1. The wonderful Gilles Massot told us once that photography is the only technology we have now that allows us to time travel. For the life of me, I can’t recall ever taking this image. Yet, the moment I saw it I was instantly transported 18 months back to last year’s Lunar New Year. Again, I’m choking on the exhaust fumes from the nearby bus stop. Again, I’m marveling at the sheer variety of curios and relics, gods and giants. Again, I’m feeling amused by the absurdity of this scene. Gilles was right all along, time travel is indeed possible.

     
  2. Our favourite bakery where everything is made by seasoned hands and flame-baked in a huge wooden oven. No frills, no fuss, just pure old school charm.
    Happy hands make happy buns. 30 years and still going strong! The filling is generous and the bun so 'Q' that you'd squeal.
    This uncle has been a security guard at this jewellery store for the past 20 years. He related so proudly that he always arrives earlier so that when the store opens, he's already standing guard.
    Traditional massage anyone? You can't go wrong, especially when there's a framed certificate of that size.
    On the store front it states 'Commissioner', so I just had to find out more. It turns out that this grim gentleman is The Commissioner for pretty much everything in town, from weddings to funerals!
     
  3. This is the famous Mr. Yaw who makes the best min chang kueh in all the land. He is warm, effusive and always dressed in his trademark white shirt, shorts and matching white loafers.
    This sweet old lady visits Mr. Yaw daily for his min chang kueh. She always sits at the exact same seat. She was so lavish with praise for Mr. Yaw that we suspect that she has the hots for him!
    One of the cooler looking cobblers that we met along the way.
    The wanton mee here was kick ass, everything right down to the noodles itself is homemade!
    This soft spoken uncle has worked for 40 years in this 100 year old clinic. Just look at those overladen shelves of patient records, who needs computers?
    Coffee and cigarettes, made better by some frenetic Chinese chess.
    This lovely lady has been working daily for decades serving char kway teow. She was beaming with pride when she told me about her son, who now works in Tan Tock Seng Hospital!
    The old lady on the right told me that she has been patronising this medical hall since she was a little girl!
    This pastry shop has been in the family for generations, and they use a huge wooden stove for their baking! And just look at that wall behind her that is filled with old pictures and clippings!
    The aged proprietor of the pastry shop, sitting alongside a row of freshly baked bread.

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    In a country where a fifty-year-old house is considered new, time has a different meaning. Food is meant to be enjoyed, the afternoons are relaxed and lulling, and everyone seems poised to strike up a conversation or to offer a smile. Beyond the headlines, Malaysia is a beautiful land filled with truly beautiful people. 

     
  4. The Lunar New Year is upon us again! However, it has never been the same since my grandparents left. The festivities are a little less raucous, the colours a little duller and the abalone a little less tasty. My grandparents were lovely people. They were the best any kid could ever ask for. My grandma is unfailingly sweet and compassionate. She never ever complains, and simply grinned with amusement when she caught me setting her fruits on fire. I never did that again. My grandpa is a gracious man with ironclad principles. He is also a true gentleman in the most stoic sense of the word. His hair is always slicked back, his shirts are always pressed and he has never once left my grandma’s side. They were the ones that truly made the New Year meaningful, and with every passing year reunion dinner I just miss them that much more.  

     
  5. The Lunar New Year is nearing and Chinatown is abuzz with activity. The queue for bak kwa is long, sweaty and impatient. The grounds are littered with trampled food wrappers as people greedily grab at the free samples. The shopkeepers yell themselves hoarse, competing for the attention of the preoccupied crowd. A dozen different loudspeakers blast Chinese New Year songs while people haggle and squabble, creating a raucous cacophony that is both familiar and beguiling. 

    It was so crowded that once I stopped to shoot, a traffic jam forms behind me. People begin losing their minds and start waving their umbrellas threateningly. I did manage to get some pictures though. The topmost is a stall selling cured meat, and the smiling lady with the big red hair in the middle is the owner. I like the last picture because it reminds me of my grandma. As far back as I can remember, she has always been wearing these exact short-sleeved floral shirts. The Lunar New Year has been the same without her. These few stalls are the Chinatown originals, and have been providing for the community for decades. They all have a storied history, and I wish them many more years of prosperity to come.  

