Tales of a taxi ‘Uncle’

ST manpower correspondent Toh Yong Chuan steps into the shoes of a Singapore taxi driver
From the surly to the genial, it is passengers who make or break your day. But the pressure sure piles up



On my fourth day as a taxi driver, I drove for six hours at night with just one five-minute toilet break.

It was past midnight when I headed home and absent-mindedly got into the wrong lane at the junction of Bishan Road and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1. The traffic lights turned green and I took off, almost hitting another taxi.

When I got home, my wife greeted me with a hug and said: “You have the taxi driver smell.”

“It is the smell of hard work,” I said. It was the odour of being cooped up for hours in stale air. I didn’t mention my near accident.

I have always been fascinated by cabbies. As a manpower reporter, I have interviewed numerous drivers, yet there remained so much I did not know about them. Topmost on my mind as I embarked on a two-week stint as a cabby were these questions: How hard is it to be a cabby? And how much can a cabby earn?

So my SMRT cab, a Toyota Prius with the registration number SHC4123S, became my second home for 10 to 12 hours a day. I split a typical day into two, plying the roads from 6.30am to 11am, and from 5pm until I was too tired to go on.

Every morning I would head first to Serangoon North or Ang Mo Kio housing estate, near my home. There are always passengers going to work from Housing Board estates.

After that, there was no telling where I would end up.

I thought I knew Singapore well, but my stint as a cabby took me to places I never knew existed. I picked up passengers from obscure spots like a sprawling offshore marine base in Loyang, and Punggol Seventeenth Avenue in an area that somehow doesn’t have Avenues One to Sixteen.

I discovered that Tampines housing estate is so huge it is sandwiched between Tampines Expressway and the Pan Island Expressway, and is accessible via no fewer than seven expressway entrances and exits. I found myself in Tampines almost every other day during my cab driving stint.

Lessons from passengers

On Day 1, my first passenger was a man in his 30s, dressed in a blue long-sleeved shirt and black trousers.

He got into my cab at 6.50am along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 9 and said: “Pandan Crescent, go by Upper Thomson, Lornie, Farrer, AYE.”

Those were the only words he uttered and he kept his eyes locked on his smartphone for the rest of the journey. He did not notice that in my excitement at picking up my first fare, I had forgotten to start the meter until about seven minutes into the trip. His fare was $23.73 and I must have saved him about $2.

He gave me a hint of what was to come – that most passengers prefer to be left alone.

The rest of that day took me to Changi Airport, Bedok, Pickering Street, Alexandra Road, Amoy Street and Upper Bukit Timah Road in the morning. That evening, I went to Serangoon Road, Mount Vernon Road, Yishun, Woodlands, Sembawang Road, Tampines, Bedok, Bishan and Paya Lebar.

All my passengers were people who flagged me on the street. I was not confident enough to respond to radio bookings, which would have needed me to reach the pick-up point within five, seven or nine minutes of a call. So I ended up cruising empty most of that day, with the longest stretch of over an hour in Woodlands.

My best passenger was a woman in her early 40s who got into my cab along Alexandra Road. I chatted with her and eventually revealed that I was driving the cab for charity. She handed me $12 for her fare of $11.18 when she reached her Amoy Street office and said: “Keep the change.”

The worst experience was after I picked up a woman at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in the evening. She wanted to go to a condominium in Jalan Mata Ayer, off Sembawang Road, which I was unfamiliar with. She was from Myanmar, and I misunderstood her directions, given in halting English. When I took a wrong turn, she let fly with a rebuke in Myanmarese. The taxi meter showed $9.44 but I said she could pay just $8. That pacified her a little.

My first day ended at midnight when I pulled into my regular Caltex petrol station in Lorong Chuan to refuel and wash the cab. My usual car washer Zainal did not recognise me until I waved at him – twice. “Times are bad huh? You started driving taxi part-time?” he asked.

I was too tired to explain. I had driven 246km and taken 14 people on 13 trips. My takings, after deducting petrol cost, taxi rental and $4 for washing the cab, came to just $29.66 for 12 hours’ work.

Thankfully, things got better over the following days. I kept to the same work routine except on weekends, when I drove from noon to midnight.

By the end of Day 2, I had fine-tuned my greetings to these:

“Good morning, Sir!”

“Good evening, Madam!”

“Heading to work, Sir?”

“Going shopping, Madam?”

“You’re going to work early, Sir!”

“Long day at work, Madam?”

If the passenger did not reply or uttered only a monosyllabic answer, I took it as my cue to be quiet and to just drive.

Passengers travelling in groups tend to ignore the cabby, talking among themselves as if you are not there. So I couldn’t help overhearing people complaining about the Government, and workers complaining about their bosses. A young couple having a tiff complained about each other all the way from Sembawang Shopping Centre to Toa Payoh Lorong 1. “I am breaking off with you,” yelled the woman as she stormed off.

There were some passengers who, literally, made me feel sick.

Like the young woman I picked up in Jurong East who coughed and sneezed all the way to Choa Chu Kang. When it came time for her to pay, I hesitated when she handed me the money. After she left, I sprayed the cab generously with the Lysol disinfectant I kept in the cab’s glove compartment.

Then there was the man who sounded like he was from China. Getting into my cab near Bugis Junction, he burped. And burped. And burped. It was obvious that he had just eaten “ma la huo guo”, or spicy steamboat, for dinner.

An elderly man who got into my cab in Coleman Lane, at the Grand Park City Hall hotel, wanted me to reverse about two car lengths back into Coleman Street to avoid going round the block so he would save 30 cents.

In Chinatown, a man heading for South Bridge Road told me to take a “short cut” through Temple Street from New Bridge Road. I did, only to find traffic at a standstill along Temple Street – and that was when he paid up and jumped out, leaving me stuck for 15 minutes.

I have to say something about people who eat in taxis. While drivers cannot stop people from eating in their cabs, most dislike it because of the smell and the mess left behind. Thankfully I met only one passenger who ate on the go. The young mother insisted on feeding her toddler biscuits despite my asking her not to eat in the cab.

“The boy is hungry,” she insisted.

They left such a mess that I had to spend 30 minutes and more than half their $8.30 fare to have the cab cleaned at a petrol station.

