December 23, 2005

Fish Porridge and Wanton Mee

These two shops in Hong Kong specialize in fish porridge though they also sell beef and pork porridges as well as ‘see yau lor mee’, ‘fun cheong’, ‘yau char kuai’ etc. They have porridge with fish mouth, fish bone, fish slices and other parts of the fish…. I prefer the yu larm chook. I like the thick chunks of fish that come with the porridge.

If you want plain porridge (but chook in cantonese), you must tell them not to add anything. Otherwise they will give you porridge with salt, monosodium glutamate and whatever spices they normally use.

The eateries are in the Jordan area; one is in Ning Po Street and one is in Woosung Street. There is another one in Woosung Street. All three are within one minute’s walk from each other.

I would say ‘wanton mee’ is the most common hawker food in Hong Kong. I read about one wanton mee shop in Leonard’s blog ( and decided to try it. It is in Hau Fook Street in Tsim Sha Tsui. The mee came with big shrimp-filled wantons. There were no char siew. I think they only have the soup version, not the dried version. The wantons were good but not outstanding. I also tried their octopus balls (mak yu yuen in Cantonese). I think they were better than the wantons.

I think we in Singapore have a wider variety of food. It is difficult to find char kuay teow, laksa, prawn mee, fish-head meehoon or mee rubus in Hong Kong. Our chicken rice tastes better too. I also prefer our wanton mee to Hong Kong’s.

December 18, 2005

Wun Fei Yin's 40 years in Cantonese Opera

When I was in Hong Kong, Wun Fei Yin was celebrating her 40 years in Cantonese opera with several nights of performances. I watched one of her shows on 3 December at the Hong Kong Cultural Center at Tsim Sha Tsui.

There were 5 excerpts; Fei Yin performed in 4 of them.

Yuen Siu Fai and Leong Hon Wai performed a comical excerpt. Yuen is a versatile actor; performing different roles equally well. In this excerpt he was a magistrate, a comic character. His facial expressions and gestures reminded me of Lau Hak Suen (An actor who always played the villain in old Cantonese movies.).

There was a mini exhibition at the HK Cultural Center in conjunction with Fei Yin’s performances. The exhibits included Fei Yin’s photos, magazines, opera costumes and other opera peripherals.

November 30, 2005

Bird Flu and Travelling

Will be going to an Asian country for holiday in December.

At first I was a little worried about bird flu. But then I thought:

The present situation (bird flu) may continue as it is for weeks or months. After that if the situation improves and the threat diminishes, then well and good. On the other hand, if the situation gets worse and the epidemic starts with human to human transmission, then you cannot go anywhere for years. So this is not a bad time to travel if you have been planning to do so.

Furthermore, the risk is very low if you are not living in a farm with a lot of fowl.

Nonetheless, precautions should be taken like eating well-cooked poultry and eggs. Personal hygiene should also be taken seriously.

November 16, 2005

School Mottos

I have been reading the blogs of some friends. They wrote nostalgically about their old schools and school days. I learnt that the motto of Braddell Rise School was B.R.S – Be Ready to Serve. The motto seems more apt for a service or sales personnel training school. The school is no more in existence.

I was prompted to look up the mottos of my old schools. The primary schools I studied in are not around anymore. Anyway I don’t think they have any mottos and I don’t remember wearing any school badges.

I looked up the crests and mottos of some well-established secondary schools. My two favourite mottos are in Latin. I think these two fit nicely into our Nation’s philosophies.

1. Nil Sine Labore meaning Nothing without Labour

Whether you want to increase your income, see your investments grow, do well in your studies or get rid of mosquitoes in your compound you have to work for it or put in the effort.

The government will help you if you help yourself; don’t just sit down and expect handouts.

MM Lee Kuan Yew said the world does not owe us a living. We have to work hard for our survival.

2. Facta Non Verba meaning Deeds (or Actions) not Words

Employers look for results and track records not at what you say.

You cannot achieve your dreams by just talking, do something.

Our country is also remembered internationally by our deeds and actions:- We caned Michael Fay, we banned chewing gum, we hang drug traffickers, we sent aids to countries hit by natural disasters, PM Lee Hsien Loong visited Taiwan.

My favourite crest is the green round one in the above picture. It has a picture of Leonardo da Vinci – scientist, inventor and artist. The motto is again in Latin - Diligentia, Ingenium, Dexteritas (Diligence, Ingenuity, Dexterity).

November 02, 2005

What is done cannot be undone

Bought a box of persimmons at Fairprice for $5.80 and the next day Fairprice had it on offer at $4.80. This type of thing happened before and each time I used to scold myself for buying the thing too early. But then who knows. So, I find this proverb ‘What is done cannot be undone’ very appropriate and consoling.

