Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Unk Dicko and The Garden Minstrels ..appearing on Sun 3 Oct 2010


Unk Dicko and The Garden Minstrels - 22 Sep 2010
We have our regular Singalong every Wednesday at The Serangoon. Presently I have prepared 2 solid File holders of very lovely songs with different
backgrounds.

The members are free to request for songs as they flip through the pages.
At every session, I will also launch
into some songs that are not in the files...just to gauge the reaction to that particular song. Some members also request for songs from memory. We had quite a number of these and it was great fun to try to recollect the lyrics just from memory. I must say we haven't done too badly in that department.
Soon, I might encourage the group members to try 'harmonising" in parts...if they are not too shy.
There is so much possibility and promise with this newly formed group.

At our regular Wednesday night Singalong



Our next major challenge is happening on Sunday 3 October 2010 where we will be entertaining the crowd at the Sg Gardens Hari Raya Celebrations. That will be on stage in the Hall at the Serangoon.
The event is at night starting around 7 pm. Do come along and hear some really super old, super good, keroncong songs that I have taught to the Minstrels in the past couple of weeks.
The music and beat may just prove too irresistible for some not to step forward and "joget" away...of course with their partners.
I have a medley of nice songs in English, Malay and Indonesian prepared for the night beside the keroncong tunes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

SILVER INFOCOMM DAY 2010...Opening Day

Last Sunday, 19 September 2010, the Annual Silver Infocomm Day ( SID ), a huge IT event specially
catering to the senior citizens, was held at the Singapore Poly. More than 6000 people were present.  The Guest of Honour Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Ag Minister, Ministry of Information,
Communications & the Arts, gave the Opening Address.
Unk Dicko was invited as a special guest to this event.

In 2008, I was greatly honoured to be awarded the first-ever ACTIVE  AGERS INFOCOMM
CHAMPION AWARD ...the award was sponsored by The IDA (Infocomm Devt Authority of Singapore ) and presented under the auspices of the C3A ( Council of Third Age ).
As a follow up to that, Unk Dicko was invited to give 2 public Talks at the SID 2008, also held at the S'pore Poly then, as well as other public engagements under C3A and IDA.
Last year I was away in Europe and could not make it to the SID 2009

                            

The Official Flyer that came with my invitation
Towards the end of his Opening Address, it was a pleasant surprise that my name was mentioned when he referred to " inspiring role models " etc.
I did not expect to be so recognised and still remembered. 
Live Video Conferencing with another Hall in the Poly


ll

Singapore Poly

There was ample parking space for the event in the spacious grounds of  S'pore Poly.

Therese Lim, Google's Head of Communications S E Asia

  Therese Lim, the Head of Communications for Google S E Asia, gave an insightful talk with lots
of hands on practical tips about GOOGLE search engine itself.
I met up with her during our lunch reception and
expressly told her, " Google search engine is my best friend!  Without discovering Google and learning from it, I would not be where I am today."
Considering who she is, she was pleased as punch to hear that.
A few people came up to me to say hello and introduce themselves. All said they still remember me from 2008, including a few reporters !
Media Interview



After his Opening Speech, I was invited to view the exhibits together with Minister and CEO
of IDA Ronnie Tay and others.
Therese Anne Lim, Head Communications ( Google S E Asia )







The Talk About Google by Therese Anne Lim


This is a portion of the Speech by Ag Minister Lui Tuck Yew
Enhancing access to infocomm learning and resources



Besides providing training opportunities, IDA also works with partners to enhance senior citizens’ access to infocomm resources through the Silver Infocomm Hotspots (SIHs). These Hotspots at various locations such as community clubs and wellness centres, provide seniors with free access to computers and Internet services. IDA plans to set up a total of 100 Silver Infocomm Hotspots islandwide by March 2013. I am pleased to note that good progress is being made in the rollout, with some 31 Hotspots operational since the first quarter of 2010.


