Aug 19, 2009

Recommended Blog

So there's this person, Cai Ming Jie, who has a PhD from Stanford University. For 16 years, he was a researcher with the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, which is part of A*STAR. Last May, he was made redundant. He wasn't able to find any other job, despite sending out many applications.

So this year, he's become a taxi driver.

I just browsed through his blog - A Singapore Taxi Driver's Diary. As the title suggests, it's mostly about the people he meets and the places he goes to, as he drives around Singapore.

I really like his writing. It's honest, observant, authentic and has a lot of genuine local flavour. His blog entries almost inspire me to start writing my next poetry book.

Do check out his blog.


Indiana said...

I have been reading his blog for a while, and I have to say why???

He has lots of offers for employment on his blog (in the comments), he was even offered a tutoring position for more money than he earns as a driver so again I ask why???

Could it be that he has plans for some sort of book deal?

Or am I just a Cynic?

AcidFlask said...

Dear Mr. Wang,

as has happened several times now, I started writing a comment on your blog about whether this guy is for real, but it turned into a long long comment that ended up as a full-blown post on my blog.

Dr. AcidFlask :p

P.S. I should mention that my blog can NOT be accessed on SingNet, who insists for some reason on not providing access to For Singnet users I can suggest reading my feed at

or a mirror on Tumblr at

Armchair cynic said...

Indiana: I agree with you, he's just looking for attention.

FYI, he's China-born turned Singapore citizen. Coming from a country of 1.3 billion, he knows what to do in order to stand out from the crowd.

Oralb said...

Mr Wang:

On the subject on Singaporeans left behind by the system, here's another one example

Anonymous said...

@Armchair cynic
I don't think its fair to comment on him just because of his nationality.

Maybe he just wants to take a break from the academics, something which he had been doing for so long and something which got him jobless just before retirement age.

mrdes said...

I think he is better:

Anonymous said...

Please tell me what is wrong if he intends to write a book instead of taking up a tutoring job.


Anonymous said...

Stanford PhD. try to figure out what is the percentage rate of the PhD qualifying exam during Cai's time.
(Nowadays, A*Star scholars sponsored by PAP money go in by back-door)

I think, with high probability, not many Singaporeans can even match his writing. Writing well means seek attention? Idiotic reasoning.
A*star wants to shoo off the old guys to make way for Prestigious A*Star Scholars like Eng Kai Er !!

Anonymous said...

Mr Cai is indeed a rare man given a even rarer opportunity.

I see the positive + in him.

Indiana said...

Nothing is wrong with it if he intends to write a book about his experiences save the one fact that he claims its the only job he could get...and if the intention is a book deal, then its not really true about his only option, is it?

Anonymous said...

Look, its clearly an attention seeking stunt. I am not criticizing him based on his career move, but if people are interpreting this as "A* sucks" or "PhD also has to do this ah?!" then they are clearly misguided.

Maybe he can't get a position in the Universities. But surely he could be a biology teacher in a junior college?


Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Is there anything wrong with choosing to be a taxi driver?

Working hours are flexible, and you can also use the vehicle for your own purposes. If you're the kind of person who has lots of personal errands to run, it's kinda useful.

Indiana said...

There is nothing wrong if you choose it, but if it is your choosing you don't write that it's the only job you can get. Instead you write that you chose it because it suited your desires, goals and lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

As usual we have certain anons trying to cast aspersions on Prof Cai's character and motivations. Looks like the campaign to discredit him has begun.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...


This is what I understood from what he wrote -

(1) he lost his research job for "Uniquely Singapore" reasons;

(2) he was unable to find another research job;

(3) he decided to become a taxi driver.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Was he offered another research job?

That's what I'm asking.

Indiana said...

To my knowledge, no.

What I guess I am cynical about is that the whole "spin" on the blog is that in Singapore things are so bad that even a PhD has to drive a cab. And yet he has other options yet he has chosen to not exercise them.

I guess I would like to know why? Or rather why not?

Anonymous said...

Well, if you consider jobs like road sweeper, toilet cleaner/attendant, banquet waiter, etc... Then hell, he has lots of other job options! But if you consider jobs in which allow him to make use of his experience and expertise, then maybe what he say is true.

Anonymous said...

Why would he want to be a tutor or a biology teacher? His main interest is in research. Money may not be a key motivator for him.

Give this man a break. I am sure there are many other college educated taxi drivers in similar circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Indiana, although none of us can speak for Mr. Cai, I believe Mr. Wang has mentioned the perks of being a taxi driver in his comment at August 20, 2009 9:57 AM.

JamesNeo said...

It is not easy for a person of his age to get a job with MOE. Age discrimination is rampant in many places in singapore. if you look thorough the comments on his blog the scary things that singaporean should ask is why many of the other PIs are also forced to quit even when some of them are highly productive. Is the office politics producing a system whereby millions of dollars are wasted and efforts an d talents are not appreciated?

Anonymous said...

The outpouring of support is creating a PR headache for the powers that be. I predict that something "good" will come from this episode.

College Singapore said...

The points are very well and was most effective in busting some of the commonly held myths about developing countries.

Anonymous said...

that's odd..
i've been seeing/reading many blogs with the same topic which is all about "A Singapore Taxi Driver's Diary"..

for me, it doesn't matter if he's a taxi driver or not as long as he's happy and contended of the path he choose..

btw, looking for a job openings? visit 88DB Singapore and you can find jobs like utilities job, transport jobs, and others