Thursday, July 14, 2011

I sighted treasures at Goodwood Park Hotel!

I came across an unexpected find when I visited the Goodwood Park Hotel in June 2011. This hotel has a history that dates back to 1900. The tower wing was designed by R.A.J. Bidwell of Swan and MacLaren.

The building, which is the present-day Goodwood Park Hotel, started out as the Teutonia Club which was opened to Germans and German-speaking people. This building on Scotts Road was opened on 21 September 1900 by Sir James Alexander Swettenham (Acting Governor of the Straits Settlements). The building was to fashion after the castles of the Rhine to reflect the German heritage of the Teutonia Club. Politics seemed to play a part when the Teutonia Club was confiscated by the British in 1914 after World War I broke out.

In 1918, the Manasseh brothers bought over the property and renamed it Goodwood Hall after the residence of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon in England. Goodwood Hall served as a restaurant-cafe-entertainment establishment. In 1929, the Manasseh brothers converted Goodwood Hall into a full-fledged hotel and renamed it Goodwood Park Hotel.

Besides the rich and interesting history of the Goodwood Park Hotel, I had the great luck to chance upon treasures while I was at the hotel. Within walking distance from the main lobby, there was an exhibition corner named "Tang Treasures Suite".

I saw artifacts on display and I could clearly recognize that these were from the Tang Shipwreck Treasure: Singapore's Maritime Collection! This collection is a ninth century shipwreck of Arab origin loaded with Chinese artifacts and ceramics from the Tang dynasty. The shipwreck was discovered in 1998 in Belitung. One of the significance of this collection is that the shipwreck is presently the only known vessel in the world with a complete load of ninth century cargo. The discovery of this shipwreck also confirmed that trading via a sea route between Arab and China existed as early as the ninth century.

The guests and visitors are very lucky to have the privilege to get good views of the Changsha wares and many other ceramics from the collection. Although there are limited number of artifacts on display at Goodwork Park Hotel's Tang Treasures Suite, I thought that having the modest gallery was still a very thoughtful way to introduce guests and visitors to this ninth century shipwreck.

Being curious, I asked one of the staff members about the artifacts in the Tang Treasures Suite. I subsequently learnt that the acquisition of the collection was made possible by the generous donation of the Estate of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat. This got me to read up more about Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat.

I learnt that in 1968, the billionaire banker and hotelier, Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat, had bought over the Goodwood Hotel. Currently, the hotel is under the management of Mrs Mavis Oei, daughter of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat.

The artifacts on display at the Tang Treasures Suite in Goodwork Park Hotel make a good introduction to the ninth century cargo that was discovered in Belitung. The rest of the collection will be on display at the ArtScience Museum till 31 Jul 2011. If you are interested to see the brilliant gold cups and the rest of the collection, please visit the exhibition "Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds" by 31 Jul 2011. Admission to the ArtScience Museum is $30 per adult.

Other than the treasures in the Tang Treasures Suite which is thoughtfully complimentary (i.e. admission is free-of-charge), guests and visitors to Goodwood Park Hotel can enjoy yet another delight for an affordable charge: mouth-watering durian pastries and more. Even this little girl seemed as if she cannot resist the delicious delights.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Singapore Food Trail: Reliving the good old 1960s once more

The Singapore Food Trail, which is a 1960s themed food establishment located at the Singapore Flyer, was one of the eating places that I have been wanting to visit ever since I have read Second Shot's post relating his experience at the Singapore Food Trail enjoying his first ice-ball in Singapore!

It was my good fortune to visit the Singapore Food Trail after six months of procrastination. The 16000 square-feet food-haven serving popular local hawker-fare was official opened on 25 Feb 2011. There were many times when I was so near to the Singapore Flyer but yet did not make my visit to the Singapore Food Trail. Admittedly, I had mistakenly thought that it was just a food court with a superficial 1960s decor.

Thankfully, I was proven otherwise during my first visit to the Singapore Food Trail on 2 Jul 2011. I was welcomed by a temporary outdoor opera stage during my visit. The Thau Yong Amateur Musical Associaton (陶融儒乐社) which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year put up music and Chinese opera performances that night and two nights before. I later learnt that performances and events such as the Teochew Opera staged by the Thau Yong Amateur Musical Association were part of the Singapore Food Trail's thoughtful efforts to recreate a realistic ambiance and atmosphere of the streets of 1960s.

A dedicated musician tuning a dulcimer (yang qin).

I thought it was a wise idea that the Singapore Food Trail invites worthy amateur art and cultural groups in Singapore to perform at its premises. Such efforts could help encourage these groups to continue their good work and passion in preserving important traditional art forms.