Word-of-mouth and peer influence to promote infocomm
As word-of-mouth and peer influence are important ways in which senior citizens can get to learn about ICT and its benefits, IDA has initiated the “Each One Teach One” movement where seniors pledge to pass on their IT knowledge to family members and peers by filling up a pledge card stating their commitment.


Another novel approach is the introduction of Intergenerational IT Bootcamps where grandparents attend infocomm workshops together with their grandchildren. Such bootcamps achieve the twin objectives of enhancing infocomm literacy among senior citizens, while strengthening inter-generational bonding.


At the individual level, it is important for senior citizens to have inspiring role models that they can look up to in their infocomm journey. In the past Silver Infocomm Days, we had shared about various role models such as Mr Dick Yip, a retired teacher who has embraced infocomm and imparted his knowledge to fellow seniors, and Mr Sam Liu, who volunteers actively with RSVP as a course trainer. Other seniors who have been active in training seniors include Mr Gabriel Muthusamy, whom I mentioned earlier; Mr Harry Lo, a trainer with CARE, as well as Mr Chow Kwong Sing, who conducts IT training in Mandarin for RSVP and is very popular amongst the seniors. They, and many others like them, serve as an inspiration to the rest of us to seek and to share the knowledge of infocomm.




Live Media  Interview by Ag Minister Lui Tuck Yew


Sunday, September 26, 2010

You Will Never Grow Old...original NKC on video !


Those of you who have no idea or knowledge about this song certainly cannot be blamed.
Most people even my age or older know this song not too.
But among those who do like my good friend Unk Thoo Yang ( 88 years young now !) and Eddie
an online friend from Hong Kong and many others....well, they were all searching and looking high
and low for an original record, or CD or mp3 for a mighty long time.


Unk Dicko too was among the 'searchers' doing so independently of the others.
My exhaustive search on the internet for just this single song led me from one commercial music website to another...all wanting to sell you the music score etc. Not exactly what I was looking for back then.
Others had it but you have to place your "orders" using your credit card. Not too sure they are even
reliable.
However, my search adventure on the internet to locate this incredible and lovely song did not
go to waste for the time spent. Though the result was unfruitful...something else better took place.
And this is a Lesson for everyone who is reading this.
As the old saying goes, " Behind every cloud there's a silver lining ".
Even though I was disappointed I decided to blog about my "fruitless search" experience.
Click HERE to read that post.


Not too long after that blogpost, a most kind-hearted gentleman doing the same search saw my Post
highlighted on the Google search engine. His name is Eddie, also a senior retired professional living
in Hong Kong. He contacted me at this blogsite and we exchanged our email adresss.
Sometime later, that "silver lining" came.
Eddie managed to get a full mp3 of NKC's YWNGO from an old friend and sent it to me.
He then uploaded it to his blogsite at VOX.
( VOX service is closing permanently on 30 Sept 2010 ).
And it was also Eddie who "tipped" me off about this being on Youtube yesterday.
Thanks Eddie.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An impromptu Ukulele Jamming session

  When we came off the pavillion, a pretty lady came towards me and said,
"Hi..I'm J. You remember me? "
 I said, " Sure I do. "
J is a regular visitor of this blog and has contributed her comments too but we have not met before.
So it was nice to meet up with her and other family members, quite a few who came with their
ukuleles. During our performance they were seated at the rear corner.

It was about a week before the event that J contacted me by email asking if I conducted Ukulele
lessons privately. When she learnt that I do coach, she put me in touch with some who wanted to
learn...including a nephew of hers.
I suggested for them to come along to the event with their ukes so that I could spend time
with them after our gig was over.
That was what happened. It was ukulele music again at another corner with 5-6
ukes.
They were a most enthusiastic bunch of people.
One of them Jenn, asked if I could play for them " Somewhere Over The Rainbow" the
version by Israel Kamakawiwole, the great ukulele player himself.
I did.
And she was so excited...asking me to show/ teach her the strumming pattern and style.
I did.

