Sunday, July 05, 2015

It's official - Singapore Botanic Gardens a UNESCO World Heritage Site

I was at Botanic Gardens in the evening of Saturday, 4th July trying to catch sight once again of the Grey Headed Fish Eagle when my wife alerted me that Channel Newsasia reported just before 6 pm that Botanic Gardens was just declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a first for Singapore and the third Botanic Gardens in the world to received this accolade after the Padua Gardens (Italy) and Kew Gardens (England). This indeed is something worth celebrating for as it is win for Heritage and Nature preservation and conservation as a whole in Singapore. This accolade comes also an added bonus for Singapore especially for a year when Singapore celebrates SG50. Singapore Botanic Gardens was founded in 1859 and is currently 74 ha in size (roughly 100 football fields) with over 10,000 different type of plants.

Singapore Botanic Gardens, UNESCO World Heritage Site -4th July 2015
The signs were up on Saturday itself 

Singapore Botanic Gardens, UNESCO World Heritage Site -4th July 2015

My hope for another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Singapore 
The celebrations will continue for Singapore's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. However i will like to remind people who care and cherish heritage and nature that although we have gained a UNESCO World heritage site yesterday, but i lament the fact that we could have had gained 2 instead of one, if Bukit Brown Cemetery was given consideration in the first place. But i think we should not lose sight of it nor give up hope of Bukit Brown being included in the future however faint it maybe.

I believe the tours will still continue by All things Bukit Brown so as to reach out to the public and hope that more researchers will come forward to uncover more stories. For the participants and supporters, i hope they will continue to share about Bukit Brown and it's value to the leaders of Singapore especially those who have their mind share because only the Singapore Government can nominate a site. To do that, there must be enough voices from people from all walks of life asking them to do so.

Do read two of my older post where i state my case for Bukit Brown based on the universal values criteria of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  1. Bukit Brown Cemetery,a UNESCO World Heritage Site.posted on April 2, 2013
  2. Unesco Heritage site bid - Why not Bukit Brown too? posted on April 14, 2013
Birds of the Singapore Botanic Gardens
As for me, i did manage to capture some pictures of the Grey Headed Fish Eagle previously on 21 June and yesterday while waiting for it to make an appearance, i shot the Crimson Sunbird, Singapore's Unofficial National Bird.

Grey Headed Fish Eagle (Botanic Gardens 21 June 2015)
Grey Headed Fish Eagle (Botanic Gardens 21 June 2015) 

Grey Headed Fish Eagle (Botanic Gardens 21 June 2015)
Grey Headed Fish Eagle (Botanic Gardens 21 June 2015)
Crimson Sunbird (Botanic Gardens 4 July 2015
Crimson Sunbird (Botanic Gardens 4 July 2015)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Birdwatching in Bukit Brown (June 14,2015)

It's been awhile since i done any birdwatching in Bukit Brown. I have seen many birds but didn't capture much as i was spending time looking at tombstones ! I chose Sunday morning to catch up on some birdwatching but it wasn't the best day all for it because of the light rain and overcast sky making it real challenging to capture good photos.

Long story short, it wasn't a great outing but neverthless, i thought of sharing over here.
Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus)
Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus)


Pink-necked Green Pigeon 

Pink-necked Green Pigeon

Collared Kingfisher
Works on the 8 lane highway is progressing and Hill 2 which to me one of the most prettiest hill is bulldozed and the gravestones totally flattened.  This sight brought back memories of my many trips to Hill 2 which inspired me to write ode to Bukit Brown in 2013 in which i covered some of the affected tombs in Hill 2 prior to exhumation now gone forever. (

I also managed to document an exhumation process that took place in Hill 2 of Bukit Brown. ( you have not visited Bukit Brown before, do find time to join one of the guided tours by the volunteers who called themselves "Brownies"

Hill 2 as at June 14, 2015

View of Hill 2 as at June 14, 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Neo Tiew alias Leong Hou Chou (Bukit Brown)

