Monday, January 31, 2011

S’poreans rent partners for CNY

MY PAPER, F R I D A Y J A N U A R Y 2 8 , 2 0 1 1, NEWS, PAGE A1, A4
Source Website:
By GWENDOLYN NG,, Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:04 am

PHOTO: Love Yourself, Even if No One Else Does

IT IS that dreaded time of the year again, when nosy family members question the singlehood status of relatives at Chinese New Year reunion dinners.

But now, instead of bracing themselves for interrogation, singles are taking matters into their own hands.

Their solution: Getting friends to pose as romantic partners, seeking help from dating agencies or even hiring social escorts to do the job.

A 29-year-old marketing executive, who wants to be known only as David, said he shuns long-term relationships, preferring to date casually. In fact, many of his dates often accompany him on Chinese New Year family visits.

He said: “I just take one of them along for these events to shut up my relatives. The next time I meet my relatives, I just tell them that we broke up.” Three out of four escort agencies told my paper that the demand for companions increases by 30 to 50 per cent during the festive season.

The owner of Singapore Model Escorts, who wants to be known only as William, said: “(Our male clients’) key concern is they don’t want girls to wear short skirts or look sexy. They should dress conservatively.

One of his social escorts, Kari, in her 20s, posed as a girlfriend of a working professional at his family reunion dinner last year. She met him only an hour before the gathering to corroborate details such as how they met and how long they had been dating. Kari, who works as a bank executive by day, said: “As we both worked at a bank, we told (his relatives) that we met at work.

In the end, she pulled off a convincing act in front of her client’s 30 relatives at a Chinese restaurant. The social escort of two years said: “They even told us that we look good together.” She was paid $1,600 for that job. Kari said: “I got paid a lot just to socialise and that’s the best I could’ve asked for. The guy wasn’t too bad looking, too.” She said she has received many professional requests to meet friends and family this festive season.

A spokesman for escort agency Vie Models said: “The booking fee is higher during this time because these escorts are mostly Chinese and would take on assignments only if the pay is very attractive.

The agency raises its rates by about 25 to 50 per cent per hour during this period. He declined to reveal actual figures.

Mr Jason Lim, owner of Metro Touch Escorts, said that a premium Singaporean social escort – typically defined as an attractive university graduate in her 20s – can earn anything from $5,000 to a whopping $20,000 for a three-hour reunion-dinner session. He added: “The cost depends on the girl, the location, the duration, how many people she has to meet at the dinner and whether she is required to drink.

There are also those who are motivated to seek help from dating agencies. At least two such agencies told my paper that they see a surge in demand at this time of the year.

Dating agency Lunch Actually sees a 15 to 20 per cent increase in demand for its services in the period leading up to Chinese New Year. Its chief executive, Ms Violet Lim, 30, said: “Chinese New Year is a time when they feel more pressured as they will be meeting family members who will probably ask them about their marital status. This makes them more open to finding out about dating opportunities and platforms.

Then, there are those who choose to skip town to avoid facing a grilling by relatives. A 24-year-old public-relations executive, who wants to be known only as Ashley, said she got a guy pal to pose as her boyfriend three years ago.

She said:“I don’t mind getting someone to pose as my boyfriend. I’ll probably have to find someone else next time but, this year, I’m getting out of town.

PHOTO: Love Yourself, Even if No One Else Does

我的字典: Wǒ de zì diǎn

Socialise: 应酬 - yìng chou
Reunion dinner: 团圆饭 - tuán yuán fàn
Marital status: 婚姻状况 - hūn yīn zhuàng kuàng
Grilling: 严厉盘问 - yán lì pán wèn


Friday, January 28, 2011

Quirky hongbao in vogue

Source Website:
By JOY FANG,, Fri, Jan 28, 2011, my paper

PHOTO: Different this year is OCBC Bank. Its hongbao collection consists of eight individual designs which, when put together like a jigsaw, form a portrait of a family of rabbits.

THIS year, when it comes to red packets, young executives and corporate companies say that tradition is out, while edgy and fun designs are in.

Sales executive Sharon Lim, 27, for example, said she likes giving funky hongbao because they are special and show that she is a "cool relative".

