Chinese New Year in Singapore

Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
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Trip End Jul 20, 2014


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Friday, January 27, 2006

There I am, still in Singapore a week after I arrived here. Upon leaving NZ on a one-way ticket to Singapore, Air NZ made me by an onward ticket which I had to consent to, reluctantly. So I bought a refundable ticket from Singapore to Malaysia. Just a warning for fellow travellers who plan on going to Singapore on a one-way ticket. Its best to get a bus ticket from Singapore to Johor as proof of onward travel.

The first 2 days I stayed with my wonderful HC host Joelle and her sister's family in Ang Mo Kio. The condominium complex included a beautiful swimming pool which I took advantage off. Joelle introduced me to the hawker stalls and I was in haven. It's so easy to eat good and cheap all over Spore - one can find everything from Chinese, Malay, Japanese to Indian. Its sooooo delicious. Then, I went to Johor Baharu where I stayed with my HC host Mika from Finland. We also ate at the hawker stalls near city center and tried an interesting array of Malay food. We went to visit the Royal Abu Bakar Museum, shopping malls and other localities which names I have forgotten.;-(

Back in Spore, I am staying with my servas host Mullai in Serangoon Central. As the majority of Sporean do, Mullai lives in an HDB flat (Housing Development Board. These are high rise apartments usually including 3 rooms, kitchen, living room and 2 baths. For people with more disposable income, they have choice of buying a house or condominium. I visited the Botanical Garden and some of the ethnic quarters such as Chinatown and Little India.
Chinatown during Chinese New year is a mind boggling affair of cheap Chinese imports, food, sweets, exotic fruits and more food and colorful displays everywhere. And since I don't know if and when i get to see an authentic Chinese year celebration again, I decided to stay until Sunday so I can get to see some of the celebrations.

I spent an entire day at the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple a complex of Buddhist temples which is one of the largest places of worship in Singapore. The buildings feature fine examples of Chinese decorations, statues and shrines.
With Mullai, who is a fountain of knowledge, we went to Little India to visit the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. Built as early as 1855 by Bengali laborers, this magnificent temple was constructed for the worship of Goddess Kali, the consort of Lord Shiva. Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is thought to be the first temple in Singapore to venerate her. The goddess is often portrayed as having many pairs of arms and hands; each hand carrying weapons of destruction used to fight evil on earth. Temple doors are covered with tiny bells. Devotees ask God to grant their requests by reining the bells before entering. Inside, the ceiling is rimmed with statues of the many Hindu Gods while the main shrine housed a jet black statue of Goddess Kali, flanked by her sons Ganesha and Murugam. After the temple visit with went to Mustafa market, a huge shopping complex and a Singapore institution.

Since I can only handle so much of big city life and crowded places, I went out to explore the green side of Spore. I walked up Mt. Faber from where there is a good view of part of the city and some of the islands. Since I had a free ticket, I took the cable car to Sentosa Island where I waited to see the musical fountain come to life. Having been spoiled by the Barcelona musical fountain, this one here didn't impress me at all. One of my best little journey around Spore was the trip to Pulau Ubin. On PU, I saw a few wild pigs, and the native Red Junglefowl which is the ancestor of the domestic chicken and the only place in Spore where the bird occurs naturally. Later in the evening, I met with HC member Priscilla, a teacher who will move to China in June for a 2 year assignment. We were later joined by Susan and Matt, a couple from OZ, who volunteered for 3 months in Cambodia and gave me some insight info on the stay as I am planning to volunteer for the same organization.
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