Shek-O Baby!

 Sunglasses: Carrera Shirt: Jack Wills Shorts: Vilebrequin Shoes: UGG

Sunglasses: Carrera
Shirt: Jack Wills
Shorts: Vilebrequin
Shoes: UGG

 Top: American Vintage Shorts: Vilebrequin  Visuals by Andrea Chong (@dreachong)

Top: American Vintage
Shorts: Vilebrequin

Visuals by Andrea Chong (@dreachong)

So after talking in my last post about the confines of central Hong Kong and the constant hustle and bustle of its streets, we decided to take about a half an hour taxi ride out of the city and towards the coast for a brief respite. That being said, there was no respite from the ridiculous heat, which if anything seemed to be even more intense (nice sea breeze there most definitely was not.)

The initial idea was to check out the waterfall and cliffs at Sheung Luk Falls that we had seen so many pictures of leading up to the trip. However, given the state of Hong Kong traffic (unrelenting for the unititiated) and the fact that we wanted to catch the sunrise, it would probably have meant heading off from our hotel the night before. So in lieu of that a friend suggested that we head to Shek-O instead, a beachside village on the South Eastern part of Hong Kong island not far from the well known Big Wave Bay. And after looking up some photos of the incredible rock formations and caves they had there (as well as of course the rather pristine beach) we were more than happy to take his advice. 

It actually took a lot less time to get there than we had initially planned and so we ended up arriving just as the first rays of sunlight pierced through the clouds, lending this rather eerie feeling to an already deserted beach (this desertion was short lived mind you...) For me one of the highlights of the beach was in fact the lifeguard look out posts which rather reminded me of my teenage years watching the OC but to save any further embarrassment I won't dwell any further on this point. Just check out the photos after all this blurb and those who know will know...

What also really impressed me was the evident care and effort that was taken to preserve the beaches and keep them as pristine as possible. Even at such an early hour in the day there were a number of beach cleaners making their way up and down the sand and removing any litter in sight. In fact at that point in time I would proffer that there were actually more cleaners than beach-goers which seemed a strange sight. That is until the hoards descended. And oh boy did they descend.

It turns out that it was in fact a national holiday on the day we decided to visit, and apparently what the entire nation likes to do on such a day is to head to Shek-O. It was actually quite interesting to see just how many Hong Kongers (is that a word?) were readily keen on lying prostrate and catching some rays. Having lived in Taipei for a while, where the majority of people would seek the sanctuary of shelter or at least an umbrella at the first sight of sun - lest their white skin were to go any shade other than porcelain - it was quite a marked difference to see how keen the Shek-O visitors were on a tan. 

By this point we were already up on the rocks though, and given the other visitors' reluctance to do any climbing, we still managed to find relative sanctuary. As you can just about make it in the third image below, there were also a series of caves surrounding the inlet that we were super keen to explore, but a combination of the by now unbearable heat and the constant suspecting stares of the lifeguard on duty put paid to that idea on this occasion. No matter though, as I know I'll be back soon enough to do more exploring. Preferably in the Autumn next time.

 Visuals by me (apart from the one with me in it. Obvs.)

Visuals by me (apart from the one with me in it. Obvs.)


Initial Hong Kong Impressions + Visuals

 Shirt: Zara Jeans: Uniqlo Shoes: UGG

Shirt: Zara
Jeans: Uniqlo
Shoes: UGG

image.jpg
 Shirt: Zara Jeans: Uniqlo Shoes: Castaner  All visuals by Andrea Chong (@dreachong)

Shirt: Zara
Jeans: Uniqlo
Shoes: Castaner

All visuals by Andrea Chong (@dreachong)

Well Hong Kong, I've been only here a couple of days so far, but congratulations, you've already won me over. 

