Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A.C. The Traveller (Trip to Xiamen, Zhangzhou and Quanzhou) III

Quanzhou is an ancient city also known as "Silk Road of the sea". Situated to the northeast of Xiamen, it takes slightly over an hour to get from Xiamen to Quanzhou, and about 2 hours from Zhangzhou to Quanzhou. Quanzhou is relatively more unfamiliar to me as compared to the other 2 previous cities as I don't have much friends there, and neither am I very familiar with any of the troupes there. However, being a fan of Gaojia and Liyuan opera (both based in Quanzhou), I thought I should pay a visit to this city as well.
Quanzhou still retained quite a bit of it's old-world charm with it's antique architecture everywhere.

A rather famousKwan Ti temple in Quanzhou.

Beside the Kwan Ti temple is one of the oldest mosque in China, built in AD 1009.

Quanzhou is famous for bridges, and you can expect to find bridges like this in every corner of the city.

West Street in Quanzhou city is a very old district, as one can see from the condition of the shophouses along the sides of the street.

The front gate of Quanzhou Liyuan Opera Experimental Troupe, the troupe which I had longed to pay visit to...

... but it was empty inside. Perhaps I went at the wrong time?

Shophouses at Zhongshan Road in Quanzhou; as one can see, the buildings are really quite old.

Zhongshan Road in Quanzhou don't look quite different from it's Xiamen cousin, in my opinion!

Nanyin (one of the most ancient musical forms still existing in China now) performances like this take place in various parts of the city every night.

Nanyin is still popular among the older folks of Quanzhou.

This street here is full of shops selling dog meat, mutton and goose meat steamboat; it's hard to find an empty table in these shops on a cold winter night!

Having steamboat by the side of the road on one cold, windy winter night.

The patrons here seemed to be enjoying themselves even though they were not sheltered from the cold winds by any walls or ceiling.

A.C. The Traveller (Trip to Xiamen, Zhangzhou and Quanzhou) II

Zhangzhou lies to the west of Xiamen and takes about an hour of bus ride from Xiamen's bus terminal. Zhangzhou to me is a more exciting place because Zhangzhou is the breeding place for my favourite Hokkien opera (xiangju), although really good troupes are not quite easy to come by. From what I heard, Zhangzhou used to be quite well developed, but it seems like in recent years, development of this city has been rather stagnant. Still, I believe that Zhangzhou is still not that bad as compared to other cities within the province.
Side streets of Zhangzhou.

A shop selling a Zhangzhou delicacy, guo bian hu; it looks and taste like our local kueh chap, although I believe they're totally different from one another.

Trishaws are everywhere in Zhangzhou; some are even paddled by women riders.

Longhai's Zhupu Xiangju Opera Troupe performing in Zhangzhou. (video clip of the troupe in action will be posted onto my other blog)

A view from the backstage; look at the turnout despite the cold weather!

Another troupe, Huang Yamei Gezi Opera Troupe, performing in another location on the same night. The stage may look very dilapidated, but their performing standard is still not bad. (video clips of the troupe in action will be posted onto my other blog)

Zhangzhou City Opera Troupe actors rehearsing for their competition show to be held in Fuzhou.

Final full dress rehearsal on the same night in the theatre above the troupe HQ, before leaving for Fuzhou the following day. How convenient! (video clips of the troupe in action will be posted onto my other blog)

A brick structure in Zhangzhou central in the style of an ancient city tower; on the top of the wall reads "Wen Chang", and I thought Wenchang is in Hainan?

A.C. The Traveller (Trip to Xiamen, Zhangzhou and Quanzhou) I

I have been missing in action for quite a while on my blog, mainly because I have been away for quite a while and had just returned from Xiamen last Friday. Actually, Xiamen is just one of the destinations I've been to, with Zhangzhou and Quanzhou among the rest. These 3 areas formed the minnan district of Fujian province, which is what we people in southeast Asia call "Hokkien". You should have guessed why I chose these 3 areas to visit: because I'm a proud member of the Hokkien diaspora!
Xiamen city is a jumble of new and old buildings; however this scenario might not last for long, as like Singapore, Xiamen is constantly tearing and constructing new buildings.

