Orchard Roadshow Presentation

Singapore, Singapore

November 24, 2011

The best things in life are free. Ironically, the cliché could not be any truer than on Orchard Road, Singapore’s premier shopping belt. I was taking an evening stroll with my family under Christmasy lights, oblivious to the brand names in screaming neon all around. Instead, I bought into the visual and auditory treats of this posh street.

Mom on Orchard Road

Mom Posing by the Photo of Orchard Road circa 1966

The Colors of Commerce on Orchard Road

Busk the Move

I’ve brought you a gift. It’s a crystal, nothing more. But you turn it this way and look into it, it’ll show you your dream.

Those lines are from the movie Labyrinth, spoken by David Bowie as the Goblin King, enticing a young Jennifer Connelly with a mystical crystal ball that seemed to float between his fingers. Walking down Orchard Road, I was similarly mesmerized. Instead of a goblin-slash-rock-star Bowie, however, it was a funky Asian busker that detained my attention on the sidewalk.

The street performer was lithely rolling a crystal (actually acrylic) sphere on his hands and body, set to pulsating music blaring from speakers attached to his iPod. He manipulated the ball with enigmatic fluidity; there were no breaks in the continuity of movement. The ball seemed to barely touch his skin, as if drawn by strings, as it gently rolled between his fingers, over his palms, and on his fingertips. At one point, the ball appeared to be suspended in mid-air, stationary, as his fingers were writhing around it.

The performance is called contact juggling, an art form that combines elements of dance, balancing act, and meditation. The last element elevates it from a mere circus act to mysticism. As he wound up the routine, he pressed his palms together as in prayer and looked up to heaven as the ball rested on the bridge of his nose. The sizable crowd that had gathered around him erupted into applause and tossed their appreciation into his coin bucket. I couldn’t say if the crystal ball showed me my dream as David Bowie had promised, but the busker’s performance was certainly dreamy.

Mom and Busker / Contact Juggler on Orchard Road, SG

My Mom and Sister: Christmas in November on Orchard Road

Beak Chorus

Man: Admittedly a few birds did act strange….

Tippi Hedren: This isn’t a few birds!

That exchange from the Hitchcock thriller The Birds may well be uttered on tree-lined Orchard Road. A symphony of bird songs – the warblers themselves remained hidden from view way up the towering trees – echoed through the street below. At first, we assumed it was a recording, merely artificial sound effects to amuse shoppers and tourists.

Our host later confirmed they were real birds, numbering in the thousands. Their original roosting area had been cleared of trees and turned into a carpark; the displaced starlings had to move to Orchard Road to roost at dusk. Their shrill tweets rose above the street-level din of traffic and loud music, an avian Greek chorus to the sounds of the city, amplified by the canopy of trees and walls of buildings of concrete and glass that flank the street. Despite their unmistakable presence, I neither spotted any bird nor their droppings, owing to the efficiency of the city government to keep the street squeaky clean. This was aseptic Singapore, after all.

Sadly, the birds are considered pests by the Orchard Road business establishments (I can imagine shop owners saying the Tippi Hedren line in Chinese!). I hope the city government could simply control the bird population and stop a step away from totally exterminating the warblers. The Orchard Road birds imbue this coldly commercial concrete jungle with the soulful sounds of a real jungle.

Tree-Lined Orchard Road

Singapore’s Red-Hot Welcome

Perspective is everything. I found that art and nature, not Armani and Nike, were the real finds on Orchard Road. Both could delight the soul and the senses at no cost at all. My shopaholic sister would disagree, of course.

The Transcendental Tourist on Orchard Road, SG

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61 thoughts on “Orchard Roadshow Presentation

  1. So cool that your mom’s game to have photo sessions! I love this post, it makes me want to visit Orchard Road again and scour for nice finds!

    • Yeah, Mom is cool like that. But obviously, I have an aversion to shopping so my “nice finds” were this busker and the birds. :D

    • Word! Yep, he was spectacular. Too bad I didn’t get his name. I like the Kung Fu moves he did with the ball. Actually, he tossed it at one point, which I don’t think is common in contact juggling. My Mom was enthralled by him. She gave the loudest applause.

