At a Milestone: Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre

Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre

Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre

At a Milestone: Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre
By Laremy Lee

The tenants of Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre are a mix of old hats and new blood. Some of its old occupants have long outgrown it while others have shuttered their shops, but it remains a monument to a bygone era.

Built in 1981, Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre (USSC) was the definitive heartland mall of its time, catering to residents in the Hougang area.

Specifically – because any discussion of the sprawling lands of Hougang requires precision – USSC served residents in the vicinity of Ow Kang Ngor Kor Chiok, or Hougang Fifth Milestone, in the Teochew Chinese vernacular.

Old-timers born before Singapore’s independence used Ngor Kor Chiok as a reference point for the area out of necessity and simplicity. In the past, road markers, or milestones, were placed along Upper Serangoon Road to measure distances travelled. Descriptions vary, but what can be gathered from recounts is that the Fifth Milestone was placed somewhere between Boundary Road and Lim Tua Tow Road, back when Upper Serangoon Road still had some of its hustle left.

Over time, however, the bustle of food stalls, goldsmith shops and the wet market – among others – slowly disappeared as gentrification and re-urbanisation modified the makeup of this little town. USSC is one of the buildings left behind from that bygone period. One look at the Shopping Centre and you’d know it to be the sort of mall that has seen better days (and many sordid nights, too).


Signed, sealed, delivered

Signed, sealed, delivered (PHOTO CREDIT: Pet Piggies)

Signed, sealed, delivered (PHOTO CREDIT: Pet Piggies)

So I’ve just submitted separate Presentation and Participation grant applications for two publications I’ve been working on:

  • The Zookeeper’s Boy and Other Poems, a collection of 30 poems which I’ve written over the last six years (inclusive of my time at Toji – in fact, the bulk of the poetry was written while I was at Toji); and
  • Standing On The Shore, a graphic novella that I wrote last year, and which will be illustrated by a Singaporean artist.

I know we’re only at the applications stage, but I’m really so proud of how everything materialised and coalesced.

From the project management i.e. coordinating meetings and pulling together the team, to getting quotations, to calculating the budget, to figuring out how to fill out the forms, and – allow me this moment to humblebrag – all while having to work on the documents during pockets of time at night when I got home from the day job, or on weekends, or during my days off.

But the going was really made easier with the encouragement I received from the different people who provided active constructive responses at all points of the journey, such as how to improve my work and, at the very minimum, acknowledging and indicating – verbally or otherwise – their support for my artistic goals.

Suffice to say, I’m pretty pumped and looking forward to finally publishing my work – if I secure funding, that is.

Keep your fingers crossed for me and wish me luck!

Singapore sunset, with our national bird – the crane – in the background

Singapore sunset, with our national bird – the crane – in the background

It seems someone found the picture and the caption so thought-provoking that… they posted it on Coconuts Singapore.


Three lessons from my 20s

About 10 days ago, a new and younger friend asked me what the 10 most important lessons I learnt in my 20s were.

We were walking to the train station from Empress Place, so I only managed to come up with three lessons before we parted ways.

While sitting on the train on the way home, I realised I really only needed three lessons for two reasons:

  1. These are the fundamentals; you need to work on getting the basics right before working on the rest.
  2. Cognitive load, yo. We can only remember so much, so two to three lessons, objectives, etc. is optimal.

I wish I had known these three things earlier, or at least have someone tell me what to do and how to do it – then I wouldn’t have felt like I was floundering at some points in time in my 20s.

But, hey – better late than never, and I’d like everyone to benefit from this too.

So, ladies and gentlemen, the three most important life lessons I learnt in my 20s:

  1. Value yourself
  2. Set boundaries
  3. Let go

If you have the time, here they are, fleshed out in detail:

  1. Value yourself.
    This is the most important. Read about it in detail here and here.

    If you can’t value yourself, figure out what’s stopping you from loving yourself.

    Perhaps you’re a manic-depressive or you lack self-confidence. Then talk to a mental health professional. It’s OK to not be OK, but it’s not OK to not help yourself.

    Let me reframe this for you: We visit doctors whenever we’re physically unwell, so there’s no shame in visiting a counseller if you’re mentally unwell. Figuratively speaking, they’re both mechanics – but for different things.

    Feeling fat? Exercise and lose weight.

    Friends are messing you up? Stop hanging out with them. Cut them off or don’t meet with them so much. Join activities where you can make new friends who’ll be healthier for you.

    Ultimately, you don’t need toxic people or people who don’t add value to your life to bring you down.

  2. Set boundaries.
    Don’t know how to do it? Google is your friend.

    Your boss is making you work on weekends without compensation (time off, overtime pay, etc.)? Tell your boss you don’t do weekends, and stick to it.

    Or find a new job that values your skill and pays you more, without you having to spend precious “you” time doing work that should be done on weekdays.

    Most importantly, learn to say “no”.

    Again, if you value yourself enough, this will come easily; you’ll be less inclined to commit yourself to emotional vampires or productivity thieves – things or people who steal precious time and energy from you.

  3. Let go.
  4. Stop hoarding that shit already, yo!

    But how do I go about doing that?, you ask. Well, ask yourself the difficult questions you’ve been shying away from all these years, such as:

    • Do I really need to maintain contact with that friend or family member?
    • Do I really need to keep that mug?
    • Do I really need to file away that lesson plan?

    But how do I find the answers to that?, you ask. Well, use this litmus test:

    1. If I really needed it, I’d have used it already (or, in the case of human beings: made contact with that person/benefited from that person’s presence).
    2. If I haven’t already used it, I’m never gonna use it (or, in the case of human beings: contacted/made contact with that person/benefited from that person’s presence).
    3. If in doubt, throw it out.

    So that friend or family member who adds completely no value to your life? Cut her or him off.

    That mug which you haven’t drank from and which you probably won’t use because you have five other mugs like it? Chuck it out.

    That lesson p- What are you doing keeping hard copies of lesson plans when they should be in soft copy and filed away in the folder system GP>2009>Term 3>Week 4>Lesson 1?

Again, there were other lessons I learnt too, such as why it’s important to:

  • Always be closing;
  • Have good role models; and
  • Have a good grasp on financial matters, among others.

But as I’ve always maintained: Focus on the fundamentals and work on the root problems first, before going on to improve the other things.

Hence, remember to always value yourself, set boundaries and let go.

Chindian New Year 2014 to be celebrated over 12 Jun and 13 Jun

Tue, 8 Apr 2014



  1. The Ministry of Manpower has confirmed that Diwali 2014 will fall on Wed, 22 Oct 2014.
  2. Chindian New Year will thus be celebrated on 1.5 days – from Thu, 12 Jun 2014 till noon on Fri, 13 Jun 2014.
  3. Chindian Chap Goh Meh will be celebrated on Thu, 26 Jun 2014.


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