Nestled in a quiet section of Hill 2 Division B that is still undisturbed by the 8 lane highway is the dual tomb of Madam Lim Jiah (wife of Mr. Neo Tiew) and Madam Ong (his mother) from Lam Ann (南安).  It was discovered by Raymond Goh and shared on the Bukit Brown facebook group after he cleaned up the tomb and identified them. Mrs Neo Tiew (believed to be the first wife) née Mdm Lim Jiah, passed away on 23 Mar 1927 at the age of 45. Her distraught husband Neo Tiew was said to have written the epitaph on the same day of her passing. Neo Tiew's mother Mdm Ong date on the tomb was mentioned as March 29, 1944.
Madam Lim Jiah (Mrs Neo Tiew)  

Epitaph at Madam Lim Jiah 

Madam Ong (Neo Tiew's mother) 

Dual tomb recently cleared 
Kingdom of Neo Tiew 
Neo Tiew (梁宙) alias Leong Hou Chou . O.B.E. , S.C.H  was described as man with hand of iron that ruled over the village of no crime in the Kingdom of Neo Tiew. The 1953 article went on to describe that Neo Tiew came down from China 37 years ago. A young former Colonel in the Chinese Army who built his house in the jungle far away from the city which grew into a travellers' inn and later after the war grew into a village of Thong Hoe which grew into the kingdom of Neo Tiew that comprise of Neo Tiew Road, Neo Tiew Lane, Nam Hoe Village and Thong Hoe Village at the end of Ama Keng Road. The villagers who stayed there described the village of Neo Tiew has having its own "police" force equipped with 6 pairs of handcuffs and 14 shotguns which was said was meant for the tigers rather than the criminals. The villagers fondly described Mr Neo has been more than a "sheriff" of his village. He also helped set up a primary and a child and maternity clinic as well. During the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), Neo Tiew assisted the Rural Board in establishing a volunteer police for the Lim Chu Kang area.

Singapore Rural Board (Western Region) Volunteer Police (photo donated by Neo Ah Chap)
source: National Heritage Board 

Neo Tiew (age 70) source: NewspaperSG
He has been honoured by King George VI with a certificate in recognition of his loyalty and work in keeping peace in Lim Chu Kang area in 1951. He was the recipient of the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1954 in commemoration of the Queen's Birthday. There are also other plaques, certificates and medals which record of his contributions to the Kuomintang and to the community in general.
Order of the British Empire and certificates (source: NHB)
Chiang Kai Shek connection
Neo Tiew  described that when General Chiang Kai Shek passed away, he was invited to attend the funeral but he sent his son as the representative. Neo Tiew further gave valuable insight that he and Chiang Kai Shek were in the same unit of the Chinese Army before the Chinese Revolution and Chiang was his junior. Neo Tiew said he quit the army to come to Singapore to search for his father who had remarried, but having not found is father settled down in Singapore.
Neo Tiew in a Chinese Army uniform
(source: NewspaperSG)

During the Japanese invasion of Malaya, one version of the story goes that Neo Tiew heard that the Japanese were after him and he fled to China, leaving behind 45 relatives which he never saw again. They were all massacred. In another interview, Neo Tiew shared that he didn't actually fled but was recalled to China together with about 200 other people. The convoy of ships  was hit by bombs and as a result, 4 of the 5 ships were sunk. His ship eventually made it on to China. He returned back to Singapore 2 years later and despite the tragedy of the massacre he started anew, remarried and settled down, setting up sundary shops. The shops became landmarks of the area it served so much so that the villages which grew around them were named after the shops, Nam Hoe and Thong Hoe Villages.

His son, Neo Ah Lark was among the survivors of this massacre and in 1993 was a representative from Singapore who attended a forum on war reparations for people in the Asia Pacific held in Tokyo. In that forum, he shared that his mother, five brothers and 2 sisters died. He was only 9 years old of age when his family decided to move from Lim Chu Kang to Bukit Timah, a house with bomb shelter, thinking that will be safer against daily bomb attacks from Japanese planes. That decision proved costly. When Bukit Timah was overrun, the Japanese soldiers arrived at their house and pulled the Neo family from the bunkers and started to stab one after the other with their bayonets.
After killing 10, the soldiers rested but later continued. By the time it ended,  Neo Ah Lark lost 33 of his family members (including a 2 month old baby). Through heavenly intervention, he survived (with deep cuts on his inner thighs) and was pulled out from the heap of bodies by a servant who was badly hurt. There was also another survivor of that incident, his nephew. 6 months after the dreadful ordeal and suviving by begging on the streets, Neo Ah Lark found his sole surviving sister who was married and escaped death as she was living apart from the family.

