by Kerry Tolson @kerrytolson.com.
Instead we duck back into the shopping mall, down the escalator and find ourselves ‘picnicking’, Asian style – mouth-watering Vietnamese fare and cheap beer in enamel cups while sitting on cute plastic stools with a 'field of grass' table.
It's still raining after lunch, so we head for the National Museum of Singapore located in a beautiful 1887 Renaissance-style building filled with endless rows of arches and a massive ‘white-house’-esqe dome. The museum is the oldest in Singapore, although it’s original name was the “Raffles Library and Museum”.
Its building is a big favourite for photographers of all scopes. There are ‘shoots’ everywhere – wedding pics, fashion shoots, photography-workshops – all taking place while we wander through the stunning architecture - and inadvertently photo bomb the equally stunning images with 'the-drown-rat'-in-the-background' pose.
Most of the exhibits are free, and I'm particularly interested in the What is Not Visible is Not Invisible , the light and texture installation from the French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art (FRAC) but before we even step out of the main foyer of I'm gobsmacked at the enormous sphere of pots and pans suspended above my head.
Aptly named 'Cooking the World' (by Subodh Gupta), it's a representation of the surplus and shortage throughout society - though with that many pots in the kitchen, I'd be mithering about the shortage of dishwashers.
We go up the ramp to the glass dome to see the exhibit "Story of the Forest" , and I notice out the corner of my eye a sign warning about possible Vertigo and or Epilepsy. “Ah” I think, “strobing” and behind a black curtain and into a pitch-dark black ‘nothingness’ I go.
No sooner do I step into the room than I immediately feel a spinning sensation as neon colours flash all around me. But it’s not a strobing, no, the dome is a huge moving screen-ball and the images of trees, flowers and ‘who-knows-what-they-are’ travel about. Mal keeps walking ahead, totally oblivious to my ‘spinning’… although I’m actually standing very still… and my sudden need to throw-up. I turn quickly and try to find my way back out through the curtain, but that isn’t very successful and I end up becoming tangled in it and bumping into people trying to come in to the exhibit. Mal continues wandering off into the ‘forest’.
Outside, I take deep gulps of air and end up with the head spins. Gripping onto the glass banisters I try to calm myself and focus on the beautiful crystal triangle lights above… turns out when you’ve got vertigo, looking upwards is not a good idea.
Within minutes Mal comes strolling over from a totally different direction to where we had entered. He's surprised to see me. “How did you get here before me?’
He hadn’t even missed me.
At the What is Not Visible is Not Invisible exhibit I see a sign warning of high voltage and that touching the exhibits may cause fatal injuries. Nerves about possible ‘side effects’ get the better of me and I quiz the poor door attendant as to ‘how can I get out quickly if I have an attack’ and ‘what if I faint?’ By the look on the poor woman’s face she is horrified at the thought of a museum attendee collapsing in the exhibit and suggests that I ‘walk around the exhibit very quickly’.
Wandering back towards Raffles Plaza we find ourselves in the grounds of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd admiring the beautiful Christmas Orchestra lights when I notice what appears to be a person wrapped in a blanket lying on a bench seat. As I draw closer it becomes apparent that it is a sculpture... of a homeless person.
One of the things I love about Singapore is the eclectic mix of sculptures dotting the city and the nation as a whole; many quirky, modern or representative of the past, but most of all I love that this neat orderly city isn't afraid to 'court' controversy in its art expression. And this sculpture was a prime example of making a statement and encouraging people to think.
Called "Homeless Jesus" the piece by Timothy Schmaltz is one of fifty Homeless Jesus installations throughout the world including one at the Vatican City. Life-size and very much lifelike, it is only by getting up close and personal that you notice that the form is representative of Jesus by the two nail holes in the feet of the sculpture. Installed in November 2016, the piece has ruffled quite a few feathers, with calls to have it removed as it 'demeans' the neighbourhood or that it is a misrepresentation of Jesus.... 'Jesus was never homeless nor a beggar according to the bible' was a quote of one of the detractors - of course the fact Jesus wandered around the desert for forty days and nights seems to be lost on the person who said it...
I find this piece an interesting juxtaposition to the installation of the pots and pans, and contemplate that even in comfortable prosperous Singapore there is an fractional element of homelessness; invisible it would appear, dossing down in the voids of apartment buildings, sleeping in tents on the white sands of Sentosa, even blending in with the sleepy 'in-transit' travellers at Changi Airport - invisible but definitely there and making 'do' with selling tissues at the food courts and receiving assistance from various groups or the Cathedral, which distributes some 150packages each Sunday.
