Monday, March 13, 2006

Singapore, Day 3 - I, Little India, Raffles City

The next morning I felt a bit better. I had breakfast at the hotel’s “mixed culture” buffet. The cappuccino was watery, the dim sum not too hot, had mixed cereal with apricot and bananas and miso soup with scallions. Never again.

Then it was back to my adventure! I walked to the National Museum and what a disappointment. It was filled mostly with dioramas of historical events; as intriguing as the history of Singapore is, one might as well have been reading a book. But the jade exhibit was quite impressive and amazing. There was also a free standing life size stone statue of a Hindu deity kneeling.

I headed to Little India. I could smell the spices blocks before I got there and it really got my juices going. Made a quick survey and flowers, such as marigolds, fruits, spices, incense, silks, and gold were for sale.

Indian groceries were selling all kinds of canned, cellophaned and loose food stuffs. I quickly found the Sri Veerama Kaliamman Temple (built in 1881 – dedicated to the goddess Kali, slayer of demons) had coconut and mango leaves hanging outside the door. Shoes were on the ground outside and men were staring at me. I considered going inside, but aside from knowing one did not wear shoes, I did not know the protocol. I certainly did not want to appear disrespectful in any way, or piss off Kali, the slayer of demons.

I was drawn to the showy windows of the gold shops in Little India. I could not believe that all of the gold was real! It would never be shown in the windows that way in the US; the store would be broken into forthwith and the gold stolen. So, I went in. Each individual piece was huge, as if made for a wedding. Opulent, gaudy and intricately made necklaces, bracelets, rings connected on chains, headdresses and earrings. But, they were beautiful, none the less. I was overwhelmed. The gold prices seemed higher here than in Chinatown and I did not understand why. I did see some jeweled post earrings, but did not buy them.

Walked to the Raffles Hotel (five star for those who don’t know); already decked out for Christmas with wreaths on the doors and a hugely tall beautiful tree in the lobby. I got lost in their complex in no time flat. Looked at some nice Thai silk scarves and in retrospect, I should have bought them. I saw some people I knew; Lena from the travel group at my company (I should have known that she’d be staying here) and a man and his wife from my flight’s first class cabin. So nice to travel half way around the world and meet people you know. I ate the buffet lunch in the famed Raffles Tiffin Room which consisted of a wonderful curry buffet. There was also a fruit tray and I tried Jack fruit and a green fruit for which I could not understand what the staff told me it was (combination of me not understanding what the word was and an accent problem). Everything I tried was delicious. The service was a bit obtrusive and over attentive though.

Then I crossed to Raffles City and bought Japanese stationary, green tea and Gatorade. Saw a book on Koi, “The Cult of…”, which I think is available in the US. I passed a war memorial, but it was just too damned hot to walk up and see what it was (turns out it was the Sook Ching War Memorial built to commemorate the massacre of Chinese Singaporeans during WWII by the Japanese, see picture).

Then I walked to the waterfront promenade and took pictures of the Singapore skyline. There was a slight breeze.


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