Neo Tiew with his family members (source:NewspaperSG)

Calligraphy scroll in memory of the sacrifices of Neo Tiew's family in the anti-Japanese war
source: National Heritage Board 

Neo Tiew's family gravestone epitaph calligraphy scroll
source: National Heritage Board. 
The gravestone calligraphy scroll with an epitaph mourning the death of 35 members family was written by Chen Cheng, the Secretary-General of the Kuomintang (KMT) Youth League of the Three Principles of the People (YLTPP). Neo Tiew was a Chinese community leader who supported the anti-Japanese war and was head of the Singapore branch of the KMT YLTPP.

Mr Neo Tiew, OBE, SCH passed away at the age of 92 on November 13, 1975. Described as the former chairman of rural council and and early pioneer of Lim Chu Kang, he is survived by many sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren. It was said that he had more than 160 children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren ! Neo Tiew was said to have married 6 times, each time after a wife died (in succession). Another article listed that when
he was passed away, he was survived by 2 widows.

The cortege left from 25-C, Jalan Gemala and he was buried in Boo Lim Cemetery, Choa Chu Kang.

This blog post is not meant to be a family tree of Neo Tiew, but rather i felt it might be useful to note those as i discover them that were mentioned during my research.

Wife: Lim Teng Neo
Neo Tiew, 18 years old married his first wife, Lim Teng Neo when she was 16 years old in China. She was to be the 1st of 6 wives.

Mr. Neo Ah Lark 
He was 9 years old when he witness his mother, five brothers and 2 sisters killed. He survived and at the age of 62 recounted the tragedy of the massacre in 1993. Less then a year later, Neo Ah Lark passed away at the age of 63 on January 3, 1994.He is survived by his wife, Kang Siew Yong, three sons (Neo Gim Chuan, Neo Gim Pheow, Neo Gim Hong), 3 daughters, (Neo Soh Hoon, Neo Soh Ann, Neo Soh Hong) and grandsons and granddaughters.

Mr Neo Ah Chap 
Neo Ah Chap was the person who donated numerous artifacts of Neo Tiew to the National Heritage Board. He was the Marketing Director of Tan Chong International Ltd since 1977 and one of Tan Chong Motor Holdings Executive Directors. His brother-in-law, Tan Kheng Leong is also an Executive Director.

Miss Neo Peh Hoon
Miss Neo Peh Hoon, 5th daughter of Mr and Mrs Neo Tiew married Mr. Tan Kheng Leong (eldest son of Mr and Mrs Tan Kim Hor on  Sunday, 10th December 1967.

Man with hand of iron rules the village of no crime. (1953, March 8). The Straits Times
Big Land Owners Ask to be heard. (1953, December 16). Singapore Standard
Singapore. (1954, June 10). The Straits Times
Advertisement. (1967, December 9 ). The Straits Times.
A grandman recalls his past. (1975, April 22). New Nation
Death. (1975, November 17). The Straits Times
The Big Boss. (1975, November 23). New Nation
When tigers roamed free and thieves got paraded. (1986, December 9). The Straits Times.
Cry of war victims. (1993, September 6). The New Paper
He lived to tell horror of family massacre. (1993, September 6). The Straits Times.
Obituary.(1994. January 5). The Straits Times.

The National Collection. National Heritage Board

Postnote: my resources are based on English Newspaper articles. There are other rich sources in Chinese websites which are not reflected here. Examples include

[research on-going]

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (Pied Fantail) May 24, 2015

By the time i got wind of Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica) chicks being photographed, they were already juveniles getting ready to fly and way oversized for the nest that it was hatched on. Anyways this photo log post was long overdue as well.

From Singapore Bird Group's post, i got to find out at they were about 11-13 days old and constantly being fed by it parents. I saw moths and butterflies as part of its menu.
Pied Fantail Nesting in Pasir Ris Park
Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)

Pied Fantail Nesting in Pasir Ris Park
Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)

Pied Fantail Nesting in Pasir Ris Park
Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)

Pied Fantail Nesting in Pasir Ris Park
Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)

(Seng, Alvin). Successful nesting of the Malaysian Pied Fantails at Pasir Ris Park. Singapore Bird Group, posted on May 25, 2015

See also previous post on Pasir Ris Park
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (Buffy Fish Owl). June 8, 2015, posted on June 13, 2015
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (May 3,2015), posted on June 14,2015
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (February 20, 2015), posted on March 1, 2015
A stroll in Pasir Ris Park, posted on January 24, 2014
Red Jungle Fowl spotted in Pasir Ris Park, posted on March 27, 2011

Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (May 3, 2015)

It has been raining in the early morning and the sky was very much overcast when i made my way to Pasir Ris for bird watching and a morning stroll that will cover both Pasir Ris Park and Tampines Eco Green via the Park Network Connector.