Meanwhile back in vibrant Chinatown thousands of lanterns dangle in garlands over the streets, swathes of red and gold adorn buildings and enormous Roosters and hens galore bedeck the road verges. In a less 24hours we'll all be celebrating the 2017 New Year, but Chinatown was hanging in anticipation for Lunar New Year - Year of the Rooster - which was happening in less than three weeks.
Fighting dragons, dangerous turtles and the bird paparazzi - it's all there in the Singapore Chinese Gardens. Part 1 of day 2.
by Kerry Tolson @kerrytolson.com.
Singapore is known by many monikers from the ‘Little Red Dot’ and ‘The Fine City’ to the ‘Asian Tiger’, the ‘Lion City’, and ‘Chilly Crab Country’. But today it was the ‘Garden City’, and that is just what we planned to do today, explore its beautiful gardens… just as soon as we could drag ourselves away from our ridiculously sumptuous bed and our ridiculously scrumptious breakfast overlooking absurdly opulent views… particularly the little known but incredibly tranquil Chinese and Japanese Gardens. These gardens, nestled on two small islands in the Jurong Lake (which sits on the western side of Singapore) are just a short fifty-minute MRT trip away from the city.
It’s a brilliant day screaming out clear blue skies and with it comes a mugginess that has me breathless the moment I step from the air-conditioned train. This is a small problem we find with travelling around Sing… from the moment we wake up in our suite, we don’t step out of air-con into fresh air until we reach our destination. Our hotel leads directly into the Raffles City Centre, which in turn leads into the City Hall MRT, which takes you directly onto an air-conditioned train to another air-conditioned station. It’s not until we reach the Chinese Gardens Station an hour later that we realise how heavy and moist the air is.
As we walk towards the East Entrance along the tree-lined path which runs through the middle of a wide open grassed area we notice that the green is absolutely peppered with the chocolate brown of Indian Mynahs. At first I mistake the brown mounds for ants nests until I see they are hopping about and taking flight. These birds are the same species that is ‘invading’ Australia and where they are officially recorded as "The Most Important Pest/Problem" and colloquially refed to as the Aussie ‘flying cane toad’.
But here in Singapore they are very much a native bird and their numbers are declining due to another mynah bullyboy – the Javan Mynah – who is so invasive that it was recently mooted in a newspaper (most probably with tongue-firmly-in-cheek) that perhaps one way to be rid of the Javan Mynah, is to turn them into Mynah soup. Perhaps an accompaniment to that other delicious dish – Frog Porridge.
Scattering the flock, we cross the lake via a small unassuming red bridge into beautiful breathtaking gardens with first view being of a magnificent seven storey red and gleaming white pagoda – Ru Yun T’a . Immediately upon stepping into the gardens we feel an incredible sense of tranquillity and although the shade is abundant as the gardens are graced in the most enormous wide-spreading trees from massive bamboo clumps, entwining ficus and dripping willows, the humidity from the greenery seems to raise the mugginess factor by quite a few degrees.
many areas to see that we’re not sure where to start first as we peruse the map of the 13.5hectar gardens.
We decide to start with the ‘Garden of Abundance’ which features hundred-year-old pomegranate trees and sweet almost comical statues of the Chinese zodiac.
Turns out the 'star' they are chasing is a beautiful Grey Heron down on the pond.
Just past this beautiful bird is a stunning bridge, glittering white in the sunlight.
Across from the pavilion is the Stone Boat - 'Yao-Yueh Fang’ - that glimmers into the green waters and has an almost ethereal look about it. We wander the ‘rooms’ of the Tea House - 'Ming Hsiang Hsieh’ - and fall in love with its beauty; the ceilings ornately carved, deep red pillars capturing the sunlight blazing like fire, lines of terracotta cups hanging in rows create a mesmerising waterfall feature - it’s possibly one of the prettiest garden buildings I’ve ever seen – but there’s not a cup of tea in sight and I could really do with one!
Just down from the Tea House we stumble upon a tussle between a group of enormous water monitors over a fish, of course the biggest monitor (which surely must be a Komodo Dragon! although after reading that these lizards can grow to 3metres in length, I'm now convinced it's on it's way to being a crocodile) wasn’t going to share his bit of flake with anyone and with his powerful tail smacking the others around, let all know in no uncertain terms the morsel was going to stay as all his. The brawl continued for quite a while, going round and round the tree, on and off the pond’s bank, and in and out of the water - at least they were probably cooler, which was more than could be said for us as we melted in the rising temps.
We puddle off to the building that housed the “Live turtle and tortoise museum’ and holds a Guinness Book Record for the largest collection of tortoises.
They also claim to have the Flattest tortoise in the world, a 6-legged tortoise, the MOST DANGEROUS tortoise in the world, the 3rd largest tortoise in the world (wonder who has the first two….) and the world’s most beautiful tortoise… which I find very curious as I never knew there were beauty pageants for tortoises and turtles.
