Fate or Destiny

30 Apr 2010 – Happy 60th Bday John WT 

How is it possible that I know of only one male friend who is not a family member born on my year??? 🙂

Today, exactly 5yrs ago was the 1st day of my AT Thru-Hike. All my fellow-hikers and especially me, could not understand how we were going to survive on the Appalachian Mountains for four months then! But we did and so much has happened since. The best parts are that most situations were not planned or expected, like traveling around and meeting interesting people, experiencing and learning to deal and see things in different angles. With decent health, family & friends, yummy food and excellent wines in the belly, who can ask for more in the golden age! Live life fully as who knows what tomorrow will bring? Time really has gone by like the wink of the eye and it is already the last day of Apr. Strange how most things have a way of working out when you live and work with good intentions from the heart.


Wed: Gave another AT Thru-Hike talk to a small group at WINGS (Women’s Initiative for Aging Successfully) Junction 8 office tower, Bishan. Enjoyed the closer connections with smaller groups, more time getting to know the people and for personal Q&A. Thank you to WINGS http://www.wings.sg for hosting the talk and to Eleanor YAP director, http://www.agelessonline.net for arranging it.

Thu: thank you to Leslie & Ivy for lunch at Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck@Paragon*** with guests, Catherine/Kitty and her son-in-law Steve. Met Kitty (the name my family would know her by) at the St Patrick’s Reception and discovered that she and Lawrence were good friends from his Dublin days in the 1950s/60s. And my parents visited her family when they were in Dublin. Did not have the chance to get her contact that evening we met. Thanks to the Irish Embassy that we all got connected up again. She will be heading back to Ireland via Dubai. Kitty has a house in Spain, 20mins drive from where I will be in Jul/Aug. Hopefully she will be there around the same time and we will meet again. Another unexpected and unplanned surprise and how delightful to know her.

Have a fabulous weekend.

Fate is the raw materials of experience. They come uninvited and often unanticipated. Destiny is what a man does with these raw materials – Howard Thurman

Mystery of a Rose

27 Apr 2010 – Mandai Cremetorium

Was at my parents’ niche yesterday to place a new porcelain red rose which was bought in the USA during my Jan visit. A similar rose was placed there when I returned to SIN over 10 years ago. Was so lucky to find this at a sale in SIN then. Eyeing it for over a week but S$60 was on the steep side. And behold, it went on sale at half the price when I went back to the shop to buy it. This rose has been there for over 10 years and the colours have faded over the years. Unfortunately nothing similar could be found again in SIN and the old faded rose has been receiving a couple of layers of spray paint over the years.

Google and found this website http://www.romanceher.com/porcelainrose.htm which delivered the rose within 24hrs when I was in the USA. Hand-carried it back to SIN so that I could place it for this year’s ChingMing, + or – a month is no big deal but staying away from the crowds is my issue. To my surprise the old rose was not in #52. Was rather annoyed as to why anyone would remove it. Placed the new one there, thinking perhaps the old one fell and broke. After completing the usual respectful duties, decided to walk around with rose hunting in my mind. Bingo, found the old rose but not at #52. Both #52 and where the old rose was found are too high for any child to place it there.

Cleaned and placed the old one together with the new one. For the next trip, will try to remember to bring some silk flowers for whoever who needed my parents’ rose so badly so as to remove it. Will leave a note to request for them to NOT take my parents’ roses, now that I have finally managed to get one each for both my parents. Pictures are not from yesterday, was too disturbed to take pictures after 2hrs journey by two different buses on top of the pouring rain and then the missing rose!

The quote is for Linn’s rose garden. The wall is the explanation to Sophie‘s Angel Face blooms 🙂

I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall – Eleanor Roosevelt

Mao’s Last Dancer*****

24 Apr 2010 – Fantastic Dancing

Was first premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival September 2009. If you are into ballet and dance, this is a must. Am not so into ballet but wow! how pleasing to the eyes with such physic and graceful movements on top of a masculine face who could act. Touching and inspiring with wonderful cast of actors and dancers. Would certainly want to watch it again, some years later, even when it is over 2hrs!

Based on the autobiography by LI Cunxin/李存信, a poor village boy was plucked at the age of 11 by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates and sent to Beijing to study ballet. When he was 18, LI was awarded one of the first cultural scholarships to go to America, and subsequently been offered a soloist contract with the Houston Ballet. The cultural exchange to Texas USA saw him being seduced by the freedom in a westerner’s world. That discovery was fueled after realising that his Party has lied to him about America. He started a relationship with an aspiring American dancer, Elizabeth Mackey. They rushed their marriage so that LI could remain in the USA while avoiding defection as he wanted to be able to return to China to visit his family.

