A Day Along the Singapore River

 

Yesterday Prescott and I went downtown see Everett and Anna (both Park School class of 2009) and Everett’s parents, Brian and Sally.  Everett and Anna now live in Singapore; Brian and Sally, who were friends of ours when we all lived in Baltimore, are visiting from Colorado. We started our outing with lunch at TungLok Teahouse, which offers a variety of dim sum and other Chinese dishes.  You know you’re in a Chinese restaurant just from the unusual items available on the menu.  Here are some of the things that we did not eat (at least I think we didn’t — Everett did the ordering, and not everything was identifiable):  braised grandma’s pork belly, stewed pig’s trotters, braised fish maw, and steamed chicken feet dim sum.

We then walked through the Central Business district to the Singapore River, where we found this small and unexpected statue.  You never know what kind of public art you’re going to stumble on in Singapore.

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Our next stop was the Asian Civilizations Museum, which is, according to its website, “devoted to preserving the cultural heritage of Asia, especially the ancestral cultures of Singaporeans.”  We started in the Tang Shipwreck room, which explores the contents of a ship from the ninth century found off the coast of Singapore in 1998.

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Prescott played with seeing the shipwreck site through VR glasses:

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In addition to hundreds of bowls, an ancient rolling pin, and the world’s oldest die found in a shipwreck, this room offered a display of nose-wine cups.  Historians hypothesize that people would have used the little straw on the side to drink wine through their noses.  A Chinese poet described drinking wine through the nose as “a pleasant experience,” but we’re not sure we buy that.

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We then wandered on through artifacts from Korea, China, India, and regions beyond.  It’s a great museum for getting a sense of the many religions and cultures that shaped this part of the world.

The Cavenagh Bridge — the only suspension bridge in Singapore — took us back over the river.

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Ready for a rest, we stopped in at the Fullerton Hotel, a beautiful neoclassical building erected in 1928 as Singapore’s General Post Office.  It’s now a luxury hotel where you can enjoy tasty cake (we tried carrot and lychee mousse kueh, both excellent) and exorbitantly expensive tea under the spreading palms in the lobby.

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They also have a wonderful corner — the Fullerton Heritage Gallery — where you can explore the hotel’s history.  Everett and Anna played with one of the displays for quite a while:

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We then walked out along the river, which gave us a great evening view of Boat Quay.  It’s hard to imagine that this river used to be incredibly polluted and cluttered with small boats.

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As we walked, Everett stopped to make friends with Ho Chi Minh (whose bust is right next to one of Deng Xiaoping, which seems to me an odd combo):

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We passed by this imposing statue of Stamford Raffles, the British statesman best known for founding the state of Singapore in 1819.

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Some countries resent or even reject their British colonizing forefathers — not so Singapore.  Here’s what they have to say about our favorite imperialist:

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Our walk also took us past Singapore’s UFO-inspired Supreme Court building …IMG_2497.jpg… and past the Old Hill Police Station, which now houses the Ministry of Communications and Information (one of our party fondly nicknamed this the “Ministry of Propaganda”) and the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth:

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We wanted to ride one of the many bumboats that ferry tourists up and down the river, but sadly, the line was too long.

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Instead, we took the MRT to Little India.  While waiting for our train, we found one of the stranger signs I’ve seen in any of our stations:

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I had no idea that this was an issue worthy of its own public service announcement.

Once in Little India, we walked up Race Course Road.  This was once the home of the Serangoon Road Race Course, a favorite haunt of European expats from the 1840s through the early 1900s.  Now it’s thronged with Indian restaurants and a few nice murals:

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Our evening ended at Jaggi’s, a North Indian restaurant where you order your food cafeteria-style.  It’s the opposite of fine dining, but the food is excellent.  All of the breads are wonderful, and I also recommend the saag paneer.

 

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