The last time we went to Chinatown in Singapore it looked just like this - crowded. Yes, noisy too! But, oh so welcoming with the fragrant smell of hundreds of food vendors competing for business. Though strangely enough, food is no longer as cheap here as we remembered it. Our theory is that tourists have driven the prices up. This is one of the largest thriving Chinatowns we've ever visited; it covers two square kilometers and includes a few temples.
With the Chinese New Year celebrations approaching (31 January) almost every shop is selling New Year decorations besides their usual mass-produced bargains. We looked hard but I only found one bargain worth mentioning; six postcards for S$1.00 - at most other places you only get one postcard for that price and sometimes it costs more than that! Certain special people in our lives will understand why this particular bargain made me feel happy. It doesn't take much!
This is the Buddhist's Tooth Relic Temple. Apparently a sacred tooth of the Buddha is kept here and brought out for viewing just once a year, on the first day of the Chinese New Year.
Typical food offerings to the deities. Mmm, wonder who eats all of this? Or even if it is eaten?
I loved some of the architecture and bright colours.
Looking for postcards ...
Imperial Cheng Ho High-Tea Harbour Cruise:
This was another activity we repeated because it left us with such good memories the last time. Once again, we were not disappointed.
The Imperial Cheng Ho, a modern Chinese junk, is designed and built to replicate the imperial splendour of centuries ago. The company offers four harbour cruises a day, but the one we find the most appealing is the afternoon high-tea cruise with a stop at Kusu Island - the same as the one we did 8-years ago. Would we do it again? Yes! We feel it's good value for money (S$34.00 each) for a two and a half hour cruise with as much 'high-tea' as you can eat in the first hour.
The interior of the boat is as ornate as the exterior. Within minutes of sailing the covers are lifted from the finger foods to reveal delicate savoury pastries, crustless sandwiches, petite cakes and mini chocolate eclairs. A line forms quickly but also moves very fast with the help of servers who load you up at the nod of your head. Self-serve hot tea and coffee completes the offering for 'high-tea'. There was an incredible amount of food. In seemingly constant motion, full trays replaced the empty ones until everyone was satiated. The full selection of food remained available until we pulled into our island stop an hour later.
Kusu Island, also known as turtle island, is one of many off Singapore's coast. The colourful temple on the island is known as the Da Bo Gong Temple (God of Prosperity). Da Bo Gong is highly regarded as having the power to confer prosperity, cure disease, calm the sea and avert danger.
We observed this monkey for a while. We know she's well fed, doesn't like people to get too close and she appears to be the only one on the small island.
As we departed Kusu Island we noticed the Singapore Financial District skyline in the background behind the temple. This was about a 45-minute boat ride away.
It was Dennis who noticed the Chinese man riding the chicken, one of the many interesting details on the boat. There is surely a story behind this!
Note on current exchange rate: SGD$1.00 is about US$0.80 is about ZAR8.00