Prego Restaurant

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I haven’t visited Prego for years, more than a decade. It used to be a firm favourite with me and Bert. We first came across it about twenty years ago I think, around when it first opened, when the space it occupied used to be under one of the Westin Hotels formerly there. Westin Stamford or Plaza, I forgot which. Now the hotel there is called the Fairmont.

So it brought back some nice memories when we went back with a couple of friends recently. To me, the fact that Prego is still there after all these years is remarkable for Singapore. But it’s pretty stunning that even the interior is the same. Now that’s incredible. Commercial space here like malls and restaurants get makeovers frequently, some every few years. From interiors to even entire building facades, it can seem striking even for locals how frequent and fast things change, let alone for repeat visitors like tourists.

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The shock of yellow is a tad gaudy to me but I guess it goes alright with the rest of the colour palette. I love the potted bushes of rosemary.

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I so love that they kept this travertino floor at the foyer, and the waves of happiness kept rolling over me when I realised they kept everything I remember about the place.

I don’t know why I was so darn happy. It’s just a restaurant. I think it’s just that I was so surprised because it’s so unusual for things to stay the same in Singapore, and for such a long time. Things keep changing here. To keep them appealingly fresh, I suppose. But the way I see it, the problem becomes: how do you really let sink in the memories that you can treasure by letting them take root, when the places these memories are crafted around seem disposable. At the back of your head you are already thinking that the place won’t last, that you would soon be forming new memories with the new things that will take over the space. After a while there are just too many of these ‘short-term’ memories, so you allow all these memories associated with the same space to be filmsy and disposable too.

So when I walked in again and saw that things were mostly the same as it were twenty years ago (except for some very few and very small touches here and there) Prego ceased to be just a restaurant. It became snapshots and voices and laughter from years ago, the food we ordered, what we liked and didn’t liked. The faces of the friends and family we dined with. The other people we brought there. I even remember a few of the waiters. Not their names or what they looked like, but some things that were said or done to earn smiles or frowns. Crazy, the amount of memories. And now imprinted even more deeply in me, to be cherished for many more years.

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I don’t remember the awning and similarly striped wallpaper, but the rest of the restaurant looks exactly the same as I remember it, including the chairs.

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We went for the ‘Sunday Semi-Buffet Lunch’

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Just a glimpse of the buffet line. There was actually a big and very tasty selection of appetisers and desserts. I was too shy to go around taking photos of the spread, and it would have been disruptive to the other people getting their food.

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Part of the buffet is this long list of dishes you order ala carte. Just tick what you want and hand it to the waiter. Limited to one dish a person at a time. When you’ve had that, you can order more. This turned out to be a very good idea, as we found that we were beginning to be stuffed by the time our ala carte selection arrived.

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They even kept these Mediterranean-style plates I remember! If not exactly the same ones, they at least kept to the same design, which put yet another smile on my face. These four dishes are our first round from the buffet ala carte menu.

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Beer barrel tables! I want one, if only I have the space for it at home. And painted so prettily too. Cuteness overload.

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The windows used to look out to the street but not anymore, so I guess the hotel had claimed the space outside to expand its interior. The sayings above the restaurants are yet another thing I remember and remember liking. This one is “Troppi cuochi sciupano la minestra” which is “Too many cooks spoil the broth“.

‘Prego’, the name of the restaurant, means ‘welcome‘, by the way.

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Henderson Waves

I’ve seen pictures of this gorgeous bridge and been wanting to visit it for the longest time. Now I’ve finally had the joy of seeing it in person and crossing it. It’s truly a remarkable thing of beauty.

Opened in May 2008, Henderson Waves Bridge stands 36 metres above Henderson Road and connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Belangah Hill Park.

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Here’s a video by YouTube user market2garden:

Related:

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Day 39

happy meter: fascinated

Making an online reservation of books from the National Library

As I’ve written before once or twice, I’ve been meaning to write here about how much I love and appreciate being able to reserve online the books I want to borrow from the National Library. I’m finally sitting down and doing this with my latest reservation, Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, a title reviewed and highly recommended by Buffy of Storytime With Buffy, a blog I follow.

I thought I would show my appreciation of this wonderful service I’m fond of using by going through it step-by-step à la a tutorial of some sort.

Before I go any further, I should mention it costs $1.55, and that it’s not payable by cash. Transactions at the library are only by CashCard, ezlink card or NETS.