  2. Looks like you had fun touring Orchard Road with your mom and sister! She must be soo cool to be joining a travel blogger on a trip haha. And wow, Christmas in November? I’ve never seen Orchard Road this way coz all my trips in SIngapore were during the summer time!

    • @Novie: You’ve been to SG but not to Orchard Road?! Wow, I never thought that was possible. It’s like going to The Fort without seeing Bonifacio High Street. :D How can that be?

      @Atty Ojeda: SG is like Pinas. Christmas starts early for commercial purposes.

      @Mark Pogi: Glad you liked them even though they’re blurry and grainy.

  3. I never been to Singapore. i hope to visit hte place someday ,watch the juggler and hear those birds.We have lots of birds here too and their noise is really loud .

    • @Leah: He did it so seamlessly, like it was the easiest, most natural thing to do. Like he was one with the crystal ball. I imagine it took a long time to perfect.

      @Athena: Generally expensive, but I think you can still keep to a budget if you want to. I had a similar impression of Tokyo, but I was surprised that it could also be afforable. These cities don’t have to be prohibitively expensive. Choose the restos to eat in, don’t take taxis, stay in a backpackers’ hotel, etc.

      @Tess: I love bird songs, especially waking up to them in the morning. They don’t annoy me so much, unless it’s from a duck or a cock, haha! I never thought there were many birds in Qatar. Nice!

    • I think the older we get, we become more like friends with our parents. I feel that with my mom too. Our conversations and the things we do now are more about shared interests. I’m really just starting to understand her as a person, not only as a mother. It’s one of the good things about growing older. :) Thanks for sharing that, Julie Ann.

  4. Awww your mom is like mine, so game! I whenever I travel with her she’s more energetic than me, and when we go to theme parks she loves those scary rides and I don’t! Hehe… Been to SG a lot of times I think I have stayed at orchard at least 3 times.. That’s a peaceful part of SG to stay as compared to other places.. Latest place I’m frequenting lately is Chinatown.. ;)

    • Our moms are cut from the same cloth! When we went to Bohol, she didn’t think twice about climbing the Chocolate Hills. And she was 78 then! I wish I’d have her energy and spunk when I get to that age. :)

      I completely missed Chinatown in this trip. I just went around the Orchard Road and Marina Bay area. Didn’t even do Sentosa and Little India. Well, more reason to go back.

    • OMG Jolo – stone stone from the sky (bato bato sa langit….hehe). As I’ve said, perspective is everything. ;) Yeah, mother is coolness personified.

  5. It looks like you and your mom really had a great time. Hindi ko kaya pinag-gagagawa nung juggler. haha. I like the last photo. Meron din ako nyang ganyang pose pero sa session road lang at hindi sa orchard .=)

    • Contact juggling is a discipline; it takes a long time and dedication to learn, I suppose. At kahit sa Session Road ang pic mo, keri pa rin. :)

  6. Ang galing nung juggler parng lumipipad na yung bolang crystal….at bawal mahulog talaga ang bolang kristal dahil raraket pa siya sa panghuhula after…. hehehe ang kulet ninyong dalawa ng mommy mo! hehehe… more vids to come! =)

    • Ika nga ni David Bowie, I’ll see my dream daw sa bolang kristal. Di naman eh. :) Marami pa kaming makukulit na travels ni Mom. More to come, with vids! Thanks, Idol!

  7. Glad to see your writing again A.J. I find your writing, [pause], philocalic. Is that good? Look it up. [takes his tea and drinks]… :-)

  8. Orchard Road…makes me think of the Leo Sayer song many years ago! I love seeing your Mom in your photos AJ! I think I have said it before but she must be a wonderful travel companion! Please give her a hug!

    • Dunno if Leo was singing about the same place, but like him I wanna go back to Orchard Road. :) Ok, I’ll give Mum a hug straight from Argentina. Gracias, Nelieta! Glad to be back in the blogosphere after a long hiatus.

