Pollen & Photobombing: An Afternoon at Gardens by the Bay

Even if you’re a lazy couch potato who hasn’t had any interest in going to Gardens By The Bay because it would probably involve being outdoors for a prolonged period during daylight, when your husband announces he’s booked lunch at Pollen just because he wants to spoil you a bit, you say “That sounds wonderful, dear, I’d LOVE to go to Gardens by the Bay!”

There are probably tons of spectacular photos of the Gardens out there by now – no doubt taken by the intrepid shutterbugs we saw toting their tripods all over the place – and mine won’t measure up at all. But here they are anyway.

This is the Rhug estate pork belly with broad beans, slow cooked squid and chorizo we had as part of the Pollen set lunch. As someone who isn’t actually that keen on pork or fatty meat, this was still quite tolerable for me because the fat was much less sickeningly rich than it might have appeared in the photo, and the beans, squid and chorizo complemented it perfectly. It wasn’t the best pork belly dish I’ve ever had (that honour belongs to the “slow cooked pork belly, potato puree, black pudding and sauce Robert” I had at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner), but it was among the best. And yes, that big keropok-resembling thing behind it is crackling. Omnomnom.

Pork belly (Pollen, Singapore)

This dessert of chocolate roast cocoa nib ice cream with jasmine parfait and cherry might seem like just another chocolate dessert, but the jasmine parfait gave it a dimension I hadn’t expected. It didn’t take long for my tongue to go from “wow, this tastes interesting and different” to “why doesn’t every chocolate dessert come with jasmine parfait”? I loved this, and I’m not even that keen on chocolate. And, it wasn’t even the best dessert of the meal! (It was just the dessert I didn’t completely suck at photographing.)

Dessert (Pollen, Singapore)

The other dishes we had were:

  • Duck consomme with slow cooked quail egg and lapsong souchong tea (starter; rich and satisfying)
  • Roasted baby beetroot salad with goats curd and pine nuts (starter; nice but not cataclysmically tastier than the beetroot salad we make at home, even though the ingredients they are using are obviously several million times better than ours)
  • Roasted cod, creamed olive oil potatoes, lemon conserve and sauce grenoblaise (really good even though neither of us is that keen on cod)
  • Crispy burnt lemon meringue with cucumber sorbet (best dessert of the meal and one of the best desserts we’ve ever had)

After the meal I was very pleased to find out that as patrons of the restaurant, we could get into the Flower Dome for free. I may not be very interested in flowers but I am absolutely riveted by the idea of getting something for nothing, so I was all like OH HELL YEAH LET’S EXPLORE US SOME FLOWERS!

For about an hour, anyway.

I’m more of a cactus person, really. When I saw these two, the little easy-listening radio station in my head started playing Sometimes When We Touch. And then, because little easy-listening radio stations never last very long in my head, the retro porn music channel started up instead.

Sometimes When We Touch...

I’m not sure why, but when I saw this, the retro porn music channel switched to a crackly sputtering one with an old British man reciting Jabberwocky. (No, I don’t know what Pollen put in those desserts.)

Twas brillig and the slithy toves...

I’d brought along the ultra-wide converter I don’t use enough, and had some fun playing with it.

Flower Dome (Gardens By The Bay, Singapore)

Outside, I strolled down something marked as a viewpoint for the Supertree grove and was quite amused at the particular view it gave, which is basically a real tree photobombing whatever photos you might want to take of the huge fake trees. Nature can be such a troll.

Real tree photobombs photo of fake trees

Evening came, and with it an intense need for teh ping and a return to my couch. So Alec brought the wife he occasionally refers to as “Mrs Boo Radley” home, but not before she thanked him for the lovely afternoon out and admitted the Gardens by the Bay weren’t so bad after all.

Supertree Silhouettes (Gardens by the Bay, Singapore)

Joo Chiat Photowalk

Joo Chiat Photowalk

Cyclist on Koon Seng RoadBefore I spent more than an hour watching the really fascinating Javanese “horse trance” dance performance I chanced upon in Joo Chiat, I had been on a self-initiated photowalk down Joo Chiat Road. As a long-time Katong/Joo Chiat resident, I was walking a route I already knew well, but had rarely bothered to photograph.

If you’re from this part of town as well, I hope my photos will reflect what you know and love about our neighbourhood. And if you’re not familiar with it, I hope you’ll like what you see in my photos and come visit!


