January 14

All went well in my air transfer from Manila to Singapore although I did have to get up at 5a. One of these days very soon I'll go to sleep at a sensible time and wake up in the morning. That'll be cool.

Driving in from the airport I was slack-jawed the Entire Time. Oh heavenly days those buildings. Man-o-man. More on those babies later.

What I have to show you first is this street corner where I got out of the taxi, the corner in front of my hotel in Chinatown. This is one of the older parts of town and look at the corner. You could settle on this corner for a nice picnic it's so clean.

Plenty of people were smoking. There was not one butt. Not one.


I checked in to my pretty little hotel - Bliss Hotel - and that's the view from my fourth floor window.

I wanted to go out right away for a quick look-around but...


...I couldn't get out of the room! That's right! Locked in!

So first they tried this thing with the ladder but the ladder was too short so they went down to the patio...


...and got these two long boards from a trellis. Success!


A short stroll - a clear indication that I'm staying in Chinatown, and also a realization that it is very hot even in the evening. I didn't hold up particularly well and my days turned out to be shorter than I would have chosen.


Here's a more clear view of The Majestic. The mosaics are of scenes from Cantonese operas.

Originally built as an opera house and completed in 1928, it was a venue for Cantonese opera until 1938, when it was converted into a cinema.

It's a gorgeous façade.


It was as delicious as it looks, more delicious even, and it was exactly what I felt like eating.


There are a lot of streets that look like this huddled under the skyscrapers.


Wiki: "The Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore's oldest Hindu temple. It is an agamic temple, built in the Dravidian style...the temple serves the majority Hindu Singaporeans, Tamilians, in the city-state."


More Wiki: "The Sri Mariamman Temple was founded in 1827 by Naraina Pillai, eight years after the East India Company established a trading settlement in Singapore."

I went in (of course). It looked like this inside too. They had a singer doing an extended chant that was really quite lovely. Coincidently or not, I'm not sure on the timing, but the Muslim temple on the next block was also having a chanter.


January 15

Our rather large group for an Indie Singapore walking tour met here at this huge map grown on one of the walls in the Central Business District.


Salvador Dali's Homage to Newton, and our guide Wei.


...and Bird by Fernando Botero here at a bend in the Singapore river.

Singapore commissioned many pieces by local artists in the theme "Life Along the River".


Singapura Cats, of course...


...and children at play (First Generation by Chong Fah Cheong).

There are websites dedicated to just these sculptures of which there are many - I'm not going to try to find them all.


The Victoria Theater and Concert Hall.

In 1862 just the right side was built for use as the Town Hall. In 1905 they added the matching left side and the clock tower and the Town Hall function moved to another facility.


Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, FRS (6 July 1781 – 5 July 1826), a British colonializer and Big Man Around Town.

He was a really really busy guy and Wiki will tell you all about it.


Some choices from a timeline of Singapore history:

1613 Portuguese burn down a trading outpost at the mouth of Singapore River. Wiki doesn't mention anything for the 1700s.
1819 Stamford Raffles arrives in Singapore with William Farquhar to establish a trading post for the British East India Company.
1826 Singapore becomes part of the British colony of Straits Settlements under the rule of the East India Company, together with Malacca and Penang.
1830 Singapore comes under the Presidency of Bengal in India.
1869 The Suez Canal opens, and Singapore enjoys the increase in trade.
1915 The Singapore Mutiny occurred as British Muslim Indian sepoys rose up against the British.
1942 The British surrenders and the Japanese Occupation of Singapore starts. Singapore is renamed Syonan (Light of the South).
1945 The British return to Singapore after the end of World War II and begin a military administration of the Straits Settlements.
1959 People's Action Party (PAP) wins the General Election and Lee Kuan Yew becomes the first Prime Minister.
1963 The Malaysia Agreement is signed between leaders of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak (Singapore joining with Malaysia).
1965 The Malaysian Parliament votes to expel Singapore from the Federation; Singapore becomes independent after separating from Malaysia. Curious?!
1979 Singapore becomes the world's second busiest port in terms of shipping tonnage.


Our excellent guide Mei, of Chinese decent.

Wiki: "By end of June 2012, the island's population stood at 5.31 million. It is the second densest sovereign state in the world, after the microstate Monaco.

