Dior Galore: and you thought Jersey was about shopping

Singapore Travel Blog

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the city from the east coast beach
Every country seems to have its own little Chinatown. Actually, come to think of it, where's New Zealand's? Chinatown here is relatively similar to NYs, but quite a bit brighter. Lots of colors: colors hanging from street lights and brightly colored buildings line the streets. The products are pretty much the same, cheap $5 watches, LOTS of little buddhas, chopsticks, and fans. Instead of I heart NY t-shirts it's I heart SG. $1 keychains, $2 magnets, and "English names" caligraphied for you... along with other hopeful expressions. There is more tropically inspired clothing than one can shake a stick at...and those lovely pushy sales people that possessively follow you around. The thin alleyways are jammed with lingering tourists.
The hawker stands (food halls) are claustrophobically packed and anxiously loud. Too overwhelming (and hot) to eat in. Everyone speaks English, so ordering isn't usually a problem, although sometimes the the picture of the food has Chinese writing on it, so you would have to order by number, not really knowing the accurate name (but the picture helps!).
One dramatic difference from NYs Chinatown is the temples. At the end of Pagoda St, the main drag of knock-off shopping, is the dominating Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It is amazingly ornate inside, however, the $3 charge for using your camera deterred me from snapping any interior shots. In all...it's a tad more touristy than holy.
Following the directions on my little man, I headed off, about 2 blocks down from the main centre, to a street that boasts more temples.
my first squatting experience
On the corner I was greeted by 3 men engaging in an act I've witnessed quite often in S'pore...burning things! It mostly looks like paper products. My guess is it is something religious and meaningful, but I have yet to learn about it.
First stop: Thain Hock Keng, which began as a joss house (place of worship) in 1821. It was erected to honor Ma Zu Po, the protector of sojourners, and Chinese immigrants would go there to offer thanks for a safe passage. In the 1830s, construction began on expanding, by Thian Jock Seng. The temple is supported entirely on bricks and wooden posts, with no nails in any part of the main structure. The main prayer hall is a shrine to the Queen of Heaven and the courtyard is an alter to the Goddess of Mercy. The temple became a national monument in 1973.
chinatown begins...

Further down the block, with ethnic prayer playing over loudspeakers and a not as appealing exterior is Al-Abrar Mosque. This mosque, 1827, is a national monument as well and was originally only a small thatched hut. In the late 1850s it was built into the brick and plaster shelter that it is now.

And on to the meaning of the title...the world record breaking shopping insanity that is Orchard Rd. Taking the lovely double-decker bus 14,  I jumped off at the start of the shopping mecca and headed straight for the familiarly comforting Borders. Exploring the shelves in the aircon, I searched for my next reading adventure. I've already gone through 2 books since leaving NZ (Dad: The Begger Maid was really good! I read all the stories in order and I loved the way it jumped around in time but still felt very fluid and cohesive.
It was hard to put down!). Staying true to my nature and indulging in my some have said bizarre fascination with prostitution and sex work, I picked up Red-Light Nights: Bangkok Daze to keep me satisfied on the beach in Bali. The book covers all the countries I'll be visiting, so I was pretty excited about the find!
So...I wasn't really off to a good start having already made a purchase at my first stop...but in my defense, I went to Orchard Rd so that I could get a new book. I did manage to make it back to the hostel with only a book and a dress. But, just so you understand the volume of shopping that can happen on the few long blocks that make up the infamous street.... One must cross the street via an underpass. Well, that underpass is really another mall, 2 or 3 floors underground! Even when crossing the street one is bombarded with stores.
And Orchard Rd isn't just stores line up next to one another...no...it's full fledged, multi-level malls. Think Jersey Gardens next to Livingston next to Willowbrook next to Rockaway Townsquare next to Paramus...working up to Short Hills on the upmarket side of the street. It is pure retail insanity, especially because the rest of the city centre areas are dotted with plenty more malls. I'm sure I passed Levis and Gap multiple times and Starbucks an uncountable amount.

And so concludes the end of Singapore. It's a very modern clean city/nation. Pretty easy to navigate as everything is in English along with native languages. Lots of food, lots of shopping...and hot, muggy, cloudy with periods of rain weather...every day. I'm glad I stopped over, the small neighborhoods are fun to wander around.
..but it really is designed for the shopping tourist. It's an expensive place to stay, especially in backpacker terms and I definitely spent more than I should have. All in all, it was nice...the hostel was alright, but the owners were wonderful and helpful and really nice to talk to. So were the guests...I befriended a Canadian and Aussie. Perhaps on the way back Singapore will only warrant 1 or 2 nights...

Off to Bali tomorrow, via Malaysia (on a bus)! A LONG day of traveling...starting at 9am and concluding at midnight!

PS: lots more pictures to come later...April isn't around to let me use the hostel's computer, so I'll have to wait until I find an internet cafe in Bali.
talllady6 says:
Hope you find that internet cafe soon as the phone thing seems to have dropped off the other side of the planet... hope you are basking in Bali and that we will all soon hear from you.
Posted on: Sep 23, 2009
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the city from the east coast beach
the city from the east coast beach
my first squatting experience
my first squatting experience
chinatown begins...
chinatown begins...
buddha tooth relic temple
buddha tooth relic temple
orchard rd
orchard rd
my bus from singapore to malaysia
my bus from singapore to malaysia
Singapore
photo by: easyjobrob