Thursday, September 27, 2007


In my last blog piece I had mentioned about the mid-autumn festival in brief and that this was also the time famous for consuming moon cakes. What I'll do here is keep the information brief and let the pictures do the talking. Mid-autumn festival is a Chinese festival. So, this is celebrated wherever Chinese people live, mainland China especially. Singapore has a strong Chinese origin population, hence the hungry ghost and mid-autumn festivals and so on.

(Musicians entertaining the crowd at Clarke Quay)

The festival revolves around the moon or rather stories built around the moon, it being the biggest brightest object in the night skies (when it's not raining, and it is raining a lot these days in Singapore!). Essentially a harvest festival as it started in China. The China town section of Singapore is specially decked up with lanterns, huge and innovative ones. Not ot be left behind, the Clarke Quay area next to the Singapore river is also lined up with such colorful lanterns, adding a bit of music to the festivities. Moon cakes from all the big name hotels are found in stalls, in many malls across the Island. My focus this time was the lanterns near the Singapore river. Enjoy the pictures, click on them to get full size.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007


We had this recent shake up in Singapore last week, resulting from the massive under sea earthquake near Indonesia, the first of which measured 8.4 on the Richter scale. Since the local news was slow in breaking the news and since I was convinced that the rocking back and forth experience was due to a tremor and not my whiskey that i had just started on, I began searching for data on the United States Geological Survey for verification. They had the earthquake located and detailed on their website instantly it seemed. I had not visited the USGS website in a while and this time, it was something else that caught my eye other than the earthquake and it was titled "Bird completes epic flight across the pacific".

I was under the impression that USGS website contained only geological survey material. Turns out I was wrong and they have several projects going on including a joint study on the migratory pattern of certain birds. They have teamed up with researchers using various private and Government grants, to install tiny radio transmitters (via satellite) that would give the position of the birds in flight. This story was about a particular species, a land bird actually, called the Bar-Tailed Godwit. While they have radio tagged many Godwits, it was one called as E7 that got the scientific community in a tizzy. This female completed what can only be termed as an amazing flight non stop across the water (The Pacific) from Alaska to New Zealand. They determined that she was flying non stop because of the constant forward speed recorded by the radio satellite tag.

I cannot write better than what they have done on the USGS website and I encourage all bird lovers to take a look for themselves. Here is one paragraph of the journey that I felt overwhelmed about and I quote: "The last leg of E7's journey is the most extraordinary, entailing a non-stop flight of more than eight days and a distance of 7,200 miles, the equivalent of making a round trip flight between New York and San Francisco, and then flying back again to San Francisco without ever touching down."

I know aviators including myself who would marvel at this achievement because it is a bit beyond human capability at this time unless you strap on a huge gas tank and make a lot of noise and we'd still need advanced avionics to tell us where we are headed. What got the attention of the researchers is that E7 flew a route back from Alaska that is not commonly used and is perhaps the only bird recorded to have done this route. When going through the information on the USGS website, I'd encourage the reader to look at and pay attention to the maps provided highlighting the route that E7 took and you'll realize too that this is one amazing bird on a really amazing flight. Hail the Godwit!

USGS website:
Link to the story:

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Singapore is a multi-cultural society as everyone knows. I sampled a part of it last night; this culture is particular to the Singaporean Chinese. The end of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar is upon us now but the entire month had festivities to honor and “entertain” the dead. Did you read that right? Of course you did. During the 7th month, it is known by the Chinese that the gates of Hades (or hell) are thrown open to the dead and they come down to the land of the living. They are known as the hungry ghosts. I’d be hungry too, if they had me locked up in hell for a year. So, the month is known as “hungry ghost’s month”. This festival is also big in Hong Kong and Taiwan except that in Singapore it has a twist.

(Getai-sound stage before performance)

During this month it is common to see Chinese origin people burning joss sticks, incense and conducting prayers for the returning dead. In order to provide entertainment to the returning dead, Singaporeans went one step further and organized singing concerts on stage. This is known as a Getai (sound stage) performance. Such performances are held throughout the island and this has become quite big in recent years. The Getai singers dress up in pretty skimpy outfits (yup you read that right as well) and perform for the hungry ghosts. I’d be hungry too if I returned to such entertainment, indeed. A live band accompanies the singers/performers. The front row has candles lit on them and no one is allowed to sit there, no mortals I mean. They are meant for the returning dead!

(Front row of seats with the lights-not for mortals!)

The songs are all in Chinese and such events throughout the month also attract overseas singers/performers from Taiwan. This year’s biggest local movie hit in Singapore has been the movie called “881”. In Mandarin, 881 sounds like Papaya (Pa Pa Yaw). The movie is based on the Getai culture of Singapore, all the songs in the movie are in original Hokkien and the movie runs with English sub-titles. The two main protagonists in the movie are called as the Papaya sisters and they are challenged by the Durian sisters in a Getai duel! Yours truly went to see the movie and then went on to see live Getai performances shown (in the photos) in this blog piece. For those who don’t understand the language, that’s OK, the melodies sound haunting (literally) and I loved the performances.

(click on pictures for bigger format-getai performers)

I would have liked to see more participation from other cultures in Singapore, just to learn, appreciate and integrate. It’s all in good fun. However, to my dismay, I was the only “Indian” in the movie hall and also in the crowd at the live performance. The next big event is the mid-autumn festival that is going on now, also Chinese origin culture where paper lamps of various hues and designs are lit all over Singapore. This is also the best time to tuck into very local “moon cakes” made from lotus seeds and consumed during the mid-autumn festival. All this talk of food, I’m hungry already lah, got to reach for that moon cake. Ta till next time.