Earlier in the year someone I know bought a return air-ticket to Hong Kong from a budget Airline at the normal price. Then soon after, the airline had a promotional offer to Hong Kong – the price was several tens of dollars less and it covered the travel period of this person. He was sore at the Airline.

‘What is done cannot be undone’. There is no point brooding over it; otherwise you make yourself unhappy.

Similarly, if you had said or done something that offended your friend, see what you can do to repair the damage rather than brood over it.

This proverb also reminds us to think before we act.

October 21, 2005

Street Opera at Chinatown

This is Long Koon Tin, the artiste from Hong Kong who takes on the lead male roles in the 14 night shows and in the Saturday and Sunday matinees.

October 10, 2005

Jeong Mun Tuin

She is a leading female artiste (hua dan) in the Guangdong Cantonese Opera First Troupe of China.

Click on pictures for larger views.

September 25, 2005

The Guangzhou CO Troupe's Performance

At Kreta Ayer Peoples’ Theatre (4 nights full-length operas and 2 nights opera excerpts)

I watched Ngai Wai Yeng’s troupe during her previous two performing trips in Singapore. At that time she was partnering Leong Yew On. She rarely forgot or omitted a single word let alone forgot her lyric.

So it was most unlike her forgetting her lyrics several times in her performances this time round. I think it was more obvious in the second and third nights. She only performed three full-length operas.

The leading female role in another full-length opera was Tsui Yook Mui. Three of these operas were new comedies. I think they have not been performed here before.

The operas excerpts, which were replacements for a full-length opera, on the last night were only so-so with the exception of the excerpt from Xi Shi. Ngai Wai Ying was the beauty Xi Shi. Here we saw Wai Yeng at her usual self with masterful singing and fine acting.

Xi Shi was the originally scheduled opera.

The opera excerpts on the 4th night were generally more enjoyable and better performed than those on the last night. I felt that the fighting part in the excerpt ‘The eight Immortals’ stretched a bit too long.

Lai Chun Seng has certainly improved. He performed consistently well. The previous occasions I saw him were at two fund-raising shows and the opera Hua Yue Ying two years back.

Suen Yip Hong is great asset to any opera troupe. Rotund and with a smiling-Buddha face, he is a first-rate comedian. Nevertheless, he performs other roles adeptly too. Surprisingly, he could do somersaults and jump and sit on a table with ease – not something you expect from someone at his age (I think he is in his late forties.) and with his body shape.

Another comedian worthy of mention is Chan Wing Hong. He has excellent rapport with Suen Yip Hong.

I think Tsui Yook Mui and Ng Wun Fei are two ‘hua dans’ with good potentials.

Ng Fei Fan (the leading hua dan in the excerpts Mook Kwai Ying and The Eight Immortals crossing the Sea) and Lo Yue Ling ( the hua dan in the excerpts But Long Kuan and Wang Zhao Jun) ) did their martial parts well but their singings need a lot more effort.

At the Esplanade Theatre

‘Rui Wang and Zhuang Fei’ and ‘Hua Yue Ying’ (Shadow of Flowers in the Moonlight) were the two operas at the Esplanade Theatre. One is a historical piece with the Qing Court as the story background; another is a new-style opera about the tragic love story between a female opera artiste in ancient China and a high-ranking state official.

Fortunately Wai Ying did not forget her lyric.

‘Rui Wang’ is an interesting opera but is not the type that would hold your attention from beginning to end.

‘Shadow’ is more entertaining. There are poetic sceneries, sentimental music, melodious songs and creative dances. My original comments still apply:

“It is a beautiful and entertaining opera. Though innovative, it has enough traditional CO elements and flavour to make regular CO fans happy. In fact they will find it a refreshing change and those new to CO will like it as well. Perhaps it illustrates that despite innovation and modernization, CO is still enjoyable.”

August 18, 2005

A Sentimental Journey

August 09, 2005

My Block on National Day 2005

July 18, 2005

Buying a New Car

My first car was a second-hand. My father subsidized my down payment and I paid the monthly installments. Years later I thought of buying a new car. I kept a record of my daily expenditure for three months, recording every cent spent. Then I did the estimations – installments, parking, insurance, road taxes, servicing and repairs, petrol. I found I could afford it. Another three months later I booked the new car.

The car serves me faithfully. No breakdowns, no problems, all within my budget.

Now every friend tells me this is a good time to get a new car.

Nowadays, whenever I want to buy an expensive item I will think, rethink, wait and rethink again. Do I really need it or want it?

