A Day in the City of Sun

This is how the morning and night of one of my Mondays looked like.

thumb_IMG_0815_1024

Time machine: beautiful Kitchener Road.

thumb_IMG_0816_1024

Singapore’s major attractions is not Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay, or Clarke Quay. It is Ya Kun with majestic kaya-butter toast and kopi-C.

thumb_IMG_0817_1024

Animals walking in the City Square mall.

thumb_IMG_0818_1024

Taking a bus ride along Serangoon Road.

thumb_IMG_0819_1024

I met Sathya Sai Baba on the way.

thumb_IMG_0821_1024

Taknig a breath in a cozy Zhongshan park.

thumb_IMG_0822_1024

A great place for bird-listening in the middle of the city …

thumb_IMG_0823_1024

… and enjoying the colours of life.

thumb_IMG_0824_1024

Going out to the Esplanade Theatres with  friends for the Mid-Autumn Festival (“Worshiping Moon Festival”) and listening to the guqin performance.

thumb_IMG_0825_1024

What an ingenious fountain!

thumb_IMG_0826_1024

Walking along colourful and teasing Liang Seah street at night.

thumb_IMG_0827_1024

A local friend took us for a dessert treat at this wonderful place.

thumb_IMG_0828_1024

After two years in Singapore I finally tried durian (in durian sago)! Wasn’t easy, bus I made it. I still don’t like the smell, but the sago was great.

thumb_IMG_0829_1024

National Library at night.

thumb_IMG_0831_1024

National Library: view from above.

thumb_IMG_0832_1024

This is magic.

thumb_IMG_0833_1024

Paparazzi dogs.

thumb_IMG_0835_1024

From the top of Swissotel.

thumb_IMG_0836_1024

Boat Quay and Central Business District at night.

thumb_IMG_0838_1024

St. Andrew’s Cathedral somewhere down.

thumb_IMG_0839_1024

Marina Bay at night as the quintessence of the day.

Thank you, Singapore!

Advertisements

The Green Corridor

The Green Corridor in Singapore is a pleasant walking route along an old rail track.

This week my friends and I explored a small section of it stretching between King Albert Park and Holland Road.

To summarize in three words: Nature, History, Life.

file5

The route starts from King Albert Park bus and MRT stop with a railway bridge across Bukit Timah Road.

20171016_083257

A nice surreal feeling to see this in the middle of the global city, 

file1

772 indicates the distance in kn till Penang in northern Malaysia.

file2

Dogs on promenade on Monday morning.

file3

The old Bukit Timah railway station.

20171016_083100

Less then a hundred meters from a busy road – and you are in the world of tranquility, birds, and green lush.

file4

Finishing at an upscale and serene resident “greenleaf” district: Greenleaf Drive, Greenleaf Lane, and Greenleaf Road not far from Holland Village.

A great photo guide and description of the Green Corridor is available here.

Once again I have come to realize that Singapore, paradoxically, is small but big.

Windsor Nature Park: An Island of Peace and Serenity

This newly opened park is absolutely great for a morning walk with a good friend, reconnecting with nature, listening to an astonishing variety of birds, and meeting the local species (like squirrels and monkeys).

IMG_0079

Flora at the entrance.

FullSizeRender 4

The trails are well marked and covered. After some time they merge into forest paths.

FullSizeRender 2

Two generations walking hand in hand. My good friend Roop is good at taking good photos. 

FullSizeRender 5

Embracing forest colours.

FullSizeRender 8

Let there be light.

IMG_0091

Meeting Masters of the Forest. We were forced to share our fruit breakfast.

IMG_0092

The alpha male (presumably) on the left hijacked all the food.

IMG_0097

The trees are tall, strong, and calm. Good example to emulate.

FullSizeRender 10

Windsor Nature Park is about passion, love, and beauty.

Observation Deck – Marina Bay Sands

There are several goods spots to enjoy Singapore’s skyline.

Compared to ION Sky Observation Deck or Pinnacle, for instance, entrance to the MBS Observation Deck is quite expensive (23 SGD). I believe it’s worth the price though. Besides, I promised myself to go up after passing the PhD qualifying exam.

IMG_0046

The design of MBS hotel never stops delighting me.

IMG_0067

The observation deck is located at the 57th floor of the hotel. The access is provided through Tower 3 starting from 9.30 am.

