Saturday, December 29, 2012

One Block of Wonders

I spent a few hours in Little India and found a block that was jam-packed with extraordinary sites.  I decided to start my tour at a Hindu temple, and this is the first one I found along Serangoon Road.  I had the place to myself so I didn't disturb any worshipers with my camera. This is Sri Perumal Temple, one of the oldest temples in Singapore dedicated to Vishnu, and dates from 1855

I left the temple and headed around the corner to Race Course Road. where I found 4 Buddhist temples in one block.  First came the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, whose front door is flanked by these 2 cool lions :

Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple

This temple is often referred to as the Temple of 1000 Lights, founded in 1927 by a Thai monk called Vutthisara.  The small building is completely dominated by this sitting Buddha; walk around behind him and there is a large reclining Buddha.  There are scenes from the Buddha's life all around the temple.

RIGHT NEXT DOOR is a Chinese Buddhist temple - couldn't find a name, but it had Chinese gods rather than Buddha statues:

AND STRAIGHT ACROSS THE STREET is another Chinese temple:

NEXT to that is a new condo...

NEXT to that is, I think, a Buddhist school:

And NEXT to that, an HDB (Housing Development Board) apartment building:


THEN, the most amazing surprise of the day (maybe even the week).  It started to rain, so I ducked into what I thought was an antique store.  But it was a Chinese tea shop.  As I admired the hundreds of small clay teapots, another customer started chatting with me.  It seems that he has his own tea shop in Chinatown, but comes here to shop and visit with this shop owner.  Of course, they invited me to have tea with them and told me about some tea traditions.  After about half an hour, the owner, who speaks very little English, asked me to help him translate a document about an English teapot written in cursive.  Maybe he asks all his English-speaking customers about this, but it made me feel special.  What a great afternoon!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Old Art Made New - Joss Stick Sculpture

The newest addition to my Christmas Collection - an angel fashioned after a Chinese goddess:

The newest "must-have" among ex-pat families is a Nativity Set made by the Joss Stick Man.

Joss Sticks are the incense sticks burned at altars in Asian religions.  Everyone knows the usual thin sticks, but here in Singapore they have jumbo-size ones used for festivals that can burn for days.  Creating these from the wood of cinnamon trees (cinnamon sticks used for flavor are from the bark of the tree) is an old art form, quickly dying in the digital age.
My friend and I found the shop in an industrial area, amid tire stores, steel fabricators and electrical supply stores.  It is a small, old, not-so-tidy place where the owner and 2 employees form the "dough" into amazing art objects.

Here are the basic forms, drying for several days:

which then are painted in florescent colors:

I remember Christmas ornaments made by them in the past, but in the past few years they have expanded their Christmas collection to include the creche, nativity characters, and gingerbread houses:

Here are my "older" pieces, gifts from when we were living here in 1999...they still look like new:

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December on Orchard Road

Christmas started in early November along Orchard Road, the premier shopping district of Singapore.  Although most of the people here are not Christians, they love to celebrate December 25th!  The streets are malls are filled with the sounds of songs about snow and chilly weather, even in the tropical heat.
 This is Tanglin Mall, which does a fabulous job every year of decorating for Christmas and then changing the display into a Chinese New Year set.  Above is the day scene, and below is the night, just before they turn on the soap bubbles which look like snow!
Another mall here, Ion, (think Cartier, Gucci, Hermes) took a non-traditional colors approach:

Tangs, a department store, features frost-like light displays:

The sidewalk by day:

and night:

My camera couldn't quite catch the night-time effects, but here is my amateur try:

But in Singapore, of course, there is always something totally unexpected.  I came upon these kids getting ready for something...a photo shoot?...a advertising gig?...a belated Halloween?...or just fun???

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Little Moral Gem

 Across a busy road from our apartment complex is the Four Seasons Hotel on the left:

And the Hilton Hotel on the right:

Between them is a lovely pedestrian lane that I often use to get to Orchard Road:

Just as I come off that lane, I find the Hard Rock Cafe on my left:

But nestled in the shadow of the hotels and just before the "after dark" den of rock 'n roll is this traditional, colonial style building:
(it is so hidden, I couldn't get a good photo)
But here is the sign in front:

I just googled it and found out that in the 1970's in Malaysia, some people thought the society was too full of greed, corruption, bad manners, rebellious youth, etc, and it was time to get back to the basics of good morals!  So they started this society and it has grown. From what I understand, there is a huge complex in Malaysia, and there must be several groups (I found the Chang Kong Kok website). They have 10 principals and guidelines to live by, taken from traditional Taoism, Confusionism and Buddhism. (Kind of like how Unitarians have come from different sects of Christianity.)  Last week the lawn out front of the building had a huge tent and hundreds of families in yellow polo shirts sporting their particular sect's logo (they lined up at Hard Rock to board their buses home) 

It so fascinating to find these little gems in the midst of the glamour and glitz of Singapore 2012.

So here's to uplifting morals!!

NEXT UP:  Orchard Road decorates for Christmas