"Singapore is a multiracial and multicultural country with a majority population of Chinese (74.2% of the resident population), with substantial Malay (13.2%) and Indian minorities (9.2%). The Malays are recognized as the indigenous community although most are the descendants of post-1945 immigrants from Indonesia and Malaysia.

"Mahayana Buddhism is most widely adhered to in Singapore though followers do not represent the majority, with significant numbers following Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism or no religion at all.

"The constitution says Malay is the national language. The other three official languages are English, Mandarin and Tamil. English is the main working language and is the mandatory first language in all schools in Singapore."


One of the domes of the cultural complex.


There's the double helix bridge and Marine Park - just more to go back to.


I have to go here too!


Mei said you have not been to Singapore until you take a picture of that fish with a lion's head. He's a Merlion, and I'm going to have to walk down there some early morning or late afternoon.

After the tour I was walking back to Chinatown, and the distance was not so much that I couldn't make it but after about three blocks of blazing overhead sun, standing about here, I took the sensible decision and hailed a cab. Good for me!


January 16 and 17

It's Ashley! sister-in-law of Katie and Jed (of Katie-Jed-Nora-Lila-Anya) who has been living in Singapore for a year and is helping me out with tips and tricks for my time here. Thank you Ashley, and thank you for LUNCH!


These are two days combined because there is repetition.

Every few minutes I'm surprised by something that catches my eye and even though I've seen these sections of older buildings constantly...look down a street and there they are...I'm still surprised every time.

And they're all in perfect condition, as if they were freshly built for a movie set.


Another glance down a side street. This should be it.

I had one occasion early this Saturday morning where I ran into a dirty sidewalk! Yes, it's true! Although someone was out there sweeping up and in 30 minutes it would all be gone. It was the sidewalk in front of a block of nightclubs, as seedy as I've seen here, and I saw cigarette butts, coffee cups, and puke. Wow. I thought it might never happen.


This is the year of Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence and festivities are ongoing. I was going to say that it's been 50 years since Singapore annoyed Malaysia into kicking them out of the union but it was actually bloody race riots that led to the separation.


I was thinking about the Singapore Flyer for Saturday night but it got so windy I didn't want to risk making the trip out there and finding it closed.


Parkview Square, built in 2002...


...from designs found in an Art Deco textbook. All the designs. As Wiki notes: "The building also has widespread use of motifs, sculptures, and ornamentation" of the Art Deco period.

It's one of the most expensive office buildings in Singapore and location of the embassies of Austria, Mongolia, and the United Arab Emirates.


Kampong Glam: "Home to the Malay aristocracy in 1819, before British settlement in 1822 divided the area into ethnic groups, this area remains a stronghold among the Malay-Muslim community...


"...The majestic Sultan Mosque provides a center for life and business around here, with shops hawking Malay-Arab wares like rugs, bohemian crafts and shisha tobacco as well as trendy cafés, boutiques and drinking establishments. The combination of modern and historic truly makes this place one of a kind."


Several streets were pedestrianized.


A reminder of Morocco.


I came out to this neighborhood because I read they had some street art, and there is a little but not much. Here's an example.


Another shopping district, Bugis. Mostly the shopping is inside large climate controlled buildings, with a mall look - mall shops all opening onto a many storied atrium.

You'd feel right at home.


I spent some time in the Singapore Art Museum.

I loved this, created by a Hanoi artist, these are projections of people eating a snack. They're not all eating at the same time but once a character starts his or her snack you get to watch the whole process. I watched several of them in amazement.

It's Art Week here in Singapore and I've seen mention of it on signs and brochures but haven't seen a specific event yet.


At the museum they added Japanese to the four official languages that all official signs display - English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil.


More of the old and the new.


January 18

Time to talk about the Hawker Centres. In the Great Redevelopment of Singapore the government swept up all the street food vendors and moved them to these central places, there are many around, where the stands are regulated for hygiene and business practices.

It's hot and crowded in there and according to wiki the air conditioned chain stores of the mall food courts are taking the place of the once ubiquitous Hawker Centres.


Some of the things I've eaten here. The dish on the left is called Hainanese Chicken Rice. It's amazing how tender and moist they can steam up a breast of chicken. Crab corn soup and fried rice. YUM!


