Monday, November 17, 2008
Return of songbirds
Tiong Bahru bird corner to reverberate with music again with bird singing competition at month's end
The Straits Times
Nov 17, 2008
By tay suan chiang
Tiong Bahru will soon be filled with the music of singing birds again.
About six years ago, the famous bird corner at the former Block 53 in Tiong Bahru Road fell silent when the area was redeveloped. Bird lovers, who used to flock here clutching cages housing their chirpy feathered friends, stopped coming.
The housing block and another block across the road have been transformed into the 288-room boutique Link Hotel, which opened in July last year.
And the hotel is holding a bird singing competition on Nov 30 to mark the reopening of the famed corner.
About 350 bird lovers are expected to take about 400 mata putehs and merbuk jambuls to compete in the contest for 60 trophies. These two types of birds are known for their singing and will be judged on their quality of voice, showmanship and volume.
The hotel spent $200,000 sprucing up the bird corner, which was surveyed to ensure that the structure, which has been around for more than 10 years, is still sound.
Bird lover George Chang, 56, who has been judging bird singing competitions for 30 years, was roped in to rebuild the bird corner. The retiree has two birds which he shows at a bird corner near his home in Bedok North. He used to take his birds to Tiong Bahru before it closed.
The height of the structure also had to be measured to determine the length of the hooks for the cages.
Mr Chang says each of the 322 hooks must be 2.5m from the ground so that bird lovers will not knock their heads on the cages.
Mr George Chen, the hotel's director and general manager, says everyone is welcome to visit the bird corner, even when there is no competition.
'We want the hotel to retain its legacy and part of this is the bird corner, which reflects the uniqueness of the area,' he says.
The bird corner came about nearly 60 years ago, when a group of men began hanging their bird cages on a tree next to the coffee shop at Block 53. It became famous in the late 1980s when a Dutch journalist and avid bird lover, Mr G. van Bladel, started going there, too. He wrote articles about the place in several newspapers in the Netherlands. Soon, overseas reporters swamped the place, eager for a glimpse of this unusual avian haunt.
One bird lover who is taking part in the competition is Mr Raymond Kok, 55, who is self employed. The Tampines resident used to visit Tiong Bahru with his birds once a month, but he now frequents a bird corner in Bedok.
'I like listening to the sound of my birds singing,' he says of his 23 birds.
More than 100 bird enthusiasts have signed up for the competition. Registration costs $12 per bird at the hotel.
The hotel plans to make the bird singing competition an annual affair. It also has plans to install chairs, shelters and lighting at the corner.
Tiong Bahru resident Terence Lee, 48, is happy to hear the corner will be revived.
'It is a well-known spot and, hopefully, it will be as popular as before,' says the businessman.