Experience the new-look Mee Ho Seng Kee

I shared my story in November 2018 about how the noodle brand, Mee Ho Seng Kee, developed from a pushcart into a mall café and continues serving their family recipe noodles to regulars and a new generation of noodle fans.

Facade of the new-look Ho Seng Kee
at level six of Johor Baru City Square
Elton Ho, the third-generation operator of the Mee Ho Seng Kee brand of noodles, took their family business to a whole new level when he made the bold move to open the business in Johor Baru City Square.

It must have taken a great deal of courage and foresight for Elton to make such a brave decision to move his family business, which started from a one-man-operated-push-cart into a modern, air-conditioned café within one of the most popular malls in our city.

This move to operate their noodle business within a mall café was indeed a radical change that not only required a new service format but was also traumatic for regulars.

As Elton braved the challenges that came with this change, he welcomed new fans to his family recipe of noodles and was reassured when regulars started to find their way to his noodle café in the mall.

The Chinese character for the word,
Mian (Mandarin) which means, noodles
When I was compiling Johor stories for my book sequel, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, I decided to include Mee Ho Seng Kee among the subjects under Heritage Traders and document their family business for posterity.

Prior to my book launch in December 2018, I was pleasantly surprised when Elton made a preorder of 30 books for diners at Mee Ho Seng Kee to win them in a Lucky Draw!

Less than 12 months after my book was launched, I was thrilled to discover that Elton had plans to expand his business and increase the café floor space – double the space – and renovation was already in progress!

He explained that the renovation would take time because business would still be on-going while the renovation of the kitchen and dining area would go on stage-by-stage.

In early December 2019, I brought a visitor from Kuala Lumpur to have a taste of Mee Ho Seng Kee and I also had a glimpse of the renovated section of the noodle café.

Elton Ho behind the cashier's counter
For a while the entrance to the café was temporarily shifted to another side to accommodate the renovation going on at the original dining area.

When we arrived at the reception counter, I observed the way the queue of diners waited before they were welcomed to their tables.

With a larger dining area, I saw that there was a system in place to seat diners in a smooth and orderly manner.

When I was in JB City Square again in mid-January 2020, I did not miss the opportunity to drop in at Mee Ho Seng Kee to check out the new-look and enjoy a meal of familiar noodles.

I was delighted to see that the café façade had changed, with the entrance back to its original position and opened even wider.

Behind the cashier's counter, the affable Elton was all smiles as he welcomed me into the café.

He was happy to introduce the new additions to the café menu that included rice dishes, as well as traditional Cantonese desserts like Black Sesame Paste and Almond Paste, which he was proud to say, were made from fresh ingredients.

The brand name, Ho Seng Kee, is proudly engraved
on the backs of these wooden chairs
The interior decoration was neat and contemporary, and I when I reached out to pull out my chair, I could feel some etching on the back of the wooden chair.

And when I looked, I saw that the brand name, Ho Seng Kee in Chinese characters, was engraved on the back of the wooden chairs!

Elton left the menus for me to pick my choice and assured me that he will assign an English-speaking waiter to take my order.

It did not take long for me to select the Breakfast set of original kon-lo-me or dry-tossed-noodles with a dash of chilli, that came with a side of soup and a cup of hot brewed coffee.

My Breakfast set meal with a cup of hot brewed coffee
When I took a sip of the hot coffee, I was impressed that it tasted strong and rather good!

I was pleased that the taste and texture of their family recipe noodles were as consistently agreeable as when it was served from the stall that Elton and his father used to run, years ago.

I watched as the tables in the café quickly filled up with diners who were arriving for a mid-morning snack.

And just as I finished my noodles, two bowls of warm desserts, Black Sesame Paste (Black) and Almond Paste (White) were served to my table.

Black Sesame Paste [Left] and Almond Paste warm desserts
Elton was proud of the Almond Paste, a traditional favourite among the Cantonese, (even though we agreed that its unique flavor is an acquired taste!) and was pleased to serve these quality desserts here.

I thought the rice dishes, snacks, brewed coffee and warm traditional Cantonese desserts, all add up to a better dining experience at Mee Ho Seng Kee.

When I saw a queue of diners patiently waiting to be seated, I guessed that the consistently good noodles, customer loyalty, courteous and efficient service, each play a part in keeping the Mee Ho Seng Kee brand in the forefront of quality noodles here.