One shop which stocks unusual hongbao is lifestyle store Totally Hot Stuff at The Cathay. It carries fabric red packets, and over 50 per cent of that stock was sold in the past two months, with the majority of customers being young executives in their 30s.

Its business manager, Mr Luke Chong, said: "Young couples wish to differentiate themselves and create an impression on friends and relatives."

Printing companies said that they have seen an increase in corporate clients asking for unusual hongbao. Design and printing firm Corporate Greetings, for instance, saw a 30 per cent increase in clients making such requests. And MDK Design & Print said eight out of every 10 customers opted to use colours such as pink, maroon, gold, copper and cream, up from just 20 per cent last year.

Mr Desmond Kang, MDK's director, said: "Our customers are mostly in their 20s to 30s, and are more adventurous."

Ms Chai Hui Min, marketing manager of Antalis Singapore, a paper distributor, noted that red packets are a marketing tool for companies. Premium materials - such as textured paper - are in vogue, she said.

One company which has opted to be different this year is OCBC Bank. Its hongbao collection consists of eight individual designs which, when put together like a jigsaw, form a portrait of a family of rabbits.

Ms Alice Goh, the bank's head of credit cards, said customers prefer red packets which are "of a collectible nature".

OCBC hopes these designs will give customers the warm feeling of a family reunion, she added.

PHOTO: Tradition is out, while edgy and fun designs are in


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A world of dreams

Today, Wednesday, January 26, 2011, Movie, Page T2, T4, T6
Source Website:
By GENEVIEVE LOH,, 05:55 AM Jan 26, 2011

PHOTO: Xiang yun makes nostalgia look smoking hot in it’s a great great world.
Xiang Yun and the stars of Kelvin Tong's It's A Great Great World remember the good old days at Great World Amusement Park.
Today, Wednesday, January 26, 2011, Movie, Page T1

Today, Wednesday, January 26, 2011, Movie, Page T2

MEMORIES are groovy. Anyone who says otherwise probably just can't remember. Not only do they light the corners of your mind, misty watercolour memories are the best way to remind us of the way we were. (Thanks, Babs.)

And with MediaCorp Raintree Pictures' It's A Great Great World opening tomorrow, this always sentimental journo was more than ready to plunge into a golden sea of nostalgia and reminiscence about the legendary Great World Amusement Park and all its colourful attractions that director Kelvin Tong had to recreate.

Except for one little glitch: This 1979 baby was born a whole year after Tua Seh Kai (as it was affectionately known in Hokkien) permanently shut its doors in 1978. Darn it.

The only Great World I know of is the shopping mall that replaced it on Kim Seng Road, and I don't think those exotic themed restrooms they have within count as "attractions". I so needed help.

PHOTO: It was a wonderful rush of happiness. Xiang Yun on first walking onto the set.
Today, Wednesday, January 26, 2011, Movie, Page T2

Xiang Yun was sitting in the photo studio being worked on by no less than four individuals at once. There's the make-up artist, the hairstylist, the art director/stylist and me. The veteran actress plays an aging but still glamourous songstresses who headlines at the infamous Flamingo Nite-Club in the movie, so she must know a thing or two. You know, method acting and all.

MediaCorp TV Channel 8's resident thesp, who will be turning 50 this year, is beyond resplendent in a figure-flattering, siren-red cheongsam by local designer Lai Chan, looking like a glamour puss from another, more glorious, era.

"Being dressed up these outfits, and posing for these pictures makes me want to do even more 'retro' movies!" she giggled in Mandarin.

PHOTO: Xiang yun in it’s a great great world - T4
Today, Wednesday, January 26, 2011, Movie, Page T4

The mother-of-two agreed it was a "more romantic and sentimental era", which is why her story in the film - that of a washed up diva who pines for an old lover while the club owner hides his own feelings for her - was especially memorable. "I've always wanted to play a stage performer who sings and dances. It's been one of my biggest dreams."

