In SINGAPORE. It was the result of a serendipitous meeting along the street. My first reaction was to believe it to be due to path dependency, although I was pretty sure that was too literal a translation of that theory, that led me to after forty-five minutes, the poignant realization that we were seated at a levelled table speaking across levels.
Taxi drivers. They make some of the most understated ambassadors to a country, in particular, if that country is Singapore, if only because most taxi drivers are quite loquacious individuals who love spending time in transit to get to know their passengers.
“Being married is so great, it’s so fantastic, it would be such an achievement to be married.”
That line came from a young woman who sat in a café that served French baguettes and kaffe latte to brunch not just two weeks ago, in Sweden. She grew up in Asia. She was highly qualified in academic credentials and currently has an ascending career in finance. But she’s in her late twenties and it was the general vibe from all back home in Asia, that it was about time she settled down and got married. Her parents were willing to engage a matchmaker to arrange a marriage if that was what it took to get her ‘settled down’ and feeling accomplished as a woman.
The symbolic flower for the month of May is the Rosa Chinensis or the China Rose, which shares the same name / title to one of my paternal grandfather’s favourite songs, “Rose Rose I Love You”.
That song was first recorded in 1940 by Yao Lee and then by Frankie Laine in 1951 with the lyrics of the latter unrelated to the original.
What I found interesting in Laine’s version is that the song references a girl, possibly named Rose, as a “flower of Malaya”. This reference brought me back to the origins of Clifford Pier in Singapore, built between 1927 and 1933 and named after Sir Hugh Clifford, Governor of the Straits Settlements at the time. The pier was one of the busiest embarkation and disembarkation points in Singapore that belonged to the Straits Settlements Crown Colony during the early 1900s, from immigrants to the trading of goods. That Customs House at Collyer Quay stands in close proximity to what was once Clifford Pier today is testament to its history.
Already when we last met, the Valtulina family hinted at that they were preparing a move to a new location. It would be a great improvement they told me, since they had seriously outgrown their family living room sized premises in the Bukit Timah area. Because of this, it was with great expectation we went to take a look at the new restaurant, Valentino’s, at Turf Club Road.
Greeted in family tradition with a warm hurricane of emotions at their door, we were whisked almost immediately, into the kitchen, where Valentino stood at the heart of it all.
I had certainly missed the Valtulina Family!
Gianpiero Valtulina, setting up the private dining quarters of the restaurant. Gianpiero, or ‘Papa’, has been a guiding hand in the process of the building of the new place. His influence and finishing touches can be seen in the beautiful decorations furnishing the home and restaurant.
The private room here can seat about forty-five persons. Perfect for that larger family or corporate event.
With so much movement in the place, I couldn’t help wanting to capture all details on camera, from the rustic brick enclaves in the main dining hall to the stash of deliciously piled ripened tomatoes and garlic that sat in proximity to various cheeses all carefully stored.
It took about a half hour to orientate myself in the new expansive place, from walk-in freezers to the various bakery and kitchens, the main dining hall and the Valentino Garden outdoors that already housed a healthy citrus tree, to finally sit down and come to process the information and impression of their new restaurant.
It was about a generation ago that anyone who wanted to swim in the waters of Singapore, whether river or sea, would and could in kampong spirit and enthusiasm simply jump in. Today, a stunt like that would most certainly get some raised eyebrows, if you didn’t end up yourself being hauled in by authorities in reminder of areas cordoned off, for reasons accorded, from bathing possibilities.
In the prescriptive social fabric of Singapore that can be both helpful and hindering at the same time, an area promoted for leisurely activities that includes sun basking and swimming is the Island of Sentosa with a mission of being “the world’s favourite leisure and lifestyle resort destination”.
As a little Garden of Eden of sorts is the Singapore Botanic Gardens, that’s beautiful for an afternoon stroll. As an integrated part of the Botanic Gardens is the National Orchid Garden that houses innumerable exotic varieties of the country’s national flower.
Sitting happy in the Orchid Gardens’ collection, the largest display of tropical orchids in the world, are more than 3,000 species and hybrids with about 600 on display. Every year, more vibrant and enduring hybrids are added on.
Within the compounds of the Botanic Gardens is Burkill Hall. Built in 1866, it is a fine example of an early colonial bungalow with its trellis constructs to its ground floors, tall windows adorned with matted drawn blinds.
