Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Singapore Vignettes

An amazing two and a half days in Singapore!!  We were so busy that I didn't take the time to post.  The architecture is overwhelmingly diverse--there were many old buildings similar to the Sino-Portuguese styles that I described in Phuket town.
A street near Little India

This is a concert hall in the Marina Bay area--it reminded us of the Durian fruit!
And then there are incredible skyscrapers towering in the backgrounds...
At the mouth of the Singapore River

The Double Helix bridge--the biologist just had to see this!  And another stupendous building complex in the background--three skyscrapers capped with a ship-like penthouse.

Double Helix bridge based on the DNA molecule

Singapore is in a mad frenzy of preparation for Chinese New Year which is this weekend.  We are rather pleased to be out of the fray and in a much calmer Sri Lanka.

The highlights were the museums:  The Asian Civilizations Museum where I spent a wonderful two hours in the "Patterns of Trade" special exhibition of Indian block-printed and batik textiles that had been traded in the 17th - 19th centuries to Malaysia and Indonesia.
Built by the British in the late 19th Century and housed government offices until about 20 years ago when it was converted into this magnificent museum.  Surrounded by a wonderful green space

And then the next day, we went to another museum for a special exhibition on sarongs and were guided by a delightful Singaporean woman who explained the intricacies of all the patterns...and then we went with her to the National Museum where she was also the guide for an exhibition of 140 paintings from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.  I was thrilled to see famous works by Millet, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and others--especially having just completed a 19th Century art history course in December.  I could cheerfully have spent another couple of days in these fascinating museums.  We took the time only to visit the special exhibitions and so missed out on their permanent displays of local history and art.

Another highlight was successfully navigating the MRT (rapid transit) to a yarn shop where I happily picked out a selection of cottons for my next project, and Lloyd made himself comfortable on a stool.

This is the shop, and they also sell fabrics, dress patterns, notions, and gadgets!  I just focused on yarn.

I will probably make another shawl using the same size needles.  I had a delightful encounter with one of the sales clerks--I asked her what the difference was between three of the cottons, and she replied that one was finer than the other.  After a pause, as if for emphasis, in her thick accent, she said "just like people, some are big and some are small!"  And I said, "like me and that guy over there!"  referring to Lloyd, and she laughed and laughed...and then went over to him to repeat what I'd said!  I'm sure this gave all the staff something to chuckle about for several more hours.

I had expected Singapore to be a sterile city of steel and glass.  Well, yes, it's certainly clean and there are signs posted in all the subway cars describing $500 fines for eating, drinking or smoking in the cars or stations.  There are lots of staff pushing brooms and carts to keep the platforms tidy.   And there are lots of skyscrapers of glass and steel. But there are also lots of green spaces, large and small.  Every building seems to have roof top gardens, including our hostel.
The Green Kiwi Hostel on Lavender Street--a very convenient location near two MRT stations.  About 30 mins from the airport by MRT.

Behind the hostel on the other side of a park, was a large high rise apartment complex (probably about 10 buildings each 5 - 10 floors) and under each building were open spaces for people to congregate--to get out of the sun or away from the rain.

Lots of places to hang laundry from windows!

  Most buildings (old and new) had verandah-like spaces in front of them where we could walk under cover (had to be careful to watch your step however--there were usually small changes in levels between businesses).
Walking under cover.

Another place we enjoyed was the Botanic Gardens--it was wonderful to get away from the ceaseless traffic and be serenaded with cicadas instead!

And finally, we enjoyed the food, especially from Hawker Centres like this one--they're huge food courts located every few city blocks, we assume set up to pool resources and keep the food centralized rather than ad hoc on the street.

How we wound up the day on the roof-top garden of our hostel.
Not a lot of choice in wine...found this 275 ml bottle in a 7-11 and it cost plenty!  Had to drink it from the bottle too...
Note Tilley hat, and damp neckerchief in an attempt to keep cool...

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