Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wet markets have been transformed, says hawker's son

The Straits Times
Online Forum Section
30th October 2009

MY PARENTS are hawkers in a wet market and I have seen how the markets have been transformed.

One good example is Tiong Bahru Market. Before the refurbishment, it was small and unpleasant. Now, it is clean, has modern shopping facilities and a wide variety of items.

Wet markets are also places where the elderly gather to share the latest news on their families. I remember vividly how old grannies would come up to my father and ask him to keep a lookout for their friends so they could sit down for a cup of tea in the cooked food section.

With flexible prices, wet markets are also ideal places for foreign workers to patronise.

An increasing number of young people can be observed shopping at the wet market as well. It is not only the increased cleanliness that draws people to shop there, but also the closeness and friendliness of the stallholders.

So if you have not been to a wet market, head down to Tiong Bahru Market this weekend. It is an ideal model for other wet markets to follow, and I hope it can change the misconceptions some Singaporeans have of wet markets.

Lee Yean Yang

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement & Condition of Access

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A GOOD busker with a BIG heart!

I was having a very bad morning today.

Every single phone call that came in was an “invitation” to solve some problems.

And the most ridiculous one was from a home buyer whom my client and I were trying to help even though we were not obligated to.

And instead of words of appreciation, the buyer started spewing profanities about my sellers.

I had to hang up the phone as I do not want to be contaminated with her toxicity.

That particular buyer has problems controlling her rage and anxiety and everyone she knows, including all her family members, are always cast in a bad light by her.

After I hung up the phone, I noticed that it was going to rain and that’s when a SMS from resident Chan came in.

“Have you heard the guy who sings at the tb market? He is really good :) must write a feature for him in your blog”

As I have no idea who that singing guy was and what I was supposed to do…plus I was already having a bad day, I replied rather promptly:

“Can you be the guest blogger?”

Sensing that it might be seen as a form of “TAI CHI” (Pushing away responsibility), I quickly SMS back to check when the guy will be at Tiong Bahru market as I thought the singing thingy was a weekend activity.

(By the way, there are a few “buskers” here at the Tiong Bahru market during the weekends and I’m not impressed with most of them. “PASSION” seems to be lacking in their gig)

Another SMS from resident chan wetted my curiosity:

“Hahah. I am sitting here and he is serenading us to great jazz pieces:) its like I am seated at clarke quay.”

“Serenading!”, “Clarke Quay standard”! Mmm, I must go and check it out.

So even though it was pouring heavily, I took my DSLR and my umbrella and walked to the market.

I could hear the beautiful singing as I make my way up the escalator to the second storey.

Many people where eating away happily while this guy was singing non-stop.

It was a beautiful atmosphere this afternoon and the cool weather complimented it very well.

And instinctively I took out my DSLR to snap a picture and that was when I realised that I had forgotten to put in the SD card!

This is very embarrassing!

I think everyone seated around there will notice an odd ball taking pictures with a BIG camera and thus I became very self conscious.

So when I realised it is not gonna capture any images at all, I had to carry on the act of taking pictures and walked away as soon as I could.

Eventually, I walked back there to drop a $2 into his box and whipped out my phone to snap the above picture.

I don’t think that guy knew that I dropped a note in but it doesn’t matter.

What matters was I managed to find out his name on his busker card and this guy’s name is Daniel Ng.

So I came back and googled up on this guy and IF this is the same Daniel Ng, this busker has a BIG heart!

In 2003, this guy used his singing talent to raise funds for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

With what little he has earned, he gave them away generously.

Just imagine how many hours he has to sing himself hoarse just to make enough for his daily expenses.

And instead of hoarding the money for himself, he gave some of it away!

Wow, this guy is SELFLESS and he could be our every day hero.

So the next time you see Daniel Ng at the Tiong Bahru Market or anywhere else, show him your BIG token of appreciation.

Resident Chan, thanks for that SMS today!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Old Newspaper Articles

This picture was lifted from We CONserve You CONserve, to see the enlarged article, please go to the original website to click on the picture.

While working on her dissertation on SIT flats, L!an stumbled upon some interesting old newspaper articles.