  9. and I was just watching Pepito Manaloto in their Singapore episode… talk about coincidence… I wish we have the same things here in our country… hindi yung pag may fiesta o festival lang…

    • @Romelo: What a coincidence indeed. A friend of mine always tells me I look like Michael V. So yeah, I was Pepito Manaloto in SG. :D

      @Cheska and Enzo: He’s too cool! I think Asians doing contact juggling add some mysticism to it more than Caucasians can. It just seems so Asian, like kung fu and taichi.

    • Elal, I got my passion for traveling from her. Actually we both got it from her dad, my grandfather. He was a real traveler.

  10. Looking at your photos, I already miss Singapore and it was just last year that we visited. I miss the shops and the food court at Takashimaya. I love everything about Singa especially the food. Thank God for seat sales, we’re coming back this November…

  11. Cool. I just visited Sg again last January to celebrate my birthday. Orchard road is definitely a place to visit. Lots of people and plenty of great stores nearby. :) I so love those artsy things they have sa street. Sobra ko naappreciate. :)

    • Same here. Appreciated the artsy things more than the great stores. :) I think Orchard Road is the peg of Bonifacio High Street.

  12. You have painted a totally different, enigmatic Singapore in my mind with this post. I’ve never been to Lion City, but can’t wait to visit—especially to listen to the birds. :)

    Glad you’re back, AJ!

    • @Jenny: More mommy fabulousness to come! :)

      @Reiza: SG has many surprises up its modern, urban sleeves. Pleasant surprises. And thanks for the warm welcome. Feels good to be back home in my cyber-corner.

  13. It’s official…

    I WANNA GO BACK TO SINGAPORE!

    This time not just on a hurried 2-hour break to visit only the Merlion…

    Envious!!! ;-)

    • Wanna go with you, Rye!!! :) SG deserves more than a “short time”. Wishing for MDNA to include SG in the second leg of her tour. That would be perfect!

  14. I’ve only been to Singapore ones and I definitely want to go back! :D We’ve been in Orchard Road for a lot of times but never go the chance to see a street performer. We really should consider going back to SG around Christmas :D

    • @Sumi: Orchard is decked out in Christmas lights and decors even a month away from Christmas. I wonder how it looks after December.

      @Sheng: Their cleaning system is so efficient. I never saw a single bird dropping on the sidewalk, considering there are thousands of birds roosting on the trees.

    • Glad you saw it that way. Mom is proud of this blog even though I usually say that she’s my only faithful reader (a blog that only MY mother can love, hehehe). She really is very supportive.

  15. Haven’t been to Singapore but maybe 3 months from now, I’ll drop by for a few days. We met a French dude in Siem Reap who does Diabolo (juggling of ewan anong tawag) to support his trips. ayos na ayos, he told us he earned about 2000 baht for 20 minutes in Khao San Road. Makes me want to learn a new skill para magawa naman yan. kapal ng mukha lang naman ang kelangan, meron ako nyan! hehehe.

    • Wow, not bad for 20 minutes. Are you sure he was juggling and not doing something else? He was in Thailand, after all, hehe. Sige, maybe you can be a busker on Colon in Cebu! :D Anyway, if you bump into this guy (in my vid), please take a better video of his performance and maybe interview him a bit. And tell him he has a huge fan in Pinas!

  16. bwahahaha, not doing something else? hahahaha. Maybe I’m just too naive to believe what people say right away. hehe, sige sige, hope to see this guy in SG during my visit!

  17. Hi AJ,

    interesting take you have on Orchard Road shopping boulevard. :) Nice departure from all the shopping info.

    As for the birds problem, Singapore authorities did brought in a eagle or hawk (couldn’t really recall) to try scare them away. But it didn’t work because the buildings were too close, the poor big bird do not have enough space to do it’s job. Also, the crows were too much for a single hawk/eagle to scare off.

    Btw, Orchard Central shopping center won this year’s (2012) Best Dressed Building Contest for X’mas with their pink and white color scheme. I hoped you did check it out. :)

    • An eagle – in an urban jungle? That’s just rad!!! Poor big bird indeed. I do hope shop owners can find a way to share the Orchard with the birds.

      I’ve not been back to SG since last year. I missed that award-winning building. But I’ll keep a mental note of your budget hotel site. That’ll come in handy when I go back. :) Thanks Danny!

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