My most unpleasant ride of all was with a woman in her 50s who complained non-stop about my driving from Tagore Industrial Park to Yishun Avenue 3. Her beef was that I drove too slowly and braked too hard.

“You are a new driver and it is my bad luck getting into your cab,” she ranted. “I was planning to buy 4D but I will not, because it is bad luck meeting you.”

I just bit my tongue.

But my worst passengers were the ones I never met. They were the people who made taxi bookings, then failed to show up.

On a rainy Wednesday morning I was in Telok Blangah Way when I accepted a call booking for Delta Avenue, and headed there rightaway. It took five minutes and I passed more than five passengers trying to hail cabs in the rain. When I got to the pick-up point, the passenger was nowhere to be found.

It was one of three “no shows” I encountered during my stint. Taxi drivers are helpless when this happens.

Each day, however, I would meet at least one or two passengers who stood out by being pleasant, saying “please” or “thank you”, or making conversation that helped to make a lonely job less monotonous.

I took three British Airways pilots from Mandarin Hotel in Orchard Road to the Esplanade, where they were going to have supper at Makansutra Gluttons Bay. When we got there, they invited me to join them. “C’mon, take a break,” one of them said, and he meant it. I declined because I was just too tired.

A teacher and an architect who spoke with me long enough to learn I was a reporter on assignment and that all my earnings would go to charity paid me in $50 notes and told me to keep the change – which added up to $43.

A passenger I took from the Botanic Gardens to Battery Road sent SMRT an e-mail complimenting me, saying: “I feel that he really went the extra mile to provide a comfortable journey for all his customers and I am really impressed. Thank you, Uncle!”

It made my day.

As my days of being a cabby progressed, I found that my earnings were decent, if not very high.

The most I earned in a single day – after driving 12 hours and deducting what a cabby usually pays for taxi rental and fuel – was $141. It would mean a monthly income of more than $4,000 if every day was like that and I worked a full month. My typical daily takings were between $90 and $100, or about $3,000 a month, and even that would call for driving 10 to 12 hours a day, with no day off.

The median gross monthly income of Singaporeans and permanent residents in June this year, excluding employers’ CPF contributions, was $3,276.

My stint was too short for me to befriend other cabbies at coffeeshops, but I managed to pick up some secrets of the trade.

It’s easy to get passengers in the morning when people are heading to work from HDB estates.
To earn $3 more in the evening, go into the CBD and pick up passengers while the CBD surcharge applies from 5pm to midnight. Sorry, but people waiting just outside the CBD will have to just keep waiting. Even inside the CBD, cabs will be scarce just before the surcharge hours begin.
Heartland towns like Woodlands and Sembawang offer slim pickings in the evenings, because residents hardly go out then. But hospitals everywhere are good places to find passengers, especially after evening visiting hours.
Overall, demand for taxis far exceeds supply during the morning and evening peak hours, so a cabby who is disciplined about driving during these periods can earn a decent living.
There are downsides as well.

The long hours on the road affected my sleep, and most nights I slept barely six hours. By Day 3, I was resorting to taking two Panadols before hitting the road.

Backaches were a frequent bother, from sitting so long.

Cabbies need toilet breaks, and the most convenient stops are at petrol stations. I found that many do not have soap, and at a Geylang petrol station, the toilet has no door.

There are simply no convenient public toilets in the Orchard Road area for taxi drivers, but I discovered that the Ba’alwie Mosque off Dunearn Road lets cabbies use its toilet. I blessed the good people of the mosque when I needed to go desperately one night.

My cab-driving days ended on Day 11 of my stint. It wasn’t a good day for me.

Early that morning the 16-year-old schoolboy in my cab was late for school and begged me to drive faster. I relented, stepped on the gas and ran a red light at 6.47am. Instantly, there were two camera flashes and I knew I had been caught by the traffic light camera. That meant $200 gone in less than a second – my earnings from about 18 hours of work!

But that wasn’t why I stopped driving. The trouble had begun two days earlier, when I discovered I’d developed a haemorrhoid from nine days of sitting for hours. I learnt that haemorrhoids are a common ailment among cabbies, along with backaches and high blood pressure.

The pain had become unbearable, so I decided to end my cab-driving experiment three days earlier than planned.

A month later, the traffic summons arrived. I hoped the Traffic Police would be sympathetic, but my appeal drew a swift rejection and a chiding: “Make a conscious effort to comply with traffic rules and regulations which are made for your own safety and that of other road users.”

Looking back, I still wonder why even passengers much older than me called me “Uncle”. It seems that if you drive a taxi in Singapore, you’re everyone’s Uncle or Auntie.

I returned the cab to SMRT after clocking 2,739km, having earned $2,294.60 for charity and gaining a newfound respect for taxi drivers.

Alesso ft. Tove Lo – Heroes (We Could Be)

We go hideaway in daylight
We go undercover when under sun
Got a secret side in plain sight
Where the streets are empty
That’s where we run

Everyday people do
Everyday things but I
Can’t be one of them
I know you hear me now
We are a different kind
We can do anything

We could be heroes
We could be heroes
Me and you
We could be heroes
We could be heroes
Me and you
We could be

Anybody’s got the power
They don’t see it ‘cos they don’t understand
Spin around and round for hours
You and me we got the world in our hands

