Wednesday, October 29, 2008

O Is For Orchard Road

If Retail Detail Is Your Aim, This Is Fair Game

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I was introduced to Singapore when I was just eleven years old. Wide-eyed, I took in everything about the island-state. It was still British territory at the time and I used to be fascinated by the RAF jets that flew overhead. I remember clearly going to a fair where the highlight, for me, was the skydiving display by British specialists.

I recall being dumbstruck by the fact that the taxis were Mercedes-Benz vehicles, no less. From memory, most of them ran on diesel. I wondered if my classmates in school would actually believe how many times I had sat in the plush interior of a Merc.

I even made an unexpected visit to an RAF base when I was stung while swimming at a Singapore beach. But more than anything else, I remember being fascinated by Orchard Road. Why? Not because of the architecture. Not because of the colonial history. Not because of anything remotely artistic.

The place grabbed my attention because of C. K. Tang’s, the department store where I was instantly fascinated by the huge area devoted to toys. Hey, I was only eleven years old, remember?

Over the years, I returned several times to Singapore on way to and from overseas assignments as a sportswriter covering cricket and tennis. More recently, I have been there on holiday or to visit friends. Orcahrd Road, which once fascinated me because of its retail nature, now holds me in thrall because of the many images I have been privileged to photograph.

A few years ago, we were there as a family and I took the first available opportunity to take our children to Orchard Road and, specifically, to C. K. Tang’s. But maybe things had changed. Maybe their toy section was smaller than it was during my childhood. Maybe our own perceptions had changed because of the arrival of mega toy stores that totally dwarf my own memories of the toy selection in this particular store.

During our week there, we also had an interesting experience. I took the Authorbloglets out for the day and took some travellers’ cheques with me, as well as my passport - just in case I needed some more money. As it turned out, I didn’t need any more cash. But when we got home, Mrs Authorblog - who had stayed home because she was unwell - fixed me with a gimlet eye.

She asked if I had managed to change my travellers’ cheques.

No, I replied, I still had some money in my wallet.

Which was probably a good thing. Because as my wife pointed out, I had erred badly. Instead of taking my own passport, I had taken my son’s by mistake.

For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.


Daryl said...

Wrong passport in hand will not a cheque cashing allow!


Queen-Size funny bone said...

You need a engineering degree to operate todays technical toys available to the very small and the young at heart.

CrazyCath said...

Talk about trying to recapture your youth...

Your dismay at the size of the toy shop made me think of the song, "And now I'm tall, and Christmas trees are small, and [something something] the time of day...."
Can anyone remember it? It's quite sad - the longing for times gone by.

mrsnesbitt said...

Crazy Cath.............this is the song! By the Bee Gees album Cucumber of my ultimate favourites

When I was small, and christmas trees were tall,
We used to love while others used to play.
Dont ask me why, but time has passed us by,
Some one else moved in from far away.

Now we are tall, and christmas trees are small,
And you dont ask the time of day.
But you and i, our love will never die,
But guess well cry come first of may.

The apple tree that grew for you and me,
I watched the apples falling one by one.
And I recall the moment of them all,
The day I kissed your cheek and you were mine.


When I was small, and christmas trees were tall,
Do do do do do do do do do...
Dont ask me why, but time has passed us by,
Some one else moved in from far away.

crete said...

Lovely comment with aninteresting subject.


Granny Smith said...

What a wonderful travelogue! Isn't it strange how such things as toy departments shrink as we get older? Just as the days and years get shorter.

Reader Wil said...

It's funny, the first time I came to Singapore was in November '45, when I was almost 12. We had just come out of the Japanese concentration camp, so Singapore was great, especially when a group of Dutch soldiers took us to the beach, which we enjoyed greatly. The British Navy had helped us to escape from Java.
Your story was very good and funny too.Thanks for sharing.

Rebeckah said...

I love this post! Orchard Road looks like it would be a great shopping place. We have oodles and oodles of shopping malls around here. I have to stay out of them!

Colin Campbell said...

It is a great road David. Many memories from my time living in Singapore. I always laughed at the Christmasification of Orchard Road in 30 degree weather.