Click on this link to get to the blog : We CONserve You CONserve, of SIT Flats

She also found some interesting article about those demolished Art Deco building that were found in Chinatown. (Read Article : of SIT Flats in Chinatown)

Well Done!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


To read the content, click on the image to enlarge

Yesterday, HDB put up notices around the POST WAR side of Tiong Bahru to warn the residents here of some unscrupulous salespeople from Power Sense Enterprise.

About a fortnight ago, some of the salespeople from that company came around knocking on the doors of residents and duped them into thinking that HDB requires them to replace the pipes that are in their homes.

Since the sales pitch was done in the day, it was not surprising that most victims were the elderly or ignorant.

And I suspect their modus operandi was to look out for old and unrenovated units and zoom in on them.

These type of OLD units are frequently targetted by the door to door salespeople whilst the renovated ones were often left alone.

One of my neighbours parted with $700 to replace the pipes and she was told that the deposit was $300 and the rest could be paid on a 4 part instalments of $100.

The reason why she readily allowed them into her flat was because these salespeople actually wore clothing that resembled a uniform and they had name tags to make themselves look more “official”

Since the repainting and redecoration exercise is still on-going here, it was believable to her.

And these people even had the audacity to claim that they represented the HDB!

Anyway, this is not the 1st time Power Sense Enterprise had used this tactic. (See link: Complaints)

Over the last few days, these people could be seen going around to “replace” those pipes.

I suspect these people are just innocent third party contractors who did not know how the order was secured by the rogue salespeople. (Hence I dicided not to put up frontal pictures of them)

But based on their frequent presence here and their pick up truck, I think the sales guy is probably Power Sense Enterprise’s top salesperson of the month.

I’ve only got one word for that sales guy who preyed on the elderly and ignorant:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mistaken Identity

Comic from Sunday Times, Life Section, 18 October 2009 by
Lee Chee Chew, creator of the comics strip CHEW ON IT.

Reading this comic reminds me of another type of mistaken identity that happens most of the time around the Post War Tiong Bahru side.

If you like to take walks around the Post War side of Tiong Bahru Estate after sunset, you would not have missed all the “squeaks” and small little mouse-like creatures scurrying around.

Many people, including the residents here, have mistaken these furry little animals for a mouse.(Hence the perception that this place is infested with rats.)

Actually, these small mouse-like creatures are not even classified as a rodent and they are not even closely related to a rodent. (I will skip most of the technical bit and zoom in on the main points coz from afar, both looked the same to me)

The most noticeable difference between a rat and a shrew is their pointed muzzles and small eyes.

These mouse-like creatures that is common here in Tiong Bahru is actually a brown musk shrew or a house shrew as they are commonly called.

Pictures taken from Ecology Asia
Shrews could be found all over the world except in New Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand

Since shrews are Insectivore, they do have an important role to play in the Tiong Bahru ecosystem.

They help to keep the cockroach and insect population in checks.

These shrews could be seen moving around quite openly in the evenings and I have accidentally stepped on them on several occasions.

The reason why they seemed so oblivious to human presence could be because they have very small eyes and they cannot see very well.

I’m not sure if the species found here moves around by echolocation but with their frequent squeaks while moving around, I cannot help but feel that they do.

Anyway, for those who has musophobia, this information will probably do nothing to help you.....just like probably nothing will help me overcome my fear for cockroaches!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Plagued by season parking problem in Tiong Bahru

Oct 15, 2009
The Straits Times
Online Forum Section


Plagued by season parking problem in Tiong Bahru

I LIVE in the popular area of Tiong Bahru and when it comes to dinner time, supper time, eve of public holidays or weekends, it is virtually impossible to find a parking lot.
 Often, we have to wait 30 minutes or more before we get to park in the vicinity of our home.

We have a season parking ticket and HDB has a scheme that allows only season parking ticket holders to park in stipulated lots. So if you have a ticket for area TE23, you are not allowed to park in area TE27, which may be just a block away from your place.

On Oct 9, we waited for 45 minutes and ended up parking in a corner of the parking area because there were no lots in our allocated area. We were issued with a parking ticket, even though the car did not pose any disturbance or hindrance to traffic.

HDB told us it was unable to waive the fine.

If we are allocated a season parking ticket, but there are insufficient lots provided, shouldn't HDB review the system and solve the problem rather than have residents pay unnecessary fines?