It was nice meeting up with them folks!
I am sure we'll meet again.

A blog visitor of mine J,  brought along a small party of
Ukulele enthusiasts to meet me      

L to R:  Edmond, Richard, Chong, Bernie, Anthony, Judy, Unk Dicko, R Chee

A family party came with ukuleles to meet up with me

An Enchanting Night of Music and Songs

For our very first performance, approximately 30 minutes plus a few minutes
were allotted to us. Knowing that in advance, I planned for a medley of songs
which linked up nicely from one to the next...rather than do, say 6 complete songs
all at one go in the given time. There was more variety and made it all the more
interesting from our local Malay songs, to a soothing country beat, to those happy
as a lark camping songs, then the enchanting calypso beat, back to native songs,
and ending with the captivating 'moon' tunes. 

For the record here is the complete list of the songs, 19 in all.
Medley 1... Gelang, Di Tg Katong, Chan Mali Chan, Burong Kaka.
Medley 2... A selection of Hank Williams country hits:  Cold Cold Heart,
Take These Chains, Half as Much, I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You,
Please Help Me I'm Falling, Your Cheating Heart.
Medley 3... The Happy Wanderer, Pack Up Your Troubles, Tipperary.
Medley 4...  Marianne, Banana Boat Song.
Medley 5.... Dayung Sampan, Leron Leron Sinta ( Philippines ).
Medley 6.... Silvery Moon, Carolina Moon.

The songs went down very well with the crowd. There was something for
everyone including the many Filipina maids who enjoyed 'Leron Leron Sinta'.
The Minstrels providing the soothing sounds




A section of the enthusiastic audience with their kids


Another section of the appreciative crowd with songsheets in hand

It was a multi-ethnic crowd of young, seniors and elderly


A loving father pointing out the lyrics to his daughter


They were actually singing and clapping along


A memorable night for everyone



Friday, September 24, 2010

Unk Dicko and the Garden Minstrels...part 2

Today, for this particular blogpost, I'm trying out the new features and format just offered by Blogger.
This include the new browser window for editing and for uploading pictures from our saved files.
I must confess I'm as new to this as anyone. It'll take a little more time to get used to this new format.
Nothing has changed basically except that it's supposed to be more user-friendly.
Imagine you are driving a manual car and now convert to driving the same car but with automatic
transmission.
That's about it. But still practice is required. And I am to learn to be adept at this new format by
experimenting on my own. What I did was start a sample blogpost including photos etc..and make
all kinds of changes to that "test" post by testing out various "buttons" on the edit header.
Sure, all kinds of mistakes were made...but I am learning in the process.
So this  post is the result of that initial experiment. Still working out how to "format" it properly!

Last Saturday saw a maximum turnout at Hwan Gardens, Serangoon Gardens for the Mid-AutumnFestival Celabrations.
It was opened to residents and others in the nice and peaceful neighbourhood.
Not surprising to see many Europeans among the appreciative crowd. Many now live there and it is certainly a good sign they have immersed themselves in the community we live in.

The participants were given goodie bags with that most important item...special battery operated lanterns that come with music! In the past we used lighted candles which caused much sorrow to the kids when the lanterns caught fire accidentally. This way, no danger of setting off any fire in public too.

Mrs Lim Hwee Hua giving her Welcome Address







The Chairman of the event Mr John Leow speaking


Lion Dance Performance / Welcome for VIP   


These pair of twins will remember this night for a long time.



Unk Dicko's grandson enjoying himself



















With the help of the CC, I have prepared songsheets with lyrics for distribution to all the guests. That was very useful for them to sing along with us as we started our medley of songs.
of old time songs.