Mee Ho Seng Kee [Non-Halal] noodle café is located at Level 6, Johor Baru City Square, Jalan Wong Ah Fook, 80000 Johor Baru. Open daily from 10am to 9.30pm.

A section of the diners in the new-look Mee Ho Seng Kee noodle cafe in JB City Square
Read the Mee Ho Seng Kee story under Heritage Trades in my book, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People.

This book and My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage are available from MPH bookstores nationwide and online via www.mphonline.com

A scrumptious seafood barbecue buffet

Fans of seafood and barbecue know that weekends are better in the Renaissance Johor Baru because there is a Seafood and Barbecue Buffet to enjoy at Café BLD.

A live-cooking Salmon Station where the chef will
grill chunks of salmon for diners to savour with sauces
On Fridays and Saturdays, the buffet will feature a variety of char-grilled meats and fresh seafood in an indulgent menu which also features a wide range of international and local dishes.

They know how to start at the tower of Seafood-on-Ice for fresh scallops, mussels, prawns and crabs to savour with a twist of fresh lime and a range of dip sauces before moving to the Appetizer section where large platters serve Smoked Salmon with capers and a refreshing Fish Kerabu salad.

The nearby Japanese section is a popular choice among diners for a selection of sashimi and sushi served with condiments and wasabi to add an extra zing to each bite.

A live-cooking Ikan Bakar Portugis station in
the outdoor section of Cafe BLD
Among the highlights in the Seafood buffet is a live-cooking Salmon Station where the chefs will grill fresh salmon marinated in three choices of flavours.

The freshly grilled chunks of salmon can be savoured with a selection of sauces.

In the outdoor section, there is more seafood to enjoy from the live-cooking Ikan Bakar Portugis Station where marinated whole fish and squid are grilled, wrapped in sheets of banana leaves for an added fragrance.

The Nyonya Wok is another live-cooking station where diners’ choice of mussels, clams, squid and crabs are cooked in a choice of sauces and served hot from the wok.

Seafood Jambalaya rice topped with seafood
In the Western section, the eye-catching Seafood Jambalaya is a signature rice dish cooked with seafood stock, fresh seafood like whole prawns, mussels, squid and spices.

Another Chef’s Recommendation is the Irish Seafood Chowder made with chunks of fish and plump prawns in a hearty creamy broth.

There’s much more to savour as Café BLD has earned a reputation for its generous buffet spreads with sections for the Carvery, Indian kitchen, Malay kitchen as well as a range of international and local desserts like freshly fried durian rolls wrapped in crispy batter. 

Chunks of fish and plump prawn
 in the Irish Seafood Chowder

From now till end February the Seafood and Barbecue Weekend Buffet happens every Friday and Saturday from 6.30pm to 10pm.

Priced at RM128 nett per adult and RM64 nett per child aged between five to 12 years old.

Café BLD is on the lobby level of Renaissance Johor Baru, at No. 2 Jalan Permas 11, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, 81750 Johor Baru, Johor.

The Japanese section in Cafe BLD is popular with diners for a range of sushi and sashimi
For reservations and enquiries, Tel: +607 – 381 3322 or +6017 – 771 3327.

Dazzled by the Opera House's opening show

After the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House was officially declared open by His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, the Sultan of Johor on Jan 19, His Majesty along with Her Majesty Raja Zarith Sofia Binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah, members of the Johor royal family, VIPs and invited guests, had the pleasure of enjoying a gala Opening Show in JB’s first opera house.

Song of Prosperity by the Ning Xia Performing Arts Group
It’s programme, specially curated with a variety of performances of music, dance and percussion, acrobatics and Peking opera accompanied by multimedia interaction was dubbed, Dazzling Marina Night with The Stars, with two shows planned for Jan 19 and 20.

In the afternoon of the official opening day, I was among media guests at the opera house for an Exclusive Media Preview of the Opening Ceremony Show and was thrilled to experience and enjoy several acts, presented in a brief rehearsal.

The opening act in the programme was a dance by the Ning Xia Performing Arts Group entitled, Golden Soup Bottles, that featured graceful dancers that portrayed the purity of the ethnic Hui people.

My invitation was for the second day of the show
I was delighted with the solo performance by tenor, Ding Yi and his interpretation of Nessum Dorma, an aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot and one of the best-known tenor arias in opera.

A closer look at the two Programmes for Jan 19 and 20 revealed that only three of the artistes from the first day’s show will repeat their performances on the second day.

And because Ding Yi was not among them, I was grateful for the privilege of the Media Preview for a taste of the talent curated in the programme for the Opening Show.