October 2009 Condo Directory – East Coast – D15 & D16 Prices

Singapore East Coast from Sands SkyPark

Condo Name Street PSF Tenure Year
11 Amber Road Amber Road S$700 F 2005
833 M B Residences Mountbatten Road N/A F 2012
9 @ Seraya Seraya Lane N/A F 2009
Aalto Meyer Road S$2,436 F 2012
Aldea Blanca Upper East Coast Road S$640 F 1970
Alpha Apartments Koon Seng Road S$531 F 2005
Amber Park Amber Gardens S$746 F 1986
Amber Point Amber Road S$929 F 2000
Amber Residences Amber Road S$1,070 F 2012
Amber Towers Amber Road S$852 L99 2000
Amberglades Amber Gardens S$888 F 2000
Amberville Marine Parade Road S$632 L99 2000
Anchor Gardens Upper East Coast Road S$524 F 2000
Apollo Gardens Sunbird Circle S$651 F 2000
Aquarine Gardens Upper East Coast Road S$678 F 2004
Aquarius By The Park Bedok Reservoir View S$608 L99 2002
Aquene Lorong Bandang S$849 F 2008
Arthur 118 Arthur Road S$929 F 2006
Arthur Mansions Arthur Road S$960 F 2000
Aspen Loft Joo Chiat Terrace S$681 F 2005
Axis @ Siglap East Coast Terrace S$883 F 2010
Balcon East Upper East Coast Road S$841 F 2012
Bayshore Park Bayshore Park S$755 L99 1986
Baywater Bedok Reservoir Road S$618 L99 2006
Bedok Court Bedok South Avenue 3 S$457 L99 1985
Bedok Park Limau Garden S$601 F 1970
Bedok Ria Bedok Ria Crescent S$790 F 1993
Bellezza @ Katong Ceylon Road S$662 F 2007
Bleu @ East Coast Upper East Coast Road S$740 F 2010
Blu Coral Condo Lor L Telok Kurau S$750 F 2011
Breeze By The East Upper East Coast Road S$806 F 2011
Butterworth 33 Butterworth Lane S$713 F 2006
Butterworth 8 Butterworth Lane S$797 F 2004
Butterworth View Butterworth Lane S$699 F 1999
Cadence Light Telok Kurau Road S$625 F 2007
Callidora Ville Lor N Telok Kurau S$724 F 2009
Camelot Tanjong Rhu Road S$1,172 L99 2001
Canary Park Jalan Simpang Bedok S$604 F 1992
Cantiz @ Rambai Rambai Road S$768 F 2011
Casa Aroma Chiku Road N/A F 2003
Casa Merah Tanah Merah Kechil Avenue S$772 L99 2010
Casa Meyfort Meyer Road S$648 F 1992
Casafina Bedok South Ave 1 S$566 L99 2000
Cascadale Upper Changi Road East S$533 F 1994
Casero @ Dunman Dunman Road S$895 F 2008
Casuarina Cove Tanjong Rhu Road S$659 L99 1996
Celestia Joo Chiat Terrace S$576 F 2010
Ceylon Crest Ceylon Road S$782 F 2005
Changi Court Upper Changi Road East S$680 F 1997
Changi Green Upper Changi Road East S$700 F 2001
Chapel Lodge Lorong Stangee S$804 F 1994
Chateau La Salle La Salle Street S$554 F 2012
Chelsea Lodge Tanjong Katong Road S$728 F 2000
Coastarina East Coast Road S$847 F 2006
Costa Del Sol Bayshore Road S$988 L99 2003
Costa Este Lorong K Telok Kurau S$749 F 2010
Costa Rhu Rhu Cross S$879 L99 1998
Cote D’Azur Marine Parade Road S$1,002 L99 2005
Country Park Condo Bedok Road S$733 F 2003
Crane Court Crane Road S$775 F 2004
Crescendo Park Jalan Tua Kong S$662 F 1996
Crystal Rhu Tanjong Rhu Road S$985 F 2000
D’Ecosia Still Road South S$580 F 2003
D’Fresco Joo Chiat Lane S$787 F 2011
D’Manor Tanah Merah Kechil Ave S$439 L99 2001
D’Marine Joo Chiat Road S$825 F 2005
D’Sunrise Joo Chiat Lane S$627 F 2006
D’Wilkinson Wilkinson Road S$877 F 2006
Dawn Ville Butterworth Lane S$705 F 1999
De Casalle Lor N Telok Kurau N/A F 1996
De Centurion Tanjong Rhu Road S$1,081 F 2010
Dunman Place Dunman Road S$796 F 2001
Dunman View Haig Road S$824 L99 2004
E-Space Lorong K Telok Kurau S$828 F 2008
East Bay Tay Lian Teck Road S$758 F 2012
East Coast Hill Sennett Avenue S$609 F 1977
East Coast Mansions East Coast Road S$683 F 1970
East Coast Residences Upper East Coast Road S$859 F 2010
East Elegance Joo Chiat Terrace S$664 F 2007
East Galleria Sea Avenue S$860 F 2008
East Grove East Coast Road S$619 F 1970
East Meadows Tanah Merah Kechil Rd S$681 L99 2001
East Palm Palm Road S$948 F 2004
East Signature Elliot Walk S$911 F 2005
East View Brooke Road S$808 F 1999
Eastern Lagoon I Upper East Coast Road S$735 F 1985
Eastern Lagoon II Upper East Coast Road S$942 F 1985
Eastwood Centre Eastwood Road S$575 L99 1998
Eastwood Green Eastwood Road S$563 L99 1999
Eastwood Park Eastwood Walk S$475 L99 1998
Eastwood Ville Eastwood Terrace S$422 L99 1998
Ebony Mansions Lorong M Telok Kurau S$690 F 1995
Eight @ East Coast Upper East Coast Road S$533 F 2009
Emerald East Tanjong Rhu Road S$1,139 F 1998
Emery Point Ipoh Lane S$718 F 2005
Emprado Suites Lorong N Telok Kurau S$895 F 2009
Equatorial Apartments Meyer Road S$954 F 1977
Espira Residence Lorong K Telok Kurau S$641 F 2010
Espira Spring Lorong G Telok Kuarau S$805 F 2010
Esterina Haig Avenue N/A F 2009
Estique Rose Lane S$997 F 2007
