[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Sunday, December 31, 2006

[Happy New Year]
I asked Minister George Yeo to record a personal greeting for all the readers here at our year-end branch gathering at Aloha Loyang just now.

He also wished all Muslims a Happy Hari Raya Haji.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

[My new phone]
I went to Tampines Mall and purchased my new RED MOTORAZR V3 today. Aloysius was there to collect his spoilt Nokia 6111 that he sent for repair from the Nokia Care Centre and we decided to meet in Tampines.

The backplate has the (RED) logo nicely emblazed in white. The price is just right too (there was a discount making it slightly less than $300 without signing a plan).

I haven't reached that level to get sponsorships yet. Well, I am not a celebrity blogger like Xiaxue anyway so I don't get free stuff nor a free nose job (well I don't need one anyway for that matter).

The red colour of my new phone is stunning with a metallic feel. And I customised it with my own wallpaper - an artistic photo that i took - but only those close to me get to see it. It's not R(A) and it's nice.

I just read Minister's post on his new phone from Shenzhen. What a coincidence.

Although China can produce phones at such cheap prices, what is it that draws others to purchase other brands that are not so expensive?

My guess is the packaging. The RED MOTORAZR V3 although priced six times more has appeal.

And Singapore has to keep up its image in the appeal department to attract people just like how the RED MOTORAZR V3 attracts consumers. To do that, we have to make Singapore a place that we want to live in - one that is exciting, one that is appealing to young and old, one that is inclusive. We have to constantly remake and reinvent ourselves, to be relevant, to know what our people want, to say focused and retain Singaporeans to want to make Singapore their best home.

This Sunday will be my first large-scale event. And since I will be emceeing in Mandarin, I'm pretty excited. I scored an E8 for my 'O' Level Chinese but speaking at an event like this does not deter me. I think I am better with oral rather than written Chinese.

I helped to do up a simple press release this afternoon for the event and hopefully the media people like the angle that the event is pitched from. The meal vouchers - each one exclusively cut for grassroots leaders in mind - was exclusively signed by the organising chairman today.

It's going to be a long day tomorrow again as I have two events to attend.

[An Unbelievable Bargain]
1. I have been trying out a new phone Bee Lan's friend bought for me from Shenzhen. It is very attractive, slim, with the keys arranged in a circle, looking like an I-Pod, with a function wheel in the middle. Measuring 5cm by 10cm, it is about 8mm thick and has a camera which takes pictures of 2 Mega Pixel quality and can play MP3 and MP4. There is a dictionary built in, Eng-Ch and Ch-Eng, with a menu of input systems. Lots of other interesting features. And all for the price of S$50!

2. China's low cost of manufacturing is scary. We are no longer talking low tech. A handphone like the one I described has a lot of technology in it. This is a big challenge to countries, companies and individuals. If we try to compete head-on against China's strengths, we must lose. The Singapore Government has been worrying about this challenge for some years now. The only way to keep our wages being dragged down to Third World levels is to move into greater system efficiency which is harder for bigger countries to replicate.

3. Greater system efficiency requires a value system which is honest and rational. The efficiency of our logistics is a great advantage. Our protection of intellectual property makes us attractive to industries like biotech and software. Investors don't like capricious regulators. The virtual absence of corruption in our system is an enormous advantage. The financial industry has been growing rapidly because our system is trusted. Trust is an intangible quality but real. Without trust, we have nothing.

4. Education is key. We need not only to maximize the potential of every Singaporean, we need also to safeguard a group culture which enables us to combine our separate efforts so that the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. There are any number of Chinese and Indians who are smarter than us as individuals. But, as a group, we are much more effective and efficient. That's why the money we earn has such high purchasing power outside Singapore.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Friday, December 29, 2006

For the last two days I have been doing some work at Punggol Community Club. I was perparing very minor stuff (just food coupons for the volunteers) for the upcoming countdown in Bedok Reservoir-Punggol at Hougang Mall and Hougang Central Hub.

It's gonna be a big party! Several celebs including Felicia Chin, Elson Soh, Silver Ang and representatives from Campus Superstar and Superband will be performing from 12pm onwards till New Year's Day.