Of course ‘expensive’ is relative to one’s income and assets.

Not long ago, there were offers at a superstore. I wanted to buy an electric rice cooker which can also cook porridge. I already have one at home. It cooks rice but could not keep the rice warm. The new cooker was not expensive. I bought it.

June 23, 2005

At the Clinic

Last week I went to the Polyclinic for a minor ailment. Mid-afternoon, weekday. Took a queue number and waited for about 10 minutes at the registration. When my turn came I requested for my regular doctor – a young petite lady with her short hair tied in a ponytail. I feel she has the doctor look. She has been seeing me for at least 2 years.

Waited more than one hour outside her consultation room. During this time more than ten patients went in and out of her room.

During my session, a new doctor next door came over and asked her for advice. She went over for a brief minute or two.

My ailment was nothing serious. She prescribed me some medication.

Then I asked her whether she attended to about 80 patients a day. My guess was not far off – she said she saw 78 patients the day before. I mentioned that she must be tired and frustrated seeing so many patients. She said it was tiring but her greatest frustration was with difficult patients. I sympathize with her as myself has often dealt with difficult people. I just told her to cheer up and not to be too bothered with them.

While writing this I thought I could have told her that there are also many people with great respect for doctors. I am one of them.

May 25, 2005

Japan’s war crimes and its apologies

At last month's Asia-Africa conference held in Indonesia, Japanese prime minister made a public apology to the nations which had suffered under Japan’s aggression.

Japan has apologized several times over the years. Is Japan sincere?

Consider the following.

In fact the Japanese Government had never admitted that Asian women were forced to be ‘comfort women’ (sex slaves) until a UN Commission released a report which confirmed the truth. Still some Japanese officials claimed that the women became prostitutes in order to earn quick money!

Similarly, the JG never admitted to capturing thousands of civilians for slave labour, subjecting them to degrading treatment, torture and senseless killing.

The JG has also remained silent on the most notorious war crime committed by Unit 731 which carried out hideous biological and chemical experiments with live prisoners.

The Japanese PM’s annual visit to the Yasukuni Shrine which honours the war dead including 14 Class A war criminals. The Shrine is regarded by Asian nations as a monument to Japanese militarism.

The most recent issue: The approval of a textbook that distorts and waters down Japan’s war atrocities. Some recent books do not even mention the issues of comfort women and forced labour and in many new history textbooks the horrendous Nanking Massacre in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were butchered is merely referred to as the Nanjing Incident.

It seems that Japan still believes that it has done no wrong or that it does not want to confess its guilt and redress the situation. What is the point of apologizing if it is not followed by deeds.

Against such a backdrop, the recent anti-Japan demonstrations in China and South Korea should not be seen as narrow-minded nationalism.

Latest: It was reported today (27/05/05) that a Japanese lawmaker said that those convicted in the Tokyo War Crime Trial were not considered criminals in Japan and that there was nothing wrong in honouring them.

May 04, 2005

The Guangdong Academy of CO Youth Troupe

The Guangdong Academy of Cantonese Opera Youth Troupe exudes vigour and vitality. Many artistes are in their early twenties with some in the late teens. The most outstanding artiste is Zeng Xiao Min. She excels whether as a warrior or a maiden.

The operas:

The Invincible Wu Song

Zeng Xiao Min as Pang Jin Lian and Peng Qing Hua as Wu Song. In this version Pang Jin Lian was not portrayed as the adulteress who poisoned her husband but as a woman who was taken advantage of when she was drunk. She did not ask her husband to drink the poisoned wine but she did not stop him when he wanted to drink it not knowing it has been poisoned.

I felt that the storyline was rather disappointing. The most exciting scene was the last scene in which Peng Qing Hua showed his excellent martial and acrobatic skills.

The Magic Pearl

A love story between a heavenly being and an earthly man. In the battle scene Zeng Xiao Min displayed superb martial skills and techniques. One of her signature move was six continuous 360 degrees complete body twists. It was a delight to watch her. Another skill she has mastered was the warding off of spears thrown to her with different parts of the body and in various positions. Xiao Min has a good voice and sings well too.

The Sword of Betrothal

In this opera Peng Qing Hua was the bad guy. I think he was quite successful in this role though his portrayal of the cunning character was not as convincing as the Cantonese film actor Sek Kin or Keong Chung Peng in the old Cantonese films.

The Monkey King and Princess Iron Fan

I think this is the most entertaining opera. This would be a good opera to attract the young or to promote opera in schools – a good fairy tale with humour and great acrobatics. Unfortunately we do not have artistes like Peng Qing Wah or Zeng Xiao Min.