With a host of distinguished guests at its official opening, the opera house was filled to its capacity for the Opening Show, so my invitation was for the second day of the show.

Percussionist, Tian Yuan, performing Chinese Hero
It was still a pleasure to be among the guests on day two of the Dazzling Marina Night with The Stars show and the programme kicked off with a lively dance performed by the Ning Xia Performing Arts Group entitled, Song of Prosperity.

With Chinese New Year just around the corner, this dance aptly depicted the joy of the season with dancers dressed in Red and Gold colours, holding miniature “lion” heads in an animated portrayal of the lion dance during the Spring festival.

Later these dancers appeared in the programme again to perform several dances like, As-salamu, Flowers and Flowers and the graceful, Golden Soup Bottles.

The Ink Dance performed by Sun Fubo using water sleeves!
Chinese Hero was a solo performance by Tian Yuan, a percussionist from the Central Folk Youth Song and Dance Troupe.

She is a chief timpanist and graduate of the Chinese Folk Music from the China Music Academy and member of the Council of Folk Percussions in the China Folk Symphony Association.

This act was an unconventional performance that combined percussion with Chinese classical dance that featured traditional water sleeves in the Ink Dance performed by Sun Fubo, an award-winning lead performer of musical dramas in China.

Soloist playing the pipa
I liked how the interactive multimedia screen in the background enhanced this performance with bursts of “ink” that spread across the enchanting backdrop as the female percussionist drummed with passion and the male dancer danced with energy, full of emotion expressed by his eloquent water sleeves…

Chinese musical instruments have a charm all its own and the pipa or lute, a traditional stringed instrument, reminded me of our traditional gambus.

The pipa was however, held upright with its base on the lap while the soloist played two songs in two different genres.

The plucking and strumming of the first song entitled, Liuyang River, gave listeners a picturesque scene of flowing water in a peaceful, charming garden.

In stark contrast, the strumming in the next song entitled, Ambush From Ten Sides, that exemplified mounting excitement, reminded me of Chinese classic period dramas (that grandma used to enjoy!) and made me imagine that the enemy was fast approaching and the heroes had to fight and flee…

Soloist playing the erhu
Another impressive performance was by a soloist who played two songs on the erhu, a two-stringed instrument played with a bow, like a fiddle or violin, but held upright with its base resting on the lap while the bow was pushed and pulled across the strings.

The soloist played folk tunes entitled, The Grapes Are Ripe and New Horse Racing to a backdrop of illustrations that reflected the theme of these songs.

At the end of the latter song, the audience responded with cheers when the soloist skillfully created the sound of a horse’s neigh with his erhu!

Ballet On the Shoulder:
The Oriental Swan
The best of both worlds was showcased in the much-anticipated acrobatic act dubbed, Ballet On the Shoulder: The Oriental Swan, a performance which won the Golden Clown Award at the 26th International Monte-Carlo Circus Festival.

I’ve often watched Chinese acrobatics on television, but it was amazing and awe-inspiring to watch these competent artistes combine the elegance of ballet with Chinese acrobatics in a whole new, sensually exciting visual where acrobatics became refined and romantic.

From the act’s title the audience knew that the skillful ballerina would end up standing on tip-toe on the shoulder of the strong acrobat but watching the live performance was simply spellbinding!

As if standing on his shoulder on her single toe and doing a 180-degree turn was not enough, the graceful ballerina stunned the audience when she stood on the acrobat’s head also on her single toe!

By this time, the audience was totally hyped up for the highly anticipated final solo performance by award-winning HongKong singer, television host and actor, Hacken Lee.

Smartphones up to video and photograph Hacken Lee!
I watched with fascination as the audience welcomed him with loud applause while many whipped out their smartphones to video or capture photographs of their idol!

After performing the first song, Red Sun, Lee interacted with the audience, asking in jest if he should speak in Mandarin or Cantonese, and they spontaneously responded with shouts in Cantonese phrases!

This act was only for a few minutes but to his ardent fans, it was like his concert when they turned on the lights in their smartphones, waved the lights in time with the catchy tune and even joined him to sing the familiar chorus while he sang, The Crescent Moon.

Hacken Lee entertaining his fans in Johor Baru
From the audience reactions and their satisfied smiles, the two-day Dazzling Marina Night with The Stars show presented at the official opening of the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House was indeed a resounding success.