Burkill Hall used to be the Director’s House, and its current name commemorates the only father and son pair, Isaac and Humphrey Burkill, to hold the post of Director of Singapore Botanic Gardens.
For anyone coming to Singapore for the first time, or the occasional visitor who wants to check what’s up in the city, the Singapore River with its numerous landmark bridges and quays is the natural place to start.
Since the founding of Singapore in 1819, the Singapore River has been the center for much of the island’s trade and economic activities.
The area around the mouth of the Singapore River was known as the Old Harbour. This was the busiest part of the port, with most trade taking place along the south bank of the river, at Boat Quay.
As early as 1822 this area was designated to be developed as a Chinese settlement, after which the Chinese, mostly traders and labourers, settled here in large numbers. Conditions were squalid but Boat Quay flourished, rapidly exceeding in volume the trade on the north bank, where the Europeans had their offices, houses and government buildings.
Mid-19th century and onwards
From the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 the new steamships started calling at the port of Singapore. Hundreds of bumboats would fight for limited berthing space. Incoming cargo were laboriously carried from the ships anchored outside of the river mouth. Sacks of goods streamed into the road on the shoulders of coolies. Here was a brisk trade of raw material such as rubber, tin, and steel to food and manufactured goods.
Only in the 1960’s did the commercial importance of Boat Quay start to decline as the ships grew and the role of the bumboats in the shipping industry was superseded by mechanized container handling.
It is difficult to talk about Marina Bay Sands in Singapore without mentioning numbers. However, from the moment you set your eyes on this building the first time, until you enter its car park and start finding your way through its numerous shopping malls – complete with in-built waterways, fountains and sampans – the proportions of this undertaking becomes mind boggling.
Furthermost out at one end of the Sands SkyPark, on a 46 meter overhang, is the KU DÉ TA nightclub.
Marina Bay Sands’ three hotel towers are connected by a sky terrace on the roof named Sands SkyPark that among other things features an infinity swimming pool and a number of restaurants and bars. Furthermost out on the 46 meter overhang, is the KU DÉ TA nightclub. In the middle of a lush garden, with trees and plants and a public observatory deck on the cantilever, you can enjoy a stunning view of the Singapore skyline.
A few weeks ago, a new restaurant opened in an old shophouse along Club Street in a dining concept that combines fine quality ingredients with culinary heritage and tradition.
It is perhaps not surprising that Truffle Gourmet is located in the heart of the most fashionable and lively district in the midst of Singapore.
Club Street is one of Singapore’s older streets. It is situated at the edge of Chinatown just adjacent to Cross Street and Amoy Street. In these quarters during the 18- and 1900s, Chinese immigrant labourers would find letter writers and calligraphers to help them stay in touch with their loved ones back home.
Today, a long stretch of bars and restaurants offers a variety of interesting places presenting good food in stylish surroundings.
I wonder what it is with sons of carpenters. One launches an entire institution of religion and the other, saves us from bad travel experiences and gives us the gift of luxurious, resilient travel bags.
The name Louis Vuitton evokes in me, not the large conglomerate fashion house with Nicholas Ghesquière (from 2013/4, who succeeded Marc Jacobs, from 1997) as artistic director of the empire, but rather the humble beginnings of the son of a carpenter who at age 14, in 1835, packed his bags in Anchay, Jura where he was born in France, and headed for Paris – on foot. He took odd jobs along the way to pay for food and lodging, all this while, perfecting his carpentry skills and expanding his knowledge on various types of wood.
400 km further away and one year later, Louis arrived in Paris to find a flourishing haute couture culture, where lavish and elaborate dressing was all the rage. It was here that he learnt to pack such elaborate outfits to perfection. And it was his dress packing skills and not foremost his carpentry skills that attracted the attention of Empress Eugénie. He became her favourite packer.
It was not long before he combined his dress packing skills with his carpentry skills to produce the first flat, stackable trunk for transportation. These stable and solid trunks were covered with grey Trianon canvas.
The CHIJMES cluster of buildings along Victoria Street is what to me remains as one of the more beautiful architectural features in the changing landscape of modern Singapore.
Having grown up in another Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), I feel right at home strolling the grounds of this one in the heart of the city. From the rooftop, you’ll get a good overview of the courtyard and the corridors of adjacent buildings that lead to once classrooms, today turned into office spaces.