But the Party detained him at its Houston Consulate. This caused a 21-hour international incident; American and PRC diplomats debated the issue. LI was eventually allowed to stay, but his citizenship was revoked – he had effectively defected. Cut off from his family, LI continued to dance. He abandon his duties, his parents and his country because of love and freedom, not for fame or money. He’s a man who is torn between two worlds cultural identities.

Currently, LI Cunxin is a stockbroker, living in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and children.

Ballet dancers, like most artists, never make much money, and I was the only wage-earner to support three children, plus I was helping my parents and six brothers in China – LI Cunxin


22 Apr 2010 – Yesterday, Interesting Hump-Day!

Wed on the MRT, an unusual sight with someone dressed in a kilt. Asked for permission to take his picture and we exchanged cards, only to realize later that Matthew was on his way to the Food Asia Expo, Stewart’s Whisky… cheers and good luck. Must try to go before it is over on Fri. Asked about his tartan and was told that it is Dress Stewart. During my Dublin boarding school days, tartan skirts were my favourite skirts to wear. These patterns consisting of criss-cross horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours and originated in woven cloth, but now they are used in other materials. Tartan is associated with Scotland and Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that specific tartans became associated with Scottish clans.

MRT to Pasir Ris (posting 30 Apr 2009)@Aloha Loyang Resort to spent some time with HimSuan & family who are here from Goa for their yearly visit. Being unfamiliar in that area, I decided to walk from the Bus/MRT Interchange to the resort. It was hot but the fear to taking a taxi is even hotter! How fast Michael & Rachel have grown but that is the usual case when you see them only once a year. They have strong feet to be able to walk with us from one end of the park to the other and back again. A certain area in this park reminds me of Shakib Gunn where we held a memorial kite-flying day. Thanks to Jane and Doris who brought dinner over.

Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind – Lionel Hampton

Taxi Driver from SIN!

20 Apr 2010 – Not Hell…

Arrived in SIN 19 Apr 0100hrs and my punishment was that I did not have the correct change for the taxi-fares. First the sights & grunts when he heard my destination (app 15mins from the airport), then driving like there is no tomorrow, with one hand on his mobile and his obnoxious loud voice shouting… all the signs were there to expect the worst! The meter flashed S$8.20 at journey’s end and since it was after mid-night, am very well aware of the surcharges but not that much. Trying to pull a fast one by telling me that the fares was S$22 got me to question him.

Frustrated, he realised that I am not that gullible and a S$50 note triggered the devil out, cursing me left and right since he could not make change. Told him to wait as there is a 7-11 around the corner. Explained the situation to a kind young man who made change and he told me to take note of the taxi number. Paid S$16.20 to get cursed up and down again. Thoughts of asking for a receipt but then I do cherish my life… the lunatic was so angry that he nearly hit another car on his way out after I unloaded my own luggage. Was initially tired but could not sleep until after I wrote the complain to the company. If I get stalked or beaten up, the culprit is a middle-age Chinese taxi driver/SHB 8952U who drove me from the Budget Terminal to Marine Crescent on 19 Apr 0100hrs…

Prefers the BMW/Bus-MRT-Walk most times but sadly not available after midnight. Would have walked if I had no check-in bag. Have encountered enough of rude SIN taxi drivers, but this one tops the list. Welcome to SIN and to their courtesy & smiling campaigns! To use the phrase, Taxi Driver from Hell will be an insult to Hell in Norway and might also be an insult to the other hell!

Hell is located in Lånke/Stjørdal/Nord-Trøndelag/Norway- about 352 people live in the center of Hell but the whole village’s population is app 1,500. Been thru’ Hell many times in the 1970s en-route from Oslo to Tromsø for summer jobs during college days from Dublin. Due to it’s name, Hell has become a minor tourist attraction. The station sign reads Gods-expedition, an old spelling of the Norwegian word for cargo handling=godsekspedisjon would be the current spelling. The name Hell stems from the Old Norse word hellir=overhang or cliff cave. The Norwegian word hell=luck. The Old Norse word Hel is the same as today’s English Hell, as a proper noun. In modern Norwegian the word helvete=hell and god=gud.

