Monday, November 07, 2011

In Memory of Yvonne

Memorial Service for Yvonne on 4 November 2011.

Yvonne’s heart failed suddenly last Saturday.  At 29, she shocked us with her early departure, just as she surprised us with her early arrival back in 1982.

In life, Yvonne had more than her fair share of challenges. From birth she was diagnosed with a narrowing of the aorta of her heart, which was surgically corrected when she was five. 

She was of a short stature and had a youthful appearance that led her to be treated as younger than she really was.  This had often caused her distress, even though we told her we would prefer to be in her position.  She was highly introverted and had no patience for social niceties. 

Nevertheless Yvonne went on to do well in primary and high schools. At school and university, she showed her mathematical inclinations: she was able to whiz through complex calculations when others slaved on them; understandably, she went on to major in Statistics. 

Yvonne did not have high aspirations; she just wanted to be like everybody else. She had difficulties impressing job interviewers, but in the few jobs she had, she enjoyed - especially the one-year stint in Singapore in 2006. 

Despite the rejections, Yvonne harboured few fears. She did not shy away from many activities that others perceived as risky or unsafe, such as riding on the Sydney public transport at night or walking around Harlem on her own.  She had taken part in activities that many would avoid, like riding on a hot air balloon in the Grand Canyon and hanging on a paraglider in New Zealand. 

Her pet city was New York, and when we showed little interest in taking her, she made the first trip all by herself some years ago.  She sought to live her life to the fullest in her own quiet way.

Yvonne detested comments about her still living at home at 29, implying that she was a dependent, somewhat like a child. In reality, Yvonne had for years been fiercely pursuing an independent life, within a cooperative household. She insisted on preparing and having her meals separate from us and only joined us on our invitation for conversations. She performed her own household chores like washing and caring for her cat Gilly. And, although she led a quiet social life, she went out periodically on her own without telling us where she went. 

Earlier, she was frustrated when she failed to pass her driving tests after several attempts. When she failed again for driving too slowly, she angrily refused to sit for further tests. Two years ago she relented and passed at the first new attempt. She had been enjoying the freedom of a small car since. 

Yvonne died while listening to music, one of her passions. She played the piano as well as a range of special recorders.  She enjoyed a wide range of music types and her audio CD collection could make a library proud.

She enjoyed travels and over the past two decades, she had visited many places in Asia, Europe and North America, sometimes on her own.  While travelling, she exhausted her companions by packing in as many activities, events and sights as possible. It was as though she knew her time was limited.  In retrospect, that might be why she never bothered to shut cupboard doors.

She had a passion for food too, ranging from her own creations in the kitchen to good restaurants in town. In the past year, she found the discipline to enjoy food in moderation. She altered her lifestyle and dramatically trimmed back her weight to no more than that of the average person. She gained much fitness through diligent participation at Jazzercise and long walks.

Music, travel and food were Yvonne’s passions and she was engaged in all of them during the last three weeks of her life. She had also just completed her Master of Applied Finance degree for which she scored either distinction or high distinction in every single subject and earned mention in the Dean’s Merit List. 

She was looking forward to her graduation in December. 

We could truly say the past three weeks was a high point in her life.

It seemed to us that God had intended to lend Yvonne to us for less than thirty years, and had taken her back after giving her one last treat.

 We miss you Yvonne.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Venice was our starting and ending point of our cruise. We arrived a few days early even though Venice is not my favourite city. This time, being accommodated away from St Marks square and near the more livable Cannaregio district, we saw the more attractive aspects of the canal city.

Here the obligatory photo of the Rialto Bridge taken from the public water transport.

 Dad and I with the Grand Canal in the background.

Pigeon galore at St Marks Square.
 , , , but we did not see this sign before we fed the birds.

The vibrant Cannaregio district.

More photos from Venice here

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Deck

After years of neglect and another few more of dodging holes, we finally decided to stop living dangerously and had the old deck replaced.  We also took the opportunity to have some gutterings replaced. All that remains now is some painting to be done.

Foundations and ramework.
Another view.

Finished decking immediately tested by a heavy downpour.

Access from carport.

Another view of the near-finished deck.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Uluru sunset

The colours of Uluru at sunset I recorded with my camera and pieced together by Windows Movie Maker.

Sunset at Uluru, Central Australia from Kin-Mun Kan on Vimeo.

King's Canyon sunset sequence

Sequence of colours at King's Canyon pieced together with Windows Movie Maker.

Sunset at King's Canyon, Central Australia from Kin-Mun Kan on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Red Centre


I was excited by the prospect of returning to Ayers Rock and The Olgas, now Uluru and Kata Tjuta, after 41 years. It was even more so for Kay and Yvonne who had not been there before.