I really don't know why it's taken me so long to make the trip over and explore this city. I guess I was always swayed by the people who said that Hong Kong was overly stifling and dirty, and whilst it may not be the cleanest place on earth, to me this just adds to the overall vibrancy of the place. From the constant dripping of air-conditioning units (maybe this is why so many in Hong Kong use umbrellas even when it's not raining?) to the constant traffic (both automotive and pedestrian), Hong Kong is really when of those places where things never stand still. And if you do try and stand still you'll either get hooted at by a taxi or pushed over by a surge of pedestrians. In fact, the overriding motto that Drea and I have come up with for the trip thus far is "ain't nobody got time for that" and that really does seem to be the mantra that everyone here abides by. Whilst I admit that might not be everyone's cup of tea, hailing from London I've always been a big city boy at heart and so I find the constant hustle and bustle really invigorating. 

The heat here at the moment is ridiculous and unfortunately unlike Singapore there aren't shopping malls and undercover walkways everywhere to seek some air-conditioned refuge. Thus the only way to stay out of the sun is to cafe hop, and Tai Ping Shan was the perfect place to do that (well, after you almost die climbing the staircase that is.) Oldish is a quaint little cafe that served really good coffee and if tea's more your thing then Teakha is seemingly the place to be, with swathes of people constantly looking for tables in there. Everyone seemed to demolishing their cakes and desserts but I was still so full from lunch at Mrs Pound that I could hardly stomach anything else (I guess I'll just have to come back again then :p) And on the subject of food, I'm hungry again and there's so much more yet to devour so I better get back on the streets and find some eats. Until next time!

More on #EdwardExploresSG and Hanging Out in Balestier

I had some time off recently so decided to take the opportunity to do some more #EdwardExploresSG themed wandering. Obviously most of you would know about the wealth of big name attractions that Singapore has to offer (Marina Bay Sands, Art Science Museum, Gardens by the Bay to name but a few), and whilst these are all fantastic places to visit and shouldn't be missed, there is just as much wonder to be found in the neighbourhoods and areas outside of the CBD/Orchard area.  

Furthermore, what with it being SG50 year and thus there being an increased interest and focus in local Singaporean history and stories, I thought it would only be apt for me to understand more about the local tableaux that together make up Singapore’s rich tapestry. 

For those that know me well, they’ll know that Balestier is an area that holds particularly resonance for me. Whilst it tends to be famous for both its food offerings (of which there are many) and its light shops (of which there are many more), there are plenty more illuminating (sorry) places to be found along the way. 

I actually approached Balestier from across the Pan Island Expressway (PIE for short) at Toa Payoh so got to walk across the bridge and witness this pretty spectacular view just as a flock of birds flew off into the distance.

 Venice eat your heart out.

Venice eat your heart out.

Coming out onto the main road I was greeted by two stereotypically Balestier sights packaged together into one perfectly symmetrical building; budget hotels and light shops. Whilst fascinating in its symmetry (seriously if you put a long mirror right down the middle, its reflection would create exactly the same sight), I promise the road isn't all as architecturally drab as this, as you shall soon find out... 

 I wonder if Light Club and Lights Store are either owned by the same unimaginative owner or if they just got together and decided upon their favourite font and branding...

I wonder if Light Club and Lights Store are either owned by the same unimaginative owner or if they just got together and decided upon their favourite font and branding...

Whilst in recent times lighting and accommodation really have become the order of the day, the beauty of Balestier is that there are still many older, more traditional shophouses still in operation.

 Teck Seng Fruits Shop

Teck Seng Fruits Shop

 Sweetlands Confectionary and Bakery

Sweetlands Confectionary and Bakery

Sweetlands has been around since the 1970s, and whilst there were more than 200 similar bakeries dotted across Singapore during their heyday, they're now unfortunately a dying breed. Balestier is fortunate to lay host to two of the eight traditional bakeries still remaining in the country (Sin Hon Loong being the other) and the bakers here work gruelling hours all through the night to ensure that there is fresh bread on hand for the kopitiams to churn out stacks of kaya toast the following morning.

 Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory

Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory

Lam Yeo has been filling the Balestier air with the aroma of freshly ground coffee for over half a century, and in the early days the sight of rickshaws and carriages stopping by to purchase their wares would be common. Whilst these may no longer be seen, thankfully Lam Yeo has managed to retain a committed customer base that still come to stock up on some of the ten signature blends that the store offers or even just to stock up on the immense coffee knowledge that Mr Tan Boon Heong has in immeasurable surplus.

