Time Out Singapore: Pasir Panjang Treasure Hunt

Head out on our Pasir Panjang walk, which takes you by art galleries, HortPark, Reflections of Bukit Chandu and Singapore’s most bizarre attraction, Har Par Villa.

Pasir Panjang

30 Apr 2014:

Start

Labrador Park

1. Arty Farty

Take Exit A out of Labrador Park station, and walk through the series of overpasses and get off the first escalator at Alexandra Road. Keeping the PSA Building and ARC Shopping Centre on your left, walk north along the road – this is actually part of the Alexandra Garden Trail – and you’ll soon see the Academy of Singapore Teachers on your right. Go past it, and you’ll reach Malan Road, leading to Gillman Barracks. Once a military encampment for the British Army, the area was converted into an art cluster in 2012, and it’s now home to 16 galleries (opened at various times from Tue-Sun). Feel free to make a detour here to admire the art – we recommend checking out Singapore’s own FOST, New York’s Sundaram Tagore, Tokyo’s Mizuma and Hong Kong’s Pearl Lam galleries – then take a right back on Alexandra Road until you get to the overhead bridge that takes you across to HortPark.
Q: When you get onto the park connector, there’s a sign that tells you things you shouldn’t do when encountering wild monkeys – what are they?

2. Farm Ville

Enter HortPark – the first gardening hub in Asia – through the Floral Walk. Make your way to the Visitor Services Centre, the exterior of which is covered by a colourful, shimmering mosaic piece that was created by students from the Nanyang Technological University as part of their annual Challenge Your Limits (CURL) project, and unveiled in 2008. Take a stroll through the park, where you’ll encounter a range of interesting themed gardens, such as the Balinese, Edible and recently completed open-concept Butterfly Garden. Continue walking up the hill after the Prototype Glasshouses, where you’ll find a shortcut to the next landmark.
Q: There are two types of greenhouses at the Prototype Glasshouses section – what are their respective climates?

3. Past Reflections

Walk up the wiggly uphill path that will take you towards Reflections at Bukit Chandu (Tue-Sun 9am-5.30pm; free for locals & PRs, $0.50-$2 for foreigners), which means Opium Hill in Malay. The restored black and white bungalow was first built at the turn of the 20th century for British officers, but the area remains an important historical site today as this was where the fierce Battle of Pasir Panjang took place in 1942 during the Second World War. Malay soldiers led by British commanders fought against the Japanese even though they were heavily outnumbered. It didn’t end well, unfortunately, and almost all of them either died in battle, or were captured and killed. The British surrendered two days afterwards, and Singapore became Syonanto until the Japanese surrendered in 1945.
Q: On the gates outside Reflections, visitors are invited to check out another war-related site – what is it?

4. Eco-temple

Make your way downhill on Pepys Road – it’s a long and winding walk, but amidst the quiet of nature, the views are pretty spectacular. Turn right when you get back onto Pasir Panjang Road. If you’re hungry, there’s a PIT STOP Fatboy’s The Burger Bar (122 Pasir Panjang Rd, 6471 3224: drop by with a copy of this month’s issue and get a free milkshake with every main course purchased – valid until 31 May); if not, just continue west past Pasir Panjang station. About ten minutes past the station, you’ll reach a slightly tucked away Chwee Chian Road sandwiched between a few condos. Walk up it and continue around its bends – admiring the gorgeous landed houses in the sleepy neighbourhood while you’re at it – and you’ll find the Poh Ern Shih Temple on your left. Much blood was shed here during the war, and the temple was erected by philanthropist Lee Choon Seng in 1954 as a way to liberate the spirits of those who died here. Four years later, American Venerable Sumangalo was asked to be its honorary abbot, thus becoming the first western abbot of a Buddhist temple in Singapore. The originally single-story building was demolished at the start of the 2000s and reconstruction works were completed in 2007; this is the first religious building in the country to boast of eco-friendly features such as solar panels and a rainwater purification system. It’s now also home to the forward-thinking, non-sectarian Buddhist Fellowship.
Q: The outside wall of the temple has a series of patterns on it – what are their shape and colour?

