Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Unique Street Trades at Waterloo Street

I have written about Waterloo Street before on the famed Kwan Im Tong Hood Cho Temple and the Sri Krishnan Temple. I still got some photos of the area not yet posted. They are photos of “unique street trades” in Singapore. I wanted to highlight them separately because some of them are disappearing soon as there are no young people taking over them.

Ok, these are not exactly "unique street trades" that I wanted to highlight, but I posted these street performers' photo here out of respect. They are amazing. These ladies wore plastic-like clothing and stood under the hot sun to imitate statues. Once they got into certain position, they seldom moved. Occassionally, when people give them some money, they would bowed in robotic-like motion.

I must say the money which they earned qualify as hard-earned money. Firstly, I don't think their clothes are breathable and imagine that you have to stand under the hot sun in it for a few hours. Uncomfortable right? I am amazed that they don't get heat stroke. Furthermore, they don't even move... It must be very taxing on their body and confirmed get muscle-ache after that. Sweaty and sticky under your clothes and your painted face oily... If it was me, I will just cry.

Another street performer. This man is not a normal guy. He is a handicap man - blind. Like the statues ladies, he too had to stand for hours under the sun, singing along with his guitar accompaniment. I also find him amazing. Normal people will probably think that there is nothing great about singing and playing guitar. I agreed. When you play one song, there is hardly any difficulty. However, this man probably sings at least 30-40 songs per day. He actually has to remember both the songs’ lyrics and chords… Now that is an amazing feat.

I love music and actually taught myself from book on how to play electronic keyboard. It wasn’t easy. Like guitar, you have to remember the chords i.e. C, G, Am, G7, B etc in order to play the song smoothly. For one song, there are likely to be 5 to 6 interchangeably. I practised till I could play the song without looking at the chord book, but I can never sing along while I was playing. Thus, I really respect people like them who could play and sing at the same time.
The next time you see them, please do drop some money for them.

Fortune tellers along Waterloo street. I never approached them before, thus not sure whether they are accurate or not. Of course, people who do not believed in them will probably treat them as soothsayers. However, I did hear from people that some of them might be very accurate. There were many of them lining along Waterloo street, but many of them hardly got any customers. I wondered how much they could earn per day.

I am never quite sure how fortune tellers and astrologers alike learnt their skills from. I reckoned that their lesson must be pretty interesting...

Ok, this is one of the unique trades which I wanted to highlight - the Koh Yoh Man (Hokkien for medicine man). Speaking in cantonese, this man always appeared in Pasar Malam or Waterloo street selling self-formulated anti-itch and anti-fungus medicine cream. He claimed that the medicine cream can cure multiple diseases. I was rather skeptical about it. The interesting thing about these Koh Yoh Men is that they are excellent saleman. Long before there was TV Media, the Koh Yoh men already know how to attract crowds and sell stuff.

I did not take the picture, but he actually brought along a snake for display. People who are curious will step-up to take a closer look. Then up on his sleeves was his second marketing plan - scary pictures. Photos of some "final-stage"looking skin diseases are on display which he claimed can be cure using his special formulated cream. Those who are brave enough can perhaps try his cream or maybe if it is useful, Pharmaceutical companies could buy over his formula for mass production...

Ice-cream man. Singapore also have fair-share of weird ice-cream flavours e.g. Sweet corn, Atah chee (I really have no idea what this translate to in English), red bean and durains etc. This vendor sells a mixture of traditional ice-cream and ice-cream blocks. Traditional ice cream are the weird flavoured Sweet corn, Atah Chee ice-cream which are normally pink, brown, yellow in colours. Though supposed to be different flavours, one can hardly tasted the difference. They are usually scoped onto bread or ice-cream cone. Uniquely in Singapore, we eat ice-cream with bread. For westerners who are sick of eating ice-cream in cone, waffles, brownies, you can try it at home with white bread. It is like having a new filling for bread.

Only in recent years that ice-cream block starts to popularise. Ice-cream are froze in a rectangular block size. Upon order, Ice-cream man will cut up a portion from the block and sandwich them under two thin waffles. Once in hand, it is a race against time. Singapore's weather is hot. You got to eat quickly so that the ice-cream does not melt and get messy. These ice-cream blocks got latest flavour like mint and chocolate, cookies and cream, berries swirls etc. They might not taste as good as Movenpick or Ben and Jerry, but they are welcoming treats under the hot weather.

The cobbler - one of girl's best friend after diamonds, hairstylist etc. They are really disappearing soon as young people avoided this trade. Unlike those uniformed cobblers who also made keys in basement of shopping malls, these uncles specialised in mending shoes only and charges reasonably. Their skills is also supposedly better. Be it broken heels, slippery soles or flapping openings, the cobbler can mend and fix them in just hours. Before you know it, the shoes came back as good as new.

As society progresses, I wondered whether these street trends will still be around after 20 years...

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