     
  6. Mount Bromo, East Java

    We had to get to a high vantage point for this view. That meant waking at an ungodly hour and a trek up some mountain before the sun rose. It was all worth it when the sky finally cracked open and liquid gold burst onto the landscape. It was so magical that even a lout like me was left speechless.

     
  7. Mount Bromo, East Java

    This was our view as we were scaling Mount Bromo itself. The shifting, windswept sand is a deep black due to the sulfur. Mount Bromo is an active volcano, and erupts every five years or so. The last time it erupted was in 2010, so 2015 might not be the best time to plan a trip there. As I was climbing, I kept thinking of Mordor with its black gates and Orcs. The difference is that instead of a golden ring, they prefer to throw live chickens as offerings into this smoking chasm.

     
  8. Lake Kumbolo, East Java

    This is taken on our second day in Bromo after a 4 hour trek to the lake, where we set up camp and slept under the open sky. We settled in and waited till midnight before crawling out of our warm tents to spot the Milky Way. This is a good example of getting shit done. It was literally freezing and there were icicles all over our tents. Evie was too excited to feel the cold, while I could no longer feel my balls. David gamely emerged and helped navigate the skies, while Rena was already frozen solid in her tent. We actually forgot to bring our shutter release. So after much trial and error, this shot was finally done with my finger frosted to the shutter for many numbing seconds while our teeth chattered and snot flowed. 

    It was very humbling to sit and gaze upon this tapestry of shining stars. And to know that we were looking back in time as we stared at them, and that stardust is our origin – makes the experience all the more wondrous. When you contemplate the magnitude and magnificence of the universe, a strange thing happens - you gain a moment of perspective. And to paraphrase Sinatra, it is times like these that our troubles seem to vanish like a gambler’s lucky streak. Happy new year everyone.

     
  9. Mount Bromo, East Java

    This was taken on our last day in East Java. We set off at 0330 and stumbled along in total darkness under a sea of sparkling stars.

    This last trek had one of the longest and steepest inclines. We huffed and puffed our way up as we struggled to keep our guide in sight. We were accosted a dozen times by locals offering us rides up on their horses. We refused because those horses looked so sad, frail and unwilling. The ensuing sunrise was amazing, and so was the company. It was a good day.

     
  10. This is Henry the kung fu expert whom I met at Woodleigh. I spotted him from afar, he was very hard to miss with his explosive moves and guttural growls. Henry proudly shared that his teacher is a direct descendant of the famous Wong Fei-hung. Between an eagle claw crotch grab and a shadow-less flying kick, Henry tells me that he used to be very violent and often got into brawls. It was martial arts that changed his entire outlook, and made him more peaceful and forgiving. Henry has not gotten into any fights since, and is dedicated to becoming a ‘super dad’.

     
  11. Ursa’s

     
  12. Lonely lights and false fronts.

     
  13. And so the mayhem begins!
    It was intense right from the get go.
    Sending the crowd into a headbanging frenzy.
    By the time the set ended, it was raining blood.

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    ChthoniC (閃靈) played in Singapore yesterday, and it was awesome! The band was relentlessly intense, furious and tight as hell! As this was a smaller show, it made everything more intimate and frenetic. What impressed me the most was how genuine they came across in both their performance and interaction with the fans. Now I feel like I actually know these guys personally. Metal has always been deeply cathartic for me, so I really had a great time! \m/

     
  14. The new Kallang Stadium being rebuilt from the ground up. It looks like a misshapen cocoon of steel girders, alive and pulsing under the cover of darkness.

     
  15. Disjointed
    Stool
    Capsule
    Chairs
    Tail
    Eyes

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    The Lonely Lights (Part 02)

    This is a continuation from Part 01 of The Lonely Lights series. The term ‘series’ is used rather loosely, and more so for archiving than from true creative intent.

    Recently I have been enamored with night scenes. When darkness descends, even the most frequented places lose their familiarity. The Singaporean night is so still, yet every corner seems pregnant with drama. This quiet commotion is so alluring, and it is teaching me how to see anew.