It was a fantastic show by Peng Qing Hua. One highlight was Peng jumping through a row of eight hoops held shoulder-high. Another was his rotating of the monkey king’s golden rod with his hand at amazing speed. His toying of his rod, a knife, a hoop and a hammer and sometimes all items at the same time delighted the audience, particularly the children.

Opera Excerpts

The following two opera excerpts were refreshing and enjoyable. One reason I believe was that they have not been performed here before. Another reason was that the artistes performed well.

1. ‘Compelling a Nephew to go and take The Imperial Exam’ was a hilarious excerpt. Wen Ru Qing played the main scholar who was reluctant to go for the exam because he was in love with a nun. He sang well.

2. ‘Strange encounter’ was about a female ghost asking a man to help her seek justice. Liang Xiao Ying played the ghost. Her singing was melodious and pleasing.

Another excerpt, 'The Assassin', was an experimental piece of modern opera by the Youth Troupe. The fighting part was like what you see in kung-fu movies complete with computer-generated sound effects. I wonder what Cantonese opera traditionalists think of it.

CTC artiste Joanna Wong did not perform the excerpt with Ting Fan as scheduled in the programme. I think she felt out of place in a night dominated by young performers.

April 09, 2005

Money Plaques

04 April 2005 Monday night, Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre

This is the largest of the five money plaques that were on the stage of the Theatre. It had the names of the five main opera artistes with five thousand-dollar notes attached. A money plaque is flower plaque with money attached which cantonese opera fans give to their favourite artistes to show support, appreciation or adoration. It seems to be unique in Singapore. I have not seen money plaques in Hong Kong or China.

Of the eleven nights I was there, there were money plaques on nine nights. There was even one for the orchestra. Most of them have a $1000-dollar note attached.

April 03, 2005

Chinese opera fans more patriotic?

Thursday night’s opera by the Guangdong Academy of Cantonese Opera First Troupe was about an emperor who, fearing that his brother would take the throne away from him, schemed to get rid of his brother. His brother was one of those patriots who stuck stubbornly to the belief ‘If the emperor wants his subject to die, then he has to die.’ Though he was aware of the emperor’s intention, he was prepared to die for the sake of the Country.

One opera fan commented that people who watch Chinese operas are more patriotic because in Chinese opera there are many such stories about patriotism and sacrifice for one’s country.

More patriotic? It has very broad meanings.

Perhaps he meant that there are many patriotic people among Chinese opera fans or that the percentage of patriotic people among Chinese opera fans is higher than that of any other fan group.

For the same reason, we can also say that Chinese opera fans are ‘more filial’.

March 27, 2005

The Wilful Princess

26 March 2005 - Kreta Ayer People's Theatre

Is this Peng Mun’s farewell performance?

It needs great effort for a male to sing in an artificial female voice in a 3-hour long opera. To be honest, I think his voice now has lost the feminine qualities of a ‘hua dan’ – unlike about 10 years ago when he performed with Aw Kai Meng an excerpt from the same opera. I have been watching his performances all along so I got used to the gradual changes. But someone who has not seen him for quite sometime or someone who was seeing him for the first time would find his voice queer. His excellent opera skills could only partly compensate for this. It was a good thing that in this opera there is no second ‘hua dan’ besides the empress who just sang a few lines.

So I think it is good for him to ‘retire’ earlier, at least from full-length operas and leave his fans with fond memories. I wonder if he would consider performing the male role instead. Perhaps, having performed as a ‘nan hua dan’ (female impersonator) for such a long time, the mannerisms of the hua dan are so entrenched in him that he finds it difficult to change roles.

On the whole it was a good show. Chan Fook Hong and Christopher Choo put up great performances. But I think there is no need for so many monks in the last scene. Rather than enhancing the scene, they caused distraction and confusion.

Just my non-professional sincere views; hope Peng Mun's supporters won' t get offended.

My write-up on Aw Yeong Peng Mun:

February 01, 2005

How to increase Singapore's birth rate.

A report in the Sunday Times said that many Singapore men are going to Vietnam to look for wives. An article mentioned one 35-year-old Mr Lee who married a 20-year-old Vietnamese girl. They lead a happy married life and a year after their marriage they are expecting a baby girl in March.

Maybe one way to increase the birth rate of our country is to allow Singapore men to have a second wife from abroad! If the first wife is unable or does not want to have babies after, say, 5 years of marriage; then the man would be allowed to have a second wife. Or even a third wife. The government could also introduce a second-wife tax, a third-wife tax and so on.