We flew directly from Sydney to Uluru on a Qantas 767 jet, quite a change from 1970 when I did it on a single engine plane for the 300 km journey from Alice Springs, as a faster alternative then to a long coach ride over unsealed road.

Click here for more photos of Uluru and Kata Tjuta

As we wanted to travel on to King’s Canyon and Alice Springs as well, we picked up a 4WD at the Uluru airport. The vehicle provided us with the means of commuting between Yulara (where we stayed) and Uluru and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) several times over the three-day stay, for walks, sunset photography, and the cultural centre.

The image of Uluru is probably as iconic as the Coca Cola logo, but no matter how familiar one is with it, the first encounter with the real thing still inspires the visitor with awe, which it did for us on our first view as we drove towards it.

We respected the wishes of the traditional owners and did not attempt to climb the rock, though the steep initial ten or twenty metres that had no guiding rails could possibly have deterred us anyway. 

We did take the 10km round trip walk that was quite easy as the track was flat and well finished with elevated walkways in parts, a hike that took us about 3 ½ hours including some side diversions to view waterholes and small caves featuring old aboriginal wall paintings. The weather was good with warm winter sunshine at most parts, but parts sheltered by the rock or vegetation retained the cold, as night temperatures drop to near freezing at this time of the year. 

Apart from the beauty of the Rock, the colours were stunning with the red soil, the colours of the clear blue skies and the surrounding desert vegetation after a good wet season of recent months. There was also a surprising abundance of birdlife.

Click here for more photos on wildlife in the Red Centre.

Accommodation at Yulara

All tourist facilities are now contained within a well established resort, the Ayers Rock Resort, at Yulara, some ten minutes drive away from the Rock. It provides a wide range of accommodation types and includes a small shopping centre for those who prefer self catering, quite unlike my previous visit when an air strip and a single rundown motel sat in incongruous close proximity to the monolith.

Without any food preparation facilities (since we opted for motel type accommodation at the Desert Garden Hotel), we were largely at the mercy of the sole café in the day and a single restaurant at night at the shopping centre, apart from the rather posh restaurants in the hotels that would have set up back even further. We did discover later a more basic style of dining at another location in the resort, but nowhere could one escape the high cost of tourism at such a remote location.

Click here for more photos on the Yulara Ayers Rock Resort.

Kata Tjuta

Situated some 40km way and also part of the same National Park, Kata Tjuta, or The Olgas, is a much larger structure rising out of the flat land.  In many ways, Kata Tjuta is even more striking in appearance especially from the viewing site a few kilometres away. 

It was certainly more challenging for us in our walks when we had to clamber over uneven grounds strewn with rocks weathered from its many complex domes.  Our walk to the first lookout of the Valley of Winds tired us out and we decided not to push on to the next one, which we regretted in hindsight. The walk to the Walpa Gorge was somewhat easier.

Click here for more photos of Uluru and Kata Tjuta

King’s Canyon

If Uluru was remote, King’s Canyon was even more so, being another 200 odd km away to the north via good sealed road.  As we had only two nights at the King’s Canyon resort, we spent the afternoon of arrival on the relatively easier walk along the King’s Canyon Gorge, leaving the more challenging Canyon rim walk to the full day we had.

Click here for more photos on King's Canyon. 
We were warned about the climb to the rim of King’s Canyon and indeed from the first look the stony stairs cut out of fractured rocky surface looked difficult if not dangerous. However, once we started on the climb the following morning, we managed it quite well as the stairs were prepared well, with no loose stones that could give way on our steps. Indeed in many parts throughout the walk, the paths were built out of the natural rocks, cleverly cemented together for safety but without distracting from the natural surroundings.   The track brought us through fractured rocky structures, close to the cliff edges with panoramic views of the valleys below, and in parts deep into the valley such as The Garden of Eden. It took us a fairly exhausting 3 ½ hours, ending with a steep descent back to the car park.

Like Yulara, there was limited but good accommodation facilities at King’s Canyon.

Hermansburg on the road to Alice Springs
The reason we chose a 4WD vehicle was our intention to visit Hermansburg via the Mereenie Loop a stretch of 100 odd kilometres of unsealed road.  (To travel from King’s Canyon to Alice Springs on good sealed road would be a much longer in distance, more than 400km).

 The bumpy ride to Hermansburg convinced more than ever that the roads the 4WDs are designed for do not exist in cities like Sydney, quite apart from the difficult of manoeuvring into car parking lots and poor rear vision.   And I certainly would not want my car to run on that kind of road, even if I owned a 4WD; there must surely be significant vehicular deterioration after that stretch alone.

