Home Sweet Home

Singapore (too many dates)

I think Singaporeans just do not appreciate that there are a number of good tourist attractions in the country. We may not have the Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel, the Rocky Mountains or the Dome on the Rock. But we do have some pretty interesting and even quirky places to offer to tourists.

Since I had loads of free time during my one year break from a job, I decided to visit Singapore. After all I ought to know more about home.

I started with my hometown of Toa Payoh. Actually I am not even sure if I should call it a town. Singapore is a city-state and so it may be more accurate to refer to a ‘town’ here as a district or a housing estate.

I have lived in Toa Payoh my entire life, except for 5 short years when I moved out to live on my own. I even joined this world from Toa Payoh since I was born in the hospital that once stood in the area. However, I never had time to really get to know my home. Come to think of it, I only took a proper picture of the area just a few days ago from the balcony of a friend’s new home. The hospital where I was born at used to stand somewhere behind those work in progress flats on the left in the picture.

Toa Payoh

Toa Payoh

I really must make a point to take more photos of Toa Payoh. So much has changed in the past few decades. The flats in the picture never used to be so colourful and they have been upgraded and therefore altered somewhat not too long ago. Even the home from which I had taken this picture is new. I should start taking pictures to lock in my memories.

Another district where I had spent a lot of time in for a few years was Bishan. I went to secondary school there and had many memories from that area. A few years go the huge monsoon drain in Bishan Park was reworked and it now looks like a natural stream. This is one of the best things that anyone has done for a housing area. We do not need more concrete and we can always use more greenery.

The drain-turned-stream in Bishan Park

The drain-turned-stream in Bishan Park

The free time that I had also allowed me to discover some of the more touristy places in town. The Gardens by the Bay were a new attraction that I knew I had to see at some point in my life. A and G wanted to take their son Z there and so I tagged along.

I had never quite understood why museums overseas often charged their citizens preferential rates for entry. Now I realised that our local tourist attractions do the same thing too. And I discovered that it did feel good to know that there were perks for being a citizen.

We visited the two greenhouses that day. We skipped the Supertrees because A and G had to return home early. They would visit those on another day but I was not able to join them.

Most of the plants in the greenhouses I had seen before in nurseries around Singapore. There was a collection of succulents and some lithops were on display. G saw them first and called me over to see them. She was quite taken with them. I told her that they could be bought from Far East Flora for about 3 bucks a pot.

I think the Gardens by the Bay were quite impressive. I like the structural designs of the greenhouses and the Supertrees. I loved being among the plants and the flowers. It was a very enjoyable visit.

Dahlias in the Flower Dome

Dahlias in the Flower Dome

Baobab trees in the Flower Dome

Baobab trees in the Flower Dome

Succulents in the Flower Dome

Succulents in the Flower Dome

General view of the Flower Dome

General view of the Flower Dome

The waterfall in the Cloud Forest

The waterfall in the Cloud Forest

General view of the Cloud Forest

General view of the Cloud Forest

Flowers in the Cloud Forest (Are they trumpet flowers?)

Flowers in the Cloud Forest (Are they trumpet flowers?)

IMG_5948

Tree ferns in Cloud Forest

Supertrees

Supertrees

There are two museums in Singapore that I would recommend to visitors, if museums are their thing.

The first one is the Peranakan Museum. It is a good introduction to the world of the Peranakan culture that exists in Singapore.

I remember reading this article in the online version of some foreign paper which talked about the Peranakan culture in Singapore. This Malaysian man expressed his doubt in the comment section about the authenticity of that culture in Singapore. It definitely looked like typical Malaysian frustration at Singapore’s visibility on the world stage on matters for which they think they deserve the recognition more. A dish called ayam buah keluak (chicken cooked with an Indonesian nut) was mentioned in the article and the man said that he did not think the dish served here was authentic especially since the nut was rare even in Malaysia. That reminded me of a comment made by a Malaysian man on national TV that Singapore was not capable of inventing a rice dish because it did not grow rice. Do Malaysians have brains because they grow brains there?

Anyway, about the Malaysian on the foreign paper, I was doubly pissed with his comment because I grew up with the Peranakan culture around me. I will always remember my late grandmother in her kebabs and her sarongs and how in her younger days she would spent hours polishing her silver brooches, belt and purse. As for Peranakan dishes, I had my first taste of buah keluak (the Indonesian nut) when I was very young. Nowadays the ayam buah keluak is a staple in any respectable Peranakan restaurant in Singapore. And there are quite a few respectable Peranakan restaurants around. In fact it was in KL that I tried ordering the nut dish and they did not have it.

So do not even dare think that Singapore does not have authentic Peranakan culture!

Peranakan Museum

Peranakan Museum

Bead embroidery

Bead embroidery

Wedding headdress

Wedding headdress

Tea ware

Tea ware

Wedding chamber

Wedding chamber

Kamchengs

Kamchengs

The other museum is the Asian Civilisation Museum. It showcases artefacts of the different cultures across Asia. It is just amazing how culturally diverse Asia really is and the museum allows visitors to compare the various artefacts and see for themselves where the similarities are and where they end. If only Asia were as easy to get around as Europe.

There was a special exhibition at the time of my visit of Tang era artefacts discovered inside Famen Pagoda as it was being repaired. The pagoda is located near present day Xi’an.

Opium ware

Opium ware

Lacquer betel box from Myanmar

Lacquer betel box from Myanmar

Offering vessel (Hsun Ok) in the form of a Hintha bird from Myanmar

Offering vessel (Hsun Ok) in the form of a Hintha bird from Myanmar

Gamelan set

Gamelan set

Indian deities

Indian deities

Chinese deities

Chinese deities

Ceramic man seated on camel from Famen Pagoda

Ceramic man seated on camel from Famen Pagoda

Marble Hayagriva from Famen Pagoda

Marble Hayagriva from Famen Pagoda

There are other places in Singapore worth exploring. A brought me to Punggol to have lunch one day and we took the chance to explore a small part of that area. We found ourselves at the Sungei Serangoon and discovered the Lorong Halus Wetland. Lorong Halus used to be a rubbish dumping ground for a few decades before they filled it up. Since the river (the sungei) is now a reservoir, something needs to be done to prevent potentially toxic water from the landfill from mixing with the reservoir water. The wetland was therefore created to serve this purpose by collecting and treating the water passing through the landfill. I was quite amazed to discover that papyrus was one of the plants grown and used to clean up the water.

By the Sungei Serangoon

By the Sungei Serangoon

Pedestrian bridge to Lorong Halus Wetland

Pedestrian bridge to Lorong Halus Wetland

Serangoon East Dam in the distance

Serangoon East Dam in the distance

Papyrus plants in Lorong Halus Wetland

Papyrus plants in Lorong Halus Wetland

Water lily pond in Lorong Halus Wetland

Water lily pond in Lorong Halus Wetland

I think I have not done my own country justice. Since I live here there is no really no excuse for me to not explore it more thoroughly. Alright, I have a new aim in life now. I am going to find out more about my own country.

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