Read more for my full post with large photos

Singapore Snapshots (Eunos, Geylang)

While I procrastinate on writing about our rather awesome orangutan odyssey in Sabah, I thought I might as well share some photos I took a while back during various explorations of Eunos and Geylang and never ended up posting. There’s nothing in these photos quite as exciting as trekking through leech-infested Bornean jungles, but I like them because they are souvenirs from sleepy weekend afternoons spent walking around quiet neighbourhoods near our home, doing nothing exciting but happy nonetheless.

A bird shop in Eunos:

Bird Watcher

We ventured deep into the Eunos warehouse district in search of dining chairs to match a $100 dining table we scored off Craigslist. Although we did end up buying conventional chairs, for a moment the idea of dining horses was rather tempting:

Random model horses

You can pay $8 (or more, not sure what the price is now since I haven’t gone there in a while) for Penang assam laksa at Penang Kitchen on Tanjong Katong Road, or you can go two or three bus stops down the road to the food court at the top of City Plaza and enjoy this one, just as good, for $3:

$3 laksa at City Plaza

Anthony Bourdain listed Sin Huat as one of his 13 Places To Eat Before You Die, but he probably didn’t mean from splinters:

Decrepit tables at the famous Sin Huat

I am rather fond of roadside altars. Not sure why. It might be bundled up in that somewhat trite tendency of modern yuppie Singaporeans to celebrate the preservation of traditional practices they have no intention of really perpetuating themselves.

Roadside Altar, Geylang Road

Durians. What to say about durians? I’m actually fairly indifferent to durians, although I do like photographing them. I still think Andrew Zimmern is a fucking wuss though.

Durian stall, Geylang Road

Tiong Bahru Uncle-Chic

Tan Shzr Ee recently wrote a column for the Straits Times about Tiong Bahru being “uncle-chic”. The article itself is rather mediocre, but it gives me as good enough an excuse as any to share two Tiong Bahru uncles I photographed when we did an anniversary staycation at the Wangz Hotel last November.

Provision shop, Tiong Bahru

Egg Uncle, Tiong Bahru Market

Chek Jawa At Long Last

Fiddler crabs

I’ve wanted to walk the Chek Jawa intertidal wetlands at Pulau Ubin ever since I returned to Singapore after university, and after about six years I finally managed it. This was back in June, but first I was slow about processing the photos, and then Michael Jackson died.

A little background for anyone reading this who isn’t from Singapore: when nature enthusiasts discovered that the government planned to reclaim this area, they conducted a biodiversity survey, submitted a report to the government, and petitioned against the reclamation. They were partially successful – the government agreed to defer its plans until 2012, but after that Chek Jawa’s fate remains unknown. In the meantime, the National Parks Board has had to balance huge public interest in the area against the necessity to preserve the fragile ecosystem. An elevated boardwalk takes you through the wetlands without letting you trample them into oblivion, but if you want to actually set foot on them you have to register for a guided walking tour. These are only available on a handful of dates per quarter, due to the need for suitable tide levels and times and of course in order to control visitor impact, and are so wildly popular that places are snapped up almost as soon as the tour dates are released.

Boardwalk and viewing tower

After trying and failing to get on these tours since 2003, I was delighted when my company got a block booking and organized an employee outing. I’d missed the opportunity to join a previous employee outing because all available places were taken as soon as the email advertising it was sent out, but this time they sent out the email quite late on a Friday evening and I was one of the few poor sods still at work. Score, kind of! So here are some pictures of what I waited 6 years to see. I’m a little drained from all the Michael Jackson posts – they’re not easy for me to write – and tonight I enjoyed a change of scene.

Sandbar lightThe puddled ground of the sandbar shimmered in the morning sun.


Fiddler crabsFiddler crabs scurried back and forth on the sand.


Crab's eye viewTinier crabs clambered in and out of little assembled sandball piles, their homes. These are dotted everywhere and it’s almost impossible to avoid stepping on one every now and then. Sorry, crabs. :(


Our guide showed us:

Hermit crab

Flower crab moult

Rock starfish

Rock starfish (underside)

Sea cucumber

Carpet anemone

Please, Powers That Be, let things remain as they are in this beautiful part of Singapore.

Beachscape at low tide

And just for once, let civilization advance no further.

Time Travel

On Saturday, I took this photo of the lazing feet of an Ubin boatman, after alighting at the jetty on the way to Chek Jawa.

Ubin boatman at rest

Tonight, I am writing this post at 1.31 A.M. at my dining table, elbow deep in legal documents, as a brief insanity-fighting respite before I continue working.