As the gigantic observation wheel moved at a distance, I felt time was spinning back to the post-war period when itinerant hawkers served cheap and convenient meals along the streets. Interestingly, Singapore Food Trail has creatively romanticized street hawking in many ways. Unlike the street hawkers of the 1960s, the hawkers of Singapore Food Trail have proper water supply, clean cooking equipment and sanitized conditions. What is more, the hawkers enjoy shelter from the rain and the sun.

Dragon Beard Candy.

To recreate the 1960s atmosphere, the stalls generally looked like push-carts and make-shift stalls commonly used during the post-war years. Secondly, the floor was laid with tar to give an impression of the stalls selling food by the side of the road. Thirdly, the management went down to the details by providing the stall-holders with older models of refrigerators to use. Nostalgia-evoking items were put on display at various sections of the food-street. I will give Singapore Food Trail lots of good scores simply for the meticulous thought that went into recreating the romanticized charms of the 1960s.

"Delicious" is the word to describe the food that I have had at the Singapore Food Trail. I learnt that the hawkers who serve food at the Singapore Food Trail were all specially hand-picked. Many of the hawkers have been in business for more than 30 years. In order to operate at the Singapore Food Trail, each stall-holder has to agree to the condition that only the owner or the owner's family members do the cooking. For myself, I am less insistent that the food must be cooked by the owner or the family members. What matters more is the good effort that goes into preparing the food.

Charcoal-grilled dough fritters for the rojak!

Interestingly, I learnt that charcoal-grilled dough fritters are used in the rojak dish served by Lagoon Kampong Rojak. This method of preparation meant that the dough fritters are crispy and chewy, minus much of the oily texture.

Colourful ice-ball!

I cannot miss checking out ice-balls. There are delightful treasures that can be found inside each ice-balls. Try eating one!

What impressed me greatly was the pride and dignity that can be easily seen on the faces of the people who prepare the food. Perhaps the ambiance of the Singapore Food Court has brought them to the good old days when the value of the food was enhanced simply because it was cooked with pride and mindfulness?

The Katong Keah Kee fried oyster omelette in the background.
Cereal prawns in the foreground.
The broth of the Sin Ming Road Rong Chen Bak Kut Teh is simply lovingly made.
On the right is the Old Airport Road satay beehoon.
Freshly-squeezed sugar cane juice in nostalgic looking containers.

My personal favourites are the Katong Keah Kee fried oyster omelette, Sin Ming Road Rong Chen Bak Kut Teh, Lagoon Kampong Rojak and the Changi Village Fried Carrot Cake. The sugar cane juice is wonderful too. Most of the other food are good too.

The night concluded on a high-note with the last scene of "The Fragrant Handkerchief" (折子戏:《香罗帕). The last scene showed the male and female lead characters of "The Fragrant Handkerchief" finally getting married after several trials.

Although I could not understand the language that the opera performance was sung it, it was possible to make out what was being performed on stage. All that was needed was for the audience to pay attention to the music, the singing, the manner of recitation, the acting and the various gestures used by the performers (different mouth shapes, hand gestures, expressions in the eyes, body movements and steps represent different moods). The costumes and the accessories worn by each of the characters also gave good clues to his/her status and the personality.

The heritage corner.

In short, the Singapore Food Trail is one way to relive the good old 1960s. Good food, an interesting theme that evokes memories of the wonderful old days and a touch of sincerity in bringing its guests to relive the 1960s. These are the elements that will entice me to visit the Singapore Food Trail with friends and relatives for affordable food and a time for nostalgia.

Kachang Puteh (assorted nuts) that brings good memories of my childhood.

The adorable fortune-reading parrot found directly opposite the Kachang Puteh stall. It visits on weekends only.

Acknowledgments: Lots of thanks to the Singapore Food Trail and Marina Bay Singapore for giving me the opportunity to enjoy delicious local hawker-fare as well as a wonderful Teochew opera staged by the Thau Yong Amateur Musical Association. Many thanks to Chloe and Jonathan from Select Group Limited for their hospitality. An extra special thanks to Ms Belinda Tan for facilitating the invitation.

I was very glad that I have learnt a bit about Chinese opera and have finally visited the Singapore Food Trail.


Singapore Food Trail
Singapore Flyer
30 Raffles Avenue
Singapore 039803

Opening hours:
10.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday,
10.30 a.m. to 11.30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Stall profiles and listing:
Facebook page:

Thau Yong Amateur Musical Association
Facebook page:

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