Monday, March 20, 2006

Little India and Chinatown

Decided to explore Little India and Chinatown today. Little India is quite fascinating: how it ever escaped the modernising demolition/ reconstruction in Singapore I am not sure, but it is full of little shops that seem very authentic. Lots selling fabric, gold, and garlands and other temple offerings. You could get an image painted for the temple or buy an art work of a Hindu deity. Food stalls had real Indian food for real Indian people. At one stage I realised I had walked into a more Muslim section of the area. I came across a beautifully painted mosque, but as a single woman I was not welcomed in. Not far away was a Hindu temple. There were several images of goddesses (I presume) all clothed in saffron robes. A man in white seated up the front was having an animated discussion with a woman who seemed to have brought a question to him, or a request for prayer. The Muslim/Hindu mix appeared to an outsider to just blend alongside each other. I am not sure if that is really the case or not though if you live there everyday.
Next I caught the MRT to Chinatown - ah blessed airconditioning! It was culture shock all over again as I entered a section of town that really was very Chinese. More tourists here and even more markets. Dean tells me Singaporeans love to shop and they are certainly well catered for. Highlight of my exploits in Chinatown -apart from getting lost - surprise, surprise, I am the world's worst at orientating myself!) -was getting a foot massage in Chinatown. I once got a genuine Thai foot massage in Bangkok and this was an opportunity to try the Chinese variety. It was tough at times! (I am sure everyone working at home has the utmost sympathy for my plight!) I paid $15 for 30 minutes, and by the end my feet/legs were feeling so terrific that I decided to pay the extra $5 for a neck + shoulder massage. It started on the neck and was quite brutal at first and I was wondering what I had blithely got myself into! However, it was great when it was over. Lovely young Chinese woman did it. I took a photo of their bilingual sign at the end which surprised them a bit but we tourists are funny like that! The bit of Chinatown they were in was full of places that did authentic Chinese massage. Then the next section was full of jewellery shops. I was by now looking for some food but food shops were not nearby!
I next walked down all the stalls in Pagoda St. Then had a quick look at Sri Mariammam Temple. Had to be quick as you had to take your shoes off and the tiles were very warm under the sun! I had seen the outside before, but on the inside were some even more spectacular sculptures that included sacred cows with deities. Next I found Smith St Cafe and had some genuine Chinese vegetables in garlic with rice. An elderly group of Chinese men was in there, and an elderly group of Chinese women. You know you are getting authentic food when the locals are in there.
By this time I was feeling quite hot and jaded and I got a bit lost which made me feel even hotter! Eventually found my way back after coming across another temple. I am now hiding in airconditioned comfort in an internet cafe writing this to give myself a break from the heat. Funnily enough, the Singaporeans don't look like they have built up any kind of sweat today!
Meeting Dean at 5pm at Orchard Rd MRT to do a little more exploring. I am enjoying climbing on and off the underground trains: reminds me of Paris and the metro and thus like a 'real' traveller again!
OK that's it for now folks!

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