It was interesting to visit the restored buildings of the old Lutheran Mission at Hermansburg, which was also the birth place of the renowned Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira. The sad life of Namatjira reflect the plight of the indigenous peoples, a situation that one cannot but be confronted with when visiting the Northern Territory or even any remote towns in Australia.

We had wanted to visit Palm Valley, a small valley of lush vegetation created by the microclimate of its sheltered location. However, we became discouraged when we found that the road to the valley was of extreme ruggedness requiring not just a 4WD vehicle, but some skills and experience in using it , none of which we possess.  Instead, we headed straight into Alice Springs, admiring the majestic McDonnell ranges as we drove along.

Click here for more photos on Hermansburg and the road leading to the town. 

Alice Springs

For me the name conjured the romantic remoteness of a beautiful town as well described by Neville Shute. Forty one years ago, it was certainly so, with low rise shops that grew busy in the evenings as stockmen, many of whom were aboriginals, called in to meet and chat over drinks.  Today, Alice has many modern buildings, banks, a mall and shopping centres not unlike other Australian cities. The Todd River was still dry, but number of indigenous people seemed fewer, and none were found grouping under the trees on the dry bed of the river.

There were many historic and iconic places to visit.  Our first stop at the old Telegraph Station brought a major surprise for me, for it coincided with the annual meeting of the old telegraph operators who reactivated the communication by Morse Code telegraph link between Alice Springs and Adelaide. It bought back memories of my signalling experience during Scouting days, and also incurred my high admiration for the two long retired technicians, likely octogenarians, who could still send and receive the Codes at lightning speeds. They were even deciphering short messages without writing them down!

There was also a chance encounter at the historic site with an aboriginal man who was one of the “stolen generations” (“half caste” children taken from or given away by their mother) and kept in one of the buildings near the Telegraph Office.   He eagerly explained, without anger or regret, the facts of his past, and pointed out to us himself as a young child of 4 or 5, in a group photo taken at the site in 1935. It highlighted to us, not just the harsh reality of life for a young child, but also the difficulty of coming to terms in consensus manner for other Australians today with this controversial past.

The rest of the two full days we had in Alice Springs we were able to fill with visits to places that demonstrated positive events and achievements. The Desert Park had an excellent collection of flora and fauna for the range of desert habitats. The bird show was interesting, with galahs, kites, a falcon and even barn owl appearing on cue, seemingly flying in from the wild. Kay and I visited the centre for the Flying Doctors Service while Yvonne went to the Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame. At the School of the Air, it was most encouraging to see the use of the Internet for the online education of children in remote locations.  It was an appropriate conclusion for our Central Australian visit.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Day at the Hort Park

Photos taken some months ago at the Horticultural Park, Singapore.

Apart from the flowers and trees, some rather unusual,

There were flower pots that were more artistic than functional, perhaps . . .

There were local fauna not commonly sighted in the city, this reptile was half way through shedding its skin.

And if one is bored, there are other attractions, such as this tricky ball maze that we all participated in.

It was a hot day, but we all enjoyed the visit !

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Planets in conjunction

It doesn't seem like much on the photo, but it was a major effort on my part to wake up an hour before sunrise (hours before my usual wakeup time) on a cold, late autumn morning to view this rare event when four planets move visually close together. Highest up was Jupiter, lower and brightest was Venus. To the right was my first ever sight of Mercury (small and nearest to the sun, surprisingly bright) and low down in the horizon, a faint glimpse of Mars.  Click on the image for a larger view.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Smithfield" and Pete's 60th

We went on planes, trains and automobile in getting to "Smithfield" near Ilfracombe, Queensland,  for Pete's 60th birthday party.  Apart from the variety of the long journey through a range of towns and cities, there were experience of life at the property and interesting visits to the attractions of Longreach and Barcaldine.

Yvonne on the 4WD.

Flying out of Brisbane (on the way home).

Tilt train to Rockhampton.

Very nearly there after 8 hours, road to "Smithfield".

Pete and his birthday cake.

Longreach's Stockman's Hall of Fame.

Barcaldine's Tree of Knowledge.

Alpecas at "Smithfield".

Glorious sunsets at "Smithfield"

"Smithfield" (Ilfracombe, QLD) Panorama from Kin-Mun Kan on Vimeo.

For more photos, click on Pete's 60th , "Smithfield"  and "Longreach and Barcaldine" .

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Singapore Elections 2011

Elections time in Singapore . . . .

Large crowd at Workers Party rallies, including this one at Ubi Avenue with thousands standing on wet field soggy from heavy downpour earlier in the day.

PAP's rally at Tampines Stadium was well orchestrated. . . .

Marine Parade featured the battle of the two stars - PAP's Tin Pei Ling and NSP's Nicole Seah.

and East Coast had Workers Party's heavyweights against the sitting members.