Singapore may be a concrete jungle, but as the murals on the streets and charming heritage buildings show us in the recent years, you can find beautiful art almost everywhere in the city. Even our humble HDB flats have been catching our eye more and more lately, boasting all sorts of creative designs from pop art to Medieval-style architecture.
Sometimes a pop of colour is all you need to brighten a place up. Seven HDB flats in the Teck Whye Avenue at Choa Chu Kang estate received an colourful new coat of paint a few years ago. The HDB flats at Teck Whye Ave ditched their old do – bright vibrant colour scheme with teal accents – for eye-catching designs inspired by the famous paintings themed “Composition with Red Blue and Yellow” by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. Last year, the facade of several HDB flats in Circuit Road at MacPherson Estate have also been painted to the designs inspired by Piet Mondrian.
Piet Mondrian was a 20th-century abstract painter from the Netherlands who is regarded as one of the greatest artists of his generation. Also known as one of the pioneers of abstract art, he was a firm believer of basic forms of beauty and hence discarded “non-essentials” in his work. “Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow” is a product of the Dutch De Stijl (The Style) movement. Many attribute Mondrian for bringing popularity to this rather obscure style.
The surface of things gives enjoyment, their interiority gives life — Piet Mondrian
Reopening of Singapore Haw Par Villa With A New Hell's Museum & Ten Courts of Hell 狮城虎豹别墅著名十殿阎罗和新地狱博物馆
Apart from visiting the Singapore Zoo and the Jurong Bird Park when I was a child, my parents enjoyed bringing my brothers and I to educational places such as the Science Centre and Haw Par Villa theme park too. My late grandmother used to tell me many stories about Chinese myths and legends, so I’m very familiar with stories of Sun Wukong the Monkey King, Chang’e and The Jade Rabbit, and the legend of the White Snake, just to name a few. I have not visited Haw Par Villa located at Pasir Panjang Road for more than two decades. To my surprise, I found it very interesting to rediscover this quirky place as an adult. The Ten Courts of Hell was recently re-opened on 28 October 2021 being fully air-conditioned and it is part of a new attraction called Hell's Museum.
Previously known as the Tiger Balm Garden, this cultural theme park is the last of its kind in the world. Built by the late Aw Boon Haw, the millionaire philanthropist who gifted the world Tiger Balm, Haw Par Villa is Singapore’s largest outdoor art gallery. This eclectic park which houses more than 1,000 statues and 150 giant dioramas depicting scenes from Chinese mythology, folklore, legends, history, and illustrations of various aspects of Confucianism, is a treasure trove of Asian culture, history, philosophy and religion.
I recently stepped into a sustainable second hand bookstore Books Beyond Borders located in the northern part of Singapore, and it was an unpredictable experience – in a good way.
As a writer I find it very hard to not go into bookstores – and even harder to not buy anything. Whenever I come across a second-hand bookstore this problem gets infinitely worse. How can you resist buying a few long-wanted books that are realistically budget-friendly? Well, you cannot.
However, the appeal of this bookstore extends far beyond finding a bargain book.
Books Beyond Borders is a social enterprise cum online bookstore based in Singapore. It sells second-hand books in the hopes of giving pre-loved books a new lease of life, and more importantly, to raise money for underfunded schools in Nepal. 100% of their profits after business expenses are invested in organisations helping students learn, read, and lead in rural schools. With each and everyone's support at The Books Beyond Borders, more underprivileged children would get to enjoy the luxury of reading.
Most of my friends know that I am a noodle lover. I love to eat noodles. Instant noodles serve as comfort food to myself as well as most Singaporeans, helping us tide through hectic schedules and late nights. So how could I not visit Singapore’s first instant noodle-themed experiential playground which offers visitors a quirky setting at its interactive spaces and murals?
The theme is straightforward. Called The Slurping Good!, the two-level playground will feature 13 interactive exhibits and a merchandise store selling noodle-themed goodies. Each exhibit represents the different ingredients that go into a cup noodle.
If it is anything like the other themed playgrounds, this will probably be a great chance to add some eye candy to your IG feeds. In a way, it’s also a good remedy for the wanderlust blues since this will probably remind some of the Cup Noodles Museum in Japan but with a local twist. Indeed, the visit to Slurping Good! brought me back the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka. If you cannot remember what it looked like, click here to read my blog in October 2015 about my visit to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka.
In early September, I indulged in a pink ice cream fantasy at the newly-opened Museum of Ice Cream (“MOIC”) Singapore. Located at the historic Dempsey, the MOIC is hard to miss, seeing as the once monochromatic barracks that lined the district are now rendered a shocking shade of pink. Here, there are photo opportunities at every turn, dedicated to the celebration and experience of enjoying ice cream.
The opening of this wildly anticipated attraction was in the works for close to three months due to pandemic restrictions, but it seems like the wait was well worth it, as MOIC has brought the never-before-seen attractions to its first international location outside of the United States.
It’s really a good place to be – I was happy throughout and I could forget about what’s happening outside when I was here. It also helped the creative side of my brain, helped me forget about things. So I definitely do think that it is beneficial, allows people to take a break from things that are happening outside.