The street scene from the window of my hotel, V-Inn. This place looked secluded, but is actually very near to the city centre, and is relatively cheap as well. Plus, it is very near to Xiamen Municipality Gezi Opera Troupe and Xiamen Jin Lian Sheng Gaojia Opera Troupe.

There's quite a number of Muslim Chinese in Xiamen and Quanzhou, despite being quite far away from the northern and western borders of the country.

Looks can be deceiving; this lady might be selling popiah by the side of a small alley, but her food taste much, much better than what I had experienced in some local restaurants!

One of the small side lanes in Xiamen central district. There're quite a number of good catch in these areas, so don't simply overlook them.

One wrong turn at the main junction and you'll find yourself looking into some narrow back alleys.

Vehicles behold! A portion of Zhongshan Road (old central district) is reserved for walking pedestrians only.

Old folks relaxing in Zhongshan Park on a Sunday morning.

Zhongshan district by night.

Street hawker selling Muah Chee; slightly different from the ones we have in Singapore but tasted equally good.

Dining with some friends from Xiamen Jin Lian Sheng Gaojia Opera Troupe; this was a bad period to visit Xiamen, for not only there wasn't any opera performances in Xiamen city, Jin Lian Sheng was scheduled to leave for Macau for a performance, but I was lucky that I could still catch them around on their last day in Xiamen and had dinner with them.

Night skyline of the cenral district of Xiamen

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Night in Urinetown

I just came back from "Urinetown", a musical comedy staged by the Level 2 & 3 actors from Lasalle’s BA (Hons) Musical Theatre programme. This is the first time I've ever attended a performance by Lasalle students (free lunch-hour concerts excluded), and I'm rather impressed. Not that they're very excellent, there are rooms for improvement, but I believe with that kind of standard, I think these guys can go far.

"Urinetown" is an award-winning musical by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis which pokes fun at capitalism, socialism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement and petty-minded, smalltown politics. Set in a small town, it tells a story of a group of poor people revolting against the town's policy of charging people for usage of their public toilets in the midst of a draught. This show is highly energetic, with lots of dance choreography from beginning to end. Being performed in an intimate setting in the form of a thrust stage, there was quite a number of interactive opportunities between the actors and the audience, but sadly the audience generally seemed rather passive and didn't react much, except for maybe laughing out loud. The songs are catchy too, and I feel that the singing standard of the cast is rather uniform can are able to harmonise well.
The performance area

The audience

Tomorrow's the last day for this show, and although I'd very much like to watch it again, but alas I have my Chinese opera rehearsal to attend to. Hopefully this show will get staged locally again, either by the same team (very unlikely) or by other groups, whatever. But or the time being, I'll just have to rummage through Youtube to find fragmented clips of this musical!

"Run Freedom Run" from "Urinetown" by Anmoch Productions in Maverick Theater in Fullerton, CA.

"Follow Your Heart" from "Urinetown" by Anmoch Productions in Maverick Theater in Fullerton, CA.

"Tell Her I Love Her" from "Urinetown" by another uncredited team

"I See A River" from "Urinetown" by Anmoch Productions in Maverick Theater in Fullerton, CA.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

EOS (End-of-Semester) Finally!

Today marks the last day of my current semester in Foundation Years, Faculty of Visual Studies. I arrived in college at 11am to get my results, and was relieved that out of my 4 modules, I got 3 As and 1 B. You might have guessed it, it was 3D which I got B, because to be honest, I'm very bad at 3D stuffs. Drawing is less of a problem for me, and the other 3 subjects happened to be drawing or drawing-related. Well I did get a B too for my printmaking, but since that subject was just one out of 3 of my studio workshops (for the other 2 workshops, photoshop and photography, I got A as well), I'm not sure if the grades for the studio workshops be averaged out or graded separately. Finally, I can enjoy my 1-month vacation, and also spend some time in my Chinese opera. Hopefully next semester, and the remaining years in college will be as smooth-going as now, but I believe things will be tougher as time goes by...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Likay Likay

I'm not so much of a fan of Likay (folk music drama from Thailand), mainly because I need to have subtitles when watching or else I won't understand a single thing. Nevertheless, I still find it somewhat interesting. Here are some MVs, probably from a drama serial on Likays, sung by Got Jakrapun (one of my favourite singers) and Tong Pukkaramai.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Old Coca Cola TVC

