The architecture in Singapore is varied, surprising and whimsical. Walking the streets, I was confronted with a variety of strange buildings. I can’t get sick of looking at the architecture here: it’s too strange and ever-changing!
Jackson and I made our way to Fort Canning Park to walk around. The day was early and few people were there. We strolled along the 14th Century Trail which has information plaques every few feet. I thought the plaques were a bit weird: for example, they’d talk about a stone in a river somewhere and how important that stone is and how it’s now in India. What I couldn’t get my mind around was why the trivia about the stone was mentioned when there with no other context for it. We were no where near a river, a stone or the place the stone was found. It was hard to imagine and hard to care too much. I also got impatient to leave after a while because the mosquitoes found my bare legs and started attacking me. It was hard to concentrate on anything while my legs began sprouting bites.
We went to check out Little India, a bustling, chaotic community full of smells, music and people that comes on with a roar as you enter the neighborhood. It was fascinating walking around and staring. We stopped into a Hindu temple on Serangoon Street to look around. The place was PACKED. Jackson and I tried to stay as out of the way as possible, all the while gaping at the deities and worshipers who were prostrating themselves on the floor.
Making our way to the Tekka center food court, we got some Chicken Tikka and fresh naan bread that was so hot and fresh it burnt our fingers. Two men were next to us chatting away in their language and I felt transported by the sounds the surrounded us: the clang of pots, scrapes of chairs, chatter of people, hawkers advertising their food… It all felt so alive and foreign.
We walked around and into a market full of butchers, fish, vegetables, spices, and dried food. The place was full of smells! I couldn’t stop staring at the butchers hacking away at lamb and goat legs. They’d look up and smile in the hopes I might buy something. I was tempted! Everything looked so fresh and transparent. In the markets in New York City, everything is sealed and clean; packed away in tidy boxes. Here, it felt like the food was in your face! I wanted to buy all I could and find a kitchen somewhere and make food just because!
As we walked home, we passed a gorgeous looking mosque called Masjid Abdul Gafoor, a colonial, Portuguese-style building painted fabulous hues of green and yellow. I felt a pull to check it out and we were swept inside by a very friendly volunteer who led tours through the building. I had to pull on a dress (tank tops and shorts are not appropriate inside) and kick off my shoes before stepping inside.
I’ve spent very little time in a mosque. I live near one in Queens and walk past it twice a day on my way to and from work, but I know so little of Islam and mosques! The guide was really informative and sweet, telling us about the schedule of worship, explaining Islam (but not in a preachy, trying-to-get-you-to-join kind of way), talking about how similar Islam is to Judaism and Christianity. I was fascinated and a bit embarrassed at how little I knew. He seemed genuinely glad we had come to check the place out and learn about his culture.
After another nap, we stepped out to explore some more. We came across a small Chinese temple and stepped inside.
It was really quiet and there was a heady smell of incense. The gods were serenely staring at us as we entered and I felt very aware of how much I can’t speak a word of Chinese. Adam, a man wearing a large green jade tablet, greeted us and then decided we needed a full tour. He explained that one of the deities was nearly 1000 years old. Then he wanted us to learn our fortunes. I’ve never had much experience with Chinese deities, numerology or fortune telling so I was fascinated! Jackson looked a bit dubious. I pulled a long brown stick with the number 55 on it from a very old looking chest of drawers and then found my corresponding fortune hidden in a little drawer. Adam was delighted to describe what the pink cards meant. Jackson’s card was downright golden! His fortune was all sunshine and roses and mine was all like: “Far from satisfaction” and “Too early to see concrete results” …Hmmm. Adam assured me that I was young and it will all work out really well. “Just remember to breathe!” He reminded us.
I am astounded at the number of religions in this city. They’re all so different from what’s in New York, too! After touring Saint Andrew’s Cathedral (which looked really stark and white compared to the reds, yellows and greens of the Hindu temple, Mosque and Chinese Temple!) I felt like I’d done a world tour of religions in such a small space.