Day 187: Avoiding The Rain

Sat. 16 February 2013

Year of the snakeChinatown is on the agenda for this morning, following a slightly revised route to the one recommended in the Lonely Planet guide. After the rain yesterday (when we were nearly drowned in the 200m dash from MRT station to our hotel) and the grey looking sky we want to do as much as we can outside before it begins to rain. We therefore walk past the Heritage Museum in China town and save that for if the weather changes. We head down Pagoda Street with all its tourist shops and still festooned with  Chinese New Year lanterns. At the end is South Bridge Street with an enormous yellow snake suspended over a large proportion of it. It really would be impressive in the evenings when lit up.

Impressive decoration on roof of Sri Mariamman TempleThe guidebook points out two sights worthy of note, Sri Mariamman Temple which in Singapore’s oldest Hindu shrine and Jamae Mosque from the 1890s and we view both from outside to avoid taking our shoes off. We do however head into the renovated Eu Yan Sang Medical Hall selling weird ingredients and very expensive New Year hampers. It also has a small display at the rear explaining the cultivation of birds nests made by swiftlets and how they are turned into edible birds nest soup. Their nests are a mixture of saliva, moss and grass, and I am now even less tempted to try this!

Ouside of the Buddha museumAfter this we head for the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, which houses (you guessed it!) a segment of a tooth believed to be that of Buddha. This building was built specifically to house the relic, it is five storeys high and no expense was spared on its construction and internal decoration. It has only been open since 2007.

Many figurines covered the wallsThe ground floor is a huge temple with a large wooden Maitreya and the walls are covered in thousands of little Buddha figurines. Each figurine is numbered and up for “adoption”, cynics may say this is to recoup some of the SGD 62 million construction cost. We head to the fourth floor to see the tooth it is in a glass enclosure which makes it difficult to see, obscured by much finery and even a gold paved floor.

Big prayer wheelIt was the third floor we found most interesting with the story of Guatama Buddha telling how he became the great figure in Buddhism that he is. The roof garden is also very pretty and lined with many 5cm Buddha statuettes and the centrepiece is the worlds largest Cloisonne prayer wheel and with each manual rotation a bell rings which represents one recitation of a sutra.

SuperTrees from the Gardens by the BayThe rain was still holding off so we continued with seeing the outdoor sights and headed off to the Gardens by the Bay (see Dave’s post yesterday), which have not been open long. This was on the recommendation of a couple from Gloucestershire who said it was like the Eden Project in Cornwall but 100 times better. We had seen the two domes from the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands yesterday and were keen to see inside the Cloudforest Dome.

Skyway walkIncluded in the gardens is a skyway, 22 metres above the ground, between three of the tall artificial Supertrees, which gives good views over the gardens. However the gardens are still green and we were not inspired to walk around them in the limited time we had. The anticipation of the two domes drew us to them and the cloudforest did not disappoint starting with a 35 metre waterfall just inside the door. There was a crowd as everyone stopped to take a photo of themselves under the waterfall, I therefore felt compelled to join in. There is a route set out around the dome by entering the lift and heading all the way to the top.  You can then explore each level before descending by escalator to the next level, although it is a predefined route it is not too sheep like. It was busy but not too crowded to enable us to enjoy each level at our own speed.

Obligatory photo of big waterfallOur feet were beginning to feel all the walking we had already done today (how will we cope will the mountain climbing booked for later this year?) so we only had a quick trip into the Garden Dome which has a Mediterranean theme. This was enough for us as we can see geraniums at home. The trouble with coming half way around the world to see flowers is that what is exotic to the locals is normal for us! I did ponder how they managed to transplant the 1,000 year old olive trees into the dome without killing them off. My 10 year old olive tree at home has a long way to grow to reach these sizes.

Big dragonflyWe strolled back to the MRT station along the side of the lake which was a muddy brown colour and the only “life” was the huge metal dragonfly sculptures. There was a lot more to the gardens than we has time for and it would probably take at least a full day to see it all. On reflection we felt that the balance between horticulture and theme parkness was about right for our taste.

Olly and matching colour flowerTo round off our Saturday we settled on a trip to the cinema to see Bruce in Die Hard 10 or whatever number it is up to now. We followed the film with a Mexican meal sat outside, as there are so many outdoor restaurants in buzzing Singapore we felt it would be rude not to. There were some interesting outfits walking past, many with enormous heels to match. I wonder if I will ever manage to wear high heels again after a year’s abstinence? It was good to sit out in a warm Singapore evening. Despite the weather forecast and the grey sky we managed to stay dry all day today.

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