Reading the sign, Mal declares the flattest tortoise must have been ‘run over’ by the 6-legged tortoise and therefore, it’s the 6-legged tortoise that’s also the most dangerous.
Never being ones for animals in captivity (although I'm sure they are kept quite well), we skip popping in to see for ourselves these curiosities and instead watch another curiosity – a model trying to look nonchalant and cool in melting heat during a ‘fashion shoot’ which is being undertaken under the arches of the magnificent Main Gate.
to be continued....
Space-cadet elephants, Cat-in-the-hat chrissy trees & Gotham City -it's all very funky! Day 1 Singapore
by Kerry Tolson @kerrytolson.com
We've just arrived in Singapore, one of our favourite cities in the world to celebrate one of my favourite times of the year - New Years Eve.
Ask anyone who knows me, they'll tell you I'm one of the biggest bah-hum-bug christmas grinches going, but when it comes to welcoming in a new year, I'll be first in line to blow a kiss to sexy old-man-time and coochy-coo little baby-new-year. Every year we try to do something different: party on a tropical reef island (Hamilton), lead a congo-line (Norfolk Island), blow the twirly-paper whistle on the summit of Australia’s highest mountain, or hide-away in the dense forest of Boonoo Boonoo - as we did on the eve of the millennium... yes I certainly did believe all that bunk about the millennium bug! but I'll have you know we were well supplied up and didn't need to buy toothpaste , or wine, for at least two years.
This year however we were going to do it in style - in a flash FIVE star hotel - which was somewhere above this shopping mall... we just had to find how to get out of the Mall.
We retrace our steps back to the MRT entrance, which was next to the shopping mall - we had caught the train from the airport - seriously not a smart move at morning peak hour, but I wasn't going to lash out fifteen dollars for a cab fare when the train was only four. Of course the fact that we would have been at the hotel door, complete with fancy-hat, gold-coat, white-gloved door man waiting to open said taxi door, within fifteen minutes of leaving the airport (instead of the twenty-five minute train ride plus thirty minutes lost in a shopping mall) hadn't even come into the equation.
Back at the top of the MRT escalators we take a right turn, out into the bright sunlight and slightly muggy air - at this time of year, Singapore is a cool 28degs with only an 80percent humidity, so the sweat just sits in dainty beads across the forehead, instead of dribbling in pearl-like ribbons - and stagger around the side of an impressive looking hotel that soars into the sky, it's no ours, and onto another soaring hotel that's not as tall, but just as impressive, Ours. Just across the street our neighbour is the is the iconic Raffles, gleaming brilliantly white in the sunlight. This is top-notch 5Star neighbourhood.
All excited we trundle into the swish lobby - big white frosted baubles on gold swirly rods suspend from an enormous ceiling and hang over a huge gold bauble encrusted christmas tree that reaches almost to the ceiling. It's very busy, lots of suits sitting in lounges, chaps looking like they're about to go golfing and women in upscale cas strolling about... along with a scattering of children playing hide and seek behind the lounges and around the newspaper rustling suits.
At the gleaming lobby desk I hand over our passports and say excitedly 'We've booked an executive suite', I can barely contain myself, 'With a view of the New Year’s Eve fireworks' I add. The reception attendant smiles and waves to someone at another counter. They come over and asks us to come with them, 'We won't check you in here ma'm,' she whispers with a smile, 'We'll go upstairs.' Oh! do we smell? I wonder. I know we've just come off a plane after 7hours but I had done the airport shower (the wet-one wipe with a flick of roll-on) before getting on the train. I give myself the quick sniff test, and follow her and Mal to the lifts. We go up - fast! - to the 23rd floor - and as I step out of the lift I feel my stomach do the gravity drop and feel a slight sway.
We're taken to the Executive Club Lounge and given a seat at a table, offered coffee and told to go help ourselves to the breakfast that is lavishly layed out and displayed with elborately decorated gingerbread houses and stunning orchids, while they complete our checking in. Oh yes, this all smells very luxe.
Soon our attendant is back and tells us our room is ready. Really! this early?
I ask her about the view. 'Is it that?' I say, excitedly pointing to the spectacular skyline of Marina Bay, with the 'surfboard' building (Marina Sands) towering over the spikey 'durian' domes of the Esplanade Theatres and the 'shattered egg shell' of the Art Science building. She tells us we have a very nice city view. I ask if I will be able to see the fireworks from our room. 'No' is our answer. We are devastated and no amount of cajoling, pleading or argument can get us the room we thought we had booked. Pouting definitely doesn’t work either.
