a morning in Singapore
We started the day hungry and found our way to stacks of baskets which could mean only one delicious thing: dim sum.
Just for us
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.
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.
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.
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.
The place is full of fantastical, over-the-top creations.
Worshippers and lay people visit the temple daily. Lucky for us, it was fairly tranquil during ours.
This hunky priest found Tom for a chat.
Haw Par Villa
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.
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:
as well as rats in battle carrying fallen comrades:
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.
At the entrance are this horse-guard and an ox-guard who, once they see you, chase you inside with spear and club.
Inside, you’re judged for your crimes.
The punishments are very specific for each crime and oddly intimate.
And did I mention it’s pretty gruesome?
Believe it or not, abusing books is a crime. It will get you sawed in half.
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.
Or, in our case, on to other colorful, more pleasant things to look at.
like this scene of village life:
and benevolent wise men:
The goddess of mercy, Guanyin:
And for some reason, Lady Liberty.
Here’s a lovely lass doing something.
It turns out she’s taking a selfie.
And what would we do without dancing girls?
Daunted by the heat, we headed inside for a little nap.
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