Friday, November 16, 2007

Archaeology in Singapore

Who was Sang Nila Utama? What was life like in early, pre-colonial Singapore? It seems archaeology seems to attempt to answer some of these questions.

The Southeast Asian Archeology site is one of only a few that tracks archeological digs around Singapore. The sites explored include Fort Canning, Istana Kampong Glam, Fort Tanjong Katong, Palmer Road, Padang and St Andrew's Cathedral with the respective site reports found on each of these pages. Also appended is Miksic's "Recent archaeological excavations in Singapore" for a survey of what some of these digs have revealed about early Singapore. John Miksic is the patron saint of archaeology in Singapore. Hear what he has to say about local archeology, his own calling to this profession and his experiences. Or read more about the findings from some of the digs.

Another website by MA student Noel Tan - Southeast Asian Archaeology - updates readers on both local and other Southeast Asian archaeological excavations. His primer (Part 1 and Part 2) on the Srivijaya Kingdom lists an overview of the Buddhist empire that stretched from Java to Thailand spanning 600 years of rule. Consider his fascinating 3-part story - the many places of Singapore - of how Singapore (Simhapura) could have been a reference to other places besides this fine island. SheilaX gives an informative and articulate overview of the ancient history of the region and the comments that follow after her article are just as interesting.

We return to Sabrizain's Sejarah Melayu for a visual tapestry of this historical period, including the Buddhist and Hindu eras of the Malaya Archipelago.

The Srivijaya and Majapahit Kingdoms were centred in Sumatra and Java respectively and thus more detailed information of these early histories are generally found in websites concerning the early history of Indonesia. For example Indahnesia has a good number of articles covering these early kingdoms and more.

Ancient Singapore is invariably linked with the Singapore Stone of which little is left. For a detailed insight to this mysterious slab, check out the Wikipedia article on the Singapore Stone, the bulk of it written by Jack Lee.

However, Lim Chen Sian dispels the common perception that archaeology is about the distant past. He gives some insights to life as an archaeologist in his interview with RSI. But for the real deal, watch Invisible City, Tan Pin Pin's incredible documentary on Singapore's hidden side where Lim gives viewers a visual tour of his "office" and the work done there.

Keen to study more about Singapore's history and archaeology? Check out what NUS offers in its History and Culture section or visit the KaalaChakra exhibition on Indian influences in Southeast Asia, on at the National Library from 17 November to 16 May 2008.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Void Decks

There is nothing void about void decks - the open spaces on the ground floor of public housing apartments, or HDB flats. Better known as the venues for mega events such as Chinese New Year parties, weddings and funerals, they have also served as locations for the simpler birthday parties (watch the cake!)

When there isn't an occassion, the place is *lepak land. Here vagrants lounge, people just wait or **relak (even though they are haunted by other thoughts). Furniture is abandoned as are cats (Vegancat has more pix).

But residents put the place to more creative use than we can imagine. A popular spot for jams, with or without guitars, prancing and other table-top (or chair) dancing or simply a game of counterstrike, flying or biking. Sporting activities include fancy footwork with a football (check how he keeps the ball on his back while he takes off his t-shirt), skateboarding, and acrobatics (you must see this to believe it!)

It inspires poetry, academic musings, and political propaganda. There is a famed political website going by the same name

Turner, David captures the excitement and treasures at void decks in his NewPaper article "I want void-deck membership too" (10 July 2006) but to taste the real flavour of life in the void, you have to view the videos in this blog. They are proof that Singapore is more exciting than it seems.

*lepak = "to **relak in one corner" (ex-policeman quote) although the various online Singlish dictionaries seem to realate this term to sissy behaviour
**relak = to releax

Of Pratas, Plasters and Dinosaurs

Craving for the local flavours of Singapore, i came across this fascinating video of prata at Bukit Timah. Here you get a dizzying view of local favourites - Milo Dinosaur, Teh Tarik and of course the humble Prata! Catch the sideline sights of the Indian man pushing a heavy garbage bin across the room and the pretty Singapore lasses feeding on this feast.

This common breakfast fare which comes from South India has propogated an uncommon variety of mutations and accompanying drinks when sleepless Singaporeans began frequenting 24hr prata shops across the island.

The receipe for a prata seems simple enough but making one is an art. Watch the marvelous prata show online to see how these eastern pizzas are truly made. This is only outdone by the craftmanship that went into this bomb prata (a prata made of honey and butter, slurp!). UrbanWire, last month, wrote about Mr Prata, an outlet at Clementi. The article gives details of unique creations such as Tissue Prata, Italian Prata and Tuna and Mayonnaise Murtabak.
And what's a plaster?? Check Jim's Journal.
But should Roti Prata (Singaporean version) be merged with Roti Canai (Malaysian version)? Or do we truly have a distinct flavour?


It seems the Milo Dinosaur is now THE drink to accompany a good prata where once the simple teh-tarik or its later innovation, teh cino and kopi cino would have been prefered. AsiaOne's Wine and Dine's January 15, 2006 entry gives the history of teh tarik and claims that teh cino was invented by A&A Restaurant off Sembawang Road whilst Milo Godzilla was the fruit of Al-Azhar off Upper Bukit Timah. The Milo Dinosaur itself is a Malaysian invention. Basically a glass of iced Milo with a layer of Milo powder topping it, it sells for a hefty S$2. Options for a Horlicks variant, milk version (Milo Eruption)or more healthy fruity versions have been made available in other outlets. Check AsiaOne's Wine and Dine's July 3, 2006 entry for these new inventions.Summer Punch (May 31, 2006) describes the Milo Dinosaur and its gargantuan sister drinks, Milo Godzilla and Milo King Kong at Al-Ameen (T-Rex is common too but not profiled here). They progress in power and calories with each added scoop of whipped-cream and ice-cream.

