Tag Archives: museum

‘Forbidden Porcelain’ at the Prinsenhof Museum, Delft

My first experience of Delft was a gloriously sunny Saturday in May, spent walking around the town square; with some serious efforts invested in climbing the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk, the second tallest church tower in the Netherlands.

On my second trip to Delft, I spent the day at the Prinsenhof Museum, browsing through the ‘Forbidden Porcelain: Exclusively for the Emperor’ exhibition.

This exhibition centers around the exquisite porcelain that was made specially for Chinese emperors by the imperial kilns of Jingdezhen, but which was later discarded and destroyed, as it did not meet the high standards expected of royal wares. I was very fortunate to have the company of the museum’s Curator of Decorative Arts, Ms. Suzanne Kluver, who shared her in-depth knowledge of the subject.


The opening panel of the ‘Forbidden Porcelain: Exclusively for the Emperor’ exhibition

It is the first time that these reassembled porcelain wares, originally made for Chinese emperors, are being seen outside Asia. Several of the artefacts in this exhibition are on loan from the Archaeological Institute, Jingdezhen, China.

In an article for the Jul-Aug’17 issue of PASSAGE, the bimonthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore, I share about my visit to the Prinsenhof Museum, and briefly explore the centuries-old connection between Chinese porcelain and Delftware.

Please click on the image below to view the PDF of this article.


(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor.)

So if you happen to be in Delft (or in the vicinity), do consider visiting the ‘Forbidden Porcelain’ exhibition at the Prinsenhof Museum. The exhibition runs until 9th July 3rd September 2017.

Here are some pictures from the Prinsenhof Museum that could not be included in the print article….


Entrance of the Prinsenhof Museum


Bullet holes from the 1584 assassination of William I, preserved in a wall of the Prinsenhof


Sunlight streaming through a window in the basement of the museum


Loved the look of this window!


A lamp post adorned with the trademark blue & white delftware designs, on the premises of the museum


A seat in the Prinsenhof garden embellished with beautiful pieces of delftware













Filed under Europe, Netherlands

Our first month in Amsterdam

Can’t believe an entire month has gone by since the Hubs and I arrived in Amsterdam! Of course, it has all been about moving into our apartment, setting up things, formalities and other mundane details that needed to be taken care of, before we can actually start enjoying the city. But despite the fact that it has turned out to be such a busy month, we did have some interesting times.

For starters, we’ve had to learn the life-saving skill of dodging cyclists. Doesn’t help that I keep forgetting about the cycling lane! Cyclists have the right of way here and they RULE the road (sometimes even the pavement!). Several misadventures on this front but I’m not complaining. I love how great cycling is for the environment!

Here are some of our memorable ‘firsts’ in Amsterdam……

The first Dutch snack we tried

I like to call them ‘little balls of heaven’ but they are known here as bitterballen (plural). Always served with a side of mustard.


These usually get gobbled up before I can even think of taking a picture! 🙂

This savoury bar snack has a crispy fried outer coating that perfectly complements the mushy beef filling inside. I’m told that back in the day Dutch housewives created this snack as a way to use up leftover meat. Pure genius!

The filling inside is a mixture of puréed beef, butter, flour, beef stock, herbs and seasonings, but it’s the subtle hint of nutmeg that really takes this snack over the top. And be extra careful when you bite into a bitterbal coz the filling tends to be piping hot. Lesson learnt the hard way 😦

Even for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy meat, this crispy delight is hard to resist. As the Dutch say, ‘lekker’ (yummy)!

First time eating out of a hole in the wall

Well, not really a ‘hole’, more like a vending box.

We had heard so much about the legendary ‘Wall of Fried Food’ before we even got to Amsterdam, so we were looking forward to finding one. This is basically a vending machine but for hot snacks like krokets (croquettes), frinkandel (a deep fried sausage), kaassoufflé (a deep fried hot pocket with a cheese filling)….. you get the drift. Burgers too.


Spoilt for choice!