Excelsior Gardens Minaret Walk S$806 F 1991
Fairmount Condo Eastwood Road S$664 L99 2000
Fernwood Towers Fernwood Terrace S$817 F 1994
Finland Gardens East Coast Avenue S$619 F 1989
Fort Gardens Fort Road S$814 F 1993
Fortredale Tanjong Rhu Road S$678 F 1999
Fortune Jade Dunman Road S$814 F 2004
Frankel Estate Siglap Road S$919 F 1970
Fruition Mangis Road S$631 F 2009
Galaxy Towers Onan Road S$563 F 1989
Gallery 8 Pulasan Road S$641 F 2004
Goldearth Lodge Joo Chiat Place S$623 F 2002
Goldearth View Joo Chiat Place S$724 F 1970
Gracious Mansions Jalan Rendang S$632 F 1970
Grand Duchess at St Pat’s Saint Patrick’s Road S$958 F 2010
Grand Residence Lorong G Telok Kurau S$558 F 2008
Haig Court Haig Road S$840 F 2004
Haig Eleven Haig Avenue S$740 F 2006
Haig Gardens Ipoh Lane S$619 F 1980
Hawaii Tower Meyer Road S$971 F 1984
Heritage Residences Lorong L Telok Kurau S$623 F 2008
Homey Gardens Lorong M Telok Kurau S$702 F 2004
Idyllic East Upper East Coast Road S$795 F 2011
Idyllic Residences Lor M Telok Kurau S$587 F 2009
Imperial Heights Ipoh Lane S$1,150 F 2009
Ivory Ceylon Lane S$662 F 2012
JC Residence Joo Chiat Lane S$560 L99 2006
Katong Gardens Tembeling Road S$640 F 1984
Katong Omega Apt East Coast Road N/A F 1988
Katong Park Towers Arthur Road S$695 L99 1987
Kew Gate Limau Garden N/A L99 1997
Kew Green Kew Crescent S$422 L99 1998
Kew Residencia Kew Crescent S$405 L99 1997
Kew Vale Collection Kew Avenue S$633 L99 1997
King’s Mansion Amber Road S$873 F 1980
La Meyer Meyer Road S$960 F 1994
Lagoon View Marine Parade Road S$511 L99 1970
Laguna 88 Eastwood Road S$602 L99 2001
Laguna Green Jalan Hajijah S$693 L99 1999
Laguna Park Marine Parade Road S$757 L99 1993
Laguna Villas Upper East Coast Road N/A F 1993
Landbay Condo Jalan Hajijah S$767 F 1999
Le Conney Park (phrase 2) Lorong L Telok Kurau S$573 F 1997
Le Merritt Lorong M Telok Kurau S$803 F 2008
Legenda @ Joo Chiat Joo Chiat Lane S$605 L99 2004
Limau Villas Limau Terrace S$699 L99 1998
Livingston Mansions Lorong L Telok Kurau S$598 F 2002
Lucky Court Lucky Heights S$530 F 1990
Mabelle Lor M Telok Kurau S$785 F 2010
Malvern Springs Onan Road S$682 F 2004
Mandarin Gardens Siglap Road S$691 L99 1986
Marine Point Marine Parade Road S$545 F 1985
Martia 8 Martia Road S$568 F 2002
Martia Residence Martia Road S$508 F 2007
Maya Still Road S$693 F 2007
Meier Suites Margate Road N/A F 2014
Mera Terrace Seagull Walk S$669 F 1997
Meyer Park Meyer Road S$1,194 F 1985
Meyer Residence Meyer Place S$1,208 F 2009
Mia Place Arthur Road N/A F 1997
Mistral Park Jalan Angin Laut S$626 F 1995
Mountbatten Lodge Mouthbatten Road S$1,304 F 1998
Mountbatten Regency Mouthbatten Road S$745 F 2007
Mountbatten Suites Mountbatten Road S$725 F 2009
Naturalis Lor M Telok Kurau S$820 F 2011
Neptune Court Marine Vista S$581 L99 1975
Ocean Park East Coast Road S$845 F 1983
Odeon Katong Shop’ Com East Coast Road S$810 L99 1970
OLA Residences Mountbatten Road S$965 F 2012
One Amber Amber Gardens S$1,115 F 2010
One @ Pulasan Pulasan Road S$1,012 F 2009
One Fort Fort Road S$1,052 F 2005
One K Green Lane Green Lane S$624 F 2005
Opera Estate Carmen Street S$724 F 1980
Optima @ Tanah Merah New Upper Changi Road S$821 L99 2014
Ovada 8 Koon Seng Road S$609 F 2002
Palazzetto Tanjong Rhu Road S$917 F 2003
Palm Galleria Lor K Telok Kurau S$947 F 2010
Palm Loft Joo Chiat Terrace S$554 F 2008
Palm Oasis Lorong H Telok Kurau S$836 F 2009
Palm Vista Lorong G Telok Kurau S$739 F 2010
Palmwoods Upper Changi Road S$558 L99 2000
Paradise Palms Dunman Road S$833 F 2003
Parbury Hill Condo Parbury Avenue S$749 F 1998
Parc Seabreeze Joo Chiat Road S$1,269 F 2012
Park East Jalan Tua Kong S$710 F 1994
Parkshore Tanjong Rhu Road S$999 F 1995
Parkway Mansion Amber Road S$616 F 1982
Peach Garden Peach Garden S$886 F 1970
Pebble Bay Tanjong Rhu Road S$1,122 L99 1998
Picardy Gardens Jalan Pari Burong S$445 F 1975
Pine View Lorong K Telok Kurau S$564 F 1970
Pinehurst Condo Lorong L Telok Kurau S$638 F 1995
Poshgrove East East Coast Road S$860 F 2008
Prestige Residence Lorong G Telok Kurau S$867 F 2008
Rambutan Mansions Rambutan Road S$574 F 1994
Residence 118 Lorong L Telok Kurau S$715 F 2006
Residence 66 Telok Kurau Road S$700 F
Residences @ Limau Limau Grove S$585 F 2007
Residences @ Stangee Lor Stangee S$517 F 2010
Residences 81 Lorong G Telok Kurau N/A F 2010
Rich East Garden Upper East Coast Road S$565 F 1983
Ritz Regency Ipoh Lane S$820 F 2010
Rivage Margate Road S$984 F 2009
Riveredge Sampan Place S$862 L99 2008
