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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When two queens met in the harbour

Compulsory Sydney harbourbridgeoperahouse photograph

If you thought that Singaporeans were compulsive queuers, lining up for anything, and joining a line even if they didn’t know what they were lining up for, then you ought to take a look at Sydneysiders. We’ve got quite a few things in common with these antipodeans.

Two Tuesdays ago (20 Feb), Naomi and I decided to make a day trip out of Circular Quay, the Opera House and the Royal Botanic Gardens. We had heard and read that two of the world’s most famous cruise liners, the Queen Mary 2 and her older sibling, the Queen Elizabeth 2, were due in port that afternoon, and that traffic around the harbour was expected to be heavy.

If you count the little slopes in the RBG, there isn’t a more appropriate idiom than 人山人海。Damn! 华梧’s cool!

The radio and newspaper announcements turned out to be understatements. That evening, news reports estimated that around 300,000 people had flocked to see the two big ships. Yes, just to see the two big ships! On a Tuesday! There were no free passes for an on-board tour while the ships were in port (for less than a day), no free souvenirs, no nothing. Just see. Or catch a glimpse of, as Naomi and I did, as we gave up walking to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair from the Opera House because the teeming mass of humanity was just too teeming.

We already had enough trouble getting to the Opera House by car. The original plan had been to drive down Mrs Macquarie’s Road and park at one of the many streetside lots that I remembered existed when I lived in Sydney 7 years ago – a plan which, Naomi says, had a high chance of failure because parking lots from 7 years ago had a very high chance of, well, not existing in the present day.

Not that it mattered, because just as we were about to turn into the leafy street behind St Mary’s Cathedral, we were turned away by a very apologetic park warden who told us we were better off not attempting to get near the harbour by car.

St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney
We took many photos of St Mary’s Cathedral because we were stuck in traffic next to it

Since we had already spent a good hour and a half in the car travelling only a few kilometres, we endured the traffic a little bit more and inched ourselves to the Opera House car park, where we saw the A$18 an hour fee on the board and said fuck it, we’ll park. Of course, no one told us that 15 minutes would be spent trying to find a lot in the cavernous round and round underground car park of the world famous building.

One Sydney family had it worse, thinking it’d be a good thing if they took public transport, took a train from their home in the west, disembarked at Central Station, hopped on a taxi for what they thought would be a short 2km plus hop to the harbour. The taxi meter ticked like mad and they ended up paying A$40 for the ride.

Contrary to popular belief, the shape of the Opera House was not inspired by sails nor by seashells, but by segments of an orange

Normally, we’d be grumpy as hell, holiday or not. But thanks to the almost overwhelming charm of Sydney (unless you’re Dick Cheney) and her attractions, we weren’t. Not when you see a signboard like this:


As for the ships the throng had gathered by the shore to see, we could only make out the top of the Queen Mary 2 on the other side of Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. QE2 hadn’t even arrived yet. But it was easy to understand that somehow, that wasn’t the point of being there. You’re just glad you’re just there, whatever the event that is going on.

The Gardens: Ship, what ship?

The Gardens

Note to Australian: Cut down tree, use wood to make paper, then write.

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Wealth for toil

SydneyIt now looks like we left Sydney at the right time, because she’s got flash floods and thunderstorms resembling Singapore and Malaysia in December.

But really, though, there isn’t ever a good time to leave Sydney. I spent nine good years from 1992 – 2000, and ten days there last month. One difference between the recent stay and the previous one is that everything there’s really really expensive now.

There was a time when the S$ was a little bit stronger than the $A, making many Singaporeans say things like, ‘Wah, drink coffee here damn cheap hor? The cappucino and latte only $1.80 leh, when you convert back’.

But what the heck, Sydney welcomes everyone who’s ever seen the Pacific’s waves lap at her shores in a way that makes you keep longing to come back, whether or not you gain or lose when you convert back.

It was even more special for me (that I had to show Sydney off to Naomi), as I visited the locality I lived in, bumped into my old landlord (who’s still renting out the flat at a premium – $500 a week, and dat’s cheap already!), and many other places of significance (to me).

Again, I’ll have to tell you about them later, because reservist book-in time beckons, and there’s Combat Live-Firing all of tomorrow.

Peter the landlord (I forget his last name), who still collects rent personally, as well as tends to the common garden

The art-deco Ritz cinema at The Spot, St Paul’s Street, Randwick

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