Making the reservation online.

Step1_www.nlb.gov

  • ^ 1. First, go to www.nlb.gov.sg. Click NLB Search Plus‘ on the Quick Links menu on the left.

Step2_fill in title and author

  • ^ 2. Fill in the name of the title or author, or both, and click ‘Search‘.

Step3_click find in library tab

  • ^ 3. If the book you want turns up, great! It may even be available in different languages or formats, for example as an audiobook. Click ‘Find in Library‘ to locate which branches it is available at. But first, be sure you are checking out the book in the format you want. I once reserved and borrowed a Large Print book by mistake!

Step4_check branch or click reserve this item

  • 4. Check whether the branch nearest to you stocks it and whether it’s still available to loan.

At this point, if you see it’s available, you might decide to just pop in the branch as soon as possible to pick up the book. Bear in mind someone may have already borrowed it by the time you get there. (Especially if it’s a recent and popular bestseller!) Also, if it is not available at the library nearest to you and you decide to travel to a farther one to borrow it, remember you have to return the book at the same branch you borrowed it from.

  • ^ If you decide to reserve the book instead, click ‘Reserve this item‘.

Step5_to reserve_fill in login details required

  • ^ 5. Fill in the details requested to log in.

Step6_choose branch to pick up book from

  • ^ 6. Select the branch you want to pick it up from, and click ‘Submit‘. This is my favourite part, getting to have it delivered to a branch most convenient to me.

Picking up the reserved book.

Pickup1_notification

  • ^ 1. Okay, now about a week later, the notification that the book is ready for collection arrives. This may be the not-so-great part for some people, having to wait a week or so to read the book. But I find it’s not a big deal to me. You do not have to bring this notification to collect your book, by the way.

Pickup2_eKiosk Machine

  • ^ 2. At the library, look out for the e-kiosk machine to pay your reservation fee. You need to settle that first before you can pick up the book.

Pickup3_Scan card

Pickup4_Click payment

  • ^ 4. Click ‘Payment’.

Pickup5_Pay with card

  • ^ 5. Make payment. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, they don’t take cash, which I found annoying at first as it’s just $1.55. Transactions at the library are only by CashCard, ezlink card or NETS.

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  • ^ 6. Lastly, waltz over to the reception counter (I noticed the sign said ‘concierge‘. Ooh la la!) to collect your reserved book. Show them your membership or identification card as they need that to check which book to hand over to you. The borrowing is recorded at the counter itself. You don’t need to bring it to a self-service machine where one scans the barcode of a book to borrow it.

Bbook received

Mmmm… can’t wait to be spellbound.

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Day 23 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: ready and excited for the freefall down the rabbit hole.

The Health Promotion Board’s FAQs on Sexuality

I just came to know of our Health Promotion Board’s FAQs page on sexuality, thanks to a Yahoo! News Singapore article by Michelle Kwara.

From the list of questions, I see it’s meant to help parents who have gay or bisexual children, or think their children may be gay or bisexual. I can’t begin to describe how unusual I think this is, how surprising and heart-warming, how necessary and important this step from a government body like the HPB is.

Questions listed include:

  • Is my child normal? Is being gay or bisexual a mental illness? Should they seek medical help?
  • Where can my child find support in Singapore?
  • Can homosexuals have long lasting relationships?
  • Will my child feel like he or she has let me down by being gay or bisexual?
  • How should I react if my friends notice my child’s sexual orientation?
  • Are homosexual and bisexual men more likely to get STIs/HIV?

I didn’t expect this, but I just started crying when I read some of the questions on the list. I just sat in front of my monitor and wept for all the parents who had to ask these questions, regardless of whether they eventually accept their children or not. I don’t have children and will never know or understand their pain, and confusion, their terror and helplessness, their anger and their trepidation that the world had just gotten that much harder and more cruel for their kids.

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The delicious irony is that apparently the FAQs page has been up since November last year, but became viral only in the past few days when someone named ‘Aaron’ started a petition against it on 3rd February, because he thinks it “dangerously promotes homosexuality“, and urges Health Minister Gan Kim Yong to conduct a review of the website’s information.

So basically, if Aaron had not been mean enough to criticise something that was only meant to offer some help and comfort to parents who are anxious and struggling with their children’s sexuality, I and I’m sure many other people would not have even heard of the FAQs page.

