Thursday, May 31, 2007


Singapore Aviation snippets first: The local TV and newspapers showed the new Changi Airport Terminal 3 that is going to officially open next January. It is supposed to cater to an additional 20 million or so. The concept is a bit different from the existing two terminals, with natural light providing the bulk of the daytime lighting needs. They planned this terminal seven years ago and it took them S$1.5 Billion. 28 boarding gates are being made and 8 of those will cater to the Airbus A380 Super Jumbo. Like I have said before, Singapore is known for efficiency. Anyone who has come this way has seen that. I had written about Seletar Airport and how it is being turned into an Aviation hub. As I see it, work is going on everyday to make that happen and it’s all happening without major disruptions to any activity here.

Bollywood Veggies:
Recently, we went to a farm called “Bollywood Veggies” promoted by Ivy Singh Lim and her husband, who retired from their hectic high power jobs to go away to the countryside and develop a farm. Bollywood Veggies name comes from Ivy Singh Lim’s Indian heritage perhaps. “In the beginning we were only expecting a few of our friends to drop by and have a couple of drinks at the farm”, she says. But the day they announced that the farm was open to all visitors, there was a virtual deluge of people. This prompted the couple to put up a farm-bistro where food can be served, prepared from the organically grown produce from their own farm. It is quite popular with some of the locals who want to wander away from all the traffic and shiny new buildings to somewhere quiet where one can hear sounds of nature and be among vegetables and fruits. The Bistro is interestingly called “poison Ivy!”

(view of part of the farm)
In my previous post, I mentioned that Singapore is not just a shiny steel and glass city with excellent infrastructure. It is not only a Technology hub, Tourism hub, International Finance hub, Aviation hub, shopping centers and all that. Surprisingly, in this tiny Island there are a few getaways and one of those is an area North West of the Island known as the Kranji countryside. This area is full of farms such as goat farms, vegetable farms, orchid farms and plenty of fish farms. While those of you in India and the West have seen large agricultural areas, the farms here are miniscule in terms of size. Singapore is just a dot on the World map but the fact that there is still some agriculture and a few farmers who live different lives compared to other Singaporeans and that makes it all the more interesting.

(Part of Poison Ivy Bistro)
The farm offers tours on weekdays (S$2 per person and well worth it because Ivy’s stories are fun) and although we went on a weekend, Ivy was conducting a farm tour for a large Multinational Oil company in Singapore whose executives had come for a farm experience in a chartered bus. Ivy’s natural sense of humor shines through her tour speeches and the couple go around greeting each and every person who drops by. She was excited to tell the group that they had spotted fireflies at the farm at night recently and how they had almost disappeared from the Singapore landscape and how they are making efforts to lure them back.


For those who live here and many of you I know have not heard of this place nor about the farms I’d say - take some time off to relax, hear yourself think and smell the flowers. Eat some fresh organic produce. Contrary to its name, Bollywood veggies/Poison Ivy Bistro offers plenty of non-vegetarian food as well. Organic fruit juices are available and regular cold Tiger beer, great for a warm afternoon. Take cash with you, the farm does not accept cards! How rustic and simple.

(Ivy with a group of visitors)

I am going to visit the other farms one by one. Meanwhile, I’ll tell you how to get there by public transportation. Take the MRT to Kranji MRT station (on the North South Line) and change to a “Kranji Express” bus service that goes around all the farms. You can use your easylink card and get your hand stamped so that you don’t have to pay each time you board for another venue. If you are paying cash, it costs you S$2 for the round trip, hop on and hop off anywhere you like. The bus goes around all the farms and also stops at the Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, home to Wild estuarine crocodiles (bet you did not know that crocs exist in Singapore!) and water monitor Lizards among other species. I've had a close encounter with that one. That’s my next blog, coming in the next few days.

(Signs like this mark the Kranji Express Bus Stops)

Friday, May 25, 2007


I moved into this nice apartment in the boondocks and that’s because it is close to Seletar Airport where I work in Singapore. I had viewed the apartment twice in the evening before signing on the dotted line and I liked the fact that the apartment blocks were surrounded by wide open spaces. Mine overlooks a grassy field. The living room, study and my bedroom all looked out into the grassy field with a hillock in the background harboring plenty of trees.

(click on each photo to enlarge it)

Many surprises awaited me when I woke up on the morning of the first night spent at the unit that also happened to be a Saturday. Looking out the window to enjoy the view, I saw some people flying radio controlled Airplanes in the field area. That got me up in a heart beat and I ventured out to see what was going on. As the morning slowly matured, more people came in with their Airplanes to fly them. Visiting each Airplane and talking to the owners of these models, I realized that Singapore has a vibrant aero model flying scene. This is not the only place they flew apparently. I came to know that various groups throughout the island flew their airplanes every weekend and on public holidays.