The Chapel’s gothic architecture is breathtaking when basked in the morning light, in the quiet hours just prior to the rush of the city’s daily traffic.
I have an affinity for quiet corners in today’s current targeted 7 million inhabitants Singapore. And whether explained by quantum theories of alternate realities, or on a less philosophical level, simply taking the time to find that quiet spot during peak hours in the heart of bustling Chinatown, PS Café at Ann Siang Hill is an utterly serene and cosy meeting place.
Ann Siang Hill is the name of a one-way road located in Chinatown in Singapore. Situated immediately inland of the old harbour, it is today one of the more authentic areas that remain of old Singapore, right at the heart of where all trade of the olden days of this developing city would have taken place.
I am very interested in learning about the reasons why people in service & knowledge-based societies are reluctant to marry and have children.
I believe that a fundamental reason is the changing economic value of children: from assets to liabilities.
In rural societies, children were “energy”. In our modern societies, children not only start being productive increasingly later in life but are also less willing to provide for their elderly parents. Labour markets’ demand for “flexibility” also means that children find it harder to be physically close and economically solid enough to serve their “filial piety” corvée. Some people will find that the wish to have children should not be based on economic incentives and should rather be based on “love”.
Still, as you have pointed out in your article, having children for “love” is a relatively recent idea in our history. Traditionally, political or economical reasons based the decision for marriage and children. Also, although humans are certainly capable of acts that transcend individual interests, they generally are driven by the satisfaction of practical needs, just like any other mammal: food, shelter, accumulation of resources.
I think that such shift on how children are perceived – from “asset” to “liability” – reflects a reality that is more certain, stable and lasting for potential parents than any of the incentives the Singaporean government is currently proposing. For this, I believe such incentives are destined to failure.
I wonder whether we are in a situation of “heterochrony”: two systems – the productive system and the reproductive system – that evolve at different speeds. The societal forms subserving the reproductive system evolve at a much slower pace and we are now stuck with forms of marriage and family that fit the rural productive system but not the knowledge-based one.
My stay-in girlfriend just asked me “what is your definition of me as your girlfriend” and I replied “Cohabitation Partner”.
I googled “cohabitation in singapore” and was very intrugued in finding your page. It’s been 4 years since you published this and I see that nothing significant has changed. Outlook towards marriage still revolves around getting a place of their own.
Unfortunately after all these years, you’re still correct. I’m 37 this year & come from a fairly traditional family. I took quite a while before my parents could accept my “defiant nature”.
In your view, how are we going to cross this social tradition in Singapore?
Having grown up in Singapore, I’ve had the opportunity to observe Sentosa transform from a relatively quiet and exotic city getaway with accessible beaches that you could drive up to, park and picnic if you so wished, to one filled with attractions today such as Universal Studios alongside Resorts World that have both locals and visitors gather by the hundreds over the weekends for some fun.
This time my curiosity was piqued about the American W Hotels Worldwide’s newly opened W Singapore hotel and residences located at Sentosa Cove. A place targeted as part of the Singapore government’s efforts at building exclusive residential areas, this one in particular being currently the only seaside marina residential area in Singapore.
Part of my culinary adventures is to combine bits and pieces of knowledge and inspirations picked up from one context and transfer that to a different context, in anticipation of the results. Besides which, I didn’t think I could get away being back in Singapore without cooking or baking with the family.
If it were not for a kind Samaritan I met along the way who pointed out directions to the Fullerton Pavilion in Singapore, I would have taken much more time before landing at the day’s lunch venue – Catalunya Singapore.
Coming in from the scorch of the mid-day tropical sun, it took a few seconds for the eyes to adjust to the dimmer interior of the bar and restaurant, though the line of sight didn’t need to venture farther than the reception to find a touch of Gaudí’s influence in the gleaming white broken mosaic pieces that clung to the columns of the dining interior. This influence of Gaudí would also continue, as I found, through the dining experience in the shapes and motifs of the plates and utensils on the table. Not two steps into the place, I was surrounded by individuals who spoke Catalan and Spanish, déjà vu and I felt right back in Barcelona again, and felt right at home.
Scope and Teaching Approach of Sexuality Education in Schools
Abstinence before marriage is the best course of action for teenagers. Sexuality Education teaches students the possible consequences of sexual activity and that pre-marital sex is not desirable as there are inherent risks.