Yes, Al-Ameen seems to be the oft cited site in blogs for these delicacies. Check out Recent Rune's entry on the outlet's infamous history and its other 24hr offerings.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Singapore online discoveries

My kind blog mentor (a rambler of some sorts) has adviced to make my entries more informal. So here it goes.

Being far from Singapore makes me long for all things Singaporean. The only way i can get near her is -- virtually. Thus i throw my net wide (onto the Internet that is) and through random successes i pull up whatever the day's catch may bring. Sometimes i will get leads from Singapore Heritage discussion list (this site is for members or join by emailing, or even Sometimes i am just lucky. Maybe this blog should just be called

Here are some of today's discoveries
* Intelligent Singapore or (IS) for short aggregates from some of the best social critics in our blogsphere. Seems to have only recently started as its archives is dated July

* My Sketchbook , a political cartoonist capturing recent issues such as the brownout of Mr Brown! The cartoonist was first highlighted by Singabloodypore, another site not to be missed. The later has his own bloody eshopfront!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Singapore English has its own following. Jack Lee's Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English includes not only explanations and samples of usage but also phonemes and the Chinese script where relevant. Many of the words defined are derived from the local papers. Talking Cock's Coxford Singlish Dictionary was an earlier online dictionary which also has print parallel.

Although i don't usually cite Wikipedia, its entry on Singlish presents an indepth linguistic analysis. From Jack Lee's Dictionary, several online sources which provide valuable academic analysis include Anthea Gupta's Singapore English and David Deterding's Singapore English : An Annotated Bibliography.

Join the Speak Good English Movement continues its attempts at inculcating good English amongst Singaporeans.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Panaromic Singapore

Chanced upon Panaromic Singapore whilst doing a search for Singlish. It vividly captures the visual language of being Singaporean. The images are displayed in panaromic style, against a black backdrop giving it a cinema-effect. The colours, angles and peoples portrayed show Singapore in a new light. Pictures are taken from all over Singapore, mainly of people in earthy, non-tourist locations such as Geylang and Bedok. The website is Tay Kay Chin's, a photojournalist who had served as the Straits Times Picture Editor in 1999 and has several international credits to his name.

An associated website National Day Babies, has 40 profiles of Singaporeans who's birthday falls on the same day as the Nation's. Each black and white photo has a short quote, and a poster-sized picture which can be downloaded.

Tay's Eastpix has a broader spectrum of images from Asia and the rest of the world. For Singapore, catch his vignettes of Little India and Colours of Singapore, his Requiems for Grandma and Grandpa and the Esplanade: Behind the Scenes for an insight to the true Singaporean.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Singapore's General Elections (2006) - Alternative Opinions

Although podcasting has been banned, there have been a number of blogs set up solely on this subject.

These include Sg Election'06 which offers Singlish/English opinions, links to sites and quotable quotes (started in Feb 06). It is a collaborative effort by bloggers from Singapore Ink, The Void Deck and From a Singapore Angle.

SGRally offers the archiving of rally speeches and activities. However, Singapore Election Watch offers a wider range of rally videos and broadcast interviews from the opposition parties. Although visually poor, you can catch the actual messages from the various parties. The comments on the site also give good insights to sentiments from the ground.

Politician's have also revamped or updated their personal websites. Check out James Gomez's site.

Existing blogs which highlight some measure of opinions and details about elections include Singabloodypore and Singaporegovt. Others such as Little Speck's offer insightful articles including quotes from rallies and Yawning Bread's which has photo essays on rallies and Nomination Day.

Discussions from the ground can be read on Alfresco Coffeeshop.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Singapore's General Elections (2006) - Political Parties

Party news and updates can be found in their respective party websites.

The ruling party, the People's Action Party (PAP), has a summary of campaign activities by constituencies and a listing of new candidates. Check the main page for news and upcoming rallies.

The Singapore Democrat (SDP) currently has suspended its letters section and its podcast. News of latest developments can be obtained from its homepage.

The Singapore People's Party (SPP/SDA) is a component party of the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and comprises four other political parties, namely the Pertubohan Kebangsaan Melayu Singapore (PKMS), the National Solidarity Party (NSP), the Singapore People's Party, and the Singapore Justice Party (SJP). Check the Press Release for party responses and strategies. Check the main page for rally updates. Their candidates are profiled on the Channel NewsAsia site.

The Workers' Party (WP)has visual representation of the constituencies they are contesting in and a listing of candidates and their profiles with more personal details found in the Channel NewsAsia site. Check the main page for news and notices.

Party manifestos have been compiled by Channel NewsAsia but only for PAP and WP. Also available are a listing of rally sites,

Singapore's General Elections (2006) - News & Information

On 27 April 2006, "for the first time in 18 years, the PAP has not returned to power on Nomination Day" (CNA). For more on the elections, the Elections Department offers a map of the electoral divisions, results of past parliamentary elections, a register of voters (access only to personal records), instructions on voting and on overseas voting

Get media updates from the Straits Times' General Elections page (subscription required and Channel News Asia's GE 2006 webpage. A special section on Yahoo!Singapore News on the General Elections wraps up news from various media agencies. The site also presents the contestants for the various constituencies.

For succinct background information, Wikipedia has an article on this, the most recent General Elections in Singapore.