Tong Seng: The Last Truly Multi Racial Kopitiam

Majulah Singapura.

This is a 2010 picture I took inside Tong Seng coffee shop in Liang Seah Street in the Bugis area. It has since closed and one of the reasons cited was the difficulty in hiring help.

Rumour has it that property value appreciation resulted in the family making a tidy SGD 15 million selling the shop and retiring to The Bahamas.

It was the favourite halal certified Chinese kopitiam in Singapore. I always go there to eat the sliced fish soup, chicken rice and prawn mee whenever I was in Singapore. It tasted really good.

According to newspaper reports; on its last day which coincided with Hari Raya Haji in 2013, it decided to give free food to its many Muslim customers during lunch.

Unfortunately, everyone who has never eaten there before and the entire island rushed to the shop when they heard there was free food. Just like Malaysia lah.

The owners were forced to reserve the first three hours of free dinner for Malay customers only because they used to form the bulk of their customers.

Happy 50th National Day today (in 2015), Singapore.

Olympus E-PL1, ISO 1600, f3.5, 1/60 sec.

#singapore #singapura #majulahsingapura #sg50 #sg51

Angry Men Sitting In Front Of Coffee Shops

Angry Men Sitting In Front Of Coffee Shops.

A coffee table book should be about coffee or the traditional kopitiam that serve kopi. I am thinking maybe one day I should publish a coffee table book titled “Angry Men Sitting In Front Of Coffee Shops”. I always get some death stares when I stand in front. I think it is territorial aggression. I am a stranger or outsider from another town they sensed

Not all are angry men though. That’s how they react to a stranger with a camera. Engage them to find out more. They could be philosophical, for example. Like the elder man of the Orang Asli duo in Behrang (bottom pic). I asked him what was he thinking so hard about? He told me everyone has problems, with a heavy sigh. True. I replied. What’s the solution then?, I inquired further. He said “Lets order another bottle of Cap Rusa Arak (a potent legalised local moonshine). The younger gentleman then asked me for my car and phone number. He started writing down all the permutations for lottery bets later. Love their decadent lifestyle . LOL.

#coffeeshop #kopitiam #orangasli #streetphotography #smalltown

Lim Teh In The Sultanate

Lim Teh In The Sultanate.

Since we are looking at Brunei, let’s visit a Chinese kopitiam in Pekan Seria, Brunei. The shop was even more authentic than the many found in Malaysian towns. .

It featured old school coffee shop chairs and real marble table-tops from the 1950s or 1960s. There was also the quintessential bored cashier or proprietor sitting behind the counter. There were no big candy jars on the counter however,

At the time I was at Universal Cafe, the country had a reversed and practical system of halal certification. Since non-halal food outlets are few, non-halal shops are required to display a sticker or sign declaring Muslims are not allowed.

The are many Indian and Mamak eateries in the nanny state too, if you know where to look. Seria the coastal district and Chinese town was fascinating. It had a frozen in 50s or 60s look. Many of our kopitiams were once pristine like this. If authentic, the original shop ought to have the disgusting spittoon containers since the early patrons were refined tin mine workers. If you are unrefined, you just spit on the floor. Haha.

The majority of the Chinese speak Hokkien (Fujian dialect) here and were happy to converse in the mother tongue if you engage them. .

I still think Pekan Tutung, also on the coast, is the real Chinese town where Chinese schools and Chinese temples are found.

Chinese Bruneians are said to form 15 % of the Sultanate’s population and have considerable presence and clout in commerce and the economy. A characteristic of the worldwide and far flung Chinese diaspora.

There are many oil refinery ‘flare stacks’ visible from Seria and you can photograph the dramatic flames shooting up. A nice reminder that Brunei is an oil rich state.

Only one good hotel in Seria and it is the modern Roomz Hotel.
See http://www.mycen.my/lim-teh-in-the-sultanate/

#documentaryphotography #streetphotography #travelogue #chinese #tutung #chinesekopitiam #kopitiam #coffeeshop #chinese #brunei #seria

Hard Breakfast

I like my eggs ‘tiga suku masak’ (three quarter boiled).

They don’t always get it right but this Chinese coffee shop in Johor Bahru did. Can’t remember the location or place name. It was JB resident Sharon Teo who took me there. Yumz.

Olympus OM-D, ISO 200, f6.3, 1/100 sec

#breakfast #eggs #jb #kopitiam