As I leave the opera house, my thoughts were on the China Performing Arts Agency (CPAA), the team who manages the opera house, hopeful that they will carry out their commitment in making this destination an art and cultural hub that effectively promotes the performing arts in JB.

I’m looking forward to an exciting calendar of local and international performing arts events lined up for the year. Mmm…I wonder what would be showcased next?

Johor Baru's first opera house is now opened!

On the evening of Jan 19, the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House was officially declared open by His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, the Sultan of Johor to a backdrop of spectacular fireworks.

The Permaisuri Zarith Sofia Opera House
was officially declared open on 19 January 2020
The official opening ceremony was witnessed by Her Majesty Raja Zarith Sofia Binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah, Tunku Temenggong Johor Tunku Idris Iskandar Sultan Ibrahim, Tunku Panglima Johor Tunku Abdul Rahman Sultan Ibrahim and Tunku Putera Johor Tunku Abu Bakar Sultan Ibrahim.

With permission from His Majesty, the Sultan of Johor, the first opera house in Johor Baru was named after Her Majesty, Raja Zarith Sofia, Permaisuri (Queen) of Johor.

This is not only the first opera house in Johor but also the first opera house developed by R & F Development among its worldwide projects.

The guests and VIPs assembled for the opening ceremony at the R & F promenade known as the Marina Place included Johor Menteri Besar, Dato’ Dr Sahruddin Jamal, Johor State Secretary, R & F Group Chairman Dato’ Li Sze Lim, Dato’ Zhang Li and General Manager of China Performing Arts Agency, Zhang Li.

The opening act for the Opening Ceremony Show,
was a graceful dance entitled, Golden Soup Bottles
The Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House is managed by the China Performing Arts Agency (CPAA), its first overseas international theatre setup and is committed to becoming an art and cultural hub that promotes the performing arts in JB.
It was significant that the launch of this opera house coincides with the 2020 China-Malaysia Year of Culture and Tourism which further cements the friendship between the two nations.

Earlier that day, I was among media guests at a Press Conference with Zhang Li, General Manager of China Performing Arts Agency (CPAA) before we were welcomed into the opera house for an Exclusive Media Preview of the Opening Ceremony Show.

This special programme of performances, specially curated for the Guests-of-Honour, VIPs and invited guests was dubbed, Dazzling Marina Night with The Stars, with two shows scheduled on Jan 19 and 20.

Another scene from the graceful dance,
Golden Soup Bottles
The opera house aims to be a platform for local and international arts exchange, cultural engagement and creative inspiration, and this opening performance will showcase a magnificent audio-visual feast for the senses.

A glance at the Programme showed a list of a variety of performances like music, dance and percussion, acrobatics and Peking opera accompanied by multimedia interaction.

A closer look at the two Programmes for Jan 19 and 20 indicated that only three of the artistes from the first day’s show will repeat their performance on the second day.

Inside the opera house, I observed that the Media Preview was in fact a rehearsal where the artistes went on stage for sound-checks, position-checks and to perform excerpts of their presentations.

Tenor, Ding Yi, performed an impressive
interpretation of Nessum Dorma
I recognised the familiar dancers from Yayasan Warisan Johor (YWJ) or the Johor Heritage Foundation who would be presenting zapin, the Johor folk dance, and the YWJ Band who would be playing live music.

The opening act in the programme was a dance by the Ning Xia Performing Arts Group that featured graceful dancers that portrayed the purity of the ethnic Hui people.

Their dance performance entitled, Golden Soup Bottles, won First Prize in the 9th National Dance Competition, First Prize in the 2nd ethnic Hui Dance Competition and Silver Award in the inaugural National Minorities Dance Showcase.

This dance was also performed during the China Central Television (CCTV) New Year Eve Party’s Spring Festival Gala in 2012, the 12th “Five Ones Projects” Award of Spiritual Civilization and the large-scale music and dance epic: The Road to Revival.

While this graceful dance was visually captivating, I thought the solo performance by Ding Yi, a renowned male tenor who is the only lead tenor of Asian origin in the Sydney Opera House, was simply superb.

Guest-of-Honour, His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim, the
Sultan of Johor arrived promptly for the opening ceremony
In 2006, he was awarded the “Artist Achievement Award” jointly issued by the European Art Council and the City Council of Rome, becoming the only Chinese artist in the world to have received such a prestigious award!

His interpretation of Nessum Dorma, an aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot and one of the best-known tenor arias in opera, was both passionate and uplifting.

