Woke up today after another long night and got ready to see the sights in Singapore. I left the hotel and walked to the Kallang MRT station; from there I rode the subway to Bugis station and proceeded on foot to the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, a Mahāyāna Buddhist temple believed to bring worshipers good luck after they pray to the Kuan Yin (“Avalokiteśvara”) the bodhisattva associated with compassion. On the way there I first stopped for some much needed sustenance after not eating anything other than nachos and a Crunchie bar yesterday; so I had a cheap meal at a local McDonalds. Next, I stopped at the Sri Krishnan Temple and looked inside; this temple was a Hindu temple and was located right next to the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple and had many colorful sculptures inside and out. Once I walked over to the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, I stepped inside and looked around at the Buddhist sculptures and all the worshipers sitting and praying on a large mat located inside the main hall. For visitors, all there was to see was the main hall; so it wasn’t long before I left and walked to the next temple on my list of places to see today.
I walked north to Little India and made my way to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, the ferocious incarnation of Shiva’s wife, Meenachi; the temple is believed to have been built as early as 1855 by Tamil laborers and the style of the temple itself is similar to temples found in southern Indian Tamil temples. During World War II, many devotees took refuge in the temple when bombs were falling outside, believing in Kali’s protection; in the end, the temple and all its statues survived the war unscathed. I walked around the temple grounds observing all the very colorful and imaginative sculptures, paintings, reliefs, and designs that can be found inside a Hindu temple. As I was leaving, three musicians were playing traditional Indian instruments as worshipers continued to pray and visitors continued to capture photographs. From there, I walked to the Little India MRT station to travel to my next destination.
I got off at the Chinatown MRT station and walked to the Sri Mariamman Temple, which is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. Just like the other two Hindu temples I saw today, it too had much colorful art (one interesting sculpture was a she-cow with human head and torso with breasts exposed). It was designed with a central pavilion as the main prayer hall and shrine to Mariamman (“Mother Mari”); outside, surrounding the main hall, were many other shrines and the whole compound was enclosed by a wall, disconnected from the shrines. After walking around the temple, I then exited and walked to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which – as the name suggests – houses a tooth from the Buddha himself. The tooth was found in a collapsed stupa in Myanmar in 1980 and it was believed to have belonged to Gautama Buddha and moved here; the temple was completed in 2007 to coincide with Vesak Day celebration – a day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha. Inside the main hall of the temple were many seated monks chanting prayers from their books. After visiting the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, I walked to a nearby Chinese pastry shop to purchase and consume a couple of snacks; then I walked back toward the MRT station, passing by the Masjid Jamae – a mosque that was established in 1826 by the Chulia community living in Singapore. Looking down the street, all on the same side of the road, one can see the Masjid Jamae, the Sri Mariamman Temple, and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, all very near each other – truly demonstrating just how diverse Singapore is.
After visiting and passing by those six religious buildings, I then decided to take a stroll through God’s natural temple; so I took the MRT to Harbourfront station, exited the station, and hiked up to Mount Faber to hike the Southern Ridges Walk. The trail was promising at first with signs warning visitors about monkeys (which I never saw) and passing through lush vegetation. However, when I reached the top, I found myself hiking along a road, car parks, and a cable car station; sadly, the trail didn’t improve much from there – it was not the natural temple I had hoped for. I continued along passing through architecturally marvelous pathways built for pedestrians: Henderson Waves (a wavy walkway perched high above the ground), the Forest Walk (a metal grated walkway that zig-zags through different levels of the forest canopy), and Alexandra Arch (an 80 meter arched walkway over a road). Actually, these man-made engineering feats were the highlight of my nature walkabout. I continued on through a garden park and then made my way back in to the woods, at first following the hiker trail, but soon found myself following the mountain bike trail; then I found myself at a point near a road where the real trail disappeared, so figuring I had seen enough of the Southern Ridges Walk, I went to the road and then walked to the nearest MRT station (located near the National University of Singapore).
I traveled next to the Promenade MRT Station and walked to the Singapore Flyer – the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. I then reluctantly paid the high admission price and was soon in a cabin on the wheel. The views I was granted on the ride were excellent; I could see the Formula 1 pit stop below, the Gardens by the Bay, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino, the many boats floating in the Singapore Strait, and all the skyscrapers to the west and north. It may not have been money well spent, but it was time well spent. After that ride, I walked down to the Formula 1 track and took a short leisurely stroll on it. I then ate at the “Singapore Food Trail” located under the Ferris wheel; the “Food Trail” is designed to recreate the atmosphere of a Singaporean street in the 1960s with many food vendors to choose from; I chose to eat a bowl of mixed beef (meatballs and slices of beef and tripe) and noodles; I also had a large bottle of Singapore’s famous beer, Tiger Beer. After filling up on calories, I walked across the Helix Bridge (its design is inspired by DNA’s double helix), which was lit up and beautiful in the dark. I then walked by the Art and Science Museum before entering the Marina Bay Sands shopping promenade and then walking to the Bayfront MRT station. From there I traveled back to my hotel where I had some more beer while typing out this journal entry.