5. Go to hell

Continue along Chwee Chian Road and turn left onto Lorong Sarhad, then left again when you get to South Buona Vista Road. Take a right when you get back onto Pasir Panjang Road, and keep going until you reach the surreal Haw Par Villa (daily 9am-7pm). With a slope that’s surrounded by tigers, snakes and other beasts, you won’t miss this place. It was created in 1937 by Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the brothers who founded Tiger Balm, and its most well-known feature is the pretty disturbing Ten Courts of Hell – a dimly-lit tunnel that takes you through the levels at which various crimes would be punished, ranging from having your heart torn out to being drowned in a pool of blood.
Q: A figure of a man stands to the right of the attraction’s name before you reach the entrance. What’s the colour of his robe?

6. Pop a pill

Emerging from Haw Par Villa – and hopefully you’re not too shaken to continue on with the final part of the trail – turn right and walk along Pasir Panjang Road once more, until you reach the junction at Science Park Road. Sitting inconspicuously on a patch of grass is a large stone structure, which is actually the Pasir Panjang Pillbox. There were once quite a few of these along the road (which used to be the coastline prior to the extensive land reclamation works to the area), but today this is one of the handful that can still be found. During the Second World War, British machine-gunners were stationed here to protect Singapore against coastal attacks from the Japanese, although it is now locked and cannot be accessed by the public.
Q: According to the blue plaque in front of the machinegun pillbox, the structure lays within the World War II defence sector of what?

Getting home

Turn around and walk east back along West Coast Highway to get to the Haw Par Villa MRT station. If you fancy doing a spot of cheap food shopping before heading home, you can also take a shortcut located across the pillbox and find your way to the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre on the opposite side of West Coast Highway, where you can buy dried goods and vegetables in bulk at a fraction of supermarket prices – there’s also a lively auction in early hours of the morning for the freshest goods.

Time Out Singapore: OH! Open House 2013

A strategically placed mirror in Marina Bay. Photo courtesy of Samuel He.
A strategically placed mirror in Marina Bay. Photo courtesy of Samuel He.

4 Jan 2013: After invading the residential neighbourhoods of Niven Road, Marine Parade and Tiong Bahru the past three years, OH! Open House is back once again – with the theme ‘happiness index’. Aptly enough, they will be targeting the very heart of our financial district, Marina Bay.

It’s perhaps not the most conducive area for hosting the experimental art event – the idea behind it is to allow 13 artists to give selected private spaces a creative makeover, and then open their doors to the public – and indeed, it wasn’t easy bringing art into some of the corporate spaces.

‘The most straightforward difficulty, as you might imagine, is persuading corporates to put up art that is more challenging [than paintings on walls],’ says Alan Oei, curator and co-founder of the art walkabout. ‘But really, it is more than that. It’s about how to put art inside these very singular spaces designed for very singular reasons – how does the artwork not fade into the background, how does it work with and against its environments?’

All of which makes the concept of OH! all the more pertinent for Marina Bay. ‘People like the voyeurism of OH! – to be able to enter a perfect stranger’s bedroom to see art. But we thought a different, more thoughtful encounter could also arise. Most of all, we want visitors to see the insides of Marina Bay and have a conversation about it,’ says Oei.

‘Marina Bay is representative of Singapore in many ways. It’s designed top-down and made to manifest our ambitions to be a “global city”. We think there are many different stories and encounters by which you can experience it. The artists hopefully can show you a different understanding [of the area].’  Here’s what some of the artists have in store:

Eeshaun

A self-taught artist influenced by Surrealism, illustrations and his love for improvisation, jazz music, dance and street art, Eeshuan has created artworks for international brands and Zouk. He was included in the ‘20/20 BASE’ exhibition at the Singapore Design Festival in 2007, which featured 20 rising creative local talents, and is currently teaching at the School of Technology for the Arts in Republic Polytechnic. His works have been shown recently at The Orange Thimble café (‘Chasing Dreams: The Remaking of Tiong Bahru’, 2012) and The Substation (‘Synaesthesia’, 2011).