So, thanks Aaron, for the publicity! May news of this FAQ page reach many more Singaporeans and far and wide all over the world, so that more praise and thanks can go to the deserving team at HPB.

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The following day, 4th February, a counter-petition was set up thanks to a Melissa Tsang, recommending that Minister Gan “ignore the ridiculously misinformed and regretfully bigoted petition“. It points out that “The health, safety, and wellbeing of LGB (err, where’s the T, though?) youth should not be battleground for the homophobic to advance their agenda, especially not to the HPB. Opponents can ride their moral high horse elsewhere.

It also urges HPB to “restore the original version.” Because, as Yahoo! writer Ms. Kwara reports, the original had featured links to organizations where the parents can seek further information and counselling:

The original sexuality FAQ had contained links to various lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) organizations and counseling hotlines such as Oogachaga, SAFE and AFA Singapore, in an answer to “Where can my child find support in Singapore?”. These links have since been removed.

I hope they will be restored. Thank goodness for the internet, but the links should still be restored because it’s the right thing. My God, it’s just outlets to help that those links offer to connect to. Why deny people the help they need for emotional wellness?

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Lastly, how cool is it that the Health Promotion Board’s ‘FAQs on sexuality‘ does not neglect to address bisexuality?! I’ve read articles on how bisexuals are not taken seriously even by some gay people. I don’t know the prevalence of this. Here’s a link to this related article and another one.

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Related:

  • Oogachaga – Counselling and support organization for LGBTQ individuals
  • SAFE – ‘Supporting, affirming and empowering our LGBTQ friends and family.’
  • AFA – Action for AIDS Singapore
  • Pink Dot SG – Facebook

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Update 17 February 2014:

Pedestrian crossing button

I was surprised to come across this. It put a smile on my face. I thought it was such a great idea. Besides the usual button for pedestrians to press, there is an added feature for the elderly.

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The flash of my camera obliterated the fading ‘L’ in ‘longer’.

Just by tapping a card, It allows them to have the longer time they may need to cross the road. Or at least, some of them. I think the purple card displayed in the graphic sign refers to the concession farecard that people aged 60 and above can apply for to use on trains and buses. I don’t suppose everyone in the age group owns that farecard.

Also, it’s curious that wheelchair users are also featured in the graphic sign. I don’t see how they could have the card unless they happen to be 60 and above as well. I wonder if they have the option to apply for a similar concession farecard?

It’s a clever little thing, with great sweet thought behind its design. Especially in this day and age when sometimes we seem to be rushing here and there for God knows what. Like everyone else, I’ve witnessed before an elderly person still slowly making his or her way across by the time the pedestrian light has turned red. I would think most motorists are kind and understanding enough, but it’s nice that the elderly person can be less anxious about not reaching the other side yet, if he or she can have just a bit more time.

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This post is Day 14 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: appreciative

I love our wheelchair-accessible buses

I’m not a wheelchair user, and neither do I have family or friends who use one, but it makes me happy to no end that there are buses in Singapore that cater to wheelchair users. It moves me and fills me with pride, frankly.

Sometimes I take the bus (I take the train most of the time) and when at the bus-stop I witness this particular function of the bus being used by someone who needs it, it just makes me feel all light and happy, every single time.

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When a wheelchair user wants to get on or off the bus, the driver leaves his seat to unfold the ramp at the door located at the middle of the bus. He keeps the other door at the front of the bus shut first to attend to the wheelchair user, and I guess also so that no one gets in without paying :-)

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Then he personally makes sure the wheelchair user gets in or out safely. Inside the bus there is a special area near the door designed to accomodate wheelchairs securely.

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The height of the bus stop’s kerb works with the ramp function of the bus.

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Viewed from inside the bus, this is what the ramp looks like folded back in.

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A blue square sign on the lower right side of the windshield indicates a bus is wheelchair-accessible.

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This post is Day 1 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: beaming with pride

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Update 25 Jan 2014: Oh my God, this post was kindly shared on the Disabled People’s Association Singapore’s Facebook, thanks to Alvan the admin of the page. I’m so flattered, and it puts another big smile on my face. What a a great way to start this ‘100 Happy Days‘ project!

Many thanks too to the people behind The Singapore Daily, for featuring a link to this post to share it with their other readers!