Shouldn't an exception be made for residents to park at available lots in other stipulated areas knowing that there are not enough lots for residents.

It is extremely frustrating because time and time again the same problem arises.

Jacqueline Tan (Ms)

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement & Condition of Access

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Niche accommodation in Tiong Bahru

Written by Cecilia Chow
City and Country editor at The Edge Singapore
Monday, 22 June 2009

The Tiong Bahru estate in Singapore is morphing into an attractive boutique hotel enclave with the entry of a new kid on the block, the upscale 50-room Hotel Nostalgia located at the corner of Tiong Bahru Road and Seng Poh Road. It is scheduled to open at end-July.

Meanwhile, Wangz Hotel, still under construction at the other end of Tiong Bahru Road at the junction of Outram Road, will bring the total number of boutique hotels along Tiong Bahru Road to three. The other is the 288-room Link Hotel, which opened in 2007.

One of the oldest housing estates in Singapore, Tiong Bahru has a charm of its own, with architecture that’s an eclectic blend of art deco and the old Straits Settlement shophouse design. The estate was modelled after the old English towns at that time, hence blocks are low-rise and far from each other. In those days, it was the choice neighbourhood for the upper class, and hence, was considered “Singapore’s Hollywood”, says John White, managing director of private equity group Lion Properties, which owns the 50-room Hotel Nostalgia.

Lion Properties had purchased two shophouses at the corner of Tiong Bahru and Seng Poh Roads, and an empty lot behind the two, in August 2007. It paid S$11.4 million for the site, according to the URA Realis database of caveats lodged, and received approval for the amalgamation of the sites and for conversion to hotel use. While the two shophouses are being conserved and refurbished, a new annex is being built on the empty lot. According to White, the total investment, including acquisition of the freehold land, amounts to some S$20 million.

The 5-room Hotel Nostagia, seen in progress above and as an artist inpression on the July

Tiong Bahru also had a reputation as the place where rich and powerful men kept their mistresses, hence the moniker “Mei Ren Wo” or “den of beauties”. Hotel Nostalgia will be bringing back some of Tiong Bahru’s colourful and rich history, with rooms featuring two themes, says White: the “lush theme”, which reflects the romantic history of the area, and the “colonial theme”, which is a flashback of the old English designs. “So it’s quite unique in that aspect, and hence the name, Nostalgia.”

Affordable prices, good service
“New boutique hotels like Nostalgia will make the Tiong Bahru area a more prominent hub outside the traditional luxury hotel clusters like the Marina Centre area and the Orchard Road belt,” says property consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield’s regional managing director, Donald Han. While tourists and even corporate travellers may be reining in their spending and looking at more affordable alternatives to luxury five-star hotels in the face of the global economic slump, many do not want to compromise on the level of service. “Hence, such boutique hotels provide an alternative to the luxury hotel chains,” adds Han.

Link Hotel, owned by Macau-based Hang Huo Enterprise, is a refurbishment and conversion into hotel use of two of the oldest blocks of flats built by the Singapore Improvement Trust, a government body administered by the British colonial authority and the predecessor to the Housing Development Board, back in the early 1930s.

While Link Hotel’s target audience is mainly tour groups from China, Hotel Nostalgia’s luxury boutique offering is likely to appeal to the higher-end independent travellers from Europe, North America and Australasia — “people who’re looking for a Singapore experience”, says White.

Hotel Nostalgia is positioned as an “affordable luxury boutique hotel but characterised by a high level of personal service”. Room rates will range from S$180 to S$220 per night. The rooms will also be boutique-size, ranging from 180 to 190 sq ft, with some going up to 280 sq ft, says White.

As Singapore matures as a global destination, “it is starting to provide greater choices of accommodation for travellers”, he adds. Examples of the new, upscale boutique hotels currently in operation, and considered the first movers in this segment, include The Scarlett Hotel on Erskine Road, The Majestic in Bukit Pasoh and Naumi on Seah Street.

White argues that there’s room for more players and also greater diversification. As such, Lion Properties Group chose Tiong Bahru, a site that’s not on Orchard Road or in the CBD, but close to both. “It’s basically heartland Singapore,” says White, “and it gives people the opportunity to experience the way Singaporeans live in an estate such as Tiong Bahru.”