The birth rate would rise and government could collect more money! Ha! Ha! Ha!

January 18, 2005

The Patriotic Princess

16 January 2005, Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre

I saw this opera performed by Singaporean artistes in the following years:
1998 by Lou Mee Wah and Li Fung (from HK)
2000 by Chan Fook Hong and Wong Mei Ling
2000 by Wong Kum Yeng and See Too Hoi Siang
2004 by Kong Yew Cheong and Lau Moon Chuin

Besides these I also saw others performed by foreign troupes. But, invariably I find The Patriotic Princess an entertaining opera.

In three of the above shows Christopher Choo played the role of the emperors. So this is the fourth time I watched him at the same role again. I feel that this was his best performance. It would be hard for any local artiste to match up to his performance in this role.

Joanna Wong has good rapport with Ng Yim Hong and with her wide experience, performing 3 of the scenes was a breeze to her. Though her performance was good, I feel that the role of a teenage princess or a young maiden is not suitable for her.

Chen Yin Leng performed 2 scenes. I think this is one of her best performances in recent years. Her passionate rendering of the songs in the scenes was much appreciated by the audience.

One scene was performed by Li Si Yao. According to an opera fan, her acting was fine but her singing was off-style meaning she did not sing it in the Cantonese opera way.

Ng Yim Hong (HK) looked relaxed and at ease with herself throughout the show. I felt that she was taking things too easy.

Just my personal non-professional views. Hope no one gets offended.

Battle at Mount Cockerel

15 January 2005, Kreta Ayer People's Theatre

Favourable points about this show:
Changes of scenes were fast. Duration was slightly less than 3 hours. Opera was performed here for the first, so the plot captured the attention of the audience.

Maybe too few rehearsals. Sometimes artistes playing supporting roles appeared hesitant about what to do.

Pang Heng Wah from China looked a little nervous initially. It might be due to his first partnership with a Singapore artiste and that he was performing his first lead role and in front of a Singapore audience. But he soon warmed up and later gave the audience an excellent display of his martial skills.

See Too Hoi Siong has shed off some weight. Another 5 more kg would be fine. Then, she has not only the height but the figure as well. She, too, gave a splendid display of martial skills despite the constraints she faced.

Chan Mei Ling is a good artiste but she seemed to be frowning most of the time. Perhaps she felt tense and the tenseness affected her muscles. If she eases up she would look much more pleasant.

Cheung Seok Lin is a dependable artiste with a pleasing disposition. Glad to see her again performing with Hoi Siong after a lapse of many years.

Leong Kam Fai is the villain in the show. He is a versatile performer who is adept at portraying the good guy as well as the villain.

Christopher Choo and Ellen Li are veterans who often add colour and humour to a show. They did here too.

Cheung Siew Wai always looks calm and steady and she gave a good performance tonight.

I think Kwok Kwong Lun needs to put more effort in his singing and pay more attention to his make-up.

Just my personal, non-professional views. Hope no one gets offended.

January 09, 2005

Lion City's Cantonese Opera Stars Fund-raising Spectacular.

8 January 2005, Kreta Ayer People's Theatre

Ng Lee Lee managed to get together the main opera groups for this performance which lasted for about 3 hours . It ended around 10.30 which was a good thing as it gave people ample time to go home. Still I saw a few people leaving in the middle of the last excerpt.

There were 5 excerpts. I believe all the performers have put in great effort for the show.

The shortest excerpt was Woman Warriors of the Yang Family. Joanna Wong played the martial role of Muk Kwai Ying. Actually I was worried that at her age of 60+, she would not be able to execute the martial moves or do the fighting part well. It turned out she gave a creditable performance. Her singing was pleasant but sounded weak.

Wu Wai Fong playing the role of Chew Tze Long has a strong voice and performed well but she lacked the height as the formidable warrior. Ng Lee Lee has improved. However, I feel her performance rather bland. I think this excerpt tends to be draggy towards the end.

Lou Mee Wah and her students acted the excerpt Bidding Farewell to Keng Or. I think she performed as expected.

Ling Tung Meng partnered Chee Kin Fun in another excerpt. Tung Meng, with his sound opera training and powerful voice, put up a convincing performance as Chew Tze Long. But he has put on weight. I think his stoutness affected his martial moves and his twists and turns. Chee Kun Fun's voice seemed to have deteriorated and her face looked a little gaunt.

Chik Chew Kuarn is slim and looks pretty in her make-up. She also sings well. Chow Chun Hong looked like the God of Prosperity.

These are just my personal views.

January 06, 2005

Cantonese Opera in aid of Tsunami victims.