For the whole of Wednesday, it was meeting after meeting. I also had a youth meeting last night. And will be in for awhile in a few hours. I haven't been sleeping early. But I haven't been waking up early too. Bedtime is usually at 3am or 4am in the morning as I am taking my time to clear my room (more on that when I finally finish the last phase of clearing).

That said, I still managed to squeeze some time to visit VivoCity.

I went there to watch Curse of the Golden Flower with Aloysius and managed to walk some two floors of VivoCity. Although I usually swear by Cathay Cineplexes, the GV one at VivoCity is not too bad.

There was not much time so we didn't got to the 3rd floor but we checked out a little of the exterior such as the fountain.

The shopping centre is pretty huge and we mostly just window shopped.

I also tried looking for the RED MOTORAZR V3 there but it wasn't out yet. But it is now.

I'll get it soon if I like it after playing with the phone.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

[Christmas fare]
I was partying at KM8 on Sentosa for Christmas Eve. As it was raining during that period of a few days, there weren't many people around. So it was a quiet, low-key event as we welcomed Christmas day.

For the next two days, I had lots of Christmas dishes all except the last dish are homemade.

Here's the list (drooling is allowed):

Some mushroom and cheesy stuff with bacon bits

Creamy mushroom soup

Salad with Thousand Island dressing


Penne in beef tomato sauce

Spaghetti in beef tomato sauce

Christmas pudding slice

Ham with apple sauce

Peppermint and chocolate tart (from Coffee Bean)

With such delicious stuff, it is no wonder why my weight is going up.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

[A Bhora Wedding]
1. My wife and kids accompanied me for the wedding celebration of a Dawoodi Bhora couple at the Bhora Mosque at Hill Street. The bride is the daughter of Mrs Basrai, an RC member from Lengkong Tiga, Kampong Kembangan. My wife and I knew the bride since she was a little girl. For dinner, the men and women ate separately. For all of us, eating from a communal dish with our fingers while sitting with knees bent was a very interesting experience. The food was yummy. I and my sons put on the Bhora cap while my wife and daughter wore shawls.

2. The Bhoras are a particularly talented community. The great majority are engaged in business. The community in Singapore numbers less than a thousand but many of its members are very successful. They are Shiites but different from the twelfers of Iran and Lebanon. They are in fact twenty-firsters, meaning that there were 21 Imams, ending with the last one going into hiding. Their headquarters is in Surat in the state of Gujerat. They were originally from Yemen with links going back to the Fatimids who established Al Azhar University in Cairo a thousand years ago.

3. Not many Singaporeans are familiar with the Bhoras but they are one of a number of small communities in Singapore who contribute greatly to our country particularly in the economic field including the Jews, Parsees, Sindhis, Chettiars, Jains, Khojas and Marwaris. Because each of these communities has a thriving international diaspora, they source their brides and groom worldwide. In Mrs Bhasrai's case, the groom is from Sri Lanka where there is a sizeable Bhora community. They were the original worldwide web.

4. The Singapore fabric is strong and valuable precisely because there are many threads woven into it which are unique and special. The important thing is to ensure that they are well knotted here so that we stay together despite the occasional stresses pulling the fabric in different directions. Like a good Persian carpet, the more knots per inch, the better.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Monday, December 25, 2006

1. It is interesting how Christmas has become a festive occasion for everyone, not just Christians. Whether it is China, Vietnam or Indonesia, Christmas is being celebrated on a growing scale. An important reason is commercial of course. Some Christians object to Christmas being commercialised but I think this is too narrow a view.

2. There is a parallel with Chinese New Year and Deepavali. For many Chinese, there is a religious aspect to Chinese New Year which calls for burning of joss and visits to the temple. But there is a cultural aspect which is not religious at all. It is the same with Deepavali, the festival of light, which is both a religious and a cultural celebration. I believe Christmas is becoming the same. Still, it seems odd that Christmas decorations should become increasingly commonplace in Chinese cities. But then China has become a major supplier of the objects and decorations used during Deepavali (like the oil lamps) and the Muslim Id (like twinkling lights and lanterns).