2009 has started with lots of small happy things for me, though it’s quite possible that a notable feelgoody achievement for me is a non-issue for someone more active and productive. Writing a letter, as in with a pen, on paper, to be sent in the post! Completing my Chiang Mai photobook only 2.5 years after the relevant holiday! Watching girls viciously beat each other up in a muay thai tournament at Golden Mile, while some of the best fried chicken I’ve had in a while (Diandin Leluk’s) was still travelling to my fat ass!

I wanted to add a photo to this entry to break up the text overload here lately, and with apologies to the boys, it’s not going to be the girl-on-girl action. Instead, here’s my favourite picture from another happy thing I started the year with, a night visit to the Southern Ridges aerial walk:

Follow the yellow bridge road
Follow the yellow bridge road

Photo Walk: Tanjong Pagar Plaza

I was depressed two Saturdays ago about my DJ classes ending, so I distracted myself from that by revisiting an older hobby – photography. The DJ school is near Tanjong Pagar Plaza, an old public housing building with lots of activity in its communal spaces on a Saturday afternoon, so I went on a little photography expedition there. I generally prefer blog entries with a few well-chosen photos rather than a slagheap of mediocre ones, but at the moment part of trying to get myself back into the photography habit is to be a bit less of a damn perfectionist. (Essentially, I accumulate photos, but procrastinate on processing them or printing them because I make the excuse that they’re still not quite good enough.) So here goes, a bunch of passable but not outstanding photos, which are hopefully still better than posting nothing!

This was taken hurriedly on the way to class so it doesn’t have the best composition, but I still like its odd collection of elements – outer shell of the disused Yan Kit Road swimming complex in the foreground, beautiful old shophouse in the bottom right and the towering half-constructed Pinnacle@Duxton blocks in the background.


The first two floors of Tanjong Pagar Plaza are a mix of little shops, some self-consciously modern and others which look as if they haven’t changed in twenty years.


I just totally loved that illustration on the sign.


The shops enclose a tiled quadrangle full of benches and greenery. Everyone’s down here on a Saturday afternoon, anxious crowds spilling out of the Singapore Pools betting outlet, cooks washing vegetables in huge plastic tubs, middle-aged men shooting the breeze, and one sweaty photographer trying to be as unobtrusive as she can.


In another country I might refrain from this photograph for fear of exploiting the image of a homeless person. But in Singapore, I’m pretty sure he just decided the shaded bench was cooler for napping than the inside of his flat.


Time for a quick poll! Which of the following two photos of the old men playing chess do you prefer, and why? I couldn’t decide, so asked my colleagues and got different, thoughtful answers about each photo. I’d be interested in hearing your views too.

This was a quick snap in very dim lighting so it’s not very sharp and could be better composed, but I processed and posted it to remind myself of what is possible with the Fuji F31fd’s amazing low light capability. If I were using my other camera (the Canon A650IS, also beloved but for different reasons), I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t even be usable.


I had fun taking these photos! Gotta do it more often.

Random Joo Chiat

I’m a bit weddinged and kittened out. Here are some photos of Joo Chiat instead.

Can you believe this is just sitting in a Joo Chiat driveway? I did a double take as we walked past and Googled my hunch once I got home – yup, I’m pretty certain it’s a Ng Eng Teng work.

Another view

Peeling pillar on the five foot way

Not the best photo – I was too busy drooling in anticipation of this place’s divine otah. You can get better in restaurants, but as far as cheap street-side otah is concerned I haven’t tasted better. The site says it’s open from 7 am to 7 pm, but they’ve definitely also sold us otah before at about 3 am, which is of course when it tastes the best.

Things You Can Get In Joo Chiat

In a red light district in some other country I’d know this pun was totally intentional, but in Singapore’s Joo Chiat I’m not too sure.

I snapped this last week while waiting for my food in Tasty Penang, a restaurant across the road which had such laughably incompetent service (but to be fair, pretty damn good Penang char kuay teow and I don’t even like char kuay teow usually) that all the customers in the restaurant bonded through their shared frustration. In somewhere like Singapore where almost no one makes conversation with strangers, it was an amusing change to see people winking and laughing with the people at other tables as they asked, for the umpteenth time, where their laksa was.

We were back in the same area a few nights ago for sweet potato leaves and steamed fish with sng buey sauce at Lau Hock Guan Kee Bak Kut Teh. We’ll be going back soon for its assam fish head curry, rated “die die must try” by Makansutra.

Man, I love Joo Chiat.