Strictly: Sights – Volume #5

Welcome back, to another in the very, very, very long line of posts that is becoming the Strictly: Sights thread. I’ll keep this one brief because, unfortunately, I didn’t take a single picture of anything I’m about to talk about. Mainly because these sightseeing jaunts caught me on the hoof a bit, I wasn’t expecting to be museum bound on a day when I had to work in the afternoon. We’re going back a bit in time here, to when I had Lorna and Eleanor to stay and we struck out to find some interesting things to see. It’s more difficult having guests when you’re working, I had to fit hosting and tour guiding in around my normal day, but, thanks to the somewhat unique hours I work, we were able to visit a few places in the mornings before I had to go off and actually earn money. Eugh. First of all we went to that hub of sightseeing, Chinatown, so that they could experience a very different side of Singapore to the one they had already seen (Orchard Road). I’ve been to Chinatown a couple of times before, so I won’t rehash what I’ve already prattled on about, but on this particular trip we managed to do a few new things.

Firstly, Lorna convinced me to wander, barefoot, into the Sri Mariaumann Temple (the one with the colourful roof and slight obsession with cows). I’m pretty used to being barefoot by now but the majority of the temple was actually open to the elements, so my feet got a bit disgusting, which made me a little self-conscious for the next bit of our morning (which I’ll get onto in a minute). It was interesting inside, but there’s not a lot more to see than is on the outside to be honest. Still, it’s another thing off my list. Next, we wandered around Chinatown for a bit and, after deciding that maybe we weren’t allowed in the Chinese temple but, what the hell, we’d just wander in anyway, we discovered the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum (where I had to, again, go barefoot and simultaneously feel self-conscious about the state of my feet). I’ve heard bits and pieces about the Buddha Tooth Relic museum but I’d never really thought about visiting on purpose before. I have to say, it’s a veritable TARDIS inside; four floors and a roof terrace house the various parts that a temple needs (presumably, I’m not really sure what the prerequisites of a temple actually are) and an entire museum about the life, teachings and influences of the Buddha. The museum was probably the most interesting part, especially as I’d heard a fair bit about Buddha at the Asian Civilisations Museum and so the information here added to that, rather than just confusing the life out of me (which does occasionally happen). The roof was dedicated mainly to a garden with a large buddhist prayer wheel in the middle, which is used to help recite prayers and mantras when in worship. There is also the exhibit from which the temple gets its name, the buddha tooth relic, which you can’t actually see because it’s enclosed in a giant gold stupa set well behind a rather formidable window. The temples other claim to fame is that it has the largest collection of Buddhist relics under the same roof in the world. That’s a lot of Buddha right there. I enjoyed the temple-come-museum, especially as the visit was unexpected, but it’s a fairly confusing place to visit, being half actual temple and half tourist attraction there are bits where it feels like you’re not really meant to go but do anyway, and I wasn’t always sure what I was meant to be looking at.

Thanks google! (trekearth.com)

Once I’d struggled through work, and collapsed in exhaustion afterwards, another day had dawned and it was time for a new sightseeing extravaganza and another surprise museum. This time I took my visitors down to Bugis, another place that I’ve banged on about before, to show them Kampong Glam and Haji Lane. Again, they were suitably impressed and, again, as we wandered we came across the Malay Heritage Centre, a museum dedicated to Malay culture in Singapore, and decided to go have a look. Far more through luck than judgement we ended up at the museum at exactly the right time for the free guided tour and, never ones to kick a gift horse in the mouth, joined in enthusiastically. Now this was a good museum, probably one of the best I’ve visited in a while. Our tour guide was very good and very knowledgable and I’d barely heard anything about the Malay influence in Singapore before visiting the museum, so it opened my eyes to how the Malay presence has been sidelined in recent decades. It’s not a large museum, but the fact that it’s in the former palace of the old Malay kings gives it a certain presence. It’s also really well laid out, with some interesting exhibits, such as traditional instruments, examples of Malay music, the history of the Malay film industry in Singapore and the achievements of some important figures over the last 5 or so decades. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re of the museum persuasion but are bored with some of the more popular museums.

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Leah Out X

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