Sunday, April 26, 2009

Singapore Day 2009 (London) - mixed feelings

Singaporeans are downright passionate about their food. That, I believe has been mentioned countless times in this blog. Put a bunch of Singaporeans who have not been back home for an extended period of time and their food together, you're asking for trouble.

Imagine telling thousands of Singaporeans that there will be FREE authentic Singaporean food brought to them across halfway round the globe. Now, that's a stampede.

On my way to Hampton Court Palace yesterday at around 9 in the morning, there was this Singaporean who apparently brought along his Taiwanese friends to the event. Throughout the 30min journey, they were joking about how Singaporeans will trip over each other jostling for free food and other aspects of kiasuism ("afraid to fail") of Singaporeans. Well, I didn't mean to eavesdrop but that did keep me entertain for much of the train ride.

I've never been to Hampton Court Palace but if not for the fact that Singapore Day 2009 was held over there, I would probably would not be there - the place is not exactly high up on my list. But was I glad that the place was chosen. Will definitely be there again and from the looks of it, it's worth the £14 entrance fee.

Right, I've digressed.

True to Singaporean style of events management, barriers were put up and the crowds was channelled into the waiting area - the main gates (or should I say the 'gantry') were yet to be opened. When it actually did, we were herded through this ERP gantry - a uniquely Singaporean predecessor of the London's Congestion charge, with a beeping sound emitted when we go through. A rechargeable heating pad was distributed at the gantry, a thoughtful door gift indeed albeit a few months too late. The goodie bag was well put together as well and most importantly, it comes with a sitting mat, which doubles up as a map of the event area. Give that person who came up with that a raise!

Till that moment, I was still in doubt whether the food would really be free. I mean, Singaporeans are not exactly accustomed in receiving free stuff back home. But it was indeed and the portions are rather generous. Best of all, it tasted much better than many stalls that we have back home. Satay, char kuey teow, chai tau kuey, chilli crab, muah chee, bak kut teh, curry puffs, chicken rice, mee siam, nasi lemak, chue kueh, kueh lapis, hokkien mee and the list just goes on.

I met up with an old friend who is now with the Prime Minister Office, which is involved in the organization of the event. He was telling me that each stall was specially selected by Mr. Sitoh, the author of Makansutra (a Singaporean foodie guide) and the hawkers offered their services free of charge for the event.

So far so good, no stampede yet.

The entertainment did start eventually when everyone has been settled down more or less. Adrian Pang and Michelle Chong did their best to muster up the crowd who was obviously more interested in their food and catching up with friends. Jack Neo and his gang, Rui-En, Dim Sum Dollies, Sebastian Tan, Hossan Leong, Mr Brown and Taufik Batisah did their bit.

In the midst of shoving in chicken rice and muah chee, I began to wonder who the target audience of the performance is. Jack Neo's performance still makes me cringe and reminds me of why I switched channels every time his segment came up on tv back home. His 'Money No Enough' repertoire reminded me of the fast (and expensive) pace of life back home.

I've never heard so much Hokkien muttered in a single performance before Sebastian's stint. Not even in the army. I'm not exactly sure how many of us actually fully understand what he said but I suspect many Singaporeans present are just about as clueless as their non-Singaporean friends they brought along.

Hossan and Dim Sum Dollies were hilarious. I didn't get a chance to go for their live performance back home but they're better than I expected. Loved the bit on Convent girls, and the part between an English lady and her Cantonese maid. If only it's a purely Singaporean affair. I mean, there are bits and pieces of the stint that was, well, unnecessary. Other than insulting almost every other airline (save for Singapore Airline, of course), the bit on the Queen was really done in poor taste. I'm sure the folks back home wouldn't appreciate the same said about our head of state.

