Sandy beaches of Bintan and our sensory connect with nature.

Better blog some stuff down for the kids to remember us by before Facebook steals away my considered thoughts and reflections through inane sharing and likes.  Some of the best moments we have are on holiday by the beach.  This is in Bintan.  It’s difficult to find sand dollars on reclaimed beaches but the original pristine beaches in Bintan’s full of these skeletal remains.  Very pretty.

IMG 2141

Somehow the gentle waves in the cove beckon and it seems to occupy the kids very well.  It must be the sensation of the lapping waves their seeming playfulness that invites a child to play.

IMG 2169

IMG 2166

 Matt is always reflective at the beach.  So much better doing this than playing with gadgets.  I think we have a sensory connect with nature.  It is an involved process this.  No wonder we love to go on field trips.

IMG 2174


IMG 2213

IMG 2203

This is a green crested lizard, very inquisitive but shot away paddling at the sand when we got too close.

IMG 2179

This is another sensation that Josh likes, the tickling of the hermit crabs.  I am glad he has this experience.  Some of my JC students have never seen a hermit crab. 


IMG 2271

Josh is a relatively good swimmer so this time, we go kayaking.  We paddled far from the shore and around a promontory.  We witness fish skimming and jumping out of the waters closeby and discovered a fish in the kayak later.  I think this sort of things should be done on a regular basis.  



Being kids

This is a real short video I made of my kids playing around with their skateboards.  They seemed to enjoy the sensation of rolling down the slope.  I couldn’t resist making it into a video with iMovie with a song from Starfish Stories.  Ivan thinks we should call the song “On the Longboard”.

The traditional chicken curry at Christmas

On Christmas day, while the children are still asleep, I am already up and dealing with the chicken, curry paste, coconut milk and eggs that I bought the day before.  I like to buy the ingredients from the wet market and the one nearby has a shop run by an Indian lady who sells the curry powder mix, ground onions, garlic and ginger.

She told me to marinate the chicken by massaging the ginger and garlic paste into the thawed chicken for an hour or so.

Another important thing to do is the cook the curry paste in some oil in a wok to bring out the flavors of the spices.  I also realize that if that is not done, then the rawness of the ginger, garlic and onions can still be picked out.  Of course the caramelization of the onions will not occur as fully as it should.


Chicken curry

So here it is – marinated chicken in the pot.  What I had missed here is to fry the paste (portion that wasn’t used in the marinating).  So I did that in a separate pan.


Chicken curry

The outcome is this.  Notice I also added in hard boiled eggs – a tradition handed down from my family.  But I wonder where it originated from – lots of people are surprised when they scoop up an egg.  Hey, what do you expect from a pot of chicken?

The recipe

Part I – Ingredients

  • Chicken x1 (chopped to smaller parts)
  • Curry paste (For meats).  Preferably buy from a local wet market (if in Singapore).  The paste I buy has the dry curry spices as well as a separate packet of ginger-garlic paste and separate packet of shallot (onion) paste
  • I small packet of coconut milk
  • Spices – cloves, cinnamon bark, star anise, cardamom
  • Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves
  • 5 hard boiled eggs
  • 5 Potatoes, peeled.  Starchy or waxy are fine – both kinds add a different texture when attacking the potatoes.  However the starchy ones tend to break down faster but leave a nice thickness to the gravy.

Part II – method

  • Marinate the chicken with half the ginger-garlic paste for like 1 hour before.
  • Add some oil and brown the marinated chicken for about 10 mins and remove
  • Meantime, heat up some oil and add some whole spices (cloves, cinnamon bark, star anise, cardamom) and fry till fragrant.
  • Add in the remaining ginger-garlic paste with the onion paste and add the curry powder.  Mix in the wok in a low heat till the fragrant.  I think that would be about 5-10 mins.
  • Add in the chicken and mix well till the curry covers the chicken well.  The chicken at this point would have started to cook and will break apart easily so its time to add in water and the peeled potatoes.
  • Add in water till it has a curry-like consistency of your choice.  I prefer mine like a gravy.
  • Now its time to cover the pot and leave the heat to low.  Slow cooking makes the meat more tender – the faster the protein denatures in the high heat will result in a rubber like consistency with rushed curries.  Open the pot occasionally to stir the curry.  After about an hour of this, the curry is about done.
  • Now stir in the salt to taste and finally add coconut milk.  I usually add about half of the packet but if you like the curry richer, then add the entire packet.  Its all about customizing it to your own taste.  Once all these have been done, you can add in the hard boiled eggs and garnish with a generous bunch of coriander leaves.  I think the ammonia from the eggs do something nice to the taste.
  • Note:  The coconut milk should be added in at the end.  I add salt at the end as the salt can draw out the water from the chicken at the start and leave it less succulent.
  • Coriander leaves top the curry off very well.
  • Now you can eat it.  Best with rice or for me, the french loaf.

