Having worked as a librarian for over 15 years, I have a special place in my heart for books
and, by extension, paper. Paper is an ideal material for conveying knowledge widely: it is
cheap, relatively easy to make and holds ink well. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.
Back in the 1920s, someone came up with the idea of adding a little liquid latex into the
paper-making process to get paper that is stronger, more flexible and more water-resistant.
It was a good idea, at least on paper (pun intended). However, for various reasons, the
product never caught fire. Read our cover story by Alex Teoh to find out why rubber latex
paper never took off.
Around the time when this unique paper was making waves, the Orang Seletar were
literally riding the waves in the strait between Singapore and Johor. They lived on boats
and harvested nature’s bounty back when borders were porous. Ilya Katrinnada speaks to
the Orang Seletar of today to learn how their life has changed in the last century.
The Orang Laut are unique in being able to live off the land (and sea). Not so for the
rest of us, who rely on supermarkets and wet markets for our produce. Speaking of wet
markets, the term is actually a local one of relatively recent coinage. Up until a few decades
ago, they were simply known as markets. Join Zoe Yeo as she wanders through the aisles
of history and shares some of her interesting finds.
One of the pleasures of the wet market is the flower stall, where you can get inexpensive
flowers. However, while these stalls may offer a wide range, what they will not have
are the orchid hybrids that Singapore presents to VIPs. These hybrids are bred specifically
by the Singapore Botanic Gardens and are not available for sale anywhere. If you are an
orchid lover, don’t miss Rebecca Tan’s essay on the roots of orchid diplomacy in Singapore.
In this issue of BiblioAsia, we also delve into a history of the Padang, peek into the pioneering Kamala Club, visit the old Kandang Kerbau Hospital, examine the life of cinema
magnate Tan Cheng Kee, explore the streets of Opera Estate, and sample the unique nature of Chinese food in Singapore.
All in all, another issue with plenty to chew on. Bon appétit!
Ms Alicia Yeo