Day 02 – Singapore

It’s not as hot as expected. Permanently overcast and a bit sticky, but nothing unbearable at all.Today I went out to the Botanic Gardens (not Botanical) with a girl and guy I met at the hotel (Sophie from Holland and Valeria from Italy). Travelled by super-clean and super efficient MRT (subway).

The paths were lined with Christmas trees decorated by local kids in rather off-the-wall and recycle-friendly ways. I particularly like the one by the Russian church (I think) which was hung with baubles with the face of Yuri Gugarin stuck on, and rockets made out of silver-painted water bottles. We spent most of the time in the Evolution Garden which told the history of plant life, but overdid it a bit with concrete replicas of primordial trees and dinosaur footprints on the concrete path.

After those 2 left for lunch I wandered through the rain forest area then headed down to the bus stop. But had no idea where to go next.

The bus took me to where I wasn’t expecting, and a Chinese guy, whose help I didn’t want, insisted on showing me where I could go. Trouble was he couldn’t read the map. Ive found that a lot in Asia, that people cannot read maps. I found myself heading past some tower blocks and into China town.

Pausing at a food court to get a bargain plateful of vege Chinese food, some of which I have no idea of its name or components. Yum.

Over the road was the 5-storey Chinese Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. No teeth in sight but quite a lot of Buddhas.

Actually, it was spectacular. More or less next door was the  Sri Mariamman Krsna Temple, equally amazing, ornately painted Vishnu, and cows, resplendent against the backdrop of high-rise hotels and financial offices.

Smith Street was the centre for prostitutes and opium dens in the 1920’s, but now its pretty painted shuttered Chinese houses are hidden by a street-long canopy¬† built to protect the open-air Chinese market, where I bought nothing. It’s all very similar to Malaysia, so i have to say, so far nothing new, but nevertheless, very pleasant. Reassuringly alien, yet familiar.

I bussed it back to Victoria Road, near the hotel, and found myself looking over a low wall into a rambling graveyard (the religion is not clear, but certainly not Christian). My photographic curiosity got the better of me and drew me into the scrubby garden lined with almost identical and un-inscribed grave markers. As I went deeper I found a ruined building, open to the sky with trees and creepers wrapped around it. I suddenly looked right and there appearing from some trees and eyeing me was a big tan skinny dog. A stray. To my relief he was alone and, probably surprised to see anyone on his patch, he trotted away. It was then I realized my legs were being bitten. Bugs, or worse in the prickly tough tropical grass. Time to shower and put on some cream.

This led to a tropical collapse and sleep for several hours.

In the evening I wanted to catch some of the crazy modern towers at dusk by the harbour. Distance and sheer number of amazing views delayed my progress. In fact i didn’t really know where I was heading. Just guided by the space occupied by malls, hotels, offices, main roads and over-passes. Rain fell lightly and I found my route coming to an end, so I strode through a fashion mall where the shops were just closing. If it was KL or BKK I think they would have been hectically crowded at that time.

Headed to Little India by underground, changing at a fabulous multi-layered spartan clean chrome open-plan interchange with a constant soundtrack of multi-lingual reminders about rubbish, drinking and eating on the network.

Tonight India was different. Shops were open, the gatherings of moustachioed men weren’t there, I had chappatis and curry then visited the Sri Veeramakaliallam Temple, where blessings, offerings and prostrations were in full swing. Food was being sold and Brahmans were collecting limes from devotees and marking their foreheads with ash. A bell was rung and 2 musicians began to play, one a handheld drum with 2 tones, the other an Indian pipe of some kind, the length of an oboe, and looking perfect for charming snakes. i sat and watched, the only white face there, knowing from experience not even to try to take pictures. Committing it all to memory instead.

After hunting down a samosa, ambled back to the hotel for rest and to consider my moves for tomorrow.

Hope I can upload some photos soon.