Images of Singapore – A Little Something For SG50

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This post is a compilation of images of Singapore captured during my many cycling trips, usually morning.

I marvel at how beautiful this little red dot has become, how much she has transformed and how far we have come. As cliche as it may sound, I feel really privileged to call myself Singaporean.

Her last 50 years have been nothing short of spectacular and miraculous. I hope that the next 50 years will be as good if not better than the last and I wish to live long enough to celebrate her centennial.

Happy 50th Birthday my country, my sanctuary, my home!

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A Morning With Beautiful Finds

So my 5 year old kindy class organised a trip to the wax museum which we decided to give it a miss as I didn’t think it would mean much to him to ‘meet’ Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and the likes.

We were reading about volcanoes the night before and he was eager to make one with the usual baking soda and vinegar concoction which his brother used for making rockets and bombs.

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We woke up to a beautiful morning and I have to admit that part of me was longing for my morning ride. And as if he could read my mind, he suggested bringing our bikes along.

I know I am probably biased, but I think he’s like the coolest kid, all geared up with helmet, gloves and water bag. He might be slower in speed, with wheel size only a fraction of mine but his ‘coolness’ more or less make up for it. I couldn’t keep up with his rpm which made him looked like a hamster on a wheel.

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He found a perfect spot to park our bikes. It was under an old tree, right next to the beach. I was hoping that he would agree to cycle more before stopping (so that I could burn off some of the pandan cake I had that morning) but he was focused on building his volcano.

So there we were, with his shovels and bucket. He was determined to dig a tunnel for his volcano. It was amazing how water and sand could keep him entertained and occupied.

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Before long into our sand play, he dangled something in front of me. It was a tiny little fish, presumably dead and he tried dissecting it to see what was inside.

We were making trips back and forth the sea to fetch more water and saw something bobbing in and out of the water. No, it was not a log nor debris. It was something moving and alive. You could imagine our excitement when we realised that it was a sea otter. It scurried up the water breaker and dove back into the water again.

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We found this huge rock that resembled a pumice stone. He thought it was quite unbelievable to have a volcanic rock appear on the shore of Singapore. Upon closer scrutiny and some research on my phone, we concluded that it was probably a dead coral.

Just when he had enough of digging and shovelling, we saw something huge being washed onto the shore.

For a while, we just stood and watched from a distance, thinking that it might be a sea turtle. Seeing that it wasn’t moving, we slowly made our way towards the strange creature.

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Lo and behold, to our astonishment, it was a gigantic jellyfish!

We were gagging with excitement.
Was it alive? Would it sting? What should we do with it?

We did what we usually do when we came across unusual finds in the park, we called our ever trusty National Parks Hotline. I was hoping that they would be as excited as me, or at least half as excited as when they found a dead sperm whale on our shore.

Unfortunately, I was told that they would usually have the carcass cleared away. No preservation or keeping it as a specimen. I would love to if I could find a way to carry this thing home!

It was heavy and we broke a few branches trying to flip it over. We observed the different parts, its huge arms and the hood which was perhaps 3 times the size of my boy’s head. It felt rubbery and cool to the touch. He thought it looked like ‘Ang Gu Kueh’, a humongous one.

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Doesn’t it remind you of a sea turtle? or maybe the jellyfish cold plate appetizer served during wedding banquet?

I would have usually cycled past this place with music plugged in my ears, fervently trying to maintain my speed, oblivious to these little surprises.

Thanks to my little man, we had a leisure and unhurried morning discovering beautiful finds from nature’s treasure trove and boy, was I glad we ditched the school trip to the wax museum.

 

 

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A Trip To The Tonkinese Alps Part 4 : Learning Beyond The Classroom Walls

We took the plunge. It was a leap of faith. The kids should be able to survive without any electronic devices. Never tried it since the advent of the iphone. No ipad, no electronic games. Just us, them, and everything else in between.

The trip apart from hiking, was meant to show the kids the lives of people in the less developed part of the world.

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Prior to the trip, I was worried about many things. The food, the weather and how well they (or we) could survive the long journey without their electronic games. I was worried that the holiday could turn into a nightmare.

We packed some UNO cards and a handful of Lego figurines and the boys were happy playing with them during our 8 hour train ride. At the end of each day, they were tasked to write down in their journals, a couple of things they saw during the day.

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During the trip, the kids got to mingle and make friends with the local children. Play was their common language.

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They learned about fruits and plants that grow in the wild. Our 13 year old guide showed and fed us some wild weird looking fruits along the way. Some of the plants have medicinal uses but I think they eat them mostly to quench their thirst and fill their stomach.

These are green tea fruits. The leaves are use for making tea but these fruits can’t be eaten.

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These fruits which look like berries, have a local name which I couldn’t pronounce. They taste really refreshing and sweet with a tinge of sourness.

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The relatively cheap hiking boots which I got for my 5 year old were perfect for him. It was tough and waterproof, perfect for him to trash in it.

I am quite sure his confidence level went a notch up after all the climbing and waddling through running streams, muddy trails and slippery rocks.

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He learned that rivers and streams play an important role in the lives of these people.

They bath and wash their clothes in them. The water is used in the padi fields and for generating small amount of electricity in their homes.

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The boys enjoyed the food and the new friends they made. They played with what the local kids play with, from climbing trees to slippery rocks, from weaving their own toys to making up their own games.

This bow and arrow was made from bamboo strips that he picked up along the way.

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I realised that the boys were more adaptable than I thought. They were much more capable of self entertaining than I thought.

I am not sure how much they were affected by the poverty they saw or whether they feel that they should be thankful for what they have. (I hope they do)

They knew that their friends took months to grow their rice and many of them don’t have a chance to go to school. If you ask my 5 year old, he would probably tell you that his deepest impression of the place was their toilets. They were holes in the ground and he worried about falling into them when his legs get tired from squatting.

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Our 1 week in Sapa was an experience that we wouldn’t have had living in our cocoon world of comfort. It was a learning experience that goes beyond the 4 walls of a classroom and I was reminded of the Chinese saying, ‘better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books’.

I realised that much of my initial worries were unfounded. The boys did not reject the food that were served or complain about the very basic condition of their friends’ homes. They dug into the gunny sack of toys like treasure troves and they enjoyed every moment spent with their new friends. I am glad that they did not shun the kids they met along the way, often with torn and tattered clothes.

I am glad the boys took in the new experience so well.

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If you ask Malcolm about the kids without clothes playing in the padi fields, he would probably shoot you a nonchalant look before diving back into his book and Marcus would tell you that the kids were having fun.

I realised what I saw as poverty and struggle was perhaps to my children just a different life, probably a happy and carefree one.

They had readily take in the fact that there are people who live very differently from them and believe in very different things.

I realised that perhaps my children could see better than me and they were right that the children of Sapa were just different, and happy and needn’t need anything more, at least not iPad or any electronic games and gadgets.

 

Read Part 1 of our trip : A Homecooked Meal
Read Part 2 of our trip : Hiking the Mountains
Read Part 3 of our trip : Children of Sapa

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