Check-in done, belly stuffed and wiffy underarms taken care of; feeling refreshed and bouncing, we head out of the cool air-con of our hotel into the midday swelt of monsoonal Singapore and wander down Beach Road (where's there's not a
And this sums up a building that spins me out each time I come to 'Sing'. Every time I stare up at the Parkview Square building I almost expect to see Batman busting out his shiny latex and and an undie-wearing Robin 'ko-powing' next to him, among the golden 'Gotham' guards grasping their enormous light-balls at the top of its 'empire', or even spideyman ziplining across the bronze granite façade to the 'Atlas' twins who appear to be holding up a large soupbowl and not the world on their shoulders.
frowns is not really Mal's thing...and as it was, as always, our goingtoes becomes next-time....) In hindsight, later we realise we should have popped in and gone even further than the courtyard, because this building is also famous for it's 'wine fairies' who float up a twelve metre high wine rack of the Divine Bar, which sits in this incredible building. Definitely a Next Time!
First stop when we reach Kampong Glam is the one and only Haji Lane. I adore this place - it's on my dropping into list every time I visit Sinapore, I cannot get enough of its colour, vitality and efferescence that oozes from every part of it. Haji Lane is tiny - only 200metres long (and Singapore's narrowest street) - yet it packs an incredible punch of life.
And the place is pumping when we arrive close to 2pm in the afternoon, the bars are open, food is still flowing and music and laughter emanate throughout. It's absolutely crowed with tourists clicking madly at everything; the murals, the shopfronts, the doorways and the lights, even the food people are eating... and I don't mean the diners themselves photographing their lunch, but passer-by's are stopping and snapping away at it. Everything is up for image-capturing; it's an instagramers, snapchatters, tumblrers, flickrer's, pinteresters orgasmic delight here. Haji Lane is a glorious canvas at every turn.
Before Haji Lane become the original 'hipster' shopping enclave of Singapore (this moniker now belongs to little known -to us tourists that is- Tiong Bahru), the lane's life began as shops and residences for Arabic, Indonesian and Malayan traders and was used by pilgrims as a place to stay before they began (or finished) their Hajj to Mecca - hence the name, Haji.
Which is where we were heading for next. As with the murals of Haji Lane, I also cannot get enough of visiting the beautiful Mosque that sits in the centre of Kampong Glam. Built in 1824 (and reconstructed in 1932), it is graced either side by two impressive tulip-imprinted, 8metre arches, gifted to Singapore by the Oman Government in 2012. The mosque itself is a relatively 'simple' mosque (when compared to those magnificent structures in Turkey) but up close - and even from a distance - it is absolutely striking. Although I'd seen it many times before, I still find 'new' parts to it, like the glass bottle bottoms that deck the base of the domes, donated by the poorest of the Muslim community during its reconstruction, ensuring all had a contribution to the building.
Kampong Glam is indeed glamorous, although this is not where the name for the area comes from, in fact, Kampong means village and Glam is from the Gelam Tree that grew abundantly in the area... however, I like to consider it very cosmopolitan and as we wander down from the mosque into the heart of the Arab Quarter, we're 'transported' to Turkey with its stunning mosaics, luxury silk carpets, glittering multi-coloured ottoman lights and tantalising smells of divine food - a perfect late lunch indulgence of a meze plate.
"Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!" (from 'Oh the places You'll Go' ) Later I read the tree is inspired not by naughty cats-in-hats but by the 20th century surrealist art movement particularly Dali's melting clocks.
As the afternoon fades into the eve, Singapore becomes even more beautiful and vibrant as garlands of twinkling lights flicker on and transports us to a tropical fairy land - fountains flooded in lights shoot and cascade in every colour of the rainbow, swathes of lights hang above roadway and rain out in endless strands across shopping malls, hotels and other public buildings. And although Christmas has already come and gone a few days earlier, and preparations for New Years Eve, happening in two days time, are in full swing, already swathes of red and gold lights for Chinese New Year (due to start celebrations in fifteen days time) are being added to the festive hue.
Down on the Esplanade the forerun leading up to New Years Eve is happening, every now and then a light show flickers on to one of the buildings.
We watch in awe as the Fullerton Hotel morphs into an enormous screen and a 3D amination - The New Dawn - is projected onto the beautiful colonial facade and its shimmering white turns to iridescent colour.
In-between the preparations for NYE, the regular light and laser show - Wonder Full - takes place and Marina Bay becomes a beautiful vivid showpiece that holds us spellbound. Again, I've lost count of the number of times I've watched this light spectacular, but I never tire of it.
Hello! I'm Kerry
. . . a plan-nothing, have no idea where I'm going travelholic.
A daughter of the gypsies and the wife of a workaholic, I'm forever wondering 'What's over there?' and devising ways to squeeze through the barbed-wire fence of small-business ownership responsibilities and every-day life tangles to discover it.
and this is my book.