FEBO and Smullers are the two brands that offer this service. So if you’re feeling peckish anywhere in the city, just find the outlet nearest to you, drop your coins in the slot and grab your hot snack! I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

First bird I photographed in Amsterdam

Having lived in Asia for most of my life (India & Singapore), I know nothing about European birds. So every new bird species I see and photograph here is exciting. I’ve photographed several birds over the past few weeks (helps to be living in the vicinity of Vondelpark) but the first bird I photographed here, the Eurasian Magpie, will always be special. For my post on birdwatching in Amsterdam, click here.

Eurasian Magpie

The highly intelligent Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica)

The Dutch take birdwatching very seriously and the record holder for the 2016 Global Big Year, Arjan Dwarshuis, lives in Amsterdam. Arjan traveled to 40 different countries and observed a staggering 6,852 bird species over a span of 366 days.

First day trip out of Amsterdam

This past weekend, our itchy feet led us to make an impromptu day trip out of Amsterdam. A short train ride and we were transported back in time to the Dutch town of Zaanse Schans, which showcases Dutch life in the mid-19th century. We went for the windmills but were pleasantly surprised to observe a variety of birds in the grasslands.


Windmills everywhere you look!

Coming soon an entire blog post dedicated to this charming town.


There have been so many other wonderful experiences – the onset of Spring, exploring my neighbourhood, going for walks at Vondelpark, receiving my museumkaart, my first visit to the Rijksmuseum with my museumkaart, seeing the 2 stolen Van Gogh paintings back on display at the Van Gogh Museum……I’ve lost count.


A serene morning at Vondelpark

As our seemingly unending list of ‘Things to Do’ gets a bit shorter by the day, we can’t wait to explore Amsterdam, Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Stay tuned!

For now, tot straks! (See you later!)


Filed under Europe, Netherlands

A Himalayan Retreat in NYC – The Rubin Museum

Like most seekers, and artist of every kind, I’ve been drawn to the Himalayas for as long as I can remember. Thanks to my recent relocation to Amsterdam, it’ll be a while before I can even think of undertaking a trip to this wonderous part of the world.

During my last trip to New York City (Dec 2015), I was thrilled to hear about a museum dedicated to Himalayan art, right in the heart of the Big Apple. The Rubin Museum of Art focusses on the preservation and promotion of Himalayan artistic traditions, and has a permanent collection of over 2,500 paintings, sculptures and textiles from the Tibetan plateau as well as neighbouring areas in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia and China. The private collection of Donald and Shelly Rubin forms the core of the permanent collection but the museum is a non-profit, public one.

One of the highlights of the museum is the recreation of a Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room. I could have spent hours in this serene haven. If at anytime, you are looking for an oasis of calm in the midst of the NYC chaos, this is the place to visit.

More about the Rubin Museum in my article for the Mar-Apr’17 issue of PASSAGE, the bimonthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore.

Please click on the image below to view the PDF of this article.

Rubin Museum_NYC

(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor.)

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Filed under N. America, USA

A sperm whale in Singapore

About a decade ago, hubby and I watched in childlike amazement as Tona, the majestic sperm whale surfaced and dived back into the cold blue waters, off Kaikoura (New Zealand). From that day on, began my fascination with whales, and cetaceans in general. In addition to whales, the sub-order Cetacea includes aquatic mammals like dolphins and porpoises.

Today, these magnificent creatures face decimation from ship strikes, plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, getting caught as by-catch in commercial fishing nets as well as the rapidly growing, captive cetaceans industry.

My article for the May-Jun’16 issue of PASSAGE (the bi-monthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore) centres around the recently unveiled sperm whale skeleton at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Singapore. The skeleton has been affectionately named ‘Jubi’ by the museum staff. While the circumstances of Jubi’s death are unfortunate, the skeleton display has presented an opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding the conservation and protection of these behemoths.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species classifies sperm whales as ‘vulnerable’ to extinction.


(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor.)