Riviera Residences Riviera Drive S$847 F 2008
Rose Mansions Rose Lane S$664 F 2002
Rose Ville Rose Lane S$607 F 1995
Roxy Square Brooke Road N/A F 2000
Royale Mansions Pulasan Road S$620 F 1992
Saint Patrick’s Loft Saint Patrick’s Road S$759 F 2010
Sanctuary Green Tanjong Rhu Road S$829 L99 2003
Santa Fe Mansions Margate Road S$966 F 1998
Sea Avenue Residences Sea Avenue S$842 F 2006
Seaview Point Amber Road S$704 F 1994
Seraya Breeze Seraya Road S$664 F 2003
Seraya Ville Seraya Lane S$555 F 1992
Shu Jin Court Lorong K Telok Kurau S$559 F 1970
Siglap Court Siglap Road S$835 F 1970
Signature Crest Gray Lane S$680 F 2006
Signature Residence Green Lane S$846 F 2008
Singa Garden Mouthbatten Road S$655 F 1970
Spring @ Katong Ceylon Road S$647 F 2007
Spring @ Langsat Langsat Road N/A F 2013
Springvale East Coast Road S$662 F 1995
St Patrick’s Garden Saint Patrick’s Road S$664 F 1981
St Patrick’s Villa Saint Patrick’s Road S$548 F 1970
Stillingia Court Still Road S$996 F 1970
Stratford Court Bedok Ria Crescent S$559 L99 2000
Suites @ Amber Amber Road S$1,350 F 2011
Summer Gardens Upper Changi Road East S$380 L99 2004
Sunhaven Upper Changi Road S$673 F 2003
Sunny Palms Lorong G Telok Kurau S$370 F 2004
Sunshine Grandeur Lorong K Telok Kurau S$944 F 2008
Sunshine Mansions Joo Chiat Place S$596 F 2006
Sunshine Regency Rambai Road S$651 F 2007
Sunshine Residences Lorong K Telok Kurau N/A F 2006
Taipan Grand Marine Parade Road S$889 F 2005
Tanah Merah Green Jalan Tanah Rata S$719 F 2000
Tanamera Crest Pari Dedap Walk S$624 L99 2004
Tanjong Ria Condo Tanjong Rhu Road S$800 L99 1997
Telok Indah Lorong G Telok Kurau S$447 L99 1996
Telok Kurau Court Telok Kurau Road S$432 F 1970
The Adara Chapel Road S$626 F 2013
The Albracca Meyer Road S$565 F 1990
The Amarelle Lim Ah Woo Road S$800 F 2010
The Ambra Lor H Telok Kurau S$570 F 2012
The Ambrosia Lor N Telok Kurau S$835 F 2011
The Amery Lor K Telok Kuaru S$809 F 2012
The Aristo Amber Road S$1,074 F 2013
The Atria at Meyer Meyer Road S$1,003 F 1996
The Azzuro Lor H Telok Kurau S$589 F 2014
The Bale Lorong H Telok Kurau S$796 F 2008
The Baycourt Upper East Coast Road S$716 F 1994
The Bayshore Bayshore Road S$736 L99 1999
The Beacon Edge Tembeling Road S$670 F 2010
The Belvedere Meyer Road S$1,151 F 2008
The Carpmaelina Carpmael Road S$628 F 2005
The Clearwater Bedok Reservoir View S$682 L99 2002
The Daffodil Upper East Coast Road S$740 F 1999
The East Side Joo Chiat Road N/A F 2006
The Espira Lorong L Telok Kurau S$775 F 2010
The Esta Amber Gardens S$877 F 2009
The Geranium Mangis Road S$707 F 2007
The Glacier Joo Chiat Place S$508 F 2005
The Glenwood Regency Tanjong Rhu Road S$801 F 1985
The Hacienda Hacienda Grove S$650 F 1985
The Lucent Lor N Telok Kurau S$620 F 2012
The Makena Meyer Road S$1,124 F 1998
The Medley Lor G Telok Kurau S$898 F 2009
The Mint Residences Joo Chiat Terrace S$656 F 2008
The Montage Lorong M Telok Kurau S$788 F 2010
The Nclave Lorong N Telok Kurau S$766 F 2008
The Prominence Haig Road S$566 F 2006
The Sea View Amber Road S$1,294 F 2008
The Seafront on Meyer Meyer Road S$1,311 F 2011
The Silver Fir Butterworth Lane S$876 F 2012
The Sovereign Meyer Road S$1,401 F 1993
The Springfield Chempaka Kuning Link S$444 L99 1999
The Summit Upper East Coast Road S$708 F 1994
The Sunnidora Lor G Telok Kurau S$814 F 2006
The Sunny Legend Lorong H Telok Kurau S$715 F 2006
The Taipan Jalan Hajijah S$515 F 2003
The Tanamera Tanah Merah Kechil Rd S$593 L99 1994
The Treeline Lorong G Telok Kurau S$851 F 2008
The Tropic Gardens Upper East Coast Road S$573 F 1995
The Vermilion Lorong G Telok Kurau S$488 F 1970
The Verte Lorong H Telok Kurau S$613 F 2012
The Vesta Lorong K Telok Kurau S$699 F 2008
The View @ Meyer Meyer Road S$1,330 F 2010
The Waterside Tanjong Rhu Road S$1,100 F 1993
Tierra Vue Condo Saint Patrick’s Road S$995 F 2010
Tropicana Jalan Tiga Ratus S$514 L999 1994
Venezio Upper East Coast Road S$662 F 2006
Veranda Lor K Telok Kuaru S$632 F 2007
Versailles Hemmant Road S$580 F 2004
Versilia On Haig Ipoh Lane S$888 F 2012
Vertis Amber Gardens S$800 F 2009
Villa Marina Jalan Sempadan S$607 L99 1999
Villa Martia Martia Road S$745 F 2000
Villas La Vue Siglap View N/A F 2010
Vitra Tembeling Road S$774 F 2009
Water Place Tanjong Rhu Road S$1,063 L99 2004
Waterfront Waves Bedok Reservoir Road S$718 L99 2012
Whitfield Garden East Coast Terrace S$589 F 1970
Worthington Butterworth Lane S$826 F 2008
Yi Li Apartment Tay Lian Teck Road N/A F 1970
Zephyr Park Sea Breeze Avenue N/A F 1993