3. I attended Christmas Midnight Mass at the Carmelite Monastery with my family. This is a family tradition. This year, the Risen Christ Choir sang the hymns and carols. The Carmelite nuns dedicate themselves to a life of prayer. They are a contemplative order and do not leave the monastery except when they need to see a doctor or vote at elections. There is always some disappointment when the constituency is uncontested because they don't get to come out to vote. (Opposition: please note.) They see visitors only on special occasions (like Christmas Eve) but separated by bars.

4. To all readers of Ephraim's and Harold's blogsites: Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

[Shopping marathon]
From Orchard Road to Marina Bay in five hours! That was how I spent my Saturday.

I was INSPI(RED) to look for the RED MOTORAZR V3 but was told that they are still not available. Anyone knows where to get it?

The marathon started at Wheelock Place. And then the following:
1. Isetan building diagonally across Tangs
2. Pacific Plaza
3. Paragon

4. The Heeren
5. The Cathay
6. Citylink Mall
7. Suntec City
8. Marina Square

The spree ended at The Esplanade.

I never fail to post pictures of Christmas in town every year. And this year is no different.

But this year's focus is not the Orchard Road stretch. Something different.

Last minute shoppers like me

The damage done to the wallet

Saturday, December 23, 2006

[Dotting the Dragon]
1. The first anniversary dinner of the Teng Yang Dragon and Lion Dance Centre was a lively affair. The group was started by former dragon and lion dance members who are now in their 20's and 30's led by Mr Ng Meng Hwee . It is supported by a committee consisting mostly of businessmen, chaired by Mr Chen Wenxing. There are many young members, mostly teenagers, including a few girls.

2. Several new lions and three new dragons were dotted this evening. A black lion put on a stunning performance, the best that I've seen. One of the performers was the son of a committee member. As the father spoke about his son, he was so filled with emotion, he had tears in his eyes. It is heartwarming to see young Singaporeans keeping on the tradition alive. One person asked whether the tradition could die out. I told him that it would not. For as long as Chinese culture exists, dancing dragons and lions are part of the martial arts tradition. I pledged Punggol CC's support of the group's activites.

Read my review of the Singapore History Museum on Beyond SG

[Blogging and giving a helping hand]
The new version of Blogger in beta is dead! Long live the new version of Blogger!

I guess I know why Minister mentioned sometime back that Blogger was getting slow. I have since upgraded to the new blogger.

According to the people at Blogger, the old version "is not dead, but it would like to retire for a little while". Hopefully, the new version is faster and better now.

We have hit the 10,000 mark a big thank you to all the readers out there. I thought we could have made it earlier but 10,000 hits is considerable (not ingenious if you know what I mean). Do keep your comments rolling in.

I went to Crossroads Cafe at The Marriott last night (you can say this morning too as I was there after midnight till the wee hours of the morning), and it was an experience. Great ambience, great food.

After the main course consisting cod fish, asparagus and fries, I tucked into delicious and moist chocolately brownie and apple strudel with Delia and Andrew. I'll be back for more.

We had lots of discussion and something about charity popped up. I will make that anouncement in 2007 but if you are smart you can get the hints on my blog now. It is pertty obvious.

I can't say too much yet until everything is firmed up. But I have more or less decided where the proceeds would go. I'm sure there will be more projects in the next few months.

Charity will be my buzz word and main theme for 2007. I am not sure about the world 'welfare' though.

Off to shopping on a rainy day.

Friday, December 22, 2006

[The Streets of Saigon]
1. The din of road traffic continued throughout the night right through the wee hours of the morning. Millions of motor cycles and scooters crowd the roads of the city. Although there are terrible accidents every day, the ability of riders and car drivers to avoid colliding into each other was quite amazing to watch. For Singaporeans used to following rules and regulations, crossing even a minor road in Ho Chi Minh City is a stressful experience.

2. The flow of traffic is the lifeblood of the Vietnamese economy. Everyone is rushing somewhere. You can sense the raw vitality of the Vietnamese eager to make up for lost time. The tour guide said, quite merrily, that everything is capitalist now, and everything has to be paid for.