To reduce the incidence of STIs/HIV and teenage pregnancies among our young, a practical approach is adopted. Sexuality Education teaches students facts about contraception, repercussions of casual sex, and the prevention of diseases from a health perspective. This is in addition to teaching teenagers about building healthy relationships and how to say “no” to sexual advances.
Sexuality Education teaches students what homosexuality is, and the current legal provisions concerning homosexual acts in Singapore.
Both teachers and MOE-approved external speakers should respect that they are in a position of trust with respect to students and ensure that schools are not used as arenas for advocacy on controversial issues.
A quick discourse analysis of the text uncovers the Singapore governmental institution’s underlying sense of Victorian values and lack of ease with the subject of sex education. The opening paragraph that outlines the “scope and teaching approach” of sex education in Singapore schools raises a few questions due to inconsistencies in conceptual definitions (defining “secular” vs. “mainstream” values in multicultural, multi-religious Singapore) and logical fallacies, one of which is faulty correlation that the discourse tries to equate facts (how STIs are spread) with social values (preferred abstinence from pre-marital sex).
One wonders what kind of cat and mouse game teachers and students would play during class on the topic of sex education, or on whom the blinkers will lay when “abstinence before marriage” (a material act of individual choice) is considered “the best course of action for teenagers” (a social value hegemonically advocated in this discourse) that is also “a practical approach” (begs the question, from whose perspective and for which party concerned – the teachers, the parents or the teenagers?). Even the Roman Catholic Church in their long history of struggle and balance of politics and power, where abstinence, the result of which was a purposeful lack of heirs that dissolved assets in their division amongst many, was deemed a necessary measure of wealth building, power retention and consolidation for the institution and regime of the Church, has had trouble keeping their ordained leaders chaste.
I have often written about Italian hospitality and how their spontaneous generosity has the ability to grab and wrap you as a warm blanket. Just a few days ago I found myself back at what I have to admit is one of my all time favourite Italian restaurants in Singapore, and was hardly out of the taxi when I met the first of the Valtulinas outside of their restaurant at Jalan Bingka.
In an instant I was properly greeted Italian style, and promptly whisked into Perla Valtulina’s next door pastry boutique for a peek at her latest creations for their upcoming new restaurant and pastry boutique, to be located at 200 Turf Club Rd (#01-19) in Singapore.
Having not been back in Singapore for a while it felt I had missed quite some happenings on their side, not in the least that there is now a sit-in dining possibility at the pastry boutique – an option I thought brilliant for a chocolate addict such as myself – with the equally delightful possibility of takeaway gelato.
Naturally everyone has their own shortlist of things to do when swinging by their hometown and when the opportunity arises. One of those pit stops on my list is to hit the pretty touristy Long Bar at the Singapore classic Raffles Hotel.
The perpetual question when coming home to Singapore from a long stay abroad is – what developments will I discover this time?
The rapid speed of life in general and the perpetual state of flux and development in Singapore make for that the only constant one can expect in Singapore, is change itself. In the background would be the distant rumble of hundreds of gigantic diesel engines of the more than 400 container ships and tankers anchored along the skirts of the Singapore shoreline. The humidity, the temperatures and along the East Coast, the curious intermingle of the salty sea air and the familiar aromas of various types of food – Malay, Indian, Chinese, Nonya etc.
One of the distinctly comfortable things to find is that there still exists home made ice-lemon tea, and with it why not a portion of the Indonesian influenced Nasi Padang in a heartland coffee-shop of the East?
A comfortable lunch in a non-air conditioned place – a priceless comfort in a rapidly developing world.
Founded by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania has consistently ranked one of the world’s top universities, with its business school, Wharton, being legendary. Even now as my work brings me side by side with faculty drawn from this ivy league university, I was happy to visit the actual campus, especially during Cherry Blossom season!
The Upper Quad Gate, the number one popular “dorm” or college house, among most Freshmen at Penn, scenic in the Spring sunlight.
JE and I at Penn, directly across the Upper Quad Gate.
Campus life – just brilliant!
I completely enjoyed walking down some of its numerous pathways that bathed in the early spring sunlight, exploring buildings, the libraries, the bookshop and slightly beyond the campus grounds, a cozy shop that sold all things chocolate. Fictional Hogwarts excluded, I could never dream up a more vibrant campus life than what I met with at Penn walking down Locust Walk.