The last time i visited, i did not see the family of Spotted Wood Owl. This time around i am pleasantly surprised to see the family and even better still, all on the same tree ! The two juveniles are doing very well and the colors of their feathers are becoming more and more like their parents. Another thing i saw directly underneath the branches where they were perched was the owl's poop as well as remains of a meal one of the owl had (a rat).

On my way back to Sungei Tampines, i managed to catch glimpse of the flood gates being released, allowing murky "milo" water to flow to the sea.

See also previous post on Pasir Ris Park
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (Pied Fantail), May 24, 2015, posted on June 14, 2015
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (Buffy Fish Owl). June 8, 2015, posted on June 13, 2015
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (May 3,2015), posted on June 14,2015
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (February 20, 2015), posted on March 1, 2015
A stroll in Pasir Ris Park, posted on January 24, 2014
Red Jungle Fowl spotted in Pasir Ris Park, posted on March 27, 2011

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (Buffy Fish Owl) June 8, 2015

I took leave on Monday, 8 of June to pay visit to Chek Jawa, Ubin a place i have not been for more than 2 years. I choose a Monday to avoid the expected crowds in Ubin during weekends. I really do enjoy a quieter and less crowded Ubin but also understand that for this island to remain relevant, it needs to attract tourist in addition to nature lovers.

On my way home after Ubin I decided to make a detour to Pasir Ris Park and that was a decision that allowed to finally catch sight of the resident Buffy Fish Owl which i was trying to catch sight of during my many trips to Pasir Ris Park. This resident is easily identifiable once you spot it, the reason being, it is blind in one eye.

The first two photos are the first i took of the Buffy Fish Owl and are my favourite as well because after it turned and look at me, then only i realised and confirmed for sure it was the one-eye Buffy Fish Owl, a local resident photographed by other birders before.

Buffy Fish Owl in Pasir Ris Park
Buffy Fish Owl in Pasir Ris Park

Buffy Fish Owl in Pasir Ris Park
Buffy Fish Owl in Pasir Ris Park
Buffy Fish Owl in Pasir Ris Park
I hope there will be more Buffy Fish Owl in Pasir Ris with a sustainable. I need to do catch up in some of blog postings which i have not done yet. I made more trips this year to Pasir Ris Park which i have not blogged about yet, for example trips to catch sight the juvenile Pied Fantails in its nest. Will try to find time to do so.

See also previous post on Pasir Ris Park
Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (February 20, 2015), posted on March 1, 2015
A stroll in Pasir Ris Park, posted on January 24, 2014
Red Jungle Fowl spotted in Pasir Ris Park, posted on March 27, 2011

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Birdwatching in Bidadari ( Javan Munia ) May 2015

Visited Bidadari during an "off period" in the first and second week of May which is considered the end of the migratory bird season and not surprisingly i did not see many birds although there were shots by good photographers of the Asian Paradise Flycatcher in white morph and another elongated tail feathers during that period ! That was the main reason i went down to catch sight of the Asian Paradise Flycatcher. Unfortunately, no luck.

However, one of the birds i did manage to catch sight of was 4-5 Javan Munia feeding on a tree which was a first for me  in Bidadari. Same as well as for Richard's Pipit. Other than that a poor outing for me. Such is birdwatching. Sometimes, you see a lot and sometimes you don't.

