Our third day in Singapore brought us through Chinatown + to maaaaaany Temples: Hindu, Buddhist + Taoist.
The first thing we did once we got to Chinatown, like proper tourists, was check out the souvenir shops + make mental notes of some things we might want to pick up on our way out (ya know, Merlion key chains, shot glasses, cheap Kimonos (always appropriate for a Tennessee Williams scene!), fabulous dresses, etc.).
But we were really there for the temples + Maxwell hawker’s centre.
I was amazed by the detail of the sculptures in the tower. I have always been very interested in Indian art, religion + culture, so this temple was a real treat to see!
Our next stop was the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Also interested in Buddhism from an early age, the beauty + decadence of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was another highlight of the trip.
Photos aren’t allowed in the Temple’s museum which is decked out with gold, but I got many more great shots on the roof!
One of the coolest things on the roof is the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, complete with prayer wheel. I lucked out + got to witness a devotee turn the wheel many times, causing a bell at the top to chime with every rotation.
Since we were there so close to Chinese New Year, there was special chanting in the temple’s main room. Pretty cool to experience. I did not take many pictures, however, because I didn’t want to be too disrespectful to those there to worship.
We got lunch at Maxwell Food Centre. Hawker’s centres are essentially food courts that offer inexpensive + delish food options. You can find them in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong + the Riau Islands. Maxwell’s is one of the most famous ones in Singapore + right across the way from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple!
The way hawker’s centers work is you find a table + mark your seat with a pack of tissues, water bottle, umbrella, whatever, then find the longest line (because that’s where the best stuff tends to be!), wait, collect your food + enjoy!
My mom got a sweet peanut soup with sweet rice flour balls filled with peanut butter + black sesame butter. I got fish head bee hoon, a DELICIOUS Malaysian soup. Louise got some sort of Malaysian fish + veggie wrap, but my bee hoon line was so long that I didn’t even catch a glimpse before her lunch was gone!
Then it was onto a couple of temples that Louise remembered seeing with another friend several years before. The first was a Taoist Temple that when it originally opened had the sea just a few feet from it’s walls! Fun fact: the Singapore of today is actually built on a ton of reclaimed land.
Finding the next one was like a wild goose chase. Singapore is building up at such a rapid rate that the neighborhood looked completely different than the last time Louise had been to this particular temple. We weren’t helped by the fact that the temple was under renovation + was was entirely shrouded by scaffolding + other construction equipment.
We had dinner at a great New Zealand restaurant in Louise + Colman’s neighb, + on the walk to their house stopped into their local Hindu temple, the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple.
This was probably my favorite spot of the day. Off the beaten path, inside was just us four + worshipers.
We just happened to arrive minutes before their 9:00pm service, during which a very friendly priest ushered me with hand signals + a warm smile from altar to altar as the focus shifted from place to place within the temple. Then he skirted me to the kheer line with promises of, “Sweet!” My mom + I each got a cup of sweet kheer with cardamom, raisins + cashews. Super yum.
Before we left, one of the worshipers made sure we got information about the temple + the Hindu religion. Pretty special place.
My interest in Indian culture all started with my love of Indian food. I used to go out to Jackson Heights, Queens regularly with my dad, where we would go to the Jackson Dinner for their ridic lunch buffet, buy chutneys + spices from the Patel Brothers grocery store, + check out the latest Bollywood soundtracks at the CD stores.
“Illa Loo Illa Loo” was one of our favorite songs, + bless Youtube for finally putting a moving image to the song that had us hopping + bopping for years.