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Singapore has an amazing attraction called Gardens by the Bay. It is partially man made and partially real botanic gardens. We didn't take the time to do the entire area, so this remains on my list of things to see.
Recently Mom and I took the train down to watch the nightly light show. It so happened that mother nature added to the beauty.
If you are ever in Singapore, you should definitely take in this amazing spectacle. The evening light show is free and happens twice, in case you also want to catch the light and water show that happens just in front of the other side of the hotel/shoppes. Here are some pics of our fun evening. Enjoy! Just so you can find your way... http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/home.html
Last weekend Mom and I journeyed to Chinatown on a Friday afternoon to join the free walking tour. While signing the attendee list, we heard the voice and contagious laugh of our favorite tour guide- Bernard! We were so excited to see him as he grew up in Chinatown and just as we suspected, was able to share a very personal view of the area. He remembered us too. (I'm sure that surprises everyone reading this blog) If you are ever in Singapore, check out the free walking tours promoted through the HIPPO / Hop on Hop Off. So far we have enjoyed Bernard Koh for 2 of 2 tours and I cannot recommend him highly enough. He has such a passion for his city and country. This picture to the left is Bernard, describing the construction of a usual shophouse doorway.
Singapore's Chinatown is a mix of history and hawkers. There are many beautiful shophouses, lots of tourists, and of course many souvenir stalls. One of my favorite features of Chinatown is that there is a Buddhist Temple, a Hindu Temple and a Mosque all within 3 blocks of each other. This is a true representation of Singapore. Please see the captions to the pictures below for more details.
I didn't end up with a picture, but there is a beautiful building in Chinatown that is a replica of the old Chinese Opera house. The original building was bombed to bits during the Japanese invasion of Singapore and the replica is now a hotel. We sat in the lobby of the hotel which is built within the original architectural details of the opera house while Bernard told some of his stories. While we cooled off in the a/c, Bernard shared details of his younger years growing up in one room, with his 3 siblings and parents. This was usual housing in Chinatown, where renting a cubicle in a shophouse was commonplace. There were 4 families there, each living in their cubicle and all shared a toilet and a kitchen. Mom and I had toured the Chinese Heritage Museum the week before where they have kept a shophouse as Bernard described. It is an amazing museum. Bernard shared with us that his family was moved out of the shophouse into public housing, called an HDB (high density building) when he was 8 years old. They had 2 bedrooms to "spread out" in but more importantly, the family had their own bathroom! His mom was also very happy not to have to share a kitchen with other families and follow a schedule. He said that when they walked through the threshold there was not a dry eye among them. Oh, I need to mention that Bernard LOVES air conditioning! While living in the cubicle, they had no a/c so now he can't get enough. I suppose it's like me and hot showers after living on a boat.
If you haven't noticed, I love to take pictures of architecture, especially older buildings. Singapore was bombed heavily during WW2 but some lovely buildings remain and many are very well kept. The typical shophouse is European in style, due to the time the British spent in Singapore 'running the show' -so to say.
Singapore is dominated by high-rise residential and office buildings. Often nestled into a small area between massive structures will be a small, lovely neighborhood such as the picture to the left. Coming upon these little gems always makes me smile.
Mom made it all the way to Singapore! Thanks to Corey for picking her up at the airport and getting her to our current apartment. He is a champ!
Mom travels so well. She came in about 1:00am and she and Corey made it back to the apartment after 2:00am. Although I did wake up enough to give her a big hug, I had a crazy work day coming up so back to bed I went. When they got to the apartment, Corey took Mom to the roof so she could get a view of Singapore at night. Our rooftop pool area is an amazing place. As you can see from the pic to the left we can view the Singapore Flyer and much of the downtown financial district from our current building. Later the day Mom arrived, I made it home for lunch and Mom was already up and ready to start exploring Singapore! Corey flew back to Thailand and Mom hung out at the pool and walked around the general area.