3. Everywhere we went, we met Singaporeans. Many were on group tours and happy to greet us. At the roadside pasar malam, we took photographs. A poor old lady who was selling fruits shooed us away when we stood too long posing in front of her baskets. Fake goods were easily available at ridiculously low prices.

4. Singaporeans feel rich shopping in places like Vietnam. At the hawker stall, a generous bowl of pho (rice noodles) costs one Sing dollar. As Lim Swee Say said, it is best to spend money earned in Singapore outside Singapore. The cost of living in Singapore is relatively higher principally because our labour and land costs are higher. If the opposite were the case, if our labour and land costs were low, then we would be doing not well, but badly. Because economic growth has benefited the majority of Singaporeans, we travel overseas in large numbers. I marvel at the amount of money our tourists spend overseas. At the dinner on board a cruise boat, almost all the diners were Singaporean.

Check out my posts at Beyond SG too

Thursday, December 21, 2006

[Goodbye 2006]
It will be the end of 2006 very soon. I just realised that Christmas will happen in a few days! I haven't even done any Christmas shopping yet. Maybe I'll visit Orchard tomorrow if the weather is good.

I am pretty happy with what I have achieved in 2006.
1. I was accepted into Singapore Management University
2. Made loads of new friends (grassroots, TP dragonboaters, Team Singapore, Singapore Biennale)
3. Caught up with old friends
4. Visited my alma mater and promised to help them with the school newspaper as it undergoes a revamp
5. I had a hand in designing a stunning artwork, Open Burble, during the Singapore Biennale opening night
6. Continued to write for ST's YouthINK page on a regular basis and met up with some YouthINKers too plus will write for a youth website soon
7. Started my work at the weekly Meet-the-People sessions at Bedok Reservoir-Punggol and managed to get Minister George Yeo to blog here making history
8. Saw a successful event organised by the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol Young PAP
9. Quit my job and am adapting pretty well to university life and did well for my exams
10. Kena reservist and RT also for missing my IPPT due to my CIP

One of my goals for 2007 is to do a project to raise funds for charity. The next is to do my part in organising the National Day Parade 2007 (my unit's involved) and I wanna help out for that!

I also wanna look good and do good for charity. I wanna get the RED MOTORAZR V3 phone!

After a trip down to Compass Point this afternoon, I am pretty disappointed. The phone was no where in sight for sale there. It will be hunting season for the phone the next few days after 10 days out of town. Wonder if the people at Motorola, M1 or StarHub are reading this. Hopefully they are.

The red colour is so nice and striking. It matches my three-year-old white-coloured Nokia 6610. I can bring both for National Day Parade 2007 at the waterfront.

Oh yes, and also to tidy up my room during the next few days. It is getting untidy again. My mum's nagging me already!

Photos from youth.sg

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

As it has been raining the last few days, planes have difficulty landing.

I recall that it was also raining when I returned to Singapore from Doha. The plane had to circle before landing.

The journey to Vietnam is only a mere one-and-a-half-hour. I was watching a Japanese movie on my flight to Vietnam and didn't manage to finish it. On the trip back, I watched the other half.

It was nearly evening when the plane took off from the airport at Vietnam. I could see the sun setting while in the air.

Luckily, I had a window seat. I could see the whole of the country as the plane made its ascent. I love window seats.

Immediately after the plane touched down, I was brought home by the Lim family (thank you so much). After lugging my stuff upstairs, I made a dash to Hougang Central to return a laptop to the office and joined the rest of the gang at the weekly Meet-the-People session (MPS).

It has been ages since I last helped out due to my trip. To me, MPS is like a drug, you have got to have a weekly dose of it else you'll feel out of touch. Last night's MPS ended early and Minister decided to go for a drink at the nearby coffeeshop.

So we combined four tables at the coffeeshop and had "kopi with George".

[Disconnecting ...]
1. I've just come back from Ho Chi Minh City this afternoon after 4 days. Downloading the emails took some time and clearing them will take a few more hours. I decided not to bring the notebook along because we were on vacation and being connected would have spoilt it. But the longer you are disconnected, the more you dread the work that piles up. That's life.