I was sorting out my mp3 in my laptop when I stumbled upon the song "I Like To Teach The World To Sing", and all memories suddenly surfaced. I was instantly reminded of a Coca-Cola advertisement which I had watched on TV when I was still a small child. After rummaging through Youtube, I've found 3 versions of Coca-Cola TVCs using the same song, but done in different years (supposedly 1970, 1983 and 1984). However, the version I remembered was nowhere to be found (I'm not quite sure if it was the second clip that was shown on our local TV back then). Nevertheless, I've decided to put the 3 I''ve found  up here for nostalgic purposes. Merry Christmas in advance!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Loy Krathong 2007

Today is Loy Krathong festival, and since it's a Saturday as well, the celebration for the festival is held on the same day, instead of bringing it forwards or backwards to the next available weekend.<

I have been waiting for this festival for a long time, and though I don't get to float the Krathong in Thailand again, it's at least good to be able to do it at Kallang River. Of course, the atmosphere is less strong over here, since there's so fireworks or performances held in conjunction with this festival. Hopefully I'd be able to do it in Thailand next year!

Thai ladies selling Krathongs outside Golden Mile Complex; the whole stretch of the corridor was filled with Krathong stalls!

The Krathong which I'd bought.

Floating of Krathong in Kallang River

Friday, November 09, 2007

Little India – An Indian “City” Within the Garden City

Preface: Deepavali has just passed, but, still in the spirit of celebration, I decided to post a somewhat related, an essay which I had done for my CCS (Contemporary and Contextual Studies) 2 months back. It's not an academic essay, although I tried to do something close to that direction. Happy Deepavali!

Frenzy traffic flow which seemed to be totally out of control at times, strong fragrance of jasmine flowers, intermingled with that of spices and incense sticks creeping up your nose from the alleys, loud Indian music blasting through the sound systems in audio CD shops, signage in Tamil scripts all over the area, and countless men and women yakking away in the streets in Tamil or other Indian languages. Sounds like a typical town in Tamil Nadu state of India, but it is not; this is Serangoon, also called “Little India” by the local residents and foreigners alike, well known for its very south-Indian atmosphere. This is very unusual for a country whereby the Indian ethnic group only accounts for 8.8% of the total Singapore population, according to Singapore Department of Statistics1, and that the Indian population in Singapore is relatively fragmented culturally2.
Shophouses with signage in Tamil script; Singapore is one of three countries in the world (other two being India and Sri Lanka) that has Tamil recognised as one of its official language.

The interesting fact about “Little India” is that this district was not part of the British colony’s plan to make it an Indian enclave as it is today, but was gradually formed due to various events that has taken place in the course of Singapore’s development. At around 1843, after the opening of the Serangoon River, many Indians started flocking to this area after realising that this area is an ideal place for cattle raising, coinciding with the growing importance of the cattle trade then. Also, the employment of Indians as horse trainers at the newly opened Race Course (present day Farrer Park) was also another big factor attracting the Indians to this new district. By1940s, this area became a predominantly Indian district , and has been as such ever since. Especially so after the establishment of the Mustafa Centre in 1995, Serangoon has become the iconic district of the Indian population here.
A antique and art shop which my friends and I affectionately called it “Indian Art Friend”; not just because it sells many beautiful Indian art works, it shares the same corporate colours with Artfriend.

The district of “Little India” is bounded by Bukit Timah/ Sungei Road, Serangoon Road, Jalan Besar and Lavender Street. Although the main roads of Serangoon Road and Jalan Besar are where the main concentration of activities takes place, the various small streets and alleys that connect these two roads are bustling with life too. Clive Street and Perak Road are the two less-minor roads that I like most in the whole of the “Little India” district3. Other than being able to shun away from the crowds of the main roads, the sights and smell of that area are more appealing to me. Over there, stalls selling various kinds of fruits and vegetable can be found; a spectacular visual treat of colours. Although I’m not particularly a fan of vegetable, I like the refreshing smell and these fresh vegetables and fruits. Other than these stalls, there is a number of restaurants selling delicious Indian food, adding to the aroma that is already floating in the air. My favourite Indian eatery outlet happens to be located in this area, and I used to patronise the shop on regular basis for dinner. Although I do not know much about Indian cuisine, but I can tell that the Indian food sold in this outlet taste authentic, quite unlike the typical roti prata sold at coffeeshops in other parts of Singapore which all tasted the same.
Typical fruits and vegetable stall in Little India: looks and smells nice.