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Filed under Asia, Singapore

‘Treasures of the World’ delight Singapore

An Egyptian mummy from the 2nd century CE, a hand-axe from Tanzania almost a million years old, the enigmatic Lewis Chessmen and over 200 other fascinating artefacts from across the world, are currently on display at the National Museum of Singapore. These are part of the British Museum’s traveling exhibit, Treasures of the World, which is on display for the very first time in South East Asia.

Travel through the centuries as these artefacts tell compelling stories of power, identity, adornment and death and how they were embodied in the various cultures of the world. The exhibition will be on at the National Museum of Singapore until 29th May 2016.

My article for the Jan-Feb’16 issue of PASSAGE (the bi-monthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore) takes a look at some of the exhibition’s highlights.

Treasures of the World, British Museum - Singapore

Page 1

reasures of the World, British Museum - Singapore

Page 2

(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor)


Filed under Singapore

Tracing the footsteps of A. R. Wallace in Singapore

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), the British naturalist and co-propounder of the evolutionary theory of natural selection, arrived in Singapore on 18th April 1854. This was the start of his long, 8-year stay in Southeast Asia.

In Singapore, from the Dairy Farm area alone, Wallace is believed to have collected over 700 species of beetles. Today, a 1km track in the Dairy Farm Nature Park, named the ‘Wallace Trail’, commemorates his time in Singapore.

I explore the Wallace-Singapore connection in my article for the Nov-Dec’15 issue of PASSAGE (the bi-monthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore).

Wallace Trail, Singapore

(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor.)


You can read more about the wildlife/natural history of Singapore in the following posts:

MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Pasir Ris Park

Birds of Singapore

Singapore Botanic Gardens


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Filed under Asia, Singapore

Singapore’s first ever book on Peranakan Tiles is here!

Some of you know that following my PASSAGE article on the Peranakan tiles of Singapore,  I’ve collaborated with one of Singapore’s leading tile collectors, to bring out the first ever book on this topic.

As a tile enthusiast, it was an absolute delight to work on this project! After months of hard work (and a long wait at the printers), the book is finally here!

Peranakan Tiles Singapore Book

This beautiful 200 page book explores the different types of tiles that came to Singapore in the late-19th / early-20th century, and showcases some of the exquisite tiles that can be seen in the heritage precincts of Katong, Chinatown, Emerald Hill and Little India. Many century old buildings and shophouses in these conserved areas are decorated with English, Belgian or Japanese tiles. Interestingly, several tombs in the Bukit Brown Cemetery are also decorated with these tiles. The book also aims to create awareness about this fragile legacy that needs to be conserved for the generations to come.

In the early part of the 20th century, decorative tiles known as maiolica or majolica tiles across the world, found favour with the affluent Peranakan community of Singapore. The Peranakans decorated their houses, furniture and other surfaces with these colourful tiles. Soon enough, these tiles became a distinctive feature of this community and they began to be referred to locally as ‘Peranakan tiles’.

Based on availability, preferences shifted from English and Belgian tiles at the turn of the century to Japanese relief moulded tiles post-World War I. Japanese tiles were specifically made for Chinese-origin customers and had designs of fruits, flowers, birds and animals, considered auspicious as per Chinese symbolism.

The book is available at the Peranakan Museum, Chillax Market (Bukit Timah) as well as Katong Antique House and Kim Choo in the East. So if you live in Singapore or are visiting any time soon, don’t forget to pick up a copy 🙂

You could also order the book online.

For delivery within Singapore, go to http://list.qoo10.sg/item/BOOK-ON-PERANAKAN-TILES-IN-SINGAPORE/435757670

For international shipping, go to http://list.qoo10.com/item/BOOK-ON-PERANAKAN-TILES-IN-SINGAPORE/436126048

Thanks for your support! Hope you enjoy the book!

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Filed under Asia, General, Singapore

Da Vinci visits Singapore

Who among us has not stood in line (or at least hoped to stand in line) at the Louvre to get a glimpse of the enigmatic Mona Lisa? It’s on every art lover / traveller’s to-do list.

Stop and have a think about the man who painted this masterpiece nearly 500 years ago – Leonardo da Vinci. What was he like? Even the word ‘genius’ does no justice to his supreme talent (both artistic and scientific) and unlimited creativity.