The Emcee introducing the Garden Minstrels for the very 1st time
                                       with these words
" DICK YIP and THE GARDEN MINSTRELS
This newly formed musical Singalong Group, comprises seniors mainly from
Serangoon Gardens -
3 Ukulele players, I guitarist, several percussionists and passionate singers.
The Group is founded and led by Dick Yip, a veteran Ukulelist and singer.
In 1988, as the Leader of Serangoon Gardens historic
Singalong Group and under Dick's truly inspiring leadership,
Serangoon Gardens was crowned NATIONAL CHAMPIONS in the 1st island-
wide SING SINGAPORE COMPETITION.
That Outstanding Achievement cemented Serangoon Gardens' status in the history of local music.
The Garden Minstrels preparing for their Performance
 "

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unk Dicko & the Garden Minstrels...part 1


Dick Yip and the Garden Minstrels entertaining a crowd of
more than 500 people at the Hwan Gardens Mid-Autumn Celebrations
Sat 18 Sept 2010.

Over the last 40 odd years, it was my privilege to have conducted Singalongs for a wide cross-section
of people. They include the community, schools, cubs and scouts, church gatherings, social events, picnics, camps,family get-together, National events...and more.
On many of my overseas trips,I have my ukulele and old songbook with me.
That has provided untold joy to many connected to my travels.
What a journey and experience it has all turned out to be.

What I discovered a long time ago by simple observation is this; many people like to sing ( but not alone)
especially songs they know and love. In any kind of gathering , the simple act of getting everyone to join
in a Singalong at whichever point in time, always increases the camaraderie, group spirit and therefore
the eventual SUCCESS for that event.

Early last year, out of the blue, I received a call from 87 year old "grand owl" uncle Tan Thoo Yang checking up on this much younger owl. He asked if I was still making music and singing the blues away. When I told him that singing and making music will always be a permanent and important part of my life...he let out that it was pretty much the same with him. As a matter of fact, he was still the Leader of the Kg Kembangan CC English Singalong Group, one which he had set up over 2 decades ago! I have done a number of blogposts about my being invited there to provide Ukulele accompaniment and to teach them songs not found in their song files. Please check them out under my Blog Archives.
Last year, Unk Thoo Yang could still drive. Unfortunately, being 88 this year and with his general health and eyesight not getting any better and having difficulty even walking, he had to give up driving completely. But his passion and zest for what he has been doing all these years has not diminished one bit.
He now books a cab from his home in Sg Gardens to Kembangan and vice-versa on Fridays, which is their
singalong day.
I was thinking of people like him and many other retired folks. Most have much time on their hand, love
getting together to sing and socialise but with no where to do this or anyone to turn to. You will need a regular venue and someone who could organise, know exactly what and how to do it, take charge and preferably be a permanent Leader and not just a temporary catalyst...to make this happen.
That was what occupied my mind in the following months leading to this year.
That was why I spent time re-organising my song and ukulele files this year so that I could prepare new
Singalong Files for what I had in mind.
Once everything was more or less ready, I patiently waited for an opportune time to make a serious
proposal to the CCC of S'goon Gardens.

That day came unexpectedly, with no advance planning at all.
It happened like this.
After our June Vietnam Trip, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, MP for Sg Gardens and a Cabinet Minister, suggested that we have a slideshow of the better photos which many of us had taken individually. She graciously offered to host the event at her home, with dinner included.

So on a Saturday, several weeks later, all the GRLs of Sg Gardens were invited to her place. I was there with wifey D2. It was quite a large gathering that night. The weather was fine and the stars twinkled above as we sat by the poolside for the slideshow. A sumptious buffet dinner followed with much delicious local fare on the table. To top all that, 5 key GRLs had contributed jointly to provide 2 baskets of the very BEST durians available as post-dinner dessert. Everyone, except those "allergic" to the king
of fruits, had a bellyaching time to enjoy so much at one sitting!

What do you do next after such a surfeit of good food with wine and in such good company?
With much time on hand, with no planned programme for the evening other than the slideshow and a large gathering, what indeed? Just engage in idle chat the whole night?
And so it came to pass that the host Mrs Lim H H asked D2 whether I had my Ukulele with me.
When they came to ask me my reply was, " No not here....but I usually keep a ukulele in my car."
I asked, " Would you like to have a Singalong ? "
Answer was a definite " Certainly, that'll be good! ".