“Little India” is indeed a very unique place in urbanised Singapore, as almost all other places look just like one another, without really much character. “Little India” might be a bit chaotic, especially during the peak periods of the weekends, this district is still an interesting place to visit once a while, to immense oneself into the culture of another ethnic group, to unwind and to relax.

1. Singapore Department of Statistics (Singapore In Figures 2007), Jul 2007.
2. Lal, Brij V. The Encyclopedia of the Indian Diaspora. Singapore: Editions Didier Milliet and National University of Singapore, 2006
3. Fun on Foot: Little India, National Heritage Board,

Monday, November 05, 2007

Vitas and Chinese Ballet

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying Vitas is doing Chinese ballet or anything close. The reason for the title is that I've bought 2 DVD this afternoon, 1 Vitas concert DVD and 1 Chinese ballet DVD. Both DVDs were bought from The Commercial Press (Shangwu) at North Bridge Centre, a place I have not been to for ages as I'm getting more and more disappointed with this place as days go by. Why do I say that? For those who do not know, The Commercial Press once have the widest variety of Chinese opera VCDs a few years back. Most of the Yueju VCDs, plus those of some other exotic and less well-known genres, were purchased from there. Now, however, you're considered lucky if you can find a Chinese opera VCD/ DVD in there (Yang Lihua/ Ye Qing's Taiwanese opera are exceptional, but they can be purchased in many places nowaays anyway).
Vitas concert DVD and Chinese ballet "The Moon Reflected in Two Spring" DVD

Back to my DVDs. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Vitas concert DVD on sale at The Commercial Press, for I thought nobody in Singapore would know of him. Being a fan of him, I decided to buy it straight away, only to find out later that the DVD a disappointment. Not that the concert was bad, but the video quality is terrible (I suspect the video footage was obtained from some unofficial sources, therefore the quality has been compromised), typical of China-produced DVDs. The only thing I like is the packaging, but not without complaints either. The boxed set looked sturdy, but removing the tray out of the box was a complete hassle as the box was wrapping the tray too tightly. I think I'd have to keep thr tray ou of the box, and now the DVD set took up two times the space of it's original size; simply waste of storage space!
The inner tray of the Vitas concert DVD; this ribbon here is to let one pull/ yank the tray out of the box, but damned the box is too small, and no way am I going to ever put the tray back into the box!

A nicely designed booklet in the DVD set. I read in the booklet that in 2000, when Vitas had his first performance in Kremlin, his powerful voice caused a crystal star decoration on the ceiling to break into pieces!

A poster of Vitas, but damned it was folded again!

The Chinese ballet show, titled "The Moon Reflected in Two Spring" (二泉映月) was a better DVD in comparison. "The Moon Reflected in Two Spring" is performed by Liaoning Ballet Troupe, and is part of China's National Project to the Distillation of the Stage Art for 2005-2006. This performance depicts the story of 2 young lovers, Quan (not that "Quan" from Hana Kimi!) and Yue'er, who faced challenges from a wealthy rookie who had been lusting over Yue'er. The couple lost the fight; Yue'er drowned herself in Er-quan Spring while Quan became blind. I feel that the choreography of the dance was very well-done. Although it's a ballet performance, there were traces of contemporary drama in it as well (this might be normal in western ballet as well, I don't know). The ballerinas not only execute ballet moves, but also inject contemporary drama moves and emotions. I think it's a bit hard to balance all these together. Like for example in the final scene where the male lead was crying in agony after losing the female lead, I find it hard to act crying, but not make a single bit of crying sound (not quite the same like acting as a mute crying silently). The dancer taking on this lead role did it successfully, anyway.
DVD casing for "The Moon Reflected in Two Spring"; less impressive, but less hassle too!

I've finished both 2 DVDs already, within a span of a few hours. It's a sad anticlimax for me as now I have got nothing new to watch. Perhaps I should go rummage through my cupboard of DVDs and VCDs to see what's worth rewatching again. Not now, of course!