My The Netherlands Photo Series《荷兰柔情似水》Published in LianheZaobao 联合早报光影之“世界未戴上口罩时”版 on 12 September 2021
周末愉快！疫情前我的最后一趟旅行是荷兰，我在荷兰以棕褐色摄影这组照片《荷兰柔情似水》刊登在今天（九月十二日）的 “世界未戴上口罩时”【光影】版 。感谢 Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报。
Happy Sunday! My photos on The Netherlands are published in full coverage today . After returning from The Netherlands winter trip in December 2019, I didn't expect that it will be my last trip for a long time before I was forced to take a break from traveling due to the pandemic.
When will travel recover?
The million-dollar question. When will we be able to travel again? The short answer is nobody knows for sure. At the moment, we see travel recovering in stages without the need to be quarantined—first locally, then domestically between regions, and international travel is probably going to be the last, save for the Vaccinated Travel Lane currently between Germany & Singapore.
Many of us hope to travel again at some point in the near future, even if not immediately. I guess when that day finally comes, by then I will be all set to be a wanderlust again to travel in the new normal.
It’s natural to associate playgrounds with childhood and to feel nostalgic for the particular brand of whimsy that comes with early exploration and risk-taking. Maybe that’s why these spaces appeal to audiences as colourful and dynamic as the structures they are made up of. But that spirit of playfulness isn’t solely reserved for kids — nor should it only exist in outdoor spaces. Because of the creativity these public areas encourage, architects often incorporate incredibly surprising, non-traditional design elements into their construction that we’d happily have in our homes.
Rotterdam in The Netherlands is known as a playground for leading architects and has a long tradition of modern architecture in Europe. The bright yellow Cube Houses in Rotterdam designed by the late architect Piet Blom in the 1970s, are probably some of the most famous buildings in the Netherlands and attract people from all over the world. Based on the concept of "living as an urban roof", Piet Blom wanted to design a kind of village within the city and saw the houses as trees and the whole development area as a wood. I had a chance to visit them in December 2019, and have found its architecture to be utterly amazing.
While Rotterdam is known for radical architecture and forward-thinking city planning, architects around the world are also finding ways to integrate “Living in an urban roof” in their own cities too. There is an ever-growing interest by a new generation of ambitious emerging architects. So based on Rotterdam's Cube Houses concept design, I explored the idea of whether there is any similar cube house architecture in Singapore. The answer is, in my view, yes there are indeed cube house themed playgrounds in Singapore, hence this post today. An ideal playground should be a mixture of architecture, aesthetics and play value - something that both the designers and people who patronise the playground can be proud of. #dontsayinevershare
Do you like to visit art galleries? There are many different types of art galleries around the world. If you like art, science, or history, there are galleries that will inspire and delight you.
I visited an interesting art gallery recently filled with surprises. Located in a nondescript corner on the second floor of Singapore Raffles Hotel Arcade, Art Now is a gallery that makes creative designs and intriguing art pieces accessible to the public with free admission. For those who enjoy both art and culture, why not visit Art Now gallery that offers both.
The whole space is cosy and filled with a bewildering array of creations that run the gamut of pop art and the contemporary to 2D and 3D fine art, as well as fashion and other unique lifestyle items. From the architecture to the interior design, the gallery also includes bespoke furniture.
Though many of the current generation (born in the late nineties and 2000 onwards) may not realise it, they are rather lucky in the matter of choices than any of the earlier generations. Not only do they have options like the fine dining, cafeterias, delicatessens, fast food joints and pubs but they also have the option of eating at food courts. A food court can be defined as a smorgasbord of immense proportions offering many food choices at one place with several small eateries offering you different cuisines at one place and that too at affordable rates. That is why the decoration and arrangement of food courts has become of tantamount importance today. We have to admit that while many of us may not give that much weightage to the décor of the food court with a conscious mind, it does weigh on our decision to eat there. If you know all about restaurant decoration, then you realise it does have an impact and it is the same way with food courts and the way they are decorated.
So I decided to explore something many diners at Food Republic outlet, Basement 1 @Shaw House in Orchard Road Singapore realise but are unable to put their finger on – the creative theme behind the décor. In its own understated way, this Food Republic outlet is considered an art exhibition itself with each food stall beautifully styled using these large scales wallpaper murals. The typography is perfect and really fits well with the décor. You may already have experienced dining there before, but didn’t recognise the art works at the first glance. That’s because they are masked in unique decor and visual interest like never before. The cute and simple illustrations spread across the murals are actually inviting and interesting, adding some hipster vibes to the whole dining place. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the artworks while enjoying my meal, hence this blog post today to share the murals. #dontsayinevershare
The Housing & Development Board ("HDB") designed a range of playground designs for its public housing estates in the 1970s. Most of these playgrounds have been demolished for modern ones which are easily distinguished by its plastic and metal features, as well as rubber mats. Only a handful of the iconic playgrounds still stand today. For an alternative itinerary, I took a peek at the charming vestiges of its past – like these dragon playgrounds of yesteryear.