IMG_0055

The stunning views of the Gardens by the Bay, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, Marina Bay and Marina Barrage.

IMG_0058

Singapore Flyer (public observation wheel) and Benjamin Sheares Flyover. 

IMG_0059

From left to right: The Float (floating stadium), Helix Bridge (footbridge modelled on DNA structure), Youth Park, Bayfront Avenue, Benjamin Sheares Flyover, Singapore Flyover and Formula 1 pit building behind.

IMG_0061

Another breathtaking perspective: Marina Bay and the Central Business District with the elegant 1928 Fullerton Hotel on the right and Boat Quay behind.

IMG_0064

And here comes the famous Infinity Pool (top left). The entrance is restricted to hotel residents.

IMG_0062

Flower-shaped ArtScience Museum, The Float, and durian-shaped Esplanade theatre and concert hall.

IMG_0070

At the bottom of ArtScience Museum with the Fullerton Hotel in the background.

Marina Bay is a unique place that emits energy any time of the day.

Singapore’s Open Secrets: Chinatown

When I hear that Singapore is “small,” I keep smiling to myself.

Is some 400 parks small? Or 150 km of park connectors? Or incredible variety of cultures, peoples, architectural styles, and cuisines?

Geography is not a destiny. It’s an opportunity to look deep, and not just wide.

In this regard, Singapore’s Chinatown is incredible. Pardon – Singcredible.

IMG_20170512_164957934

What is special about UOB Plaza in Raffles Place?

There is a historical Moulana Mohamed Ali Mosque in the basement of the Plaza, right in the Central Business District.

The Mosque adjoins the Market street which hosted a fish market – Singapore’s first market – and many double storey shophouses inhabited mostly by moneylenders. Two of such shophouses were purchased by concerned residents to serve as place of worship in the middle of the fast-growing trading district.

In 1982 UOB (United Overseas Bank) reached an agreement to exchange these two shophouses for the present site underground.

I walked by several times but never noticed the Mosque until a fantastic walking tour organized by a professor of design & architecture at NUS.

17634597_1497487043643494_6330242219158785099_n

What is the relationship between Samsung, sugar cane, and Lee Kuan Yew?

Samsung C&T office at the crossing of Church and Telok Ayer streets used to be a site of the “Heap Eng Moh Steamship Co Ltd.,” a shipping company owned by a Chinese Indonesian tycoon Oei Tiong Ham known as “sugar king.” The company was part of Oei Tiong Ham’s business empire formed largely through acquiring sugar factories in Java.

The Managing Director of “Heap Eng Moh Steamship” was Lee Hoon Leong, the grandfather of Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee Hoon Leong is buried at the historical Bukit Brown cemetery.

18425096_1497517066973825_3793758521828877393_n

Amoy street in Chinatown was presumably named after the early Hokkien immigrants who arrived from Amoy, a port in Fujian Province, China.

Since the seafront was close then (the parallel Telok Ayer street was used for docking boats), Amoy had business to meet the needs of the sailors.

What did the sailors crave?

Opium and women.

20170512_173329

Rainbow at Amoy street:

20170512_173030

Murals in Chinatown: blending tradition and modernity:

20170512_175252

Telok Ayer street in Chinatown breathes with history.

One of the hidden gems is a blue building which hosts the Musical Box Museum. Originally this place, known as “Chong-Wen Ge,” was the first education institution set up by the Chinese community in Singapore. It is located next to Thian Hock Keng, Singapore’s oldest Chinese temple.

20170512_172428

Built in the 1970s, People’s Park Complex represents two architectural styles: Asian modernism and British brutalism. It consists of two parts: a lower podium of shopping space and a residential complex above. The former is famous for the shared public area at the rooftop carpark; the latter is infamous for frequent lift breakdowns.

20170512_175051

In front of the Bloomberg Tradebook broker agency at the crossing of Telok Ayer and Church streets there is a fountain. The fountain is at the opposite end of the line which leads to the Boat Quay nearby. The energy which emanates from the waters of the Boat Quay is thus transferred to the fountain to ensure better trading.

IMG_20170512_164208043

Old and new, traditional and modern, past and present co-exist, intermingle, and inter-penetrate in Singapore.