I then left the premises and walked to my car parked about 100 m away, got the ukulele
out and made my way back.
With no songsheets prepared, I played some old time favourites to set the sentimental mood.
As expected, most everyone gravitated to the source of the sweet music sounds by the poolside.
After several catchy songs, I stopped and asked if anyone had any song request. Haha...there were too many! In no time at all, soon as a song ended , another song request was proffered.
And it went on and on...until when we finally ended that unplanned Singalong, someone said loudly, " we should do this more often !"
My immediate response was , " WHY not? Would you all like that? I can organise and arrange
a weekly Singalong FOC for our kampong folks. No problem. Just get me a room, a place and leave the rest to me. But some of you must turn up !"
I drafted a proposal by email to CC staff
who brought the matter up for official discussion and approval at the CCC Meeting.
Here is the actual proposal I drafted.

Regular Singalong in English at the SERANGOON
Date: 28 July 2010
Hi Judy,
From the feedback that Daisie and other GRLs have given me, looks like there is enough interest and support to have a once a week Singalong session at our Serangoon.I have conducted such singalong very successfully in the past, when the CC was at the old place in Sg Gardens Way.
The music was provided by me with either a guitar or ukulele.We had some simple percussion instruments too.Later, I started teaching a few of them the guitar before formal lessons were introduced.
Here's my Plan for the proposed Singalong weekly session.
1. Day and Time: Every Wednesday from 8 - 10 pm ( Now it's 7.30 -10 )
2. Venue/Room: Serangoon CC, Room ...any that can seat comfortably 20 -30 for a start. A/con.
3. Song files : For a start, I would have to prepare 1- 2 files of songsheets organised properly in each file. Then CC can duplicate the 2 files of songs. Buy 10 transparent Sakura type files for each set. So for 2 sets we will need 20 files in all for a start. I know 10 files may not be enough for a group of 20 or more. But initially, they can share 2 to 1 file. We can always get more files when it is necessary later. Songfiles are better than fixed songbooks as file content can be changed and upgraded anytime. The Song Files will be kept at the CC in a place easy to retrieve when we have the Singalong.
4. Seating: There must be sufficient chairs for everyone.
5. Music: I will provide most of the music with my Ukuleles. If there is a guitar in the CC, I may use it from time to time. Edmund Tan used to play it too! If we have some percussion instruments in the CC it will be v good. If not, I can help buy some....not expensive.
6. Music stand: I will need at least 2 simple stands to put songsheets/files. If we have fine. If not can order..quite cheap.
7. Refreshments: I think I'll leave it to those involved to suggest for later sessions. So open to any suggestions.
8. Monitoring: Let's have a simple file. Those who come first time will need to fill in their names. Next to their names will be attendance box/line and I will tick if present. This is important to distinguish between "Regulars" and others who just "pop in" for curiosity's sake.
9. For WHOM: Anyone who is genuinely interested in relaxing with singing oldies, evergreens, popular songs in mainly ENGLISH will be welcomed. Priority for seniors, senior citizens among the GRLS first and then others.
10. When start: I am hoping we can kickstart this Singalong next Wednesday night
(4 August). Even if the songfiles are not ready yet by then, not a problem. I'll bring along many of my songbooks, files and with that we can have a pretty good guess what kind of songs others love to sing to. ( Good to know before preparing files).
Getting a good turnout is more important at start.
Regards,
Dick Yip
"The Wise Old Owl"
CCC heartily approved the proposal and I went on an overdrive to prepare for the
very 1st session on Wed 4 August. That night there were only 5 of us...2 ukuleles, 1 guitar and 2 others. Were we disappointed ? None of the GRLs turned up except for D2 and Edmond. D2 thought I must have been very sad. No way, I told her. I was most happy. The next 2 sessions the number hovered around 5 - 6 in all. Then, what I knew would soon happen...happened. When others heard, by word of mouth, about the excellent sessions that were going on every Wednesday with everything provided for FOC and led by yours truly....the numbers started to increase dramatically.
One night we had about 20.
Presently, I have 2 guitarists, 3 ukulele players, and adhoc percussionists. Everyone sings.
Our repertoire of songs is growing weekly.
In this short span of less than 2 months, I have received invitations to perform at 3 public events.
Unk Dicko accepted the Challenge on behalf of my group.
The very 1st event was held last Sat 18 Sept at Hwan Gardens...as the top photo shows.
Our Singalong session in progress.
The guitar I was playing belongs to Edmond Tan who was present.

