Category Archives: Lifestyle

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall returns with grandiose

After a $158-million refurbishment that took more than four years, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall have emerged as a practically brand new grand dame.

The two buildings are now integrated into one seamless space with the venues retaining the intimacy and old-world charm generations of theatre- and concert-goers remember. It also promises to fill the gap for medium-sized performance art venues here.

On a media tour last week, architects Mok Wei Wei and Ng Weng Pan of W Architects Pte Ltd pointed not just to newly-improved spaces but also highlighted the special care taken to retain several old architectural elements.

For instance, artisans were flown in from South India to work on pillar carvings while several elements from the earlier theatre have been re-used. Old chairs have been recycled and mounted on the foyer wall instead of being thrown away, resulting in what looks like an installation art work.

When the doors finally re-open on July 15 with a Singapore Symphony Orchestra performance, audience members will step into a theatre that retains its sense of grandeur as well as its original spirit. From the Old Parliament Lane side, the central atrium’s high transparent ceiling channels stunning views of the clock tower.

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Meals, Holidays and Homes for $5, $500 and $50000

An Interesting Article in ST (12 Jul) by Kishore Mahbubani

Big Idea No. 6 will seem corny at first glance. This is why it is important to read to the end of this column, especially the last paragraph, to understand its full import.

Here is the idea for my fellow Singaporeans: Let’s decide to be happy for one year – from Aug 10 to next Aug 9, when it will be the 50th year of Singapore’s existence. And why be happy for this one year? The reason is simple.

We have had, by any standards, an extraordinarily successful first 50 years. The chances of us being equally successful over the next 50 years are practically zero.

I will explain why later.

Since we have had a good run and are about to embark on a more difficult run, let us rest and celebrate before the hard slog. A mountaineering metaphor comes to mind. We have reached a good base camp. Before we climb to higher and more difficult altitudes, let us drink teh tarik and celebrate how far we have come.

Since so much has been written about Singapore’s extraordinary success story, I will not dwell much on it. Our per capita income has gone from US$500 in 1965 to almost US$64,584 (S$80,253) last year, based on purchasing power parity terms. No other nation state can match this record.

More importantly, we have had no conflict, at home or with our neighbours. Ninety per cent of our citizens live in homes they own. And we have wonderful education, health, civil service and military systems, and so on.

To understand how well-off we are, just read the following aspirations of Indians after they elected Mr Narendra Modi as their Prime Minister. Mr M. J. Akbar, a well-known journalist, asks his fellow Indians: “Why cannot we have a simple home with a toilet for every Indian family by 2022? Broadband in every village? Electricity around the clock? A clean country, rid of garbage and filth that poisons life and nature, by 2019, as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary? These are not luxuries in the 21st century: they are bare necessities.”

We have achieved everything on his list and achieved it long ago.

Yet, it is also clear that our citizens are tired of this success narrative. They remember only the difficulties of recent years: the surge of foreigners, the crowded Mass Rapid Transit trains; the long wait for Housing Board flats; the traffic jams on our highways; the soaring COE (Certificate of Entitlement) premiums and so on.

Hence, instead of approaching our 50th anniversary in a jubilant mood, there are hints of a sour mood in the air. The goal of this article is to dispel the sour mood.

Hard times ahead

PARADOXICALLY, the best way to do this is to tell Singaporeans that harder times are coming. First, since our track record in the first 50 years was so exceptional (even freakish by most historical standards), it will be impossible to match the same success. My generation has had it exceedingly good. And I experienced it personally. I went from a three-figure monthly salary in 1971 to a five- figure salary now. My children will not experience this dizzy climb upwards.

Second, as I have said in earlier columns, we do not have enough land for each and every Singaporean to achieve the dream of the five Cs (car, condo, country club, cash and credit card). The last two we can all have. The first three we cannot all have. There isn’t enough land to have millions of cars. Singapore already has one of the highest car ownership populations for a city; as of April, about 560,000 households owned at least one car each for a total of 605,184 cars.

Nor can we build condos for each Singaporean family. And the land for country clubs is shrinking. Singaporeans therefore belong to a unique tribe: They have to deal with the existential angst of not having the land to fulfil their dreams.

Third, we are losing, if we have not already lost, our first-mover advantage. We were the first to open up to global MNCs. Today every country does so. We were the first to set new global standards in services and logistics.