2. Before the days of email, the files would reach up to the ceiling (I'm exaggerating a little) when you come back after a long trip overseas. Clearing the backlog might take days. Except for countries like Myanmar, you can stay connected almost anywhere in the world now. After a full day's work, you still have to plough through the emails after coming back to your hotel room. The result often is not enough sleep. However, there is much less of a backlog waiting for you when you return home. You can't win both ways. When I'm travelling, it makes a big difference whether or not there is broadband. So many emails now come attach with huge files. If I'm on a dial-up connection, it takes forever. I've told MFA staff that the most important thing to look for in a hotel room is the quality of the line. After that, whether or not there is a reasonable gym.

3. But it is important to be disconnected from time to time. All of us need time out. When I led a Young PAP delegation to China ten years ago, the thought that crossed my mind as we embarked the ship in Chongqing for the river cruise throught the Three Gorges was that, finally, no handphone connection for three days. We could be like Li Bai cut off from the rest of the world. As we got on the deck, a big signboard proudly announced the availability of Inmarsat telephony. Welcome to the modern age. Maybe what need disconnecting are not the lines but our preoccupations.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

[Singapore's links with Vietnam]
Although we didn’t stay at a lavish hotel (we stayed at a 3-star hotel Arc En Ciel), we managed to visit a few nicer hotels in Vietnam.

Last night, after dinner, we dropped by the Rex Hotel. There’s a famous rooftop garden there. And it is a must-visit. Located on the fifth storey, it boasts a magnificent view of the city a la Singapore’s Orchard Road.

We took a few hours off in the afternoon to visit the Mekong Delta. There was a river cruise (a different one but similar to those you get en route to Pulau Ubin). So we visited two islands there – at the first one we had a fruit party, and the second island we visited was coconut island.

On coconut island, you can find different varieties of coconut sweets. I even tried some straight after they were produced.

At the end of the visit to the islands, we had a short river ride on a ordinary boat (not engine operated).

In the evening, we had a friendship night with the Vietnamese. It was organised by the Singapore Consulate-General and the Union of Friendship Organisations. There were several officials of Ho Chi Minh City that were present. The Mayor of Ho Chi Minh City was there too. The Vietnam-Singapore Friendship Night was held at the New World Hotel which has also hosted President George W. Bush and former US President Bill Clinton.

It was kindof like Singapore's annual Star Awards. Everyone was well dressed with a drink in hand. Lavish gowns, nicely pressed suits and lots of photgraphers. With a drink in hand, people posed together amidst the hustle and bustle chatting among themselves.

And yes, the desserts were delicious because I have a sweet tooth and a knack for such stuff.

At the reception. Minister George Yeo highlighted the importance of having strong links with Vietnam.

He spoke about the projects in Vietnam undertaken by various Singapore companies. He said that Vietnam’s entry into WTO will further enhance its competitiveness and integration into the global economy and added that ASEAN will be stronger and more influential with the emergence of an economically vibrant Vietnam.

“Singapore is happy to play a small part in Vietnam’s transformation," he enthused.

Surprisingly, we were served with our homegrown brand of Tiger beer at the party. Though I don't drink beer, I tried a glass of it as well as the usual red wine.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The highlight of today’s activities was the visit to the Cu Chi tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City.

According to the tour guide, there is a network of tunnels that stretch for many kilometers. He hasn’t travelled the whole destination though.

We split up into teams again and attempted to go into the tunnels. It was a great team building event. As it was very dark inside the tunnels, those that go in first had to echo instructions to the ones behind, failing which will cause the whole team to lag behind.

The older members who were not inside the tunnel, gathered at the exit point to cheer others on. Of course, there had to also be a good leader to lead the team on inside the tunnels.

Many had muscle cramps after the ordeal. It was great to note that almost everybody in Minister’s team participated. After all, most of them are bigger in size and older.

Minister’s children who tagged along were so enthusiastic that they completed all the tunnels. Such activities score well among the young and old.

Lunch was at a resort-style restaurant. The layout of the place resembles Sentosa's Asian City. But the area here is larger than the one in Singapore.