We have a number of percussion instruments to add "oomph"
to the songs.
Maraccas, castinets, tambourines, bamboo sticks, flat drums.
Anyone wanting to contribute any will be most welcome.



At our regular singalongs, we have lots of good fun and much laughter.
If you can sing pretty well ...you sing!
If you can't sing too well...you ALSO sing!
That's MY way. No one gets chased away. Everyone is truly interested and motivated.
They want to learn, to contribute, to be involved...to lead.
Above all, in time, the Garden Minstrels will know and be able to sing more songs than almost any similar type groups I know of.





Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rare, footage...Japanese Surrender Ceremony!

This is one of the rarest footage of the Japanese Surrender Ceremony on board the USS Missouri presided by Supreme Allied Commander, Gen Douglas MacArthur. Date: 2 Sept 1945.
Many of us were not even born yet.
This special historic footage has been recently released to the public domain.
It is slightly over 8 minutes and comes with official martial music and carries the FULL
speeches made by MacArthur at the beginning of the ceremony and at the end.
It's truly spectacular....very clear, very precise, most poignant reminder of how World War 2
officially ended with the signing by all those listed below in my appendix.
Gen MacArthur ended the proceedings with these words..." officially ending WW2 and may
GOD continue to preserve this peace. "

Unk Dicko's dearest hope and prayer is that, as a blogger, he will not need to write a post in the future that begins with, " The unthinkable has happened; WW3 has just .........! "
( Can you guess why I did not fill in the missing word/s ? )

( PS: Remember to turn off my automatic Jukebox music before you play )


[Gen Douglas MacArthur presiding over the Surrender Ceremony. Photo: Wikipedia ]

[ The signing of the Surrender Document by Japan's representatives. Photo: Wikipedia]

When a single Atomic Bomb was dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945 resulting in the 1st nuclear destruction of the two heavily-populated Japanese cities, it led to the eventual capitulation of Japan. It wasn't until 2nd September 1945 that the formal SURRENDER took place in a historic Ceremony on board the USS Missouri at the Bay of Tokyo.

The Full Text of the Surrender Document


We, acting by command of and on behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions in the declaration issued by the heads of the Governments of the United States, China, and Great Britain 26 July 1945 at Potsdam, and subsequently to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.

We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese Armed Forces and all Armed Forces under Japanese control wherever situated.

We hereby command all Japanese forces wherever situated and the Japanese people to cease hostilities forthwith, to preserve and save from damage all ships, aircraft, and military and civil property, and to comply with all requirements which may be imposed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by agencies of the Japanese Government at his direction.

We hereby command the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters to issue at once orders to the commanders of all Japanese forces and all forces under Japanese control wherever situated to surrender unconditionally themselves and all forces under their control.

We hereby command all civil, military, and naval officials to obey and enforce all proclamations, orders, and directives deemed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to be proper to effectuate this surrender and issued by him or under his authority; and we direct all such officials to remain at their posts and to continue to perform their non-combatant duties unless specifically relieved by him or under his authority.

We hereby undertake for the Emperor, the Japanese Government, and their successors to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration in good faith, and to issue whatever orders and take whatever action may be required by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by any other designated representative of the Allied Powers for the purpose of giving effect to that declaration.