David Swenson

David Swenson tours internationally as one of the world’s leading Ashtanga Yoga teachers. He has written several books, including Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual, and produced a series of instructional yoga videos as well as a series of audiocassettes. We caught up with Swenson in Houston, Texas, where he lives.

Yoga Journal: How did you discover Ashtanga Yoga?

David Swenson: I ran away from home. I had just turned 16. I sent my parents a letter explaining that I loved them and knew they loved me, but I couldn’t live in Texas any longer. Long hair, yoga, and a vegetarian lifestyle didn’t offend anybody on the West Coast, so I rented a room and got a job flipping hamburgers in Encinitas, California. One day, a surfing buddy invited me to a yoga class where people were doing these incredible, intricate, fluid asanas. Though this yoga was so hard I couldn’t finish the first session, I loved it. And I have loved Ashtanga ever since.

YJ: You eventually went to India to study with Pattabhi Jois. What was that like?

DS: There were four students in Mysore when I arrived there in 1976. We met three times daily for intense asana and Pranayama classes. These were incredibly challenging, enthralling, and transforming. It was perhaps the most difficult thing I’d ever done except for coming back home.

YJ: Home to Texas?

DS: Yes. It was a hard landing. I had to figure out how to integrate my experience in India within the “real” world. Nobody was interested in yoga. By and by, I started feeling bitter. I wrote Pattabhi Jois a long letter asking “Hey, what about the eight limbs? What’s the meaning of life? Who is God? Why are we here? And when do I get samadhi?” I thought these were reasonable questions, yet when he didn’t reply, I began to search for the answers on my own.

I looked everywhere, including astrology, parapsychology, palmistry—you name it. Then I ran into some folks from the Krishna temple. They had answers. I shaved my head and became a Hare Krishna on April Fools’ Day, 1982. For the next five years, I lived as a celibate, gave up asanas, memorized the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, and traveled the world giving lectures and raising money. Until one day, as I stood hawking the Gita on a street corner in Houston, my mom happened by. She saw that nobody was buying books from me, so she walked up and said, “Oh honey, no one will take one from you. Give me one.”

A Texas mother’s worst nightmare. But she showered me with unconditional love. When I got back to the temple, they chastised me for not raising enough money. I’d had enough. It was time to move on, so I quit.

YJ: And went back to yoga?

DS: I bought a suit and went into commerce. I felt completely disillusioned with spirituality. I became a hard-nosed businessman and a closet yogi. But this didn’t work for me. Within a few years I found myself deep in debt and very unhappy.

Fortunately, my life has a life of its own. I happened to be in Hawaii in 1989 when Pattabhi Jois came to teach on his American tour. I attended; he didn’t remember me. Ten years had passed. I looked completely different. But at one point in the workshop, Jois put his hands against my spine to adjust my back and called out, “Oh, David Swenson,” then burst into laughter, and started chanting “Hare Krishna, Hare Ram.”

He had recognized me from touch! And he seemed so happy to see me that I suddenly felt my whole journey come to an end. I was home again. I had found the answer to all my questions.

YJ: How so?

DS: Jois says, 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory. Yoga takes care of you if you stick with it. You start to sense what’s right and what’s wrong, and you follow a path of moral living and meditation because it feels right. The answers are in the practice, and the practice never judges you. It’s ready when you are.

YJ: In one sentence, what did you realize about the meaning of life?

DS: That there’s a big difference between doing yoga and simply making an asana out of yourself.

Kwek Leng Beng

Haute Living, 27 June 2007

Kwek Leng Beng is pure business. He is known for being highly driven, and addicted to making deals. This billionaire magnate and international property developer has amassed a plethora of hotels that span the globe from London to New York to China, but Kwek’s real passion is making an indelible mark on his beloved city of Singapore’s dynamic, changing skyline.

Kwek, whose UK-based Millennium & Copthorne (M&C) Hotels Plc group once owned half of the prestigious Plaza hotel in New York, is taking his hotel know-how and developing the St. Regis Residences, Singapore, among other projects. As Singapore’s first hotel and residence property, St. Regis Residences will introduce world-class designs to this island nation, and set the country’s new luxury real estate benchmark.

Executive chairman of City Developments Limited (CDL), Southeast Asia’s second largest property developer with 20,000 homes and 100 developments in Singapore, and Executive Chairman of Hong Leong Group of companies (parent co to CDL), Kwek’s acumen as a businessman and entrepreneur is renowned worldwide. Chairman Kwek, having just returned from his first holiday in years-he doesn’t enjoy taking time off, claiming, “I love business more.”-outlines his vision for Singapore during an interview with Haute Living, a vision that rings with an enthusiasm that is nothing less than contagious. “We want to be a biotech city, the medicinal hub, a city of amazing integrated resorts with downsized casinos,” he exclaims. He gets excited when talking about Singapore’s rapidly changing landscape, which will position the city as the leading dynamic business and tourism hub in Asia.

Once dubbed ‘Kwek Land Bank’ for his group’s sizable land bank in Singapore, Kwek is the country’s second-richest man, ranked 185th on Forbes 2006 list of the wealthiest people wordwide, and stands to gain as Singapore lures the jet-set with private banking services and new tax laws. He heads up an empire worth more than US$20 billion, with a worldwide staff of 30,000. One of the most influential players in Singapore’s luxury real estate boom that has led to a massive investment by developers in residential, hotel, office, and real estate markets, Kwek has his hands full with the St. Regis, Sentosa Cove, and Marina Bay projects, and as an advisor to the new US$3.6 billion integrated resort being built in Singapore by Las Vegas Sands corporation, set to open in 2009.

Kwek’s twin investment strategy- hotels with a residential component-has been taken to a new level with the St. Regis Hotel & Residences. Situated close to famed shopping district of Orchard Road, Kwek says that he has tried to create an iconic design and a concept of luxury lifestyle living at the St. Regis. Kwek himself loves luxury. He says, “I enjoy the finer things in life; I enjoy a good lifestyle and sense of design. I have the Maybach and the Bentley, Aston Martins and Ferraris.” His main residence is a mansion on one-acre in the prime district of Singapore, but he may choose to live at the St. Regis, where he has already purchased two sky villas. He describes these residences as exclusive, limited edition, and world class. “The arrival of a branded development where residents can enjoy the extended privileges and services from the adjoining six-star St. Regis hotel is a first in Singapore, and very exciting,” Kwek says.

