown MRT station many years ago.

The site of the former Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Alley.

The next stop was the site of the former Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Alley. As I do not have much memories of Queenstown, I could hardly imagine how it looked like in the past. Thankfully, the booklet that I was given at the start of the tour gave me clues of how this site had used to look like before the complex was demolished in 2013.

38 Commonwealth Avenue.
The former Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market.

The tour also brought us to the former Commonwealth Wet Market. I learnt that this building is the only remaining building that was designed by the Singapore Improvement Trust as a wet market. This building has a distinctive parabolic-vaulted roof which allows for rainwater to drain quickly. I heard from a few of the tour participants that they remember eating chicken rice at the former Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market.

The Queenstown Public Library.

At one of our stops, the Queenstown Public Library, there were special arrangements made to visit the library before its operating hours. The Queenstown Library is Singapore's first branch library. Today, it can probably claim itself to be the oldest existing library building in Singapore. My words of appreciation to the friendly staff members of the library for giving us an insightful tour of the library.

The former Queenstown Polyclinic.

Nearby the Queenstown Public Library is the site of the former Queenstown Polyclinic. It was Singapore's first polyclinic. It looks clear that many social institutions such as the branch library, the polyclinic and technical school were pioneered in Queenstown, Singapore's first satellite town.

Stirling Road. The first HDB blocks and the HDB terraces.

The part of the tour at Stirling Road was one of the most interesting for me. I learnt that the HDB Terraces along Stirling Road are the remaining terrace apartments in Queenstown that are designed by the Singapore Improvement Trust. These HDB terraces were completed between 1959 and 1961. Nearby the HDB terraces, there are three 7-storey blocks. These are the first public housing blocks constructed by the Housing and Development Board. One of the residents, Mr Mahmood, shared with us interesting stories of the area.

Tanglin Halt Estate.

After a short stopover at the Queenstown Community Club, the tour group strolled across a pedestrian overhead bridge to get to the Tanglin Halt Estate. The Tanglin Halt exuded a charm that cannot be easily replicated by the new housing estates. While we were at Tanglin Halt Estate, our tour group stopped by at a traditional Malay barber shop and a hairdressing salon whose interior made many of us reminisce.

Inside the Malay barber shop at Tanglin Halt.

The Malay barber shop and the hairdressing salon at Blk 39 Tanglin Halt.

Also at Tanglin Halt, we had the pleasure to speak with two of the residents living in the area. They shared with us their experiences living in Tanglin Halt and about their thoughts of the upcoming Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme. I learnt from them how the residents of Tanglin Halt would look out for one another. One of the residents appreciated that she and one of her neighbours could choose to have their replacement flats nearby each other.

In the foreground, the remaining apartment flats that are designed by the Singapore Improvement Trust.

My Queenstown Heritage Trail also took us to the Church of the Blessed Sacrament and Sri Muneeswaran Temple. A few minutes walk away from these places of worship, we found ourselves looking at three-storey flats that are designed by the Singapore Improvement Trust. These low rise apartment flats will be gone soon.

Tanglin Halt Neighbourhood Centre.

The last stop of the tour was at the wet market in the Tanglin Halt Neighbourhood Centre. I learnt that one of the sundry shops, Thin Huat, has a history that dates back to the 1920s. The sundry shops looked well-stocked with daily necessities. It seemed to be a popular shop for the residents in the area to buy their daily necessities from.

Thin Huat, the sundry shop at Tanglin Halt.

The two-hour long My Queenstown Heritage Trail brought me to visit some of the iconic landmarks in Queenstown. I appreciated listening to the personal stories told by the residents living in the area. My gut feel told me that the residents in Queenstown have fond memories living in this housing estate because of the strong friendships forged with their neighbours.

My Queenstown Heritage Trail
The guided tours take place at the last Sunday of every month.
Each guided tour is about 2 hours long and starts punctually at 9 a.m. from Queenstown MRT station.
Guided tours are limited to 25 participants per session, on a first come, first served basis.
Tours are conducted in English and Mandarin only.
Participants are advised to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, bring along a bottle of water, and an umbrella.
To register, visit or email indicating your name, NRIC/ Passport number and contact details. A confirmation phone call or email will be sent to successful applicants.

