Feature: Savior of Shoes

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Shoes, heels and boots, you name it; they will fix it in minutes. Quiet and unassuming, the cobblers ply their trade daily both in the ‘Cobbler Square’ and in little pockets all over Singapore. It is a simple setup consisting of a foldable umbrella, the standard cobbler’s toolkit, some stools, and a trolley to transport everything. Uncle Robert Chong is one of the few remaining individuals whom I would like to call, the Savior of Shoes. The cobbler profession was once a thriving business back in the 50s when they were often referred to as member of the ‘five-foot-way trades’.

I watched Chong skilfully cut the rubber and put the worn-out heel back together; it was a skill that could only have taken years if not decades to perfect. Chong had been in the profession since 1975. Two young ladies approached Chong asking him to fix a wedge that was opening on the sides. Chong told the ladies that the wedge could not be fixed because the glue would not hold the wedge together anymore with only a split second glance. Chong’s companion told me Chong has never deceived his customers in all his years in the trade.

Chong raised two children with this occupation, one of which went on to become a school principal. I asked why did he not want to retire and “enjoy life”. Chong candidly replied, “Mending shoes makes me happy.. I will continue doing this until I die.” One day, this profession will cease to exist, but our children should know that there was a time when shoes could be fixed inexpensively and cobblers were the heroes we turn to.

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Writer’s note: The subjects in the photo has verbally consented to being photographed. While the above photos has not been watermarked, all rights belong to the photographer (me). Requests for commercial use of photos will not be entertained. For requests for editorial use, kindly email me at reueleugenetay@gmail.com. 

Singapore Seen: Old Is Gold (Cont’d)

Hosting Colleen, a friend I made while on last year’s backpacking trip, I once again embarked on a trip to the streets of Haji Lane and its surrounding features while showing our foreign friend around. This place is truly a gem, I am always revealed to something I didn’t notice the previous time.

I terribly enjoy hosting a foreign friend and exploring my country together with people. Sojourning Singapore from the eyes of a foreigner definitely brings a whole new perspective to the mundane that we may take for granted. Here are some of the images that caught my eye.

P.S. If you need a personal guide in Singapore, you know who to find.

 

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Bak Kwa, or barbecue pork, Singaporean style.

 

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Looks like a foreign place somewhere in the Middle East?

 

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Reflections.

 

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Rare old bus stop.

 

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Touring.

 

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Building for a better future.

Bustling Chinatown

I had some time to kill last weekend while waiting for a friend at Chinatown. Chinatown is such a magical place. An Austrian runs the sausage bar, a Hongkonger runs the pastries stall, the elderly play chess everyday regardless of everything that’s happening around the world, the shop-help works hard to peddle his products to the tourists everyday. I just wanted to while my time away, but never expected Chinatown to be so interesting even for a local. There is so much activity happening in one place and everybody who comes wants to be part of it. Chinatown is run by locals and foreigners, attracts the old, the young, the Chinese Nationals and the local community, welcomes tourists of all countries with open arms. This is truly, Uniquely Singapore.

See the full gallery here.

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