We hereby command the Japanese Imperial Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters at once to liberate all Allied Prisoners of War and civilian internees now under Japanese control and to provide for their protection, care, maintenance, and immediate transportation to places as directed.

The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the State shall be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender.

Signed at TOKYO BAY, JAPAN at 09.04 on the SECOND day of SEPTEMBER, 1945
Mamoru ShigemitsuBy Command and in behalf of the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese Government
Yoshijirō UmezuBy Command and in behalf of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters
Accepted at TOKYO BAY, JAPAN at 0908 on the SECOND day of SEPTEMBER, 1945, for the United States, Republic of China, United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and in the interests of the other United Nations at war with Japan.
Douglas MacArthurSupreme Commander for the Allied Powers
C.W. NimitzUnited States Representative
Hsu Yung-Ch'angRepublic of China Representative
Bruce FraserUnited Kingdom Representative
Kuzma DerevyankoUnion of Soviet Socialist Republics Representative
Thomas BlameyCommonwealth of Australia Representative
L. Moore CosgraveDominion of Canada Representative
Jacques LeclercProvisional Government of the French Republic Representative
C.E.L. HelfrichKingdom of the Netherlands Representative
Leonard M. IsittDominion of New Zealand Representative


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saigon...Shopping, Fixed Price? You need to Bargain!

Through out the entire trip, our group had only limited spare time to shop. And since shopping is always one of the top items on the travel agenda of Singaporeans anytime, anywhere...that last morning was no exception. Practically everyone wanted to prove that point to be true, as always!
As it was a "free and easy" morning to departure time ( 2 hours later ), not really that much time for crazy Singaporeans with a buying frenzy, we headed for the nearest market mall within walking distance ( about 10 minutes away ).
D2 and I with another friend were the last 3 to arrive at this market mall ( Photo below).

The first thing that struck me was the several of the Signboards that declared " FIXED PRICE"
displayed overhead prominently. It was meant to say that all the items on sale are as priced or as indicated. No bargaining !? Huh...I could not and never believe such signs no matter where they
are found. I speak wholly from long and past experience.
It's quite misleading...so don't be taken in by such.
As we meandered through the narrow paths between rows and rows of stalls, D2 and I were touted by various sales people, each spouting out their offers for this and that. Some spoke broken English, others in good French. Quite a number could speak Mandarin. None spoke to us
in local Vietnamese. Obviously we Singaporeans can be spotted from afar as distinctly different, somehow.
We passed several smaller parties from our Group at different stalls. Some have already made purchases while others are still unsure about the "right price " of intended items.

Sensing this, I reminded D2 not to finalise any purchase until I was present.
Unlike the others, Unk Dicko does not enjoy shopping very much. However, when it comes to
the business of "Bargaining" especially with a "hardnut" stallholder for anything that someone
really wanted...well that's totally different. I enjoy that aspect very much, believe it or not!
I relish it as a challenge of a different kind.
Most people are too shy or to put it bluntly, too " thin-skinned" to be seen bargaining, perhaps
fearful of getting an embarassing belittling or being scolded or insulted by the stallkeepers.
Can't blame anyone who thinks like this.
It has happened many times before especially to people who know little about the art and skill
of bargaining.

Here D2 has selected a beautiful "ao dai "to test market the price. I whispered to her that if she really like the cut, material and style.. she should get a few more pieces and other items before
I rise to the challenge.
We got all she wanted at a very good price, way below the "Fixed price".

