Friday, May 10, 2013

Singapore River Cruise

10 May 2013

A couple of things about Singapore, or at least our neighbour- hood (which is mostly Chinese) - in addition to the shrines, and sometimes large statues of Buddha, there are foo dogs.  Or maybe foo lions.  Those guardian lion dogs that stand on posts or in front of buildings to keep out evil people, or maybe evil spirits.  Anyway, here are two sets of foo dog lions.

Our neighbourhood is crowded with little restaurants - some are almost cafeteria style, with pre-cooked food and you just get whatever rice or noodles with soup or stewed whatever on top.  Others are a bit fancier and make items to order.  And 99% of the places have outdoor tables, under an awning, because it's so hot in the place (and they don't have AC) - but the tables spill over onto the sidewalk, and take over, and this becomes the smoking section of the restaurant.  It makes walking down the sidewalk a bit treacherous, weaving and dodging around diners as well as potholes and the occasional cat or dog. 

We took the train to downtown, bought tickets for the river cruise because the daily rain seemed to be holding off, and headed over to the pier – it was one of those convoluted routes of “go in front of this building, down into the underpass and through to X, come back out and around the other building, cross the bridge, and it’s right there.”
Turned out those funny domed buildings we saw the other day are nicknamed The Durians because they look that stinky smelly fruit!  Two domed buildings, covered in small metal triangles to imitate the spines of the durian fruit.  Our directions included walking either past or under The Durians – but once we went down into the underpass area, well, all orientation points disappeared and we weren’t sure which was to go. 

So we asked a nice older gentleman which way to go – he walked along and showed us, and said something about going under The Durians.  I said casually, “My sister really likes durian.”  Suddenly the man totally warmed up, gave us a big smile, told us that durian tasted like a little bit of heaven!  I told him I just can’t get past the smell, and he said it was like stinky cheese, you just had to get used to the smell and then it tasted great!  We all had a laugh about that, and when he left us at the exit we had big handshakes all around. 

We went over to the Merlion – yup, a Mer-Lion – pronounced like that, Mer-Lion, not Merlion – and yes, it has the head of a lion and tail of a fish, and basically is a giant fountainhead, spewing water out into Marina Bay, which is on the Singapore River.  This statue/fountain has become symbolic of Singapore, having its origins in tales of the founding of Singapore.  There’s also a “baby” MerLion in back of the original, a small sculpture made as a mosaic of broken ceramic tea cups and spoons and such. 

Anyway, we climbed onto our little dragon boat, which has sort of a dragon face painted on the front, and beautiful shiny wood all through the interior.  It really is like a miniature ferry, and these boats are built to fit under all the bridges on the Singapore River, even at high tide.  (Keep in mind that the nation of Singapore is a city-state located on an island, at the end of the Malay Peninsula, so that both ends of the river lead to the sea – and thus there’s a tide that raises and lowers the level of the river.  Weird but true! 

We headed out and had beautiful views of the MerLion, The Durians, and the Museum of ArtScience, the lovely lotus blossom designed by Moshe Safti.  (I did a google search – “moshi moshi” is what Japanese people say when they answer the telephone, and “mochi” is the Japanese word for azuki bean pastries – that’s why Moshi sounded so familiar.)  I had fun taking photos trying to capture the lotus blossom from different angles. 

We cruised up and down one section of the river, under bridges and past buildings dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s – of course with the super modern glass and steel skyscrapers just behind the old buildings.  That’s classic Singapore – the old buildings and culture mixed in with the ultra modern and contemporary and almost futuristic.

We went to Clarke Quay, where some people left our boat – then on to Riverside, which is a modern shopping area built over the old opium dens and brothels.  Back to Marina Bay, then over to the casino and the lotus blossom – and then back to the MerLion.  Doesn’t sound like much, but the entire trip was about 40 minutes – very informative and relaxing, and who doesn’t like a nice boat trip?

We had hoped to go to the old Raffles Hotel for a cold drink, but the dark clouds and thunder rolling in meant that the daily rain we’ve been experiencing would show up early today – so we headed back to the shopping center for a late lunch.  The rain kept up, so we finally just headed to the train and back to our neighbourhood.

I’m not sure if we’re heading into rainy season (monsoon season) – but the last several days have been fairly rainy during the late afternoon and evening.  We keep trying to get to the zoo, and the night visit to the zoo is supposed to be wonderful – but the weather hasn’t been very cooperative.  (Doesn’t a late night zoo visit sound wonderful?  All those nocturnal animals like lions and leopards will be wide awake and active!)
We also tried to get reservations for a harbour cruise one afternoon, but we were the only people who signed up for that particular cruise, so it was cancelled.  We’ll try again for both the zoo and the cruise, and I’ll keep everyone posted.

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