Dubai Airport used to describe itself as a disciple of Changi Airport. But now our disciple has a much busier airport. In the past year, 67.3 million international passengers passed through Dubai, compared with 53.1 million through Changi. Indeed, Dubai is now No. 1 in the world for international passengers, surpassing even London’s Heathrow Airport.

Similarly, Emirates used to look up to Singapore Airlines for inspiration. Now it has become twice as big.

In each area that we have excelled, we will have to deal with tougher competition. That’s why the next 50 years will be a harder slog.

So, let’s celebrate this very special moment. And how should we celebrate? There will, of course, be many national parties in 2015. And we should participate in them heartily.

But let us also celebrate at the individual level. Let us appreciate some unique and simple joys that all Singaporeans, rich and poor, can enjoy together. Let me cite some simple pleasures we can indulge in (and since we are celebrating our 50th birthday, I am using the number five in each category).

A toast to $5 meals

FIRST, Singapore is one of the few developed countries where one can get good meals at less than $5 per head. It took a colleague of mine, who recently arrived in Singapore, to remind me of this exceptional gift we have.

Mr Steve LaNasa used to be the president of Donnelly College in Kansas. Since coming to Singapore with his wife and two children, aged 10 and 13, in early January, he has been taking his children out to hawker centre after hawker centre. And he is absolutely amazed at the good-quality food you can enjoy in Singapore at such astonishingly low prices.

He says: “Despite the fact that ‘fast food’ is ubiquitous throughout the United States, it’s nearly impossible to find good, healthy prepared food at convenient locations, and what is available certainly isn’t worth what you pay for it.”

Sometimes it takes a foreigner to remind us that we live in a food paradise. Why not indulge in this food paradise for less than $5 a head and toast Singapore each time we do so?

$500 holidays

SECOND, Singapore is fortunate to be situated in the most diverse cultural environment of our entire planet, South-east Asia. No other region can claim to have all the world’s leading civilisations and religions living in relative harmony in such close proximity to one another. Many middle-class people from all over the world spend thousands of dollars to appreciate the special beautiful attractions of South-east Asia.

So for one year, let us stop dreaming of going to London or Paris, New York or Orlando. Instead, for less than $500 a head, we can experience magnificent historical sites and some of the most hospitable cultures on our planet.

I hope that my next book will be on South-east Asia. Its tentative title is The Most Blessed Corner Of The World. We Singaporeans are truly blessed to be situated in the heart of this blessed corner. Let us enjoy it for one year very cheaply with $500 holidays.

$50,000 homes

MY THIRD suggestion will be both controversial and difficult. It is very difficult to buy a decent- sized condo unit for less than $1 million in Singapore. Yet, we can buy a small home somewhere in South-east Asia for less than $50,000. Ultimately, this may be the best solution to the existential angst of living in Singapore. We can experience the freedom of space in our neighbouring countries if we cannot experience it in Singapore.

In looking for cheap properties in rural areas, we will simply be emulating the normal behaviour of citizens who live in crowded cities and look for homes in rural areas in South-east Asia within easy reach via budget airlines.

Let me add another truly outrageous suggestion. Why don’t we encourage our rich developers, who have profited from 50 years of economic growth in Singapore to develop projects selling $50,000 homes in South-east Asia to fellow Singaporeans? The Government can also step in to help as it will make many Singaporeans happier.

And why is happiness important? I believe that the most important goal for Singapore in the next 50 years will not be economic growth or political stability. Instead, it will be social resilience.

Only strong social resilience will carry us through the inevitable stresses and strains Singapore will encounter in the next five decades. Happiness does not just help at the individual level. Happy societies are also more resilient societies. We have had a happiness deficit for some time. Let us party for one year and build up our happiness quotient. After that, we will be ready for the more challenging five decades coming our way.


IN MY column on April 12, I wrote: “Hence, for 2015, when we celebrate our 50th anniversary, I hope that one of Singapore’s philanthropists will award a $500,000 prize for the best history book written on Singapore.”

I am pleased to inform Straits Times readers that an anonymous donor has contacted me to support a project to promote a deeper understanding of Singapore’s history in future generations of Singaporeans and the world.

He has agreed to donate $500,000 for this Singapore history project prize. The money will go towards an endowment fund whose interest will be used to support a book prize every three years. He told me he became a Singapore citizen this year, even though he has lived here for many years. He would like to do something for Singapore.