“7.30pm,” I was reminded that His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim, the Sultan of Johor, and Her Majesty Raja Zarith Sofiah, Permaisuri of Johor, were expected to arrive for the opening ceremony promptly at 7.30pm.

His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim declared
the opera house officially opened
From 6.30pm, State dignitaries, VIPs and invited guests started to arrive at the Marina Place while guest artistes provided live music entertainment on the nearby stage.

As the sun set and the Marina Place was gradually enveloped in twilight, the façade of the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House made a stunning backdrop for photographs as countless cameras clicked to capture photo mementoes of this magnificent sight.

I heard the throb from the drumming of the 24 Festive Drums which signaled the arrival of the Johor Sultan and members of the Johor royal family, walking on the Blue carpet.

His Majesty the Johor Sultan and Her Majesty Permaisuri Johor, along with other VIPs were escorted to the stage to participate in the opening ceremony.

When the Johor Sultan declared the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House officially opened, all eyes were riveted on the opera house as a series of fireworks exploded above it!

When the fireworks show ended, His Majesty the Johor Sultan and Her Majesty Permaisuri Johor were escorted into the lobby of the opera house to unveil the commemorative plaque for the official opening of the opera house.

The commemorative plaques for the official opening
of JB's first opera house, at the lobby of the opera house
After a token of appreciation was presented to His Majesty the Johor Sultan and Her Majesty Permaisuri Johor, the Guests-of-Honour were shown to their seats in the royal box while other invited guests were directed to their seats.

In the next two hours, the Dazzling Marina Night with The Stars, dazzled the distinguished guests with a variety show of live entertainment.

At the close of the show, guests stepped out of the opera house to be thrilled by another spectacular show of fireworks in a fitting end to the evening’s entertainment for the official opening of JB’s first opera house.

View of Singapore from across the Straits

A couple of days before Christmas last year, I had the pleasure to hear from Jeevan Singh, the Consul-General of the Republic of Singapore in Johor Baru.

My view of the delegates in the Forum, seated in
 my place with the panelists, in front of them.
CG Jeevan reminded me that our paths had crossed in 2014 when I published my story (NST Streets Johor, 10 June 2014) on the United Sikhs’ humanitarian walk in which he and other members of the JB Consulate-General of the Republic of Singapore took part.

Then CG Jeevan went on to tell me about a delegation of Singapore civil servants who will be making a study visit to Johor in mid-January 2020 as part of the Specialised Understanding of Malaysia and Indonesia (SUMI) course organized by the Singapore Civil Service College.

SUMI is a programme aimed at helping middle managers in Singapore’s civil service gain a deeper understanding of Malaysia and Indonesia.

He explained that this study visit is a crucial component of the course, which will help the participants appreciate first-hand, the history and depth of Singapore’s relationship with Johor.

He then invited me to be part of the panel of speakers in an informal, closed-door discussion with the participants on the topic, Across the Straits: Johor’s View of Singapore.

CG Jeevan hoped that I will consider his invitation favourably and expressed his anticipation of my view as author of the My Johor Stories series of books, to provide my thoughts from the human and familial angle.

He explained that each panelist will speak for about 10 minutes on their view of Singapore and the Singapore-Johor relationship, before participating in an interactive Question and Answer session with the delegation.

His telephone call was followed by an official letter of invitation dated Dec 30 and a handwritten note that read, “Truly appreciate your willingness to speak to our civil servants.”

In the follow-up discussion with the Consul members from the office of the Consulate-General of the Republic of Singapore in JB, I began to understand that they were aiming to capture different perspectives of how Johoreans perceived Singapore and Singaporeans from three panelists.

Closer to that date, I was informed that my fellow panel members in this Forum were politician, YB Cheo Yee How, Assemblyman for Perling, and businessman, Anthony Tan Boon Siong, Managing Director of Leep Thye Trading & Transport.

Meanwhile I pondered over this, recognizing it as a huge responsibility weighing heavily upon my shoulders because my voice at this Forum was going to represent the common view of Johoreans.

In the course of my work, I meet with a wide range of people and have learnt to listen when they talked. I soon realized that this formed a wealth of resource for me.

As I mulled over this, I recalled snippets of conversations while interesting comments and incidents published in the news, started to pop into my mind.

I then linked together all the bits and pieces and compiled it into a simple presentation to share with the delegation in the given 10 minutes.

In the run-up to the date for the Forum, I was reminded that this was an informal, closed-door discussion and encouraged to share my views honestly.

I could probably read and refer to my notes for this presentation but more importantly, I not only wanted to provide an honest view but also a constructive one.