Yueh Hai Ching, Singapore’s oldest Teochew temple, is located in the heart of the Central Business District. Built in the 1850s, the temple was developed out of a shrine set up by Chinese sailors and merchants to gratify Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea.

IMG_20170512_163752214~2

Gods and business live side by side:

IMG_20170512_163157777_HDR

It feels like flying on top of the Pinnacle residential complex (50th storey) close to Chinatown:

18620507_1504797079579157_8286608712564027458_o

Let life be full of colours!

20170512_175045

Xin chao, Ba Vi

Ba Vi is a national park located around 60 km away from Hanoi. I went there during the 4th day of my stay in the capital.

20170104_094820

At the entrance of Ba Vi.

20170104_095456

Beautoful Ho Cua Lake.

20170104_100557

Old Vietnamese flags and the forest trail.

20170104_100853

Such a contrast with Hanoi: forest, hills, birds, and fresh air.

20170104_101257

Going deeper into the forest.

20170104_102842

A mini altar made out of stone.

20170104_102852

Natural tree gate.

20170104_103220

This is actually made of metal, but looks like from wood.

20170104_104130

Another breathtaking view of the lake. 

20170104_104750

Following the trail in the resort area.

20170104_105743

A restaurant seemed ike a fairy tale.

smile

My charming co-traveller from Hanoi.

Ba Vi is a great natural spot to get away from the noise and hustle-bustle of Hanoi. I  learned about it only thanks to a local person. Another great day!

Xin chao, Hanoi (day 3)

Today I continued exploring Hanoi with a motorbike. The highlights include the Phu Tay Ho Pagoda, Botanical Garden, Temple of Literature, and Peace Park.

d

20170103_094936

Phu Tay Ho is located at the West Lake (Ho Tay) in the centre of Hanoi.

20170103_095021

Locals fishing next to the pagoda.

20170103_095052 

Very calm and peaceful in the morning.

20170103_095109

The pagoda and the tree.

20170103_095136

The fruit and the dragon welcome visitors.

20170103_095243

Inside the temple.

20170103_095727

Seafood :).

20170103_095743

Fruit garden in the temple area.

20170103_095824

What a cute architectural design!

20170103_095847

Spot for praying.

20170103_095909

This tree is gorgeous.

20170103_100206

People praying. It’s unbelievable, but I was the only foreigner at this serene place. I just sat next to the water and enjoyed the atmosphere. Why do tourists go to touristic places only?

In Saigon someone told me there is not much to do in Hanoi. I was also told I must try some local dish, the name of which I didn’t bother to remember.

This is the difference between tourism and travelling. You can do what TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet tell you, go on guided tours, and treat cuisine as the only experience worth of trying.

Isn’t this another face of consumerism and conformism?

Or you can raise your middle finger towards all reviews, and try out yourself: go to less known places, get lost in the city, use gestures to communicate with the locals.

When in Hanoi, do no go to Tran Quoc Pagoda. Go to Phu Tay Ho. Or go to both to feel the difference.

20170103_102642

After visiting the fantastic Phu Tay Ho, I took a walk in the Botanical Garden. I didn’t find it special, but it was nice to dive into a green oasis in the middle of Hanoi. And you can do sports there too :).

20170103_102708

Walking among the trees.

20170103_102759

Lake in the garden.

20170103_102804

Cute path.

20170103_111141

My next stop was the Temple of Literature. The man at the motor bike parking marked my bike with chalk :). 

20170103_111552

The Temple of Literature, or the Temple of Confucius, is the first and oldest university in Vietnam founded in 1076 (!). Chinese culture had a big influence on Vietnam (which doesn’t stop the Vietnamese from disliking the Chinese :)).

20170103_112303  

The architecture has an old imperial style.

20170103_112437

Marvellous place despite an overwhelming number of tourists.

20170103_112640

Inside the Temple.

20170103_113147

Once I stepped away from a more crowded touristic zone, I was rewarded with a concert of traditional Vietnamese music.

20170103_132957

Having local cuisine for lunch.

20170103_154323

View to the lake on the way to the Peace Park.

20170103_164919

I found the Peace Park vast and empty. 

20170103_165048

Zero foreigners. That’s good!

20170103_165002

Perhaps the park was quite empty as it’s quite far. It took me about an hour by motorbike to get there. And on the way back I experienced an unforgettable Hanoi traffic jam :).