Now that I live in Adelaide, it is often 40 degrees at that time of year. Very different from my cold and wet Scottish childhood festive seasons.

Millennium Housewife said...

Ah, I'm sure you could have passed it off David, a shy shrug and a 'how old do you think I am' smile. Works for me! Thankyou for your offer of help re photos, it's a lot harder than it looks isn't it! Today I took the children to an arbouretum, the autumn colours here are spectacular due to the (yawn) very wet summer. I took what i think is a great one, angled slightly high, of my one year old standing in a carpet of leaves, was very pleased with myself. There's nowhere blog wise to display them though is there if you don't want your children to be visible? I'll try giving you my email on another comment and then delete as you suggested (thankyou again!), and see if it worked. MH ps if it doesn't would you delete it for me?

Millennium Housewife said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Millennium Housewife said...

Think it worked! MH

ChrisC and JonJ said...

I just love old fashioned toy stores.Kids today miss out on so much.But then,our kids loved playing with clothes pins and a bottle.Not to mention the old wooden spoon and a pot lid.Go figure.

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Super post, David. Great imagery with the photos and text.

Cheers! JJ

Rinkly Rimes said...

My only visit to Singapore was a stop-over. It was dreadfully hot but also teeming with rain. I'd always longed to go to 'Raffles' but it was closed for repairs!!! Nuff said!

Rocky Mtn. Girl said...

Gosh... I'd be happy to see any decent size of toy store around my neck of woods here in this part of BC... sheesh... our definition of mall is silly.... not impressive.
I have to travel 4 1/2 hours to see anything decent... bah.
I too would be fascinated by the huge array of toys, tall buildings, cabs that actually had the word "Taxi" painted on them... LOL.. yeh... it's the mountains here and I've been living here a long long time... but I love it! =)
Mountain Retreat- Canada

uncleawang said...

My last trip to Singapore was 15 years ago.The city is clean and shoping heaven.
Nice photo for ABC and Have a nice day.

Jules~ said...

Woops with the passport. Would the not have let the minor bloget do the changing?
Years ago when I was in Spain (I was 17 years old) I had spent the day out touring with my purse on my shoulder. When I came home, I found my purse zipper open adn my wallet gone! Guess I had silly tourist written all across my forehead. Thankfully I didn't have much money and my passport and ID were in a separate compartment.

babooshka said...

Toy departments just aren't what they
used to be. I'm sure the colours aren't as vivd either. Funny you should mention the taxi being a mecedes-benz, same in Alabania. Apparently they are the cheapest cars to buy and run there.

Sandi McBride said...

OMG...good thing you didn't have to show that passport while you were out and about...shudders at the consequences!

Bear Naked said...

I guess that could be called an "OOPS for 'O' moment."

Bear((( )))

alicesg said...

Not so bad if you take the wrong passport in Orchard Road, but you cannot make the same mistake at the Oh yes, I love CK Tang. Been a customer at CK Tang since its old store (which was demolised to make way to this new one). Yes I definitely older than

Maggie May said...

Lovely post and the photos great.
Everything did seem bigger & better when we were small! The Christmas tree BGee song just about puts the finger on it.Thanks, Crazy Cath & Mrs Nesbitt.

spacedlaw said...

Amazing O! Now that I am an adult I avoid department stores around Christmas so I do not know if their displays have decreased or not with the years but I remember these as some sort of magical land when I was a kid. The trains display especially (I've never been interested in dolls - as a kid I was quite the tom boy).
It must have seemed indeed fabulous in your eyes.

RuneE said...

If there is one thing I remember about Singapore, it is Orchard Road. Thank you for refreshing me!

Lily Hydrangea said...

Great post, I just got lost over her for 30 minutes following all your interesting links.

fishing guy said...

David: What a great story, sometimes we think we know what we are doing even when we don't.

Kat said...

I LOVE that top picture. Awesome.

Adventure girl wanna be said...

Looks like fun shopping:)

TSannie said...

Ahhh the fun of vacation!

Good story for an ABC post. I managed to get totally discombobulated and post an M instead of an O. Not sure Denise will want me on her team!

i beati said...

cleverly cool