The 20-story St. Regis Hotel, with 299 guestrooms, is planned to open in 2007, while the residences are expected to be ready in 2008. CDL will develop the residences along with Hong Leong Holdings Ltd and TID Pte Ltd (a joint venture company with Mitsui Fudosan, a leading real estate company in Japan), managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. The estimated price-range for the 173 chic three- and four-bedroom residences start at around US$3.1 million, ranging in size from 1,500 to 4,000 square feet. Residents will have a private elevator lobby leading directly into their suites. Owners of the illustrious residences will also have access to the prestigious St. Regis Hotel’s Bespoke services, which includes personal butlers, chauffeurs, and flower arrangements. Those with truly deep pockets (a la Kwek) can opt for a sky villa, upper roof decks that will house bedrooms, a private pool, and steam room, coming in between 5,000 to 7,200 square feet each.

CDL has created some of the most extravagant show suites in Singapore for the property’s launch, designed to show off handpicked furnishings and fittings. Kwek says, “I have seen condos in New York and London, and without boasting, I can say that the standard of finishing at St. Regis is far better than I have seen elsewhere. We have the best imported marble, the best of everything… New York might have showrooms and a sales office where you can see the type of material that will be used, but in Singapore, potential buyers get to see the actual showroom apartments.

“At the end of the day, it has to be functional and beautiful.” Kwek brings this philosophy to several other high-end projects in the city, all in very strategic locations. He is building a sail-shaped skyscraper, called The Sail @ Marina Bay, part of the multi-billion dollar waterfront that will include the casino, a marina, and parks. Kwek explains, “I wanted a design of my own. I wanted a ship sailing out into the harbor in the form of a sculpture.” He created this twin-tower project with 1,111 luxury apartments, and managed to sell out within weeks of launch.

His iconic project, One Shenton, was launched in January 2007, and sold out in mere hours. Next to be launched? Quayside Isle, a marina-lifestyle project featuring waterfront homes on Sentosa Island, complete with W Hotel & Residences.

Singapore’s high-end market began taking off in late 2005, after steep declines from a property crash ten years ago. With a slew of new luxury projects, Kwek bullishly predicts a 10-20 percent rise in home prices next year. “Singapore is seeing a buying frenzy,” he says. “We are just at the start of an upward trend as the economy expands.” He also sees a lot more foreigners purchasing in Singapore. “In the old days, it would be about 20 percent, but with the St. Regis, foreigners are 65 percent. Because the population base in Singapore is small, the government has been promoting [the country] to foreign talent as a wonderful place to live and enjoy, and the people are listening.”

While other developers now race to launch new projects, Kwek understands that success depends on the design the developer can offer. “Buyers are very discerning,” he explains. “They understand if you want to sell your project at good prices, you have to do something more than what you have done in the past. A lot of that depends on creativity.”

Creativity is something that Kwek has brought to virtually every project he has gotten his hands on since he entered the real estate world at a very young age. Kwek is 53% owner of M&C, which currently owns 112 hotels and operates around a dozen. M&C’s origins come from the Hong Leong Group Singapore, an empire built from rubber plantations, cement, and property in the 1940′s and 1950′s by Kwek’s father, Kwek Hong Pong. Upon returning to Singapore from London with his law degree in 1963, young Kwek already had a knack of rising to the occasion. “At the age of 30, I took over a company called City Developments Limited, then a loss-making company,” recalled Kwek. Kwek was able to turn the business around, allowing the company-purchased for US$3 million in 1971-to become a favorite blue chip company in Singapore, with a capitalization of US$8.5 billion. “This deal was the start, combining my love for takeovers and property. It was very inspiring.”

He credits his father, whom he described as a tough master, for teaching him high standards. “When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I ran away to Malaysia, and he told someone to go and bring me back,” Kwek jokes. “His way of teaching was not actually explaining. He would ring at any time of the day and say ‘I want you to do this.’ Usually, I would not do it straight away, and within ten minutes, he would ring back and want to know how anything could be more important than what he asked me to do.”
Hiromichi Iwasa, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mitsui Fudosan, has known Kwek and his family for years. He says, “The late Mr. Kwek passed on his legacy of being a far-sighted entrepreneur. Kwek looks after joint venture partners.”

From his father, Kwek learned the importance of following up quickly, how to be innovative, and how to get the best customer. He also credits Leslie Grossman, a man from New York, as being a mentor, along with his father. “Both have passed away,” says Kwek, “but I learned a lot from them, especially that you must be passionate about what you do. If you are passionate, you can push the envelope farther, and be better than others.” He sets high standards, and has a competitive streak that extends to his morning bouts on the tennis courts. But regardless of where he is, his focus is always on work. He explains, “I work ten hours a day, but sometimes, I am so interested in something that I can’t sleep. My wife understands what makes the difference between an outstanding person and an average person, and is very understanding.” His wife, Cecilia is qualified as a barrister. She offers Kwek design tips inspired by her travels to art museums and concert halls, and her trips to art auctions in Paris and Venice. Her main advice is to not be carried away by minimalist or overly modern designs. “I always tell him to respect the local aesthetic, lifestyle, and Feng Shui principals.” She best sums up Kwek when asked what he really is like: “Kwek will not take no for an answer. He discusses five different topics in five minutes, and has extraordinary vision.”

These sentiments are echoed by others who have had the pleasure of doing business with this real estate mastermind. Dolly Lenz, Vice Chairman for Douglas Elliman says, “During my many trips to Asia over the past 20 years I have had the opportunity to meet practically all the movers and shakers shaping the Asian landscape. None has impressed me more with his vision and drive than Kwek. He is truly a man on a mission. He is simply the savviest and most brilliant developer in the Far East.”

Kwek’s talent for identifying trends, and following his gut feeling in business dealings has earned him tremendous respect from others in the industry. “The first time I met Kwek, I flew to Singapore with an offer to buy The Plaza [hotel in New York],” says Mike Naftali, President and CEO of Elad Properties. “My first impression was that he was a very savvy businessman-extremely smart, and knows the business upside down. But he was also a person you could talk to, and try to negotiate with in good faith.” Naftali’s partial condo-conversion plans as a way to boost the hotel fortunes at The Plaza sat well with Kwek, and the deal was completed before Naftali flew back to New York. Currently, the two are involved in other projects together, including a high-end residential condo development in Singapore. “I see he really cares about details; he personally looks into every detail. What I admire about him most is that he’s very focused, very smart, and he is tough with the numbers-Tough in a good way.”