For OH! ‘My piece is a giant, colourful abstract painting (1.2m by 2.4m) that’s up on the wall – the idea is for people to look at it and search for happiness inside and within themselves, since a part of the OH! theme related to the happiness index. As I’ll be working within a space inside the Google office. I think the idea of looking/searching for something is quite appropriate.

Mintio

Trained as a photographer, Mintio tries to incorporate elements of otherworldliness into her works. She was first featured at the 2010 Singapore International Photography Festival, where she was a finalist for the Portfolio Review, and has since exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum, 2902 Gallery,Valentine Willie Fine Art and abroad.

For OH!
‘I’ll be building a light installation in the DBS building that is made up of photographs printed on transparent acrylic sheets and lit from behind and above to create something almost like a stained glass effect. The images will show Singapore River at night, charting the landscape from its start at Kim Seng Road to Marina Barrage. I came up with the idea after spending some time with the other participating artists looking out at the river during on a recon trip for OH!. Several quirky facts and stories surrounding the topic of the Singapore River emerged [and it occurred to me] that the river, with its histories and significance, can be more than an icon – it’s also a repository for new memories.’

Sherman Ong

Award-winning artist, photographer and filmmaker Ong has shown his works at art biennales, film festivals and museums around the world. He is particularly interested in the human condition and relationships, as demonstrated by his acclaimed on-going project ‘Motherland’, which consists of a series of videos showing urban dwellers speaking candidly about their lives and experiences as immigrants – migrating mostly from China – living in Singapore.

For OH! ‘I’ll be presenting a short film from my “Motherland” project at the DBS building entitled Xiao Jing, which is about a mainland Chinese woman who comes to Singapore to find a better life – and maybe love.’

Shubigi Rao

Rao moved to Singapore to obtain her Master’s degree in Fine Art at Lasalle in 2008, where she now lectures about art theory part-time. The award-winning artist’s wide range of interest includes archeology, literature, cultural histories, environmental issues and more; her drawings, etchings and hand-made books have featured in exhibitions at Valentine Willie Fine Art (‘Beyond LKF’, 2010) and the 2008 Singapore Biennale. ‘I find the process and result say a lot about destructive human tendencies and deliberate acts of violence – not just physical, but fiscal too, if you’ll pardon the pun,’ she says.

For OH! ‘My piece consists of books with text and drawings by me, which are then soaked in fountain pen ink so that most of their content dissolves in the very medium it was created with. The books function almost as place settings in the boardroom of Deutsche Bank – suggesting the unpalatable swallowing of uncomfortable facts [as a result of] the callousness and attitude of self-serving delusion that pervades the banking world. Also, I was quite tickled by posters in the pantry of overly-elaborate and rigid emphasis on place setting and meal serving. There was even a rigidly proscribed formal direction for serving muffins!’’

Spell #7

Known for their use of multi-media, online technologies and music, this Singapore-based performance company was founded in 1997 by local lady Kaylene Tan and Paul Rae from the UK. They won the Life! Theatre Award for Best Script for their play Balance in 2003, and their works have since gone on to be performed at the Singapore Arts Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. They are, however, no strangers to performing in quirkier spaces, having previously showcased their theatrical pieces in nightclubs, a converted convent and even an office.

For OH!
‘We’ll be holding surprise performances in DBS’ Super Social Hubwhere we burst out in song periodically. The piece deals with the loss of the Singapore River with the construction of the Marina Barrage and the Marina Bay offices. We’re also drawing from the invisible workers who work in the mega structures. We’ll be collaborating with a group of spunky seniors. Sing along if you know the words!’