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Marine Park in Singapore’s South

Singapore’s first marine park: Besides letting more people enjoy the natural richness of the Sisters’ Island Marine Park, research and conservation activities will be ramped up there.

Sisters’ Islands Marine Park

The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, which will span about 40 hectares around Sisters’ Islands and along the western reefs of both St John’s Island and Pulau Tekukor, will be a platform for outreach, educational, conservation and research activities related to our native marine biodiversity. The location was chosen due to its variety of habitats including coral reefs, sandy shores and seagrass areas.

This new initiative aims to give Singaporeans a first-hand experience of our rich biodiversity which are submerged most of the time. The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park will protect Singapore’s coral reefs, which support an ecosystem inhabited by rare and endangered species of seahorses, clams, sponges and other marine life. More than 250 species of hard corals can be found in Singapore’s waters out of over 500 species within the region. Being located in close proximity to one of the world’s busiest ports, the Marine Park will provide a safe refuge for the teeming biodiversity around the Southern Islands and its surrounding waters, as well as safeguard our natural heritage.

Research activities at the Marine Park will expand our knowledge and understanding of Singapore’s existing marine habitats and biodiversity. Marine scientists and researchers can look forward to more opportunities to conduct a wide range of in-depth studies and regular monitoring on Singapore’s marine environment. Restoration activities including nurseries for iconic marine organisms are also part of the enhancement efforts to be carried out at the Marine Park. One of the species which will benefit is the Neptune’s Cup Sponge (Cliona patera), thought to be globally extinct for more than 100 years until it was rediscovered off Singapore’s coast in 2011.

HDB Hub retail shopspace for sale at $65M

According to today’s BT report a row of HDB shopspace near Toa Payoh Hub is selling for over $11K psf for a remaining lease of 50+ years left.

A row of prime heartland retail shops in Toa Payoh Central is up for sale by tender at an indicative price of $65 million, which works out to an average of about $11,245 per sq ft (psf) for the 5,780 sq ft property.

Located in Block 190 of Toa Payoh Central, the property is a strata-titled shop subdivided for lease to four tenants, including Watsons. It has a remaining lease of 57 years. 

The average psf pricing seems high for a Housing Board retail shop, although  there are not many records of transactions of such retail units for comparison.

For retail spaces, human traffic is most important. The space is part of the “most prime row of shops” in Toa Payoh Central. Anyone going to the HDB Hub will pass through that area, and the atrium in front of the shops, used for roadshows or events, also pulls in crowds.

Current listings on CommercialGuru show that monthly rents for units along this stretch can hit $50 psf; rents in this stretch can be 20 to 30 per cent higher than shops elsewhere in Toa Payoh Central.

The HDB Hub is the only retail centre serving Toa Payoh residents, Savills noted. The hub, integrated with Toa Payoh MRT station and the bus interchange, is also near exit points of the Pan Island Expressway (PIE).

Toa Payoh, HDB’s second satellite town, is home to more than 109K residents.


Savills, the sole marketing agent, announced the sale yesterday but did not disclose the client. The tender closes at 3pm on Aug 12.

Electronic eyes to deter illegal parking and driving round the island.

Drivers, beware of electronic eyes where you decide to park at certain “hot” areas. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras will be installed in 10 more locations across Singapore from July 15 to tackle illegal parking, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced on Friday (July 4).

In a statement, LTA said the locations are selected based on considerations such as a high incidence of illegal parking, typically daily and throughout the day. Illegal parking impedes the smooth flow of public buses, particularly where the roads serve a high number of public bus services.

Once activated, the CCTVs will be used to monitor the specified locations 24 hours a day. Motorists will be able to easily identify these locations as they are clearly demarcated by parking restriction lines and signs to highlight their presence in the area, said the LTA.

The 10 new locations are:

  • Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 (AMK MRT)
  • Boon Lay Way (Lakeside MRT)
  • New Upper Changi Rd (Bedok MRT, Bedok Centre)
  • Pasir Panjang Road (AVA centre to shophouses before MAS Currency House)
  • Woodlands Road (Kranji MRT, both directions)
  • Collyer Quay (both directions)
  • Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4 (Lot 1, CCK MRT/LRT)
  • Choa Chu Kang Loop (outside CCK Bus Interchange)
  • Jalan Sultan (Textile Centre)
  • Tampines Central 1 (near to bus interchange, Tampines MRT)

The locations are in addition to the existing 10 locations already using CCTVs to deter illegal parking since Apr 14.