Strong property players
The group is currently recruiting staff and preparing for the opening of the hotel. “We’re quite comfortable operating it ourselves,” says White, citing the group’s experience in accommodation management as some of the investors are said to have managed boutique hotels in Auckland and a chain of serviced apartments across New Zealand.

White: Hotel Nostalgia's luxury boutique offering is likely to appeal to the higher-end independent travellers from Europe, North America and Australasia - people who're looking for a Singapore experience

Lion Properties Group, formed in mid-2007, is made up of 10 individual investors — six from Singapore and four from New Zealand, says White. Some of the prominent individual investors from Singapore include Lee Kim Bock, former managing director of Omni Plastics, and Koh Boon Hwee, chairman of DBS Group Holdings and DBS Bank. New Zealander private investors include Kevin Podmore and Aeneas “Mike” O’Sullivan, major shareholders of property-based funds management group St Laurence Ltd.

White, who also hails from New Zealand, is not just the managing director, but also an investor in Lion Properties. Formerly founder and CEO of global health and safety software company INTAZ Ltd, White formed EdPlus NZ, which specialised in student accommodation. He relocated to Singapore in 2006, and his first venture was with a company called EdPac Asia, which specialised in “providing accommodation for students and other investment property for long-term hold”.

Lion Properties is a private equity fund that also operates like a boutique property developer, focusing on buying properties, adding value through asset enhancements and new development, and then selling them. “We’re only looking at Singapore property at this stage,” says White. “We believe Singapore has a very strong future as it moves towards being a global city.”

Apart from Hotel Nostalgia, Lion Properties also owns a freehold, 11,400 sq ft industrial land parcel in Arumugam Road, which it acquired in August 2007 for S$6.6 million. “We were going to develop it, [but] it’s on hold and is being land banked at the moment because the market is such that it’s not time to do an [industrial] development,” says White. “The industrial market tends to lag behind the general commercial sector, so we just need to get our timing right.”

Conservation clamour
Riding the property upturn in late 2006 to 2007, the group of individual investors in Lion Properties, “who are a group of friends”, had also bought and sold several conservation properties, which included shophouses along Beach Road as well as Murray Terrace, says White.

According to the caveats lodged with URA Realis, Murray Terrace changed hands three times in under a year. The Lion Properties investors bought it for S$17.5 million in November 2006. They then received “an offer we couldn’t refuse”, according to White, and sold it seven months later to another investment group for S$31 million. They in turn flipped it three months later to Boston-headquartered US real estate fund AEW for S$50.1 million. Cushman & Wakefield is said to have handled all three transactions. AEW has since refurbished the conservation property into a 4-storey office building and leased the space.

Conservation properties are difficult to find, admits White. “You have to be always on the lookout, and do your analysis carefully to make sure you’re in the right location, that you can add value and increase your yield and tenant mix.”

In the last two months, White has received strong interest from several parties for Hotel Nostalgia, with some looking at purchasing the property as an investment while others are looking to operate it themselves. “We have a couple of interested parties who’ve approached us,” he admits. “They tend to be individuals or families who’re interested in investing in Singapore.”

With Lion Properties having invested effort in the design, building and quality of the hotel-room finishings, the hotel valuation “should be north of S$25 million”, estimates Cushman & Wakefield’s Han. “Generally, there are plenty of buyers for properties that are less than S$50 million in quantum size.”

Interest in future prospects
According to him, there has been a lot of interest in hotel properties from potential buyers, particularly “family money” from Indonesia, Hong Kong, China and Malaysia. Han also sees interest from groups such as KOP Capital, the Singapore-based luxury developer that acquired a 50% stake in Spain-based small luxury hotel operator Stein Group for US$250 million (RM882.6 million) last August. At the time of the announcement, the partners said they were looking for opportunities in Asia, specifically in Singapore, China, Indonesia and Thailand.

Han says there has been a lot of interest in hotel properties from potential buyers, particularly 'family money' from Indonesia,Hong Kong,China and Malaysia.

“While the hotel and tourism sector may be a little murky in the short-term, these investors are capitalising on the medium- and long-term prospects, particularly the spin-offs that are likely to happen with the opening of the two integrated resorts,” says Han.

