Friday 9 January 2004

Honeymoon - Day 2 - Chinatown

After another fabulous breakfast, we headed into Chinatown where we spent the majority of our day. We made a quick stop by a diving shop we saw while on the boat tour, but they weren't open yet (it was around 11:30am). Shops here keep the strangest hours--most don't open until 10:00 or 11:00am and are open well into the night, usually midnight. This is definitely a schedule that I could get used to!! So after looking around, and not finding another one, we jumped back into the Subway, and got off in Chinatown. Chinese New Year is in two weeks so the whole area was decked out, and lots of street vendors were set up offering great bargains to get people ready for the upcoming holiday. We got quite a few souvenirs taken care of this way.

One place we stopped while looking at some things, invited us in, and offered Stephen an amazing deal to custom make a suit for him. We had already discussed that he desperately needed a new one, and were planning on getting one back in the States. This guy offered him a Marino Italian Wool Suit, hand tailored to his measurements, plus a silk shirt (also custom made) and tie all for the price of a very good suit in the US (though of much better quality than anything we could afford there). So we jumped on the deal, and it will be ready on Tuesday. Huzzah!! Now all he needs is a new pair of black shoes, and he will be set to go. The best part about the deal is that, this tailor will keep Stephen's measurements for life, and all we have to do to order another is email or call him, and he will ship it to the US for no extra charge! Whoo hoo!! So, if you're ever in Singapore, and want a good suit for an exceptional deal, stop by Master Hand Tailor Shop in Chinatown on Temple road, shop number 21. Evidently this guy also makes suits for Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, so his craftmanship is quite good. I'm thinking that after I get my first job that pays over 50k, we'll have to come back here, and have him make one for me. *big grin*

Then we wandered town Temple Street, and came to the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman. Built in 1826, the facade features over 70 Hindu deities in full color! It was a huge complex with many different alcoves and statuaries. They allowed us to take some photography in designated areas, and so I got some really amazing shots of the ceilings and various of the decorated facades!

Next we stopped off at People's Park Complex for a extra tasty lunch in the food court. I got Chicken, mushrooms and noodles in a brownish sauce that was obviously fish based, and Stephen got this crazy seafood soup concoction that looked tame enough, but evidently packed enough chili peppers to clear out his sinuses for the rest of this life. Interesting to say the least, and pretty tasty to boot, though it left me wanting something a bit more familiar (or at least recognizable) to munch on, so we stopped at several vendors to try some of the festive foods available: Thai Coconut (they chopped the top off of and stuck a straw in to drink), Sugar Cane juice, and various types of candied fruits and herbs (ginger, GREEN papaya, tangerines, dates, etc).

Then wandering around we came into "historic" Chinatown, and came across a series of Buddhist temples, the largest of which was Thian Hock Keng, dedicated to the Goddess of the Moon and Sea, as well as a Female Buddhisatva (forgive my spelling). This particular Buddha's focus was on compassion. Fascinating, and amazing craftmanship.

Next door was a Mosque under repairs, but not much further down the street we came to the oldest Mosque in Singapore, Al Abrar. They were having lessons inside, so visitors were prohibited unfortunately. Still quite impressive. It's really interesting how these major religious buildings are set on street level with facades that almost blend into the surrounding area, whole area something of a mystical feel. So paying attention to where you are going is a major plus.

Then we wandered through this beautiful park, coming across several minor temples to various Buddas or Hindu deities, some of which were no more than a statue in a wooden box, others were the size of a standard shop with a little place for people to kneel off the street. Again, lent the whole area a pious atmosphere, and indeed this area of the city was substantially quieter than that filled with vendors and New Year's preparations. The park especially was a nice repose for our tired feet, and presented some nice opportunities for contrast with the surrounding apartment blocks, skyscrapers, and tree lined lanes.

Then we braved the vendor streets once again to head back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool to refresh tired muscles, a warm shower, and then off to dinner and more walking in the Sun Tech City shopping plaza, the LARGEST mall in a country where shopping is *the* national past time. This turned out to be our craziest adventure yet. 

First of all, we walked nearly two miles to get to the mall, ALL of which was underground, one endless string of shops and eateries. So we get there, and Stephen picks the Sushi place that is on the other side of where we are; so, we walk another mile, get there, and it is the weirdest experience of our lives. First of all, they had this conveyor belt that moved plates of sushi through the restaraunt and past all of the tables--the catch? You're not allowed to actually eat it. Then we noticed these computer moniters that said "order here", but you weren't actually supposed to use them. They brought us paper menus instead, that listed California Rolls as "Premium" sushi. So we ordered Bento boxes: Chicken Katsu Don for me, and a mixed sushi box for Stephen, both of which came with miso soup. We get them, and my box had fried chicken, fried tofu, and rice that had crushed up anchovies on it. The miso soup was even reconstituted. Yeah, definitively not tasty. Stephen's seemed a bit better, but he didn't recognize most of it, which was probably what made it appetizing. As discovered earlier in the day, it is amazing what you are willing to eat if you don't know what it is. Yes indeed, the ole "close your eyes and try it trick" from childhood came in handy. So, we finish with "dinner" and walk the 4 miles back to the hotel. The good part of this whole thing is that we discovered a book shop and got the bus and detailed city map that we need to plan tomorrow's adventure, which hopefully will be a little easier on the taste buds. It did end well however, as we ordered dessert from Room Service. :) Cherry pie with ice cream. The best thing I've had all day.

Where might the next destination be, you ask? Tomorrow's agenda includes the Zoo and the Orchid Gardens. They're a bit out of the center, but only by around 30 minutes (bus and metro, so we'll get to use our nifty cards on the bus). Now, I'm going to pay some more attention to the dessert that just arrived and my darling husband. Ciao!