National Days

Flags for sale

I was just wondering the other day that there were lots of independence days in August. We had ours, they had theirs, and they shouted Merdeka till they were hoarse.

Then a couple of days passed and I thought it was a little late to talk about things happening in August. But then, fortuitously, I looked things up and found out that August and September are tied for the most number of independence days at twenty one each! Amazing – the wonderfully useful pieces of information you find on the net and then feel like you’ve achieved something by finding them! Isn’t it? No? I don’t care, I’m going to list them here anyway:


Benin, Switzerland, Niger, Burkina Faso, Bolivia, Jamaica, Singapore, Ecuador, Chad, Pakistan, Bahrain, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Moldova, Kyrgystan, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago.


Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Qatar, Swaziland, Brazil, Macedonia, North Korea, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Armenia, Belize, Malta, Bulgaria, Mali, Botswana, Tajikistan

If a tie-breaker was needed, I’d give it to August, because the nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua just happened to be granted independence from Spain on the same day in 1821.

The other interesting thing in my little foray into wikipedia was that Israel has an independence day (Yom Ha’atzmaut) that lies between between April 15 and May 15, because it’s based on the Hebrew calendar.

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Mr Loh’s national song

Mr Loh

As I rushed to find a wireless hotspot to sit down at and email urgent work to a client, I heard a familiar tune in one of our great city’s many underpasses, and so decided to trace the source.

But when I got to it, the busker had just finished his harmonica rendition of one of the tune. I rummaged through my pocket and produced some money to put in his basket, and said very nicely to him, “Uncle, can play that song one more time?”

“You like that song? OK, short one ah, I play one more time”, he smiled and said:

After he was done, he asked me why I liked that song, and so I explained that I lived in Australia for a period in the 90s.

“So did I”, he said, beaming, “but before you were born, probably”.

Mr Loh then went on to tell me that he went to Sydney in 1962, studied Mechanical Engineering at Sydney University, and moved to Melbourne for a while before returning to Singapore in 1972.

“Hmm… Lee ah? I don’t know any Lees there, but I have many relatives still in Melbourne”, added Mr Loh when I explained that my parents lived in Melbourne for a period during the 50s and 60s too.

“I would love to move there again, I can work there picking fruit in the orchards”, said the lively 73 year old as he checked to make sure his mic and amplifier were turned off.

“But I love doing this. It’s not for the money. You don’t have to give me money, as long as you enjoy my music, and I will play for as long as I am having fun”, he said as he told me about busking three hours a day, five days a week in the same underpass.

Before he packed his harmonica wheeled his basket and amp off home, Mr Loh and I stood in the underpass for another few good minutes, talking about other stuff that I’d like to keep between him and myself because he deserves it.

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A royal Thai affair

Thai Festival 2007 - Thai Embassy Singapore

I never know when the festival is at the Thai embassy. So it was good that I happened to drive past it last Saturday, and we managed to sneak in a good hour on the festival’s last day on Sunday afternoon looking at such Thai fare as Tom Yum, Pad Thai and coconut.

There were also several stalls selling handicraft such as ‘breast pins’ and also stalls which sold clothing as you’d find in Chatuchak on the weekend. Only this was Orchard Road, and so were the prices. We eyed a piece of clothing and asked for the price, only for the saleswoman to ask her colleague in Thai how much it was. Her colleague said ’40’, and she asked to clarify: ‘I thought it was 30, now 40?’

Good thing we were in Chatuchak mode, and we did manage to get the price down to something more between Singapore and Bangkok, and then sauntered off to the food stalls, and then browsed some more through the other stuff we wouldn’t buy.

Such as ointments called male gel’ and ‘breast cream‘. Instructions for the former are simple to follow:

“Apply once or twice a day over private part”.

It’s a ‘unique gel’ only for ‘masculine man’ though.

Flickr set of Thai Festival 2007

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Little Slope, Big Slope and Boogie Street

Back alley, Bugis Junction = by ☆ lcy

From Wikipedia:

The fame of the original Bugis Street has spawned many namesakes eager to capitalise on the brand, even though many tourists, as well as some young Singaporeans, have no inkling as to the reasons for its erstwhile ‘glamour’.

Yes, if not for the page on Wikipedia I’d have thought that the history of Bugis Street had something to do with cross-dressing warrior tribes from South Sulawesi.

What really piqued my interest was not actually the seedy side of Bugis Street as described on that page, but rather the references to “Xiao Po” (小坡; little slope), referring to a section of downtown Singapore. I had been wondering if anyone else remembered references to “Ta Po” (Big Slope) and “Xiao Po” (Little Slope), which basically formed the two sections of the city.

If I’m not wrong, “Ta Po” referred to the area west of the Singapore River, and “Xiao Po” referred to the area east of it. This division was apparently made by the Chinese population before the 1950s. Although I’m not that old, I remember my grandmother asking the rickshaw driver to take us to somewhere in “Ta Po” for me to get my bowl haircut.

Does anyone else remember this and hopefully has a more detailed explanation of why this was so?

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