For a more complete recipe from scratch, the page at looks quite authentic.  But I think the idea is perhaps to keep this simple and then vary it according to your taste.  I remember meeting Otterman halfway up Gunung Belumut with a pack of curry powder and a packet of chicken so that he could cook chicken curry for his friends when they reached the summit and set up camp.

The curry chicken with hard boiled eggs is something of a memory vessel for me – my parents used to lug a huge pot of curry with hard boiled eggs, armed with several large baguettes (french loaves) and a long day of inspecting rock pools would end with some curry by the sea.

soccer by the beach




Biophilia Programme – Finding Nemo

The morning started out with a nice view of the seashore exposed by the low tide (0.3 m). The sky was clear and the sound of the ebbing waves beckoned.

The students were to carry out their transect study. I was with a group of them when they set up a 40 m long line transect across the intertidal zone. It must have been one of those fulfilling days as a bio teacher. The sun, the sand and the ebbing waves washing at our ankles as we looked for yet one more creature to surprise us with its existence in its strange form. The day’s new creature of the day started off with the slender seamoth.

Its not uncommon on these fieldtrips to the shore to hear students go “wow” in amazement at an entirely new creature they have seen…. Come to think of it.. how many times in our lives do we come across anything really new in the flesh.


The slender seamoth was really calm as we comtemplated it… see the shadows of our heads hovering over it as we trained camera lenses on it. We pondered over whether it was a stargazer or seawasp.

That’s the 40m transect which took a group an hour plus to complete documenting the creatures they saw.

And here’s a makeshift square transect that the group who had done were particularly proud of.

The low tide really exposed a lot of creatures and lots of carpet anemones were exposed in those pools. It was with Mr Nah’s patience and keen eye that we spotted the prawn that was swimming within those tentacles of one. And soon enough what must have been quite the highlight of the day was to spot a clownfish, at home within the tentacle of the carpet anemone. Now, we have seen Nemo in aquarium and the movies, but to come across on in situ was a different thing all together… we all beamed at such a discovery.


It must have been on of the most fulfilling visits to that fieldsite. I think partly it could be attributed to the fact that we set up transects and had a more considered approach to our survey.


We work to the ominous backdrop of mega construction and each time I go there, I half expect the place to be cleared and cordoned off for some pointless attraction. The day that happens, I will be cynical, for I have come to know of creatures who await discovery by students.

Octopus’ Garden

I was reading Sea Stories (Classic Illustrated Edition) Compiled by Cooper Edens. Its a really nice compilation of stories inspired by the sea. Like the 20,000 Leagues under the sea, Captain Blackbeard, The Old Man and the Sea, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner…

What attracted me to book was the front cover.. it was a nice painting

One of the entries for the book was this Poem by Richard Starkey. Turns out to be Ringo Starr from the Beatles.

Octopus’s Garden

“I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’ garden in the shade
He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been
In his octopus’ garden in the shade

I’d ask my friends to come and see
An octopus’ garden with me
I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’ garden in the shade.

We would be warm below the storm
In our little hideaway beneath the waves
Resting our head on the sea bed
In an octopus’ garden near a cave”

(these are just 3 stanzas>

“The idea for the song came about when Starr was on a boating trip with his family in Sardinia in 1968. He was offered an octopus lunch, but turned it down. Then the boat’s captain told Starr about how octopuses travel along the sea bed picking up stones and shiny objects with which to build gardens. Starr said that hearing about octopuses spending their days collecting shiny objects at the bottom of the sea was one of the happiest things he had ever heard, inspiring him to write this song.”


Here are the Beatles fiddling with the song.

Here’s a Sesame Street version… 🙂