a morning in Singapore

IMGP1205Singapore, thank goodness, recognized a long time ago that even with its rapid modernization, its past was worth keeping close at hand.IMG_20170119_093354

 

 

We started the day hungry and found our way to stacks of baskets which could mean only one delicious thing: dim sum.

IMGP1226Hard at working filling those baskets:

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Just for us

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Last year around this time, we started this same exact trip. During the rush to Chinese New Year celebrations, Tom fell off this specific curb and broke his foot. (The steps were under construction last year.) The crowd was so pressing that I couldn’t find him for a few nervous hours.

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After going through Singapore’s excellent and cheap medical system, we decided to come home.

Returning this year, we’re in Chinatown again around the New Year. For once the tourists were well in the minority. Outnumbered by munchkins. I think every Straits child under 8 was here.

chinatown

 

Sri Mariamman Temple

A short walk from dim sum was Sri Mariamman Temple, the major Hindu temple on the island. This extravagant gopuram towering over the compound beckoned us in.

Sri Mariamman Temple

Dating from colonial times, the shrine holds an annual festival in the fall which draws thousands to walk on coals. I can just (nauseatingly) imagine the odor of all those feet cooking.

Sri Mariamman Temple

The place is full of fantastical, over-the-top creations.

Sri Mariamman Temple

Sri Mariamman Temple

Worshippers and lay people visit the temple daily. Lucky for us, it was fairly tranquil during ours.

Sri Mariamman Temple

This hunky priest found Tom for a chat.

Sri Mariamman Temple

Lucky Tom

 

 

Haw Par Villa

 

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

Continuing the somewhat kitsch theme of the day, we made our way to Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden). I had been to the one in Taipei as a kid, and Tom joined me at another when I was working in Hong Kong. A very odd thing to have seen three of. I think all of them were done by the Aw Boon brothers who developed Tiger Balm. To emphasize the point here’s, what else, a hawking Tiger.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

Once extremely popular, the park has fallen out of favor, virtually empty when we visited. These figures, however they’re made, seem to disintegrate fairly quickly. The place seems to be undergoing major renovation so there’s hope for it yet.

As a warm up to the big show, there are some odd dioramas, like warring elephants with fighting cockroaches:

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

as well as rats in battle carrying fallen comrades:

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

 

 

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

The major attraction is the Ten Courts of Hell. I’m pretty sure this cosmology is grafted on to Buddhism from something else. Incorporating local beliefs was pretty common as a religion moves into a new area as a way of gaining converts.

Originally inside a 200-foot dragon, the gruesome attraction is now in what looks like a concrete bunker. The dragon must have been even more fearsome.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

At the entrance are this horse-guard and an ox-guard who, once they see you, chase you inside with spear and club.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

Inside, you’re judged for your crimes.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

The punishments are very specific for each crime and oddly intimate.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

And did I mention it’s pretty gruesome?

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

Believe it or not, abusing books is a crime. It will get you sawed in half.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

If you are deemed to have been punished enough, this nice lady will dispense the tea of forgetfulness and send you on your way to reincarnation.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

 

Or, in our case, on to other colorful, more pleasant things to look at.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

like this scene of village life:

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

and benevolent wise men:

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

The goddess of mercy, Guanyin:

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

And for some reason, Lady Liberty.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

Here’s a lovely lass doing something.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

It turns out she’s taking a selfie.

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

And what would we do without dancing girls?

Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Garden)

Daunted by the heat, we headed inside for a little nap.

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