I managed to do a little shopping after dinner today and visited the night market. There are a lot of souvenirs to get here in Vietnam.

If there is time, I will visit the night market again tomorrow but that will mean having another late night.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

[Airlines and Ho Chi Minh City]
It was the second time travelling on Singapore Airlines. The first time was when travelled on SIA was at last year's SEA Games in Manila. Qatar Airways is said to be a five-star airline (if there is such a rating). My first flight was on Finn Air. It was an exciting experience.

I think so far, air travel for me has been quite okay. But there was one encounter on SIA that I would not forget. I had asked the air stewardess for something but my request was not fulfilled.

Service aside, I like the fast take off and landing of Singapore Airlines. Their service standards have, by far and large improved. I recall there was a New Paper report on SIA's service standards a year ago.

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon.

The streets are busy and full of motorcycles. You hardly see any upmarket cars around except for the signature white taxis.

It is a lot like in the Philippines and Malaysia.

Straight after we arrived at the hotel, we had lunch and it was on to work. After checking in, grassroots leaders headed up to the discussion area while others who were not involved headed to the market to shop.

My roommate who was down with chicken pox did not come along so I have the whole room to myself. It is much larger than my room in Doha.

As usual, the view is one of the first things that I take note of. My room is near the road so it is pretty noisy even though it is late at night. The view at the 12th floor was breathtaking.

Since it is a constituency retreat, we split into groups to address the concerns of the various age groups.

Our group, being the youngest, was different from the rest. We brainstormed and wrote our ideas on post-it pads.

Each group then presented their ideas and recommendations to the panelists including our adviser Minister George Yeo. All of the groups came up with powerpoint slides.

After an afternoon of interactive discussion, with snacks, tea and coffee on the sidelines, we headed for dinner on a three-storey boat in the town area. As we ate, the boat cruised along the river.

On the top section of the boat, there was live music. It was very romantic to stand at the front of the boat and let the breeze blow your hair.

Friday, December 15, 2006

[Laksa and iFuture]
It was a good change to have laksa at the Aljunied GRC NDD 2006 Appreciation Dinner last night.

After having kebabs and lots of meat during my trip in Doha, it was timely that most of the food served at the dinner was mostly local delights.

The 100-odd crowd was entertained with oldies throughout the night by a duo with tunes from a guitar and a saxaphone.

Guest-of-honour Mayor Zainul and special guest Mdm Cynthia Phua entertained the crowd with their singing.

Just now, I was invited to the Singapore Science Centre to view the new installation iFuture.

There was a virtual graffiti wall and virtual golf there.

The last time I visited the science centre was a long time ago. The outlook is now more futuristic now but the different sections inside remain the same.

The iFuture exhibition places a lot of emphasis on smart homes and robots. A karaoke robot named Quasi was placed in one of the little rooms upstairs.

Featured at iSpace, a portion of iFuture, is a smart kitchen and smart hall.

In the hall, you can watch three channels of a television simulataneously. No one will fight for the TV remote control ever again. At certain angles, one can see a particular channel. Another channel can be viewed from a different angle.

The smart kitchen allows personalised video clips and messages. You can also select from an array of features from a touch screen.

Another exhibit allows you to see any location in the world a la Google earth but using a different interface. A table that can be turned allows you to zoom in and out and explore the globe and areas around the world.

The iSpace segment has a cool entrance.

Before entering, you have to collect a special ID card that is coded using radio frequency (RF). It is some sort of a EZ Link card.

You start the journey with an introductory clip in a semi-circular like hall. Then, you proceed to enter your details for the encoder to code your card making it more personal. Flashing the card allows the equipment at the exhibit to identify your name and age. It can make the robot call you by your name too.

A pneumatic lift then takes you to the second floor and you walk through the tunnel into the future.

The last part of the exhibition is this wired structure. It changes colour too.

It also features several screens but I didn't really see the content.

In this iFuture exhibition, there is creative use of lighting. Lights make it interesting too because it make the place dynamic when the lights change colour.

There were also many other interesting exhibits around but I didn't get to see all of them.