Did you know that:

1) As a child born out of wedlock in the mid-1400s, Leonardo only received basic education in Latin, geometry and mathematics. Yet, he made up for his lack of formal education by devoting endless hours to observation and experimentation. With an insatiable curiosity about nature and scientific phenomenon and a voracious appetite for knowledge, his body of work is the most diverse and extensive, ever known to man.

How did he manage to get so much done? Did he ever sleep or eat? Did he somehow, magically, have more than 24hrs in a day?

2) Leonardo was vegetarian at a time where eating meat was a sign of affluence. He cared deeply for all living creatures and was known to purchase caged birds and set them free. He felt a strong sense of connection with all living creatures.

3) He was left-handed and was as comfortable writing backwards (also known as mirror writing) as he was writing forward, like we normal mortals do.

Leonardo was just wired differently. A man centuries ahead of his time, with a legacy of artworks and scientific drawings that continue to inspire us even today.

I’ve been fascinated with Leonardo since I was little, especially the overlap he saw between art and science – a boundary rarely crossed, if ever. So when the ArtScience Museum here in Singapore announced the ‘Da Vinci: Shaping the Future’ exhibition, I was there opening week (mid-November 2014). This is the first time that Leonardo’s original works are being exhibited in South East Asia.

Da Vince exhibition - ArtScience Museum, Singapore

Possibly the most high profile exhibition at the ArtScience Museum

You can even buy a season pass (like yours truly), so you can visit as often as you like. Believe me, you’d want to keep going back.

The exhibition presents 26 original pages (13 pages on display for the first 3 months, to be switched in mid-February 2015) from Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus. This is where having the season pass helps.

A timeline of da Vinci's life and works

A timeline of da Vinci’s life and works

The Codex Atlanticus is a 12 volume bound set, of over 1000 pages of Leonardo’s drawings and writings, covering subjects as diverse as music and botany to flight and weaponry; dating from 1478 to 1519.

Da Vinci exhibition - ArtScience Museum, Singapore

400 years before the Wright brothers, there was da Vinci with his drawings of flying machines

These fragile pages come all the way from the Biblioteca Ambriosana, an ancient library-museum in Milan, Italy, which houses the entire Codex Atlanticus.

So if you live in Singapore or are visiting before May 2015, make sure you stop by the ArtScience Museum. There are no words to articulate Leonardo’s sheer brilliance. You will be transfixed, I promise!


Filed under Asia, Singapore

3,000 years of tea ware in Hong Kong

Cha, chai, teh – no matter what you call it, tea (camellia sinensis) is undoubtedly the favourite brew of the Asian masses. Especially so in China, where tea drinking originated thousands of years ago.

Not surprising then, that there is an entire museum in Hong Kong dedicated to the promotion of Chinese tea culture.

On my last trip to Hong Kong (more about that in my post Uniquely Hong Kong), I visited the quaint Museum of Tea Ware, located in the historical Flagstaff House.

A ‘must-visit’ for any tea lover travelling to Hong Kong, the museum’s well-crafted exhibits showcase how tea preparation and tea ware design has changed over the past 3,000 years.

I’m pleased to share the experience via the Jan-Feb’15 issue of PASSAGE, the bi-monthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore.

Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, Hong Kong

(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor)

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Filed under Asia, Hong Kong, S.A.R. of P.R.C.

Finding Hidden Treasures in Singapore

In the 3 years that I’ve lived in Singapore, many a weekend has been spent exploring the little lanes and by-lanes of the city.

During one of my rambles along Joo Chiat Road (a colourful, heritage area on the east coast of Singapore), I came across an unusual antiques shop – the Changi Junk Store. This story is about the store and its owner, Haji Basman.

The article appeared in the Nov-Dec’14 issue of PASSAGE, the bi-monthly magazine of the Friends of the Museums Singapore.


Sadly, Haji Basman has since closed the Changi Junk Store 😦


Finding Hidden Treasures

(Reproduced with the permission of the Editor)

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Filed under Asia, Singapore