International hotel groups are also said to be interested in entering the boutique hotel segment, observes Han. “Some of these international hotel groups are also looking at rolling out more of their hotel brands in the budget range, given the change in the market.” For instance, Starwood Hotels & Resorts is considering bringing its Aloft brand to Singapore; Accor Group, which will have two Ibis hotels in Singapore, could potentially bring in its other budget hotel line, Formula 1; and there’s also InterContinental Hotel Group, which may bring in its Holiday Inn Express brand, he adds.

For now, Lion Properties is focused on getting the hotel up and running. “We have appointed a manager and we’re now recruiting staff for the operation,” says White. “We will start with the level of staff based on the opening occupancy, and take on additional staff as the occupancy grows. It’s pretty important these days to manage costs and overhead.”

White believes the integrated resorts will lead to an increase in the number of nights’ stay by visitors to Singapore, and “that’s obviously going to be good for us, with the number of hotel rooms coming on”. A savvy property investor, he’s philosophical about the market. “It’s very tough out there at the moment. But you have to believe that property and the hotel market goes in cycles, and while there is a major global recession at the moment, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 760, June 22 - 28, 2009.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Becoming a more Elderly Friendly Estate

This blog entry was triggered off by Resident Yap when he mentioned to me that he would like to make a portable ramp at the edge of the block to make it easier for him to push his mum's wheelchair onto the walkways.

The corridor ends of the Tiong Bahru SIT flats have always like what the picture shows, a drop at the end.

Most of us would probably not think twice about the inconveniences the physically challenged face each day.

In fact, when the I saw the town council men putting up a ramp at Block 27 Lim Liak Street, I was even wondering to myself if there is a need for this.

My conversation with Resident Yap opened up my mind and I realised that though such ramps are probably a non-event for most residents here, it may be something that some amongst us are earnestly looking forward to.

And I'm glad the Tanjong Pagar Town Council is proactive in such matters.

I called them up just to be doubly sure that they will be putting up the ramps for all the blocks here and they confirmed it.

They will be putting up the ramps at all corridor ends here at the Post War side. (Sorry, forgot to ask them about the timeline)

One benefit I can think of for myself is that my kids can now cycle right up to the stairs and I do not need to walk back and forth to pick up their little bikes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

somebody gonna get a hurt real bad

I saw this lazy brilliant guy loading up stuff into his brand new Honda Freed this afternoon.

Someday, I could see myself swerving my "off-roader" wannabe car on these pedestrian walkways while my kids ride their 2 wheelers alongside me.

But Nah....this is not my grandfather's road.

And no matter how inconvenient it is or it has to be, I will still keep my car on the road when I load or unload stuff unto my car.

Doing otherwise and "somebody gonna get a hurt real bad"

By the way, this driver did a 3 point turn and drove out into Lim Liak Street.

And a town council guy who happened to be walking over from block 35 to block 37 looked very puzzled when the vehicle drove past him. 

See my previous post : Rogue Van

Monday, October 5, 2009

Done in 60 Seconds

This was a familiar sight last week.

All the bicycles that were illegally chained to whatever poles that exist within the Pre-War side of the Tiong Bahru estate were pasted with a notice.

Basically, the bicycles’ owners were asked to move their bikes indoors or park them at the designated bicycle areas.

Otherwise their bikes will be removed on 5th October 2009 by the Tanjong Pagar Town Council.

I was planning to blog about it last week but I kept procrastinating until today when I saw the “bicycle removal team” in the thick of the action along Yong Siak Street at about 2pm today.

And this is their weapon of choice, a heavy duty chain cutter.

And yes, it could be done within 60 seconds.

The white bike with a basket looks like a good bike.

Anyway, according to Mr Poritosh (The taller guy), the town council can actually give you a bike if you request for it.

They just need to verify your identity and you can have an “orphaned” bike for free.

I was thinking maybe they should just sell it off and donate the money collected to some charities instead of just giving them away.

Most people do not treasure free stuff and those "orphaned" bikes might just end up at some poles within the Tiong Bahru Estate again right?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Close @ Tiong Bahru

I found this while surfing the web. I wonder why Kelvin did not post it in his blog.

Anyway, to get to the page, just click on the picture. Have fun reading it!