Looking forward to be at Storlidalen in Trollheimen, Trøndelag area this Aug for god-daughter, Guri’s wedding… pray no more volcano’s fury! Hope to get some hiking in the mountains. Might make a visit to Hell again 🙂

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell – Buddha

Central-Quarry Bay

19 Apr 2010 – I ‘m back… in SIN!

Sat: delicious dim-sum lunch**** unable to provide the name of the place (cannot read Chinese… no joke!) or take anyone there but thanks to Henry & John, I am introduced to the best Cantonese cusine. Chinese food often taste better than the looks and presentations while Japanese food is the other way round! Had to walk the rest of the day to let all this sumptuous food digest. Love to snap pictures of the old and new. The contrast is a constant reminder that every situation and story have their flip-sides!!

St John’s Cathedral (built 1849) against Bank of China (built 1990).

Night scenes from Gough Street area

Sun: the tram also known as dingding is the best way to see any city. Here in HKG, it is inexpensive (HK$2) and being on the upper deck commands a good view; in addition, it does not move too fast. Quarry Bay@Happy Restaurant***** had the best black vinegar chicken… to die for! Pleasant day to walk by the coast around TaiKoo Shing and Quarry Bay Park where people were fishing and enjoying their Sun. Appreciations to Henry & John who knew how I hate crowds, and took great consideration to that when choosing eateries & places of interest. How can I ever thank them enough for their hospitality and graciousness. Henry LIM, wishing him all the best with his job and stay in HKG and JohnWT CHENG, all the luck for his business ventures.

People living deeply have no fear of death – Anais Nin


17 Apr 2010 – Boomtown

Fri: took the MTR & bus early, against the rush traffic and that is the best time to go to Shenzhen/深圳/SZX suburbs. The smog was getting to both my eyes and lungs, so it was just as well that there was not enough time to get to the town center in a day’s trip. This boomtown is located in the Pearl River Delta. The municipality covers an area of 2,050 sqkm including urban and rural areas, with a population of over 8mil. HKG and SZX have very close business, trade, social links and there are 6 land crossing points on the boundary. Thank you to JohnWT, for being a guide to the gardens, art terminal and museum.

SZX Garden Expo Park is 660,000sq meters which was used for China’s 5th International Garden & Flower Expo in 2004/5. Nice walk and no crowds which is a big + for me!

OCT Contemporary Art Terminal and Loft: the little shops and displays are on the commercial side and everything is for sale. Lunched at My Noddle@OCT Loft*** where the food was too salty. According to John, this place had more to see when it was first opened some years ago.

He XaingNing Art Museum: China’s 2nd national modern art museum, contains a collection of world-class modern paintings. My favourite were the little people climbing up the hill on the left staircase and climbing down on the right, rather unique and cleverly displayed. Otherwise not much to see here but then, my non-existence knowledge of modern Chinese paintings is the reason to my ignorance!

SZX Intercontinental Hotel: Doormen dressed as Matador with a Spanish theme and a sailing ship by the pool. It was too gaudy and on the flamboyant side for my simple clean-cut taste. The mainland new rich Chinese seems to like this overwhelming style.

HKG Chinese Recreation Club@Tin Hau: Appreciations to Richard YUNG (the younger brother of May YUNG, who is married to cousin LAM Kwok Lock in Canada) for a lovely dinner. How delightful to be able to catch up. Memories from the 1960s when he used to visit Dublin during his English boarding school holidays. It seems another life time ago!

Fragrant Habour

15 Apr 2010 – Happy Bdays to Aileen KOH & Lynne ONG

Hong Kong/香港 literally translates to Fragrant Habour in Cantonese. Perhaps true at one time but looking at the hazy sky and smog certainly confirms that the air quality’s fragrance is quite contrary to its name! Situated on China’s south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive+expensive! skyline and natural deep harbour. With a population of over 7mil, land mass of 1,104 sqkm and 6,200 people per sqkm, people mountain people sea=people everywhere must have been an expression originated from here!

Arrived yesterday in lovely cool weather with the smog and cloudy sky. Thanks to Henry, I have a place to stay, most conveniently located in the Causeway Bay area with all the happenings. His cosy flat is even smaller than mine, has good views of the skyscrapers in the area. St Mary’s Church the is the neighbour building and it is the only church I know of that can be mistaken for a temple, but then a place of worship is a place of worship, may it be church or temple, mosque or synagogue! The food, shopping, weather etc is a nice change from hot SIN. Food is not hot spicy like in SIN but delightfully tasty and very yummy!

Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, maybe we should control the population to ensure the survival of our environment – Sir David Attenborough

Dragons vs Vikings

13 Apr 2010 – Movies/1

Off to Hong Kong bright and early tomorrow until Sun. Will make time to blog as there is a laptop with internet access where I am staying.