Over the first weekend I showed Mom how to use an MRT pass. Singapore has an amazing public transport system that includes trains, buses and cabs. It is actually very easy to get around, and if you aren't afraid to walk a little you can see a lot of Singapore on foot (locally we call that using Bus 11). Saturday Mom and I took a walking tour in Little India. It was so much fun! Our tour guide was a local guy named Bernard. His laugh was contagious! He was full of information, from the history of Singapore to current day politics and more. We learned a lot about his home town/country of Singapore and especially the Indian community since that was the focus of the tour. The pictures below are mostly from our Little India Walking Tour.
This lovely building is Raffles Hotel, named after the British founder of the colony in 1819. Up until that time the area had been under the rule of India, Thailand, the Portuguese, Dutch, Malaysia, and more. Singapore gained it's independence in 1965. Much of the city was destroyed during WW2 bombing raids by the Japanese but some very wonderful little neighborhoods remain. I have been lucky enough to find a small apartment in what is called the "Arab Quarter." Mom will help me move this coming weekend. It is an area of mostly renovated shophouses that are clustered around the oldest Mosque in Singapore. Just down the street is a lovely old Catholic church and both Buddhist and Hindu Temples are just a few blocks further. Singapore is a wonderful melting pot of cultures. Mom and I took a Hop on- Hop Off Bus Tour around the city this past Saturday. It was a great way to get your bearings and see the city from an open topped bus! Here are some pics of our adventure.
We saw many of the main landmarks of Singapore and spent some time in Chinatown walking around as well.
Our last stop on Saturday night was down at Marina Bay. We had taken the train to watch the light show, which is well worth the effort, and happened upon the Singapore Jazz Festival. The main stage was right in front of the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. We were standing, elbows over the fence that was keeping the non-paying observers out, and a nice guy asked, "would you want some free tickets to the concert?" Well, anyone that knows me, knows how fast I said, "YES!" He handed us two passes and pointed us in the direction of the entrance. I asked, "Why us?" He answered with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, "Why not?"
What a treat! We relinquished our tickets for RFID bracelets, very Singapore, and were able to catch 3 acts. The first was an amazing singer named Allen Stone. He was from the US and his band was excellent. Mom and I both loved him, his music, and even more so... his vibe. We then were lucky enough to hear James Morrison and his band. He could play about any horn available as well as other instruments. The closing act was none other than than the amazing India Arie! Some of her songs literally brought tears to our eyes as she is one of the most soulful singers I have heard in a long time. What a night!
I've been in Singapore for a almost a month and am very soon moving into an apartment right near Arab Street in Kampong Glam. Work has me put up in a wonderful serviced apartment that I will hate to leave! Mom is actually here as well and the very next blog will be of our adventures.
However, just prior to really getting to work in Singapore I was in Thailand with Corey and we had a grand adventure to Koh Yao Noi. It is a smallish island just east of Phuket. To arrive there you must take a boat (or swim?). There are 2 choices, a fast boat or a slow boat. We chose the fast boat, after all I was with Corey Parker... I now can't remember how much it cost but it wasn't very expensive, about $20 each in USD total to go and return. We rode our motorbike up to the ferry terminal at Bang Rong Pier in NE Phuket. The only negative to the whole wonderful day was that when we returned some monkeys (seriously) had vandalized our motorbike and my helmet. They had basically chewed the lining out of my helmet (my sweat must have been appealing??) and taken a bite out of the seat. Corey was not happy as this motorbike was in prime condition. Anyway, back to the adventure.
Corey had been contacted by an American living there that had heard about some skydiving happening on Phuket. He ended up on Koh Yao Noi as a friend of his had basically homesteaded there with his Thai wife and kids and he lives a good part of the year there, going back and forth to the US to work. He is very interested in pursuing more experience as a skydiver and was hoping for a nearby drop zone. Alas, we are still in the process of getting that going so we went over to meet and hang out. I absolutely loved the vibe of the island! So different from frantic Phuket.
Here are some pics from our day... enjoy! If you ever get a chance to visit us, be sure to take the jaunt over to Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai. Oh and by the way, if you are a rock climber- bonus for you! This island is known for it's rock climbing. Our pals on the island are avid climbers and I'm sure they'd happily show you the sites.