Javan Munia in Bidadari, May 2015
Javan Munia
Javan Munia
Javan Munia
Richard's Pipit in Bidadari May 2015
Richard's Pipit
Long-tailed Parakeet in Bidadari, May 2015
Long-tailed Parakeet 
White throated Kingfisher in Bidadari, May 2015
White throated Kingfisher

Purple throated Sunbird in Bidadari, May 2015
Purple throated Sunbird 
See also previous post on Bidadari :
Birdwatching in Bidadari (February 2015), posted on March 06, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari (January 18, 2015), posted on January 21, 2015
Birdwatching before New Year 2015, posted on on January 01, 2015
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Raptors spotted (December, 2014), posted on December 26, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Local Residents (December, 2014), posted on December 16, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Blue-winged Pitta (December, 2014), posted on December 14, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari (November 9, 2014), posted on November 9, 2014
Birdwatching in Bidadari - Jambu Fruit Dove ( December 6 ), posted on December 6, 2013
Birdwatching in Bidadari ( November 3, 2013), posted on November 3, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Muslim Cemetery), posted on October 17, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Alkaff Gardens and Lake), posted on October 8, 2013
Weaving through Bidadari (Birdwatching), posted on October 14, 2013
Bidadari (17 December), posted on December 18, 2012
Saving Bidadari, posted on December 5, 2012
Bidadari (7 December), posted on December 9, 2012
Bidadari (18 November), posted on November 18, 20

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Raffles Lighthouse (Singapore Maritime Week 2015) Part II

After an eventful 1 hour journey from Marina South Pier, we finally reached Raffles Lighthouse. As shared in my earlier blog post, Raffles Lighthouse (Singapore Maritime Week 2015) Part I, this trip was made possible in conjunction with the 10th Singapore Maritime Week. As shared previously, Raffles Lighthouse is usually out of bounds to the general public except during this week.

Built in 1854, the naming of the lighthouse was dedicated to the memory of the founder of Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. The foundation stone itself was laid in May 24, 1854 (in conjunction with the anniversary of Queen Victoria's birthday), by Colonel William J. Butterworth, C.B., Governor of the Straits Settlements and it began operations in 1855. In short, Raffles Lighthouse is now 160 years old ! It is not the oldest lighthouse in Singapore though. Honor of that goes to the Horsbourgh Lighthouse. There are a total of 5 lighthouses (4 of them offshore) that are in used today. They are: Horsbourgh Lighthouse (1851), Raffles Lighthouse (1855), Pulau Pisang (1886) , Sultan Shoal (1895) and Bedok (1978).  There was also the Fullerton Lighthouse which ceased its operation in November 1979 having been in operation for 19 years. It was replaced by the Bedok Lighthouse which stands on top the 25th storey Lagoon View block.

Raffles Lighthouse (from the jetty) 
Diagram Plan of the Raffles Lighthouse
The survey diagrams gives insight of how the lighthouse was erected on Pulau Satumu or known by the Colonial British as Coney. Its only source of water was rain water amounting to 5,527 gallons stored in a water tank.

Up the Raffles Lighthouse 

Let me go straight to the view from the lighthouse first ! It was amazing and the gentle breeze took away all tiredness i felt of waking up early on a Saturday morning for this trip.
Overlooking Pulau Senang and exposed reefs 

Crystal clear waters and coconut trees 

The lovely view of the sea

View of the Jetty and the boat that brought us here
Getting up to the top of the lighthouse is via a spiral staircase made up of 90 granite steps and 16 metal steps for a total of 106 steps. (at least that's what the guide told us !) The lighthouse beams utilised LED lights now and are much smaller and less bulky as compared to the old days.
Spiral Granite steps  

Spiral staircase and the old petrol tanks that were once used

The lights and the top of the lighthouse 

Cast iron spiral staircase at the top 

Rich Marine life 

My story has not ended yet as when i was walking at jetty, it was low tide. Visible at the corals, sea anemone and marine life.
Sea cucumber 


The organisers of the event prepared for us light refreshments and bottled water that ensured that we did not go hungry or thirsty. Thank you ! I am impressed by their efforts to increase awareness of the importance of Singapore as a maritime center although this event is only held for only a short period once a year. Look out for their next public tours for a visit to Pulau Satumu and the Raffles Lighthouse. Who knows, one day we can visit the other lighthouses as well, especially Sultan Shoal.

Last look at the Raffles Lighthouse 

Satumu Buoy 


Untitled. (1854, May 23). The Straits Times
Untitled. (1855, July 3). The Straits Times
New light at Raffles Lighthouse. (1906, October 10). The Straits Times
Advertisement.  (1948, August 15). The Straits Times
Raffles Lighthouse. (website). Infopedia
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