Mr Brown was wonderful as expected though the 'Fast and Furious' bit was a bit off key. I was surprised that he performed his 'Send Ah Kong to JB' and the 'National Day' pieces. The first time that I heard them on the his podcast, it didn't exactly made me feel like getting onto the next flight back home. If you're not quite sure about what I'm talking about, drop by

All in all, I must say that the event went well. Food was great though many stalls ran out of it quite soon but I'm not complaining. There was a good mix of activities and we did have good fun. I'm putting my money down that the Singapore Day 2010 will be held in Shanghai. Well, you heard it here at Singaporean in London first.

Up next, the photos of the Singapore Day 2009 in London's Hampton Court Palace...

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Dutchie said...

Got an email bright n early this morning from hubby wanting to know how it went with SG Day. Gave him the link to mr brown to check it out but it's quite sketchy. Just hv to wait for ur photo's then.

Actually I would cringe when Singlish is taken to a height instead of using it to connect with fellow countrymen for light banter. Ditto with crude Hokkien expressions. Am curious what the foreign guests might be thinking, hearing a bunch of "jumble-up lingo franca ?

Shanghai could be a possibility bec there's a sizeable population of Sg'reans there. However, think of what the gate-crashers would do to the party ? It is afterall, a city of tens of millions ! Did u not get a clue from ur friend from the PM's Office *wink* ?

kyh said...

No pictures of the event?? :(

Haha.. But Jack Neo did produce some thought-provoking movies.

yoongz said...

Sigh! i can only sigh at the fact that i missed out on the food & the DimSum Dollies!! Sigh! Waiting to see the photos ;)
Oh just a thot - it is a Singapore event, by Singaporeans for Singaporeans so i guess you would expect some things to be taken to some extreme.

drcrab said...

long time no blog...! glad you're back online.

one of my peeves of Singapore Day isn't to do with the food/crowds (did you know they were giving away loads of stuff at the end - I saw someone cart away a 12 pack (unopened) box of satay sauce!!), or even the entertainment... it had to do with the 'ministerial walkabout'.

I had always assumed that ministers who attend such events, in particular events that are held overseas with the explicit aim to 'entice their people home', ought to do just that; talk to the 'people' and 'entice them to go home'.

I was at the HDB hub (where the heck is Dawson?!) looking at some things and this HDB representative started speaking to me. Fair enough. About 5 minutes later, she excuses herself, informing me that the 'minister' is here.

I turned around, and unfortunately did not recognise this 'minister'. The minister then proceeded to talk to this HDB person, and I guess her assistant and her bodyguard were the 2 people who were loitering behind (and indeed, playing with my toddler, and in fact 'engaging' with the 'people' more than the minister was).

shouldn't the minister have tried to talk to me/my family/the random other load of people around, asking us what we were doing here, when the last time we were home, and general chit-chat? At least that was what the then DPM did when I last met him in Tokyo at a Singapore-organised event!

I hate to point this out, but hey, the minister could have asked the HDB person all about the Dawson/Punggol21 etc projects back in HDB HQ in Queenstown (or whereever it is now)...!! But the minister wouldn't have been able to speak to all the overseas Singaporean in UK/Europe because hey, we're scattered all over the UK/Europe!


chocmuffins said...

Yes, I went there as well. Awesome food around! And honestly, I was expecting to pay for the food, instead it was free.

IMHO, the government tents are not very attractive (best was the SAF LAN gaming section), and the stage is not really entertaining.

Been living here for several months, I start to feel the difference over why I don't need a tellie back at Singapore but can't seem to get off one here.

All in all, it was a good event, awesome venue as well! (now I know the difference between royals and commoners)

SheR. said...

Thought I could met you there but you didnt pick up the mobile!!:PPPP

Ha.. crazy weather at the event and was wxpecting rain... we joked that SG govt bought the sunny weather too!!!

Saw a lot of undergrads there.. young looking stuck up and all dressed (mini skirts) up.gosh...

Jetlagge.. be back.

WomenTrip said...

i love the area

o_Ojack said...

ehh i think you could be talking about me (taiwanese) and my friend (singaporean). Didn't know we were being watched :P