Another friend and co-investor, Dr. K.S. Lo, deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Great Eagle Holdings Ltd in Hong Kong, backs that view. “Kwek does not have the air of a big tycoon, even though he was then already one of the richest men in Asia. He’s very, very intelligent, but he would pretend he doesn’t know anything, and would keep asking questions, and playing devil’s advocate… Kwek drives a hard bargain while negotiating a deal, but he’s reasonable and he’s trustworthy. He always keeps his word.”

For the future, Kwek is keeping an eye on China, where M&C has been awarded its first hotel management contract, with the Millennium Hongqiao Hotel in Shanghai in the prime business district. This move comes years after M&C first moved into China. “We were the first to have gone to Beijing and developed a gated community with single-family homes in 1994. It was very profitable, but then we stopped.” Just last year, he purchased a hotel in Beijing, to be ready in 2008.

In Los Angeles, Kwek is considering creating condos at his Millennium Biltmore Hotel; In London, he is being courted by developers to do condos at five of his hotels. He is considering a hotel/residence project with a partner in Japan as well. Kwek also has a solid presence in Thailand, including a 600-unit residential project, and an additional hotel development in Bangkok as well as the largest shopping mall in Phuket.

His various projects have led him to travel the world, but Singapore is where he chooses to spend the majority of his time. Here, he settles in with his two sons. One son, age 26, just graduated from Wharton Business School, and is studying International Relations and Comparative Politics at Columbia. His other son worked at Credit Suisse, then at one of Kwek’s New York hotels. Now he is in China, trying to take a loss-making company recently acquired and turn a profit. Do we have yet another Kwek that will one day be changing the global landscape in such a dynamic way? One can only hope.

Quote of the Week

“There is a Hindu tantric saying, nādevo devam arcayet, ‘by none but a god shall a god be worshipped.’ The deity of one’s worship is a function of one’s own state of mind. But it is also a product of one’s culture. Catholic nuns do not have visions of the Buddha, nor do Buddhist nuns have visions of Christ. Ineluctably, the image of any god beheld—whether interpreted as beheld in heaven or as beheld at çakra 6–will be of a local ethnic idea historically conditioned, a metaphor, therefore, and thus to be recognized as transparent to transcendence. Remaining fixed to its form, whether with simple faith or in saintly vision, is therefore to remain in mind historically bound and attached to an appearance.”

~ Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion, p.39

Koh Boon Hwee couldn’t kill a rabbit

That’s why he decided not to be a doctor and became a corporate head honcho instead

Straits Times Aug 10, 2014
By Wong Kim Hoh, Senior Writer

Over a two-hour chat with Koh Boon Hwee, one learns three key things about the corporate titan.

One, he does not like to give up on what he has started.

Two, he does not look back.

Three, he believes education is the key to changing one’s life.

These attributes have helped him navigate through life more than just niftily.

Just look at his curriculum vitae. A respected investor who co-founded private equity firm Credence Partners, the 63-year-old has chaired some of the country’s biggest and most successful organisations including SingTel, Singapore Airlines and DBS Bank.

He serves on the board of several public and private companies, both locally and in the United States and Hong Kong. He also chairs the board of trustees of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and is credited for overseeing its growth into an internationally recognised research university.

“I’m just lucky,” he says, trying to downplay his achievements. Several good mentors and some astute decisions at critical junctures, he suggests, are responsible for who, what and where he is.

Breaking out into a hearty laugh, he adds: “You know, being lucky is better than being smart.”

Perhaps so but Mr Koh – who has a first-class honours degree in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London and an MBA (Distinction) from Harvard Business School – also has one heck of a brain.

Almost sheepishly, the eldest of three children of a trader and a homemaker says: “Studies came very easily to me.” He breezed through his years at St Andrew’s and was Singapore’s top boy in the O-level and A-level examinations.

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Cher Lloyd – Sirens

I carry the weight of you in my heavy heart
And the wind is so icy, I am numb
I carry the weight of you heading back to start
With the thousand eyes on me, I stumble on

I am tired, I’m growing older
I’m getting weaker everyday, yeah
I carry the weight of you
I carry the weight of you

Lay down here
Beside me in the shallow water
Beside me where the sun is shining on us still
Lay down here
Beside me in the hallowed water
Beside me where the silver lining stays until
The sirens’ calling

We follow the sun down low till we hit the night
And you hold me so tightly
It’s hard to breathe

“Sirens” is a song by British singer-songwriter Cher Lloyd. It premiered on 14 March 2014. “Sirens” was lauded by music critics, with many praising the song’s mature sound, Lloyd’s vocals, and also noting the change in direction from Lloyd’s previous work.

The music video for “Sirens” premiered on Lloyd’s Vevo account on 29th April 2014. In the video, Lloyd plays a woman whose husband has become involved in drugs, showing the effect that drug use can have on a family. While Lloyd’s character is seen caring for the couple’s young daughter, Police raid the house, arresting her partner. Lloyd then carries the evidence through the house and burns it in a barrel in the garden, soon returning to the house where she is greeted by her young daughter as they sit together on the floor. In the “Behind the Scenes” footage, Lloyd reveals that the story of the video is inspired by a similar event from her childhood, and that the young daughter in the video represents Lloyd herself at a younger age. In an interview after the premiere, Lloyd revealed that the story behind the video retells an event from her childhood in which her father was arrested when she was five years old.

Starkillers & Alex Kenji feat. Nadia Ali – Pressure (Alesso Remix)

“Pressure” is a song by Nadia Ali, Starkillers and Alex Kenji. It was released on February 15, 2011 by Spinnin’ Records. The song reached No. 16 on the Ultratip Chart in Wallonia, Belgium.

Ali described “Pressure” as ‘a fun song venting about the frustrations and expectations which come with being successful’. The song was left untouched until March 2010, when at the Winter Music Conference Ali introduced Terranova to Bacci, who was subsequently asked to collaborate with the two and co-produce the track creating the final version.

The Alesso remix of “Pressure” became a club and festival anthem during summer 2011 and was included in their sets by prominent DJs such as Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Kaskade, Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia. The song was described by Kaskade as the “Tune of 2011″. The remix was also nominated for the Best Progressive Track at the 27th International Dance Music Awards at the Winter Music Conference.[

Weeds grow and flowers fall and that is all.