In my youth, I had done a fair bit of aeromodelling and had taken part in competitions in India. Watching these people fly their Airplanes brought back a flood of memories. Most of the people who flew these models here were non pilots in real life and they were doing this for the love of flying and some of these chaps had wanted to fly for a living as well, and sadly that had not happen for various reasons. I did find a real life aviator in the group and it was easy to make friends with this motley group of weekend flyers. Birds of the same feather and all that, you know.

The models they bring here are varied, some made of Balsa wood and some of rigid foam. They run on batteries, driving an electric motor. Rather quiet compared to the gas/nitrox powered ones. There are vintage scale models as well as ducted fan jet Airplanes.

Weeks have gone by, hanging out with the flyers at every plausible opportunity that I had, and we have now become a bunch of fast friends, eating out together, having beer and snacks at my place and so on. This group has slowly increased in size, although none of them have organized this into a club of any sort, it certainly feels like one.

Recently there was an event where our local MP came to inaugurate a bridge across the TPE (Tampines Expressway) and her entourage had encouraged our group of flyers to put up a flying display during the event. When everything was set, it rained in buckets like it does here in the tropics most of the time, and the show was almost scrubbed. A brief stoppage of rain encouraged some of the volunteers to launch their flights and it did not turn out to be a complete washout after all.

For aviation buffs, this part of town is really happening. But I have heard that the western end of Singapore, there is a group that flies really sophisticated radio controlled Aircraft. I’d surely pay them a visit soon. For those who think Singaporeans don’t have anything to do other than shopping and eating, think again. There are options available,for those who want to do something different and I guess this applies to any other country.

(Above-Sopwith Triplane-World War I model and flies great, miniature pilot and all).

There are one or two “other” issues that are a bit negative in nature, not about Singapore itself or about Singaporeans, but about the expat community here. I’ll leave that to another day when some frustration may force me to bang out an article about their behavior and their perceived sense of superiority and how this has become a debate even in Parliament and how Indian expats have been the biggest culprits in this. However, the next Singapore snapshot is about the countryside in Singapore-yes you heard me right! Like I said in my first post, this isn’t a country made only of shiny steel and glass buildings.

(Above- My friend Daniel, practically lives on the field and lives to fly!)

(Above-Ducted Fan Jet Mirage 2000-this one steals the show when it tears through the sky!)

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I am going to start writing a series on Singapore. Now before you yawn and turn away from this blog, let me say quickly that this series is not like a guide book or travel booklet and will not contain the usual information about the World famous Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, Sentosa sights and so on. Anyone who has done the usual “guided tour” comprising three nights and four days or whatever would have seen these places plus the famous little India district with Mustafa Shopping Center forming a part of the age old “Visit Singapore Circuit”.

I will write about experiences of living here and write about places that are not visited by foreign tourists usually. I dare say some locals haven’t been to some of the places that I plan on writing about. Not because these places are any less interesting but Singapore has been packaged mostly as a tourist destination involving the previously mentioned “circuit”. Locals don't have much time (popular excuse, although a generalized statement one may add). In all fairness, let me say that the sights mentioned in the circuit above are really good and does merit a visit by a visitor. But, there are lots more to this tiny Island than the eye can see. Bah Humbug you say? Well let me debunk the myth that there’s nothing to see or do here other than the above in my series.

In this series I will attempt to make observations of life around here, how the natives and non-natives lead their lives and some parts of it may also appeal to Singaporeans, PR holders (Permanent Residents), EP holders (Employment Pass) and WP holders (Work Permit). Singaporeans love short forms and acronyms. They’d love to shorten everything like in a sms. It won’t be my intention to make fun of the locals (many of them are good friends of mine and fine people they are) but some aspects of the way they do things may evoke some laughter from time to time.

SInglish (Singaporean English) is a language that they speak and first timers find it very tough to get what they are saying to you or among themselves. You’d think ”wait a minute, it sounds like English, but why do I not understand a word they are saying? And what’s this flipping word ‘Lah’ they use at the end of every sentence?” Sometimes the sentence ends with ‘Leh’ and ‘Lor’ as well. Just a matter of knowing your P’s and Q’s in Singlish!

Anyway, don’t worry lah; this series will attempt to add humor wherever I see it. Sometimes something that I may find humorous may not appeal to the reader as being funny. When that happens, just slap your computer and I’ll get the message. Some of the language that I will use may not make sense to non-Singaporeans but just bear with me; I am teaching you a new language! And, I won’t stop blogging about aviation as and when a story breaks out or something silly happens in the industry and that happens more often than you think, I'll be there to write about it.

To make this interactive, I am willing to go on assignments in this country and look up places or things to do, if the reader so suggests that I should look something up for him or her, as long as the endeavor does not take too much time, effort and is essentially inexpensive (read cheap!) OK lah, time to sign off and start my series from No 2, can?