The agency also said another 10 locations will use the CCTVs by October 2014. bringing the total number to 30. The locations are:

  • Beach Road (at Golden Mile Food Centre)
  • River Valley Road (in front of Spize, Boon Tong Kee)
  • Tanjong Katong Road (near Parkstone Road)
  • Woodlands Ave 7 (Admiralty MRT)
  • North Bridge Road (opposite and along Bugis Junction)
  • Jalan Besar (Eminent Plaza)
  • Punggol Road (junction of Punggol Central, both directions)
  • Sembawang Road (Jalan Lengkok Sembawang )
  • Serangoon Road (Tekka Centre)
  • Upper Serangoon Road (junction of Simon Road & Florence Road)

The LTA said it will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the CCTVs after implementation and review the need for expansion to other areas where necessary.

In addition to static CCTVs, LTA will expand the use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on buses from June 1. The cameras continuously monitor the roads in front of the buses and record on video any motorists who infringe the bus lanes.

To date, more than 3,300 existing buses have been equipped with CCTV, the agency said.

According to the LTA, 1,560 motorists in 2013 were caught on CCTV driving on bus lanes during restricted hours. This is an improvement from 2008, when 2,112 motorists were caught on CCTV.

From June 16, full-day bus lanes at seven selected locations – Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, Hill Street, Victoria Street, Kallang Road, Sims Avenue (between Kallang Road and Sims Way) and Geylang Road (between Sims Way and Kallang Road) – will feature new road markings , which will include the bus lane operation hours as a reminder to motorists.

The LTA will also expand the Mandatory Give Way to Buses Scheme at bus stops. By the end of this year, a total of about 300 bus stops island-wide will be covered under the scheme.

There were 1,883 cases of motorists failing to give way to buses under the scheme in 2013, a decline of more than 40 per cent from the 3,325 offences in 2009, LTA said.

Explore Singapore at Heritage Fest

Looking to explore Singapore’s island history?

Visitors to next month’s Singapore HeritageFest will get to sail back in time for a glimpse of the Republic’s island history, and explore a lighthouse that is usually out of bounds.

They will get to see the former Fullerton Lighthouse from the bus, sail past the one on Sultan Shoal, near Jurong Island, and explore Raffles Lighthouse which dates back to 1885 and is on Pulau Satumu, Singapore’s southern-most land possession.

Yesterday, the National Heritage Board, the body behind the event, gave details of the festival, which aims to intrigue visitors with “lesser- known tales of our trading past”.

Besides conducting a lighthouse trail for the first time, this 11th edition of the yearly festival is focusing on Singapore’s island heritage – another first.

A lesser-known fact about Singapore is that it was actually made up of not just one island, but more than 70 of them.

Some have been lost due to land reclamation, but visitors can still visit the tranquil St John’s, Lazarus and Seringat islands, the religious Kusu Island, or Tanjong Rimau – a lesser known part of Sentosa – on three island-hopping excursions during the festival.

Themed Our Islands, Our Home, the festival, to be held from July 18 to 27, also hopes to help Singaporeans get in touch with their roots by showcasing the cultures and traditions of the migrants who settled here.

For instance, visitors can enjoy traditional performances, which include the lion dance or nanyin (“music of the south” in Chinese).

Originally from China’s Fujian province, nanyin performances were popular with devotees visiting the temples on Kusu Island, south of Singapore, during the pilgrimage season in the 1970s.

The popularity of nanyin may have faded, but festival-goers will get to hear the music enjoyed by their forefathers.

“Usually, the nanyin performances are held only during the ninth lunar month at the Tua Pek Kong temple (on Kusu),” said Ms Celestina Wang, vice-chairman of Siong Leng Musical Association, which is putting up a nanyin performance on Kusu for the festival.

“But we feel that Singapore HeritageFest will be a good platform to showcase this traditional art form to the public,” she added.

There will be more than 60 different programmes on the mainland and on the surrounding islands during next month’s event.

Eleven festival hubs will also be set up at locations such as Century Square, Changi City Point and the National Museum of Singapore.

Visitors can learn more about Singapore’s myths and legends and Peranakan culture through activities such as exhibitions, storytelling sessions and face and body art painting.

Festival director Angelita Teo was heartened by the growing number of past festival contributors coming back this year. “Their contributions will allow more people to understand our heritage,” she said.