Many Singaporeans would remember them as exciting playgrounds when they were very young, that offered thrilling fun play spots where one could climb up the dragon’s spine, slide down the terrazzo slides and dart about playing police-and-thief with friends. The dragon is a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it in Asian culture, and it was turned into a place where children can run along its spine and slide down its head. Even if you have yet to see these iconic playgrounds in person, I’m pretty sure you have seen some on your Instagram feed. These dragon playgrounds are the poster child of retro playgrounds in Singapore.
With no signs of any possible overseas travel in the near term due to growing transmissible delta variant around the world, there is no better time to explore our own backyard more and not forgetting these dragon playgrounds which have warmed the cockles of many Singaporeans back in the good old days. Lets head on down for a dose of nostalgia and get ready for a major throwback !
Everyone loves flowers; they make people smile and tend to cheer up even the most somber of occasions. When you think of iconic flower-filled destinations, the Netherlands and its tulips probably come to mind. Lots of people travel to the Netherlands in the spring, in order to see the famous tulips fields and the Keukenhof gardens. If you’re a flower lover and are wondering if you can see some blooms, there’s some flower experience you shouldn’t miss in Singapore. It's around the corner of Marina Bay, No, I am not referring to Gardens By The Bay - it's actually located at the open field facing directly opposite the Marina One Residences. Although it’s technically not a flower field, this huge open space is home to many potted bougainvillea flowers. The best part is that access is free and as there are not many people around, you don’t have to wait to take the perfect picture!
In case you are lamenting all those lost pandemic vacations, ✈ or if you have been craving a holiday or want to escape into another "country", this amazing field of blooming bougainvillea flowers could be a sight to behold. I know that we are unable to travel out of Singapore to enjoy such sites due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but hopefully these bougainvillea flower field photos will make you stare in awe as much as they did for me.
It was a sunny day as I wandered through the field, a quiet place to walk and see huge array of colours. Flower field make gorgeous backdrops for photos and Instagram posts. But they are also great stress relievers because they offer a peaceful and relaxing ambiance. Walking along the ticklish bushes, grouped in rows, gives me an immense sense of joy as it shows nature at her prettiest.
The big, bright red apple…spinning, spinning, spinning, that’s the memory I remember most about my favourite playground as a child. Can you think back to yours? And how often nowadays do you see kids at the playgrounds around your neighbourhood?
In an urban landscape like Singapore, kids find themselves going from classes to malls to school and home. Hence, it's my personal mission to scout out the best creative playgrounds locally so they can enjoy a bit of fresh air in their daily lives.
First, here are three airplane playgrounds where aviators can let their imaginations soar. Lamenting all those lost pandemic travels? That’s no reason to let your wings be clipped. Instead, take flight at some airplane themed playgrounds. After which, you'll see railway train and military vehicles themed playgrounds which I managed to find in Singapore too. Planes, trains and automobiles are a big hit in any community. Kids love the creative play that all types of transportation provide, and there are transportation-themed components that make-up imaginative themed playgrounds in Singapore.
Do you remember how you used to like going to playgrounds as a child, hanging from bars, running up the slides, or playing hide-and-seek?
Playgrounds are a welcome sight for weary parents looking for a place for their kids get a chance to expend some energy. While a simple park with a slide and swing set will usually do the trick, visiting unique play spaces can also be an interesting way to explore new destinations. Beyond high-tech features, many modern playgrounds feature unexpected and unusual architecture.
I’ve rounded up various themed playgrounds island-wide just for you; each with a unique adventure to offer! This "project" took me a few months to finally complete. From whimsical, transportation, housing to play sets featuring oversized animals, these wow-worthy playgrounds in Singapore are worth adding to your islandwide travel bucket list. Here's the first today where you can bring back that innocence and fun at these two whimsical playgrounds.
Street Art In Singapore: Little India, Armenian Street, Kampong Glam & Orchard SCAPE YouthPark (Revisited)
What’s an artwork without an audience? Without getting bogged down in philosophical discourse, let’s just assume artists create their works to be seen by others. I think street art photographers, bloggers and supporters who document street art play a key role in sharing street artworks that might disappear tomorrow.
I am always on the lookout for new art showing up on the walls and surfaces of cities. I capture, exhibit and provide context for these artworks and I think this is a great way to feel the pulse of a dynamic city’s street art scene. Singapore’s bustling street art scene is evident every single month of the year. Often times, art extends itself past the traditional canvas. We see this in the world's most beautiful public sculptures, or even sandcastles along a beach. Yet, what can be a bigger space to express ones creativity than the sides of buildings? It's with these murals we see in neighborhoods throughout the world that the thoughts and fears and dreams of a city come to life. They show us that something as simple as painting a mural on the front of a building really could make a difference and bring so much joy to passers-by.
Today's blog post showcases more street art in Singapore, specifically at (1) Little India; revisited (2) Armenian Street; (3) Kampong Glam district (including Haji Lane); and (4) Orchard *SCAPE YouthPark. There is no reason why we shouldn’t revisit existing murals (in fact, all the more the reason to revisit them). I hope the new murals would bring lots of hope and inspiration, especially during these challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Heads up. This is an image-heavy blog post.