Dragons are legendary and mythical creatures from many cultures. The two most familiar interpretations of dragons are: European dragons from various European folk traditions, derives from Greek δράκων(drákōn) which probably comes from the verb δρακεῖν (drakeîn)=to see clearly. Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Asian cultures dragons 龍/lóng were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom—often said to be wise and possess some form of magic or other supernatural power, unlike Vikings who are humans!

How to Train Your Dragon*** a comedy adventure set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons. Cute animated effects with a touching fairy tale ending. Again the good conquers the evil! Somehow the song Puff the Magic Dragon, a dragon lives forever but not so little boys kept going in my mind after the movie!

This is Berk. It snows nine months out of the year, and hails the other three. What little food grows here is tough and tasteless. The people that grow here, even more so. The only upsides are the pets. While other places have ponies, or parrots… we have dragons.

My Rainy Days/Japanese** High school student Rio has never cared about anyone but herself due to her traumatic past. Her friends exist only so she can use them for her gains. One day, she meets a 35-year-old college professor Kouki and falls in love for the first time. Rio feels confused by her emotional change.

As for me the thing that I took away or concur with is that the more you are in love, the more painful it is.

The Concert/French*** Andrei was the greatest conductor for the Bolshoi Orchestra during the Brezhnev era. After refusing to abandon his Jewish musicians, he was fired at the height of his glory. He is still working at the Bolshoi 30years later, but as a cleaner and comes across an invitation addressed to the management from Thtre du Chtelet in Paris for the orchestra to come and perform there. Andrei has this idea to bring together his old musicians to Paris, passing them off as the Bolshoi Orchestra…

A Savory Journey

11 Apr 2010 – Johor, Pahang & Terengganu

Thu: Headed towards the SIN causeway@Woodlands early morning and continued towards the Eastern Malaysian peninsular bypassing Johor Bahru. After 136km, in the state of Johor (Jawi: جوهر ) is Mersing town. For most outsiders this small tourist town is hardly more than a few-hours rest en route to Tioman Island and is thus best known for its passenger boat jetty where ferries depart daily for numerous offshore island destination. For us it was a snack+drink+restroom stop where the biggest and most tasty curry puff can be found@Hotel Timotel****

Located on the banks of the Pahang River 50km south of Kuantan is Pekan, the royal town of the Malaysian state of Pahang Darul Makmur (Jawi: ڨهڠ) where grandfather LAM Song Kee had a pawnshop, Lee Onn in the 1950s. Climbing the wooden door railings is a fond memory from the past and believe it or not, they could still take my weight today 🙂 The pawnshop was later sold to the FONG family, now it is the Sun Lee Onn; sun=new/cantonese. Mr & Mrs FONG were close friends of paternal grandparents; their family are still in close contact with ours and we address them as ku-tse=father’s younger sister/cantonese. Appreciations to FONG MoKit ku-tse who drove us to pay respect to her parents’ graves.

Kuantan- the state capital of Pahang and largest state in Peninsular Malaysia, is situated near the mouth of the Kuantan River and faces the South China Sea. My first visit was in 1957 when 14th uncle, LAM Tin Chong had guns to protect us from the real tigers as we were onlookers observing the turtles laying their egg then. The tigers are there to eat the eggs. Today, I am delighted to discover some long-lost relatives, grandfather LAM Song Kee’s two half-brothers, LAM Swee Kee & LAM Swee Kuan’s families. Thank you to their families who loan me their copy of the LAM family records. This is very exciting and interesting to add to my family research. They helped to confirm what I have heard about paternal great-grand mother’s kidnapped incident. Need to find out her name before I write about it.

With a population of app 607,800, Kuantan is famous for its delicious keropok=fish crackers and salted fish, where the fish are marinated mainly with salt and left out to dry in the sun for days. The most famous shop to buy these dried food is Chen Hing. The ginger fish@Mexica**** is one of the best fish I have ever tasted. Salted fish with pork@Baru Hock Hin**** was delicious and Nasi Lemak@T&L**** is certainly worth returning for another trip! The other eateries visited: Hainan Chicken Rice*** Mega Roti Prata*** Mustafa Chendo***

About 1hr drive north of Kuantan across to the Terengganu state (Jawiترڠڬانو/formerly spelled Trengganu) is Kamaman, famous for its stuff crab@Tong Juan*** I preferred the crab fried rice. For coffee & NasiDagand=rice steamed with coconut-milk served with fish@Kedai Kopi Hai Peng*** is worth a visit.

Thank you to Pat CHEE for sharing her lovely Kuantan condo@Tembeling Resort, to Jane TAY for driving and to Josephine LAM for her company.