National University of Singapore business undergraduate Jason Ng, 24, said he was keen to attend this year’s festival.

He said it is good to explore the islands during HeritageFest since there will be activities then. “It’s a good opportunity for couples and families to bond,” he said



Sign up from July 1 to join in the fun


When: July 19 and 20

Time: 7.30am to 12.30pm or 1.30pm to 6.30pm

Where: Meet at National Museum of Singapore (NMS) bus bay, Level 2. Register at from July 1. Each session is limited to 30 participants.



A Night of Nanyin at Kusu

When: July 26

Time: 4pm to 9pm

Where: Meet at NMS bus bay, Level 2; Register at from July 1. Each session is limited to 100 participants.


Tanjong Rimau Walk, Sentosa

When: July 16

Time: 7am to 10.30am

Where: Meet at NMS bus bay, Level 2; Register at from July 1. Each session is limited to 30 participants.


Homes, Hills and Habitats: A Morning at St John’s, Lazarus and Seringat

When: July 19 and 27

Time: 7am to 1pm

Where: Meet at NMS bus bay, Level 2; Register at from July 1. Each session is limited to 30 participants.



Pulau Ubin on Film: A Screening of Moving Gods

When: July 20

Time: 4pm to 6pm

Where: NMS Gallery Theatre, Basement; Register at from July 1. First come, first served for up to 245 people.


The City in Bukit Brown Walk

When: July 20 and 27

Time: 8.30am to noon

Where: Meet at NMS bus bay, Level 2; Register at from July 1. First come, first served for up to 25 people per session.


Admission is free for all events, but age and other restrictions might apply.

For more information, go to the website.


Lau Pa Sat Reopened today

Office workers at Shenton Way can finally have their meals at Lau Pa Sat again, when the iconic food centre re-opens today after a long drawn-out $4 million renovation.

The revamped centre offers better ventilation and a greater mix of dining options, and can seat 2,500 diners – 460 more than before.

There will be 54 food stalls, down from the previous 90. These include returning tenants such as Lakeview Char Kway Teow, Thunder Tea and Ah Chwee Kway Chap, said food court operator Kopitiam, which runs Lau Pa Sat, in a statement at the weekend.

Prices for local hawker fare such as a bowl of fishball noodles or a plate of char kway teow start at $3.50, while a cup of coffee with milk costs $1.10.

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The new software-defined IT wave and Genmobile

The new technology wave is getting into new trends. Software defined and a more tech-savvy workforce. The following articles give some insights to the new tech wave.

INFORMATION technology (IT) is undergoing a paradigm shift and the new wave of companies that will emerge as winners across the entire industry spectrum would comprise those that have reinvented themselves into software-defined enterprises, says Eric Goh, EMC Singapore’s managing director. Speaking to BizIT, Mr Goh noted that four powerful trends are at play: mobile, cloud computing, Big Data and social networking. “Collectively, these four trends comprise what research firm IDC calls the ‘third platform’ of IT (the first being mainframe, and the second being PC client/server) and critical to its success will be an underlying foundation of security, privacy and trust.

“The future promises to be both extremely disruptive and rich in opportunity for companies, IT professionals and IT vendors alike, creating new sets of winners across a rapidly evolving industry,” Mr Goh said.

Software-defined enterprises will leverage software and build new applications that harness new sources of data to redefine their strategy and drive structural changes to their advantage, he added.

“IT has never been as important to businesses as it is today, and that trend will only continue to intensify,” he said. “Unless IT organisations transform themselves, they face the threat of becoming completely irrelevant.”

WITH a new generation of tech-savvy workers entering the workforce, enterprises need their IT departments to design a mobile network that allows instant access from anywhere, at any time.

Albert Tay, Aruba Networks’ Asean GM, feels that in order to be a leader in today’s competitive business world, enterprises need their IT departments to help attract and retain young tech-savvy employees, whom he labels as #GenMobile.

“Enterprises can accomplish this by creating a truly all-wireless workplace where WiFi is pervasive, guest and BYOD (bring your own device) security are automated, office appliances are mobile-device friendly, and communications applications on mobile devices simply work better,” Mr Tay told BizIT.

Aruba Networks recently did an Asia-Pacific survey to find out how important mobility has become in the work space. “We asked over 5,500 members of the public across Asia, including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand,” Mr Tay said.