Also visit:,

Also read:
Queenstown Heritage Trail by Sengkang Babies
Queenstown Heritage Trail - A walk down memory lane (Part 1) by Rojak Librarian.
Queenstown Heritage Trail - A walk down memory lane (Part II) by Rojak Librarian
My Queenstown Heritage Trail - Explore Queenstown and Tanglin Halt Historical Sights with Free Guided Tour (Every Last Sunday of the Month) by Zhiqiang and Tingyi (
Queenstown Heritage Trail by PChew.
Queenstown Heritage Trail on July 27, 2014 by Thimbuktu
Tanglin Halt Then and Now by Thimbuktu.
Queenstown Public Library by Thimbuktu.
What's Gone and Soon to Go at Margaret Drive by Icemoon.
Where was the Baharuddin Vocational Institute? by Lam Chun See.
Commonwealth Drive by Lam Chun See.
Gather Moments While You May by Lam Chun See.
Tanglin Halt Heritage Walk: Historical Photo Essay Singapore by AspirantSG

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

An exclusive roof-top access during the Ramadan Trail 2014 at Sultan Mosque

The Ramadan Trail organized by the Sultan Mosque is back again!

This year, the Ramadan Trail takes participants to an exclusive access to the roof-top of the annexed building. From the roof-top, participants can have a closer view of the Sultan Mosque's iconic golden domes. Participants will witness for ourselves the two iconic golden domes of the Sultan Mosque.

In addition, visitors participating in the Ramadan Trail will be brought to the ablution area to learn how ablution is performed. During the tour, one of our hosts gave us a demonstration of how ablution is performed. The key purpose of ablution is to cleanse, both internally (spiritually) and externally (physically). After the tour, I did a search on Google and found a site that summarizes the steps of performing ablution:

This gentleman gave a demonstration of how ablution is being performed.

After learning about how ablution is performed, participants were led to the entrance of the mosque's main prayer hall. We had a good view of the mosque's main prayer hall. I noticed the carpets in the main prayer hall are new! Our guide shared with us the reason why male and female Muslims pray at different parts of the mosque. Our guide also gave us a demonstration of how prostration is being performed in Islam. During this part of the Ramadan Trail, our guide also gave participants a brief introduction to Islam.

The main prayer hall. Sultan Mosque.

A large group of participants at the Ramadan Trail, Sultan Mosque.

For the participants who have attended the Ramadan Trail in the previous years, the exclusive roof-top access up the Annex Building was worth waiting for. I appreciate having a closer view of Sultan Mosque against the evening skies. Up at the roof-top, our guides shared with us a number of the interesting architectural features of Sultan Mosque. One of the interesting features of the mosque is that the dark-green-colour base of the mosque's domes are decorated with the bottom of glass bottles that were donated by the poor. This enabled everyone in the community (the rich and the poor, the young and the old) to contribute to the building of the Sultan Mosque.

View of Sultan Mosque from the roof-top of the Annexed Building.

After the exclusive roof-top access, participants attended a brief presentation at the auditorium by one of the mosque's volunteers. The presentation highlights the significance of the month of Ramadan. I learnt that during the month of Ramadan, Muslims would take their meals before dawn and break fast at sunset. It is a common practice to share food with neighbours, relatives, friends and the poor during the month of Ramadan. During the last ten days of Ramadan, Muslims are strongly encouraged to take part in optional late-night prayers for spiritual benefits.

A presentation on Ramadan.

Concluding the Ramadan Trail is the experiential "Buka Puasa" in which tour participants could experience the breaking of the fast together with our fellow Muslim hosts and Muslim participants. I learnt that Muslims will break their fast with dates. So I was mindful to start the "Buka Puasa" experience by starting with a date. One of my Muslim friend who attended the Ramadan Trail shared with me that after breaking their fast with dates and some light food, it is common for the Muslims to go for prayers before taking other food.

Time for Buka Puasa.

I am grateful that the Sultan Mosque opens its doors to non-Muslims like myself so that we can learn more about Islam and the significance of Ramadan. During the tour, I noticed that we have Muslim friends who joined the Ramadan Trail too so as to learn more about the Sultan Mosque. It is heartening to learn that the Ramadan Trail is gaining in popularity over the years.

My heartfelt thanks to Sultan Mosque and the guides for the Ramadan Trails for the enriching and interesting experience. The tour helped me to better appreciate the culture and religion of our Muslim Friends.

Sultan Mosque after the sun has set.

The Ramadan Trail is open to everyone. This year, the Ramadan Trail will be held on 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 14, 16, 17, 21 and 23 Jul 2014. Registration from the tour starts at 5.30 p.m. The tour commences at 6 p.m. Admission is free. It is strongly encouraged to book in advance. To do so, please contact Liyana at Tel: 62934405 or email

Sultan Mosque
3 Muscat Street
Singapore 198833
Nearest MRT station: Bugis

Please find the following posts on my past experiences of the Ramadan trail:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall Open House Weekend - 19 and 20 July 2014

The refurbished Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. Jul 2014.