The Chinese Cultural Center (I think...) a few blocks from my hotel.


Today's morning visit to Little India. You'll remember that one of the four official languages of Singapore is Tamil, the language spoken by the first of the Indian immigrants who settled here from southern India.


It's one of the least gentrified areas in Singapore but still recognizable.


Very colorful!


There was an Asia BBC/Australian Broadcasting TV show out in 2013 called Sarangoon Road that put a visit to Singapore in my head.

In the tv show set in 1964 Sarangoon Road was in Chinatown so I think they might have taken some poetic license or there's another Sarangoon Road, and anyway the tv show was all filmed on Batam in Indonesia.


It's impossible to pass on the main road or stop for a picture but all the side streets look like this.


I let myself stay out in the sun too long so I took the Metro back to Chinatown and never did make it out again! I watched another 4 episodes of Sarangoon Road instead. How luxurious to have so much free time.

I haven't exclaimed over the beauty of the Metro yet. The Singapore Metro is a beautiful thing - cool, clean, fast, polite - everything you'd want in an urban transportation system.


January 19

A day on the river. It's a very short tour down and although at first they said it was not possible, after a little encouragement I was able to arrange a 'hop off' at the Singapore Flyer, and then a 'hop on' to come back where I started.


Amazingly, the Singapore river and basin is the drinking supply for the city, right out of the tap they are proud to say. It wasn't always so of course and at one time the river was poison but these guys are amazing at cleaning up.

Wiki: " Access to water is universal, affordable, efficient and of high quality."


Here's a view from 1961.

StraitsTimes: "Back in the 1970s, squatters, hawkers, and manufacturing industries crowded the banks of the river, leading to severe pollution. The Government eventually mounted a large-scale clean-up, with enhancements over the years, forming the vibrant waterway that we know today.

"The clean-up involved a massive relocation of about 4,000 squatters, along with hawkers and vegetable sellers, whose daily waste flowed into the river. Public housing was found for the squatters, while street hawkers were persuaded to move to hawker centres.

"Hundreds of bumboats ferrying goods from warehouses along the river to cargo ships out at sea were moved to a new lighter anchorage at Pasir Panjang by the Port of Singapore Authority.

"Foul-smelling mud also had to be dredged from the banks and the bottom of the river, and debris and other rubbish cleared."


Gentrification of the riverfront shop-houses surrounded by the Central Business District.


We're going to swing around and drop me off at the Singapore Flyer, now second tallest 'observation wheel' by a couple of meters to the High Roller in Vegas.


Another view of our Merlion. It's really a bit of a marketing gimmick.

Wiki: "The symbol was designed .. for the logo of the Singapore Tourism Board in use from 26 March 1964 to 1997 and has been its trademarked symbol since 20 July 1966. .. The Merlion appears frequently on STB-approved souvenirs."


Tourists!


Pano from the river.


The Double Helix Bridge opened in 2010 to design acclaim, and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It is possible to go up to the bar up top and I might manage it tonight if it doesn't rain. Or not, since I'm leaving early in the morning.


The carts for the Singapore Flyer are the size of a city bus - huge - large enough to hold 28 people but we were just three! That was an unexpected treat.


Views!


You can see some cruise ships in the center left.


A skyview of Gardens By The Bay. It's supposed to be quite wonderful as are many of the other garden tour opportunities but I am just not up to wandering through gardens in this heat.

Notice all the ships lined up out there for this, the second busiest port in the world after Shanghai.


A very tiny slice of all the ships waiting in the South China Sea.


It could have been clearer, but if you peer out in the distance you can see housing suburbs all the way to the horizon.

Singapore Island is about five times larger than Manhattan Island, just as a comparison, half the size if you add the rest of New York City.


I got my sky-look from the Flyer and didn't make it to Altitude "the world's highest al fresco bar" or Ku De Ta, the bar on top of the Marina Bay Sands.

I missed all the gardens and parks and I'm sure they are wonderful but just thinking about all that heat makes my temples pound.

I didn't go to Orchard Road, not even to be amazed at the extravaganza that is mall after mall after mall.


HomeAsia • Singapore • '15 Jan: Singapore


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