PHOTO: It's A Great Great World
Produced by MediaCorp Raintree Pictures, It’s A Great Great World is set in Singapore’s legendary amusement park Great World, which was also affectionately known in Hokkien as Tua Seh Kai or 大世界. Spanning the 1940s to the present day, the film tells the stories of a multitude of characters who lived, worked, played, sang, danced and fell in love in Great World.

Could it be that it was all so simple then?
The actress shared that she was even more intrigued with Great World Amusement Park after shooting her part, and went around asking "uncles" whether they'd been to the Flamingo Nite-Club. "Everyone had differing stories! Were the 'Taxi-Girls' all Cantonese? Did they sing Chinese songs or English songs in the club?" she said, laughing. "I'm guessing Great World had gone through so many different eras and each era brings about different memories for different people."

PHOTO: Xiang Yun flaunts her good figure in latest movie. The MediaCorp actress felt “stressed” over her costumes in the movie.
"Actually, I don't like dressing like this. I'm afraid I'd accidentally reveal myself, so it's very difficult to be in character. It's best if [the clothes] are a little more comfortable," Xiang Yun said.

She remembers stepping onto the movie set for the first time, saying how Tong's detailed food stalls and flashing neon lights instantly brought her back to the era - and the delight of her childhood days. "It was a wonderful rush of happiness."

PHOTO: Featuring an ensemble of MediaCorp artistes, the family comedy will star Joanne Peh, Yvonne Lim, Chew Chor Meng, Xiang Yun, Huang Wenyong, Zhang Zhen Huan, Zhang Yao Dong, Ng Hui, Paige Chua, Ben Yeo, Kym Ng, Bryan Wong, Chen Shucheng, Gurmit Singh, Zheng Geping, Apple Hong, Guo Liang and Dennis Chew. Familiar comedy names, such as Henry Thia and Marcus Chin, as well as artistes from Hong Kong and Taiwan will also be appearing in It’s A Great Great World.

PHOTO: Love is in the air…this Chinese New Year’s must-see movie ‘It’s A Great Great World 大世界’ will debut on 27 January at all cinemas near your place.

Chew Chor Meng understands Xiang Yun's joy. The 42-year-old actor - who plays the reminiscing link in the movie's sprawling, star-studded cast - remembers going to Great World Amusement Park with his relatives.

PHOTO: It's A Great Great World

"I was just about 10 years old when it closed down, so I guess I was lucky enough to have been there about four or five times in total," he said, recalling that it was only during special occasions like Chinese New Year or birthdays that he got to visit the park. "Because that's when you have the money to spend on food and games!" the affable actor laughed.

PHOTO: 大世界 It's a Great Great World's Photos - Profile Pictures

He patiently recounted to me all his fond memories of watching Bruce Lee movies at Sky cinema and the many "tikam tikam" stalls. His favourite attraction at Great World? The Ghost Train ride.

"I cannot remember if it was 30 or 50 cents. But I do remember going on the ride and screaming really loudly. Just for fun because, actually, the 'ghosts' in there aren't scary at all!" he said, laughing heartily.

"Those were good times," sighed the Star Search-winning father-of-two and self-professed nostalgic. "Good times."

PHOTO: 大世界 It's a Great Great World's Photos - Profile Pictures

If we had the chance to do it all again ...
For stalwart Channel 8 actor Chen Shu Cheng, those "good times" refer to his carefree days as a Primary 6 student when he and his friends used to "pontang" school to hang out at Great World all afternoon long.

"The park would be empty in the day, so it was really fun to go and sit on the tea cup ride and chit chat with my friends about anything and everything," the 61-year-old shared in Mandarin.

The actor, who plays a father paying for his daughter's wedding banquet at the famed Wing Chun Yuen restaurant, remembers it all. Well, almost.

"I loved watching cowboy movies in English - those were my favourites! I remember watching them in the Globe cinema, which had air-con! Or was it fan? Oops, now I cannot remember ... All I know is that it was nice and cool inside," he recounted, laughing.

PHOTO: 大世界 It's a Great Great World's Photos - Profile Pictures

Chen will forever link Great World to his father, seeing how his days of truancy came to an abrupt ended after his teacher sent a letter to his parents asking why he was "sick" for so many days.