On the day of the Forum, I was met by CG Jeevan and Consul members along with the other two panelists, YB Cheo and Anthony Tan, for coffee in a holding area while the delegation completed their earlier session.

YB Cheo was accompanied by the Counciller for Johor Bahru City Council, Febrius Sim and Counciller for Iskandar Puteri City Council, Ang Yien Meei.

In response to my query, CG Jeevan said that this delegation was made up of some 50 civil servants aged between 25 and 45, one of the largest groups they had so far.

He explained that the delegation was on a day trip to JB with an itinerary that included a visit to a manufacturing plant of a familiar Singapore branded product based here and will end with dinner at Puteri Harbour.

I was glad that this delegation will drive through Iskandar Puteri and get a glimpse of the new developments happening here.

Based on my assumption (which turned out right!) that most of the delegates have made personal excursions to JB, mainly to the malls and heritage quarter, I guessed most of them may not have ventured further to Iskandar Puteri.

Then we were ushered into the meeting room, where CG Jeevan had the role of Moderator. He started with a brief introduction of each member of the panel.

The Forum Moderator, CG Jeevan Singh [Right] with
panelists [Left to Right] YB Cheo Yee How,
myself and Anthony Tan
Each panelist was invited to speak, beginning with YB Cheo, followed by me, with Anthony as the final speaker.

In my presentation, I took the delegates on a historic journey by reminding them that the Johor Empire once covered a large area encompassing the southern part of the Malay Peninsular including Pahang in the the North, part of Sumatra in the West and to the South, Singapore and the islands in the Riau Archilpelago.

The influx of Arab traders, Javanese, Bugis, Chinese and Indian (plus Sikh!) immigrants as well as the arrival of the British and other Europeans, created a melting pot of cultures from great civilizations that resulted in an interesting culture and culinary heritage.

I wanted to establish the fact that Malaysia and Singapore were once ONE country.

We share a COMMON history and SIMILAR culture heritage. In fact, our Johor Ruler used to administer from Telok Blangah in Singapore before the state administrative centre was moved to Iskandar Puteri, the former name of Johor Baru.

I said we are like brothers but somewhere along the way, we went our separate ways and each developed at a different pace.

And just like brothers or siblings, we have our squabbles but we make up and try to get along with each other because in the Asian context, our blood is thicker than water.

When I asked (by a show of hands) if they had relatives here, we saw from the raised hands that many of the delegates have family members who live on both sides of the causeway.

Johor is now linked to Singapore by the Second Link bridge and the Causeway that spans only 1km across the Johor Straits and we have a border crossing which can be counted among the busiest in the world.

They laughed when I mentioned that Singaporeans can be easily be identified by their dressing, their language and of course, their large shopping bags, backpacks and drag-bags! Some even use cabin bags!

And they liked to queue!

When I mentioned the crowd seen queuing up at Hiap Joo bakery to buy woodfire baked banana cake to eat and to take-away, many chuckled…

I observed how the delegates listened intently to the speakers while some were jotting down copious notes, probably preparing their questions to ask later.

Saifudin Hamsuri from the Civil Service College
presented souvenirs as a token of appreciation
When all three panelists had spoken, CS Jeevan thanked us and succinctly summed up, citing two sides to that proverbial coin:

While Johor depended on the Singapore Dollar to boost its economy, there was a dark side to Singaporeans who do misbehave when they were outside their country.

Then the Q & A session was opened, and questions invited from the delegates.

Those who raised their hands to ask a question had to state their name and the department or ministry they were from before asking their questions.

What ensued was a lively session where the panelists took turns to respond to their burning questions with interesting and informative replies.

As the Forum Moderator, CG Jeevan kept a close watch on the time because the delegates would proceed to lunch before leaving on their day-long itinerary in JB.

Then someone announced that as a special treat, they will have a taste of the popular woodfire baked banana cake bought from Hiap Joo bakery, and the delegates responded with loud cheers!

The Forum ended with a presentation of souvenirs to the panelists by Saifudin Hamsuri from the Civil Service College and a word of thanks from CG Jeevan.

One for the album, CG Jeevan Singh, the panelists and members of the delegation at the Forum
It was indeed my privilege to be part of this distinguished panel and to be the voice of Johoreans in sharing a human perspective of how Singapore and Singaporeans were viewed from across the Straits.

Thank you, CG Jeevan! I’m looking forward to more conversations that will help strengthen the Johor-Singapore relationship.