See the Vietnamese wide hat on her head and my large grin. There's a reason and story
behind that. As we continued our walk within, we met a party of our friends having a hard time
bargaining with a stallholder. They wanted to buy some hats as shown and was close to concluding the "final" mutually ageed price.
As I listened in, I just could not believe the price for the hat. It was quoted in thousands of dongs
using a calculator to confuse the buyer lah !
Then when someone asked for the price in US $ ... it was about $18.
No choice. No diddling. No hiding.
Up stepped Unk Dicko right smack into the midst of that bargaining session.
I said to all of them, " Don't worry. Allow me to help you get what you want at the LOWEST
Price possible. Let me do the bargaining for you. "
They nodded and were only too pleased!
First thing I did was to take hold of the hat and look at it very closely, checking whether
it was a fine work of art or just a reasonable souvenir. Having made my accurate assessment, I then asked very politely of the stall holder what was the lowest price he'll offer to me.
He punched out the figure using the calculator. I was aghast and most unimpressed.
I knew his previous stated price in American $ ( super over inflated ).
Then, knowing that many of these stall holders are not that familiar with our Sg currency beyond
hearing about its excellent reputation ( better than the $ US ! ).... I asked the stallholder if I paid in Sing dollars, " How much you want? ".
His reply , " Ok , if use Singapore dollar ...Two dollars ".
There you have it!
Can you understand and figure out what was behind the stallholder's mind earlier in the light
of his most unexpected response of $2 for the hat?
If you can and do, I welcome you into the Wise Owl fraternity...at least, where the art of bargaining is concerned.
That's the story of the hat on D2's head. Soon, a lot of Sing 2$ were frantically being dugged out from wallets and pockets. All the heads under those hats were very happy, I know.
Mr KS Chua was another "beneficiary" of the hat bargaining episode.
Btw, the hat was of excellent craftsmanship.
Later when we were at the airport, I checked the price of similar hats on
sale at the Souvenirs counter.
Guess what amount was stated on the price labels?
Between $8 to $10 in American currency!
Another of my successful bargaining outcomes at this stall
saw many of us come out with a truly "Win-Win" result.
The stallholder was most pleased and so were we.

Just before we all left for the airport, Mr Andy Lim and Mrs Lim Hwee Hua
( S'pore Cabinet Minister ) came to wish us "bon voyage" and for a
memorable snapshot.






Friday, September 17, 2010

Saigon...an early morning stroll

On the last day of our Vietnam trip I was up early as a lark. Too early for the morning breakfast,
I decided to take a solo morning walk around the vicinity of our hotel. It's always interesting to explore sections of a city at different times of a day.
There I was before the city dwellers had stirred from their previous night's slumber.
I attracted some curious stares from some early birds as I looked at how a city slowly awakens.

Most shops were not opened for business yet. That would come later. The streets seemed empty
of the usual dense traffic. I was able to cross the road and streets without any problem. What I saw and felt reminded me very much of what Singapore used to be maybe 3 decades or more ago. There's an old world charm still alive in the city of Saigon where the humdrum of daily living carries on as the city struggles towards modernisation.


Here you see a tall building, still under construction as a future hotel.
This hotel should come with all the modern facilities and comfort as we know it today.
But the neighbourhood and surrounding vicinity will not enjoy the same degree of re-making...yet.
It will require a lot more foreign capital and investments to transform the existing infrastructure.
In this connection, Singapore has played a major part in helping Vietnam to get into the global grid.

As I continued walking the paved sidewalks along the streets, I was hoping to see some street pedlars of food,
of souvenirs or just about anything. But it was not to be. Either I was too early or another reason
prevailed. Asking around, I discovered that the local authorities in their planning, had ensured that such neighbourhoods where there is a large concentration of upscale hotels should be free from hawkers and street pedlars..most of whom are illegal.
Sounded like S'pore when our Hawkers and Markets Dept went on constant raids and ambushes
to catch our own illegal hawkers. I'm certain many of us older ones have witnessed countless episodes of such incidents in the past.


After my leisurely wandering, I returned to the hotel for a quick breakfast before hitting
the streets again...this time headed for the local Market place.
By then, traffic had picked up somewhat as you can see.
Today, helmets for all motorcyclists and pillion riders are compulsory.
But I noticed most of the helmets being used are shaped like a hat.
They are not the stringent types we are using in S'pore.