PHOTO: It's A Great Great World
"So many photos are up and about the internet that we're not catching up in time."

"My father took me out of the house because he knew my mother would cane me, and asked me very gently to explain why I skipped school. He also reminded me of how much he had to struggle to come to Singapore from China to start a life here. After that, I felt very guilty and never skipped school to go to Great World again!"

Actress Yvonne Lim might not have the same intricate memories of Great World. In fact, seeing as she was only a toddler during the last days of Great World, she has no direct memories at all. But that's not to say her story is any less touching.

PHOTO: The all-dialect ‘It’s A Great Great World 大世界’. Actress Yvonne Lim plays a sassy photographer in the film.

It was through her preparation for this movie that the 34-year-old, who plays a sassy photographer in the film, discovered that it was where her parents met and courted.

PHOTO: William & beautiful Alexis' are this amazing couple with a salsa story to tell.

"I had to speak Hokkien naturally and, as you know, our generation doesn't speak dialect very well," she shared, laughing. "So I ended up asking my father to help me with some words. And that was when he suddenly revealed that my mum used to work at Great World selling clothes!"

The 2007 Star Awards Best Actress choked up recounting her father's story of how he'd wait for her mother to finish work at Great World every night to send her home, explaining how it meant a lot as her mum passed away when she was very young.

PHOTO: It's A Great Great World Loves the fashion of the era, from vintage clothes to bags and shoes.

"We never really talk to our parents about how they met. And because of this movie, I now know. And because of this story, I feel even more attached to the movie."

Lim shared how she loves the fashion of the era, from vintage clothes to bags and shoes. "Maybe I should have been born in that era," she laughed.

PHOTO: Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind

After hearing all these stories, I wish I had been, too. You know, scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind. Smiles we gave to one another ... For the way we were.

It's A Great Great World opens in cinemas tomorrow.

By GENEVIEVE LOH,, 05:55 AM Jan 26, 2011

PHOTO: The entire theme of the MediaCorp Festival was dedicated to Raintree’s movie ‘It’s A great Great World 大世界’ (the opening act) and Channel 8′s ‘A Song To Remember 星洲之夜’ (the finale act) which featured elaborate cabaret scenes…(hosts Dennis Chew 周崇庆, Michelle Chong 庄米雪 & Kumar all dressed up like as if they worked in the nightclub).

PHOTO: The much shroulded in secrecy Raintree movie ‘It’s A Great Great World 大世界’ previewed for the first time and some of the cast were on stage to promote the movie. ‘It’s a Great Great World’ tells the stories of a multitude of characters that have once lived, worked, played, sang, danced, and fell in love in Great World. Directed by Kelvin Tong 唐永健, this is one big movie starring many MediaCorp stars and foreign artistes to dominate the Chinese New Year period here in Singapore – must watch!

PHOTO: The always fantastic Pat Mok 莫小玲 presenting “Move This, It’s Yours 夺宝奇兵’, an ultimate challenge on strength and speed, contestants must navigate intricate mazes and obscure obstacles in a giant studio course, moving larger than life prizes across the finish line.

PHOTO: Ann Kok 郭舒贤, Cynthia Koh 许美珍, Constance Song 宋怡霏, Terence Cao 曹国辉 and Darren Lim 林明伦 presented Channel 8′s biggest drama production ‘A Song To Remember 星洲之夜’ in a medley of song and dance

PHOTO: The casting line up eventually for ‘A Song To Remember 星洲之夜’?.

PHOTO: IT'S A GREAT GREAT WORLD 大世界 : IN CINEMAS 27 JAN 2011 Starring Mediacorp artistes like Xiang Yun.

PHOTO: Kym Ng, 大世界 It's a Great Great World's Photos - Profile Pictures

PHOTO: Artistes from Hong Kong, Ah Hao, 大世界 It's a Great Great World's Photos - Profile Pictures

PHOTO: Love is in the air…this Chinese New Year’s must-see movie ‘It’s A Great Great World 大世界

PHOTO: Starlet Joey Fung 冯瑾瑜 (féng jǐn yú)


It's a Great Great World [Review]