Visit the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall this weekend and witness a significant milestone for the arts and cultural community in Singapore. After a four-year refurbishment and redevelopment, the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is opening its doors once again. During the special Open House weekend on 19 and 20 July 2014, the general public can look forward to free performances and guided tour. The Open House will be a good opportunity to catch a sneak preview of this national monument. For more information, please visit

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. Taken in Mar 2005.

Different people would have different memories of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. Some remember it as place where they have registered for their ABRSM exams. Others remember it as a performing arts venue. Some remember it as a place where art exhibitions were held. I know of friends who were previously members of the Singapore National Youth Orchestra who have spent many of their younger days rehearsing at the Victoria Concert Hall.

A photo of the stairway leading to the Victoria Concert Hall. Taken in the year 2010.

During the Open House weekend, there are irememberVictoria collection booths to collect our favourite memories of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. irememberVictoria is a collaboration between Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and the Singapore Memory Project. Members of the public are encouraged to snap our most creative shots of the refurbished venue and hashtag our photos to #irememberVictoria.

For myself, I fondly remember the red-carpeted stairways, the façade of the clock tower and concert hall. I have some vague memories of the backstage of the Concert Hall and the Theatre too.

Special thanks to the invitation of the National Arts Council and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall via Waggener Edstrom Communications, I have a tour about the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall on the first day of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall Open House Weekend.

The central atrium. Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. Taken in 2014.
Notice the two varied designs.

The tour began at the Central Atrium which forms the central passageway between Victoria Theatre and the Concert Hall. I learnt that the façade of the two buildings was retained and some elements belonging to the original 1905 structure was restored. Through the restoration of the Central Atrium, the central passageway between Victoria Concert Hall and Victoria Theatre which existed originally in 1905 was reinstated. I like the fact that the central atrium provided ease of accessibility to the nearby Arts House.

Interestingly, the Central Atrium presents two varied designs reflecting the new and the old. Be prepared to see how these two varied designs, the ornate archways and columns of the Victoria Concert Hall and the new relief etched precast panels of the Victoria Theatre, seamlessly merge and yet contrast with one another.

Looking down at the central atrium from Level 3. Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.
Taken in Jul 2014.

The tour also took us to the Victoria Theatre which underwent a major overhaul of its interior. The redeveloped theatre has an optimised seating capacity of 614. At first sight, it felt like an intimate space in which the predominantly curved seating plan brings the audience closer to the performers on stage.

Victoria Theatre. Jul 2014.

Outside the Theatre. Jul 2014.
Notice a modernised floating Rubik's Cube clad with timber seat backings from the original Victoria Theatre chairs.

During the tour, it was brought to our attention that the iconic 54-metre high clock tower was restored during the recent four-year refurbishment. Gillette and Johnson, the manufacturer of the clock tower's clock mechanism, restored and serviced the clock mechanism. In addition, an auto-winding feature was installed. This meant that no longer would there be a need to climb up the clock tower to manually wind the clock.

The view of the clock tower from the atrium. Jul 2014.

Part of the clock's mechanism. Inside the clock tower. Special access is required to see this. Jul 2014.

The Klais organ at the Victoria Concert Hall was showcased in a free performance by Dr Margaret Chen on the first day of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall Open House Weekend. The sound from the Klais organ can fill the entire concert hall with good vibes literally. I like the interiors of the refurbished Concert Hall. The ceilings have been replaced to suit acoustics requirements. The balcony overhang of the circle seats area was reduced to free up volume and improve acoustics.

The Concert Hall. Jul 2014.

Waiting for a performance to start. Victoria Concert Hall. Jul 2014.

By the end of the tour, I was looking forward to attending more performances at the Victoria Concert Hall and the Victoria Theatre in the near future. In the meantime, do check out the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall Open House Weekend.

At the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall Open House Weekend. 19 Jul 2014.

The side arcades of the Victoria Concert Hall.
A space for the audience and artists to interact. Jul 2014.

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. Jul 2014.

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall Open House Weekend
19 and 20 July 2014 (Sat and Sun)
10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Victoria Theatre, 9 Empress Place, Singapore 179555
Victoria Concert Hall, 11 Empress Place, Singapore 179558
Admission: Free
Nearest MRT stations: City Hall, Raffles Place
Visit for more information
Note: Guided tours run from 11.00 a.m. - 5.30 p.m. at half hour intervals on a first-come-first-served basis.