 Traditional Balestier Shopfronts

Traditional Balestier Shopfronts

On the subject of tradition and history, whilst many of the shops themselves may have changed over the years, if you look up you can still see many remarkably well preserved facades that give a small glimpse into what the area might have once looked like. This row of shophouses was built in 1926 by a female developer called Madam Sim Cheng Neo and was designed by architect Kwan Yow Luen, incorporating a stunning blend of Eastern and Western elements. Thankfully these facades are protected by the National Heritage Board and were carefully restored in 2000 to ensure that they remain in all their glory for future generations to come (whatever modern gizmos the shops underneath might be selling at that time.)

balestier-point1.jpg

And in perhaps the starkest of all stark contrasts, just across the road is one of my favourite buildings in the area: Balestier Point. I know it's not much to look at (or in fact there's a whole lot to look at depending upon your point of view) but it's such a fantastic example of brutalist architecture that it's just impossible to ignore. Opened in 1986 by RDC Architects and inspired by Moshe Safdie's "Habitat '67", the consituent lego blocks are designed so that each apartment has its own private terrace and garden. 

 JUST LOOK AT IT!

JUST LOOK AT IT!

Balestier Point has received an Honourable Mention Award from the Singapore Institute of Architects and it sits on the site of the former Ruby Theatre that stood from 1958 until the early 1980s. Even if it might not be the prettiest building in the world to most, it still stands to highlight the amazing mixture of architecture and styles that make up the rich mosaic of Balestier Road and the surrounding area.

Well that's all for now, but I really do urge all of you to come down and check out all that the neighbourhood has to offer if you get the opportunity. Neither your eyes nor your belly will leave disappointed I promise.

Until next time! #EdwardExploresSG

 

#EdwardExploresSG: Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

Hello again! So my promise of more frequent blog posts clearly hasn't come to fruition as of yet, so in order to hopefully encourage me to blog more regularly, I've decided to devote some time to an area that I'm particularly passionate about: social history. 

The aim of #EdwardExploresSG is to explore the vast array of landmarks (some well known and some less known) that Singapore has to offer, and to complement my Instagram posts with a more detailed description of the locations here on this blog. Because let's be honest, nobody likes reading lengthy instagram captions right? It'll also allow me to include a greater array of visuals to help tell the story.

So without further ado, I'm kicking things off with The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, built in 1932 and now abandoned aside from on specific public holidays when it is opened to the public to come and explore. And explore is exactly what I did...

The facade certainly strikes an imposing figure and it was in fact modelled after Finland's Helsinki Central Railway Station (the weather today had absolutely nothing in common with Finland's however.) It's rather hard to tell from the above photo, as a whole bunch of palm trees decided to get in the way, but there are four giant figures attached to the front of the station, each representing Industry, Agriculture, Transport, and Industry. The M that you can see above the figure is the "Malay" in Federated Malay States Railways, obviously named long before Singapore was Singapore.

Once inside, one is struck straightaway by the murals depicting early 19th Century life in Malaysia and Sinagpore, again representing the four major tenants featured on the facade, and it's crazy to see how vivid the colours in the murals remain, despite them being almost a century old. Hopefully I can still look as youthful at that age...

In its heyday, the station and its fleet of trains acted as one of the main ways of connecting Singapore and Malaysia, and it's fascinating to see all the remnants of this former life still in such great condition. Don't you think the above photo has a certain Wes Anderson style aesthetic about it? 

Since the station's closure, the only remaining KTM rail connection between the two countries is served by Woodlands Railway Station. Given the constant traffic, both vehicular and human, at the Woodlands checkpoint, one can only imagine how busy Tanjong Pagar Station would once have been, but now it stands in silent solitude.

The station is now only open to public access on public holidays as well as for private functions, but there are plans to convert it into a Railway Museum, which I think would be a great way of preserving its history and enabling future generations to once again fill a station which would otherwise be confined to the history books.

Well that's all from me on this one, but please feel free to suggest any other interesting locations (the more obscure the better) that are well worth a visit, as well as giving me any tips on how to make future posts more interesting, just in case this one had your eyelids struggling to stay open -_-

Until next time!