A Travellerspoint blog

Singapore Day 3

Tuesday, December 13

We are enjoying the area of Singapore where our hotel is located. Within easy walking distance are Fort Canning Park, and a number of museums. In the pictures below, yes, there is a ship on top of one of the hotels!

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We chose to spend the hottest part of the day in the Asia Civilizations Museum and had a guided tour of an exhibit of Port Cities in the Malaysia/Indonesia/Straits region. This exhibit showed the mixing of peoples in this area over centuries: Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese, Malay, Indian, as illustrated in their art, but also the preservation of distinct cultural practices (dress, cuisine).

The museum also had an exhibit of ceramics retrieved from a shipwreck 1300 years ago. The ceramics were very well preserved, packed in containers for the trip and then preserved in sand after they sank. Hardly a bowl got broken or cracked and the colours hadn’t been affected. They looked like bowls we could use today!
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After that, Lyle and I chose to study history in our own ways: I went to the Philatelic (stamp) Museum while Lyle visited the Battle Box at Fort Canning. He won a copy of the Japanese Surrender Agreement from the end of WWII for providing the right answer to a question. Good listener, Lyle!!

On the way back to the hotel, we both enjoyed a lovely walk in Fort Canning Park. This part of Singapore is very restful – except for the music from the bars that goes till 1 am!

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I have recovered from the cough acquired on the ship, but Lyle is still hacking – fortunately less and less each day.

Posted by HosMiniTravels 03:36 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Singapore Day 2

Monday, December 12

Chris, Lyle’s Singaporean friend, joined us for another day to take us to some specific places, like a Sony store (to get a camera charger), a fish spa (to satisfy my curiosity), the Botanic Garden and the Orchid Garden.

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We met up with Nadear for supper to try some more Singaporean and Thai foods and then we enjoyed the Christmas light decorations along Orchard Road, the ritzy shopping area in Singapore where you can find all the brand name stores I’ve heard of but never seen: Coach, Luis Vuitton, …

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We’re blown away by some of the stunning green architecture and sustainable environment features Singapore has incorporated (such as the vegetation on office and residential buildings, a green wall of nursery plants, and the Big Belly solar trash composter that also provides wifi).

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Their postal service also has a smart parcel pick up system. Customers get a notice card with a digital code on it that they take to a local parcel locker. When they scan the code on the card, the bin with their parcel opens up!

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Our two great ways to cool off today? Ice kachang dessert and a swim at the hotel!

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Posted by HosMiniTravels 03:32 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Singapore

Sunday, December 11

After dawdling at sea yesterday moving at a very slow 6 knots to cover 300 km in 36 hours or so, we arrived in Singapore, a “city within a garden”!

We disembarked and took a taxi to our hotel. We were very impressed with the modernity and cleanliness of the city. It deserves the title of cleanest city in the world! Looking around, it almost seemed like I was in Toronto or Vancouver, but with less traffic congestion. They have worked hard to promote public transit. Their subway and bus systems work quite well so people really don’t need personal vehicles. In fact, you have to get a “Certificate of Entitlement” which costs about $10,000 before you are allowed to buy a vehicle!! People are encouraged to share a vehicle with their neighbor.

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We were able to check into our hotel early (Swissotel Merchant Court) and were given a very special room with windows on 3 sides overlooking the river with bridges, boats and colourful cafes and also the courtyard with the pool – an urban oasis but the pool is big enough that Lyle is able to swim laps in it.
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We barely had time to settle in when Lyle’s friend that he met in Australia, Chris, phoned and said he and his Thai wife, Nadear, were waiting in the lobby to take us on a tasting tour of the downtown area. Nadear often has friends visiting from Thailand whom she orients to the city, so she was our official tour guide. We appreciated the ease with which she moved us from one sight to the next.

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Over a period of about 6 hours, they introduced us to:

Pork rib soup with side veggies for lunch
Popiah veggie wraps and Chee cheong fun dumplings for afternoon snack
Hibiscus tea at Starbucks
Boiled chicken with chicken rice at Chin Chin for supper
Unfortunately, the only one I took a picture of was the last one.

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Chris and Nadear introduced us to the MRT subway system which is much like Vancouver’s, the iconic Merlion (pictured above), CHIJMES (historic church grounds that have been turned into a lovely complex of restaurants), some of the shopping malls, and the Esplanade (theatres under domes shaped like Durian fruit). Our timing was obviously perfect because the singalong that was occurring in the theatre covered my favourite song from Mamma Mia and a Carpenters song for Lyle. We also visited Robinson’s department store where there was a huge Christmas tree and a large LEGO exhibit (obviously very popular here too!).
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Posted by HosMiniTravels 03:30 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur / Putrajaya

Friday, December 9

What do two former government employees do on vacation? Visit Malaysia’s new capital administrative region, of course! (Especially because it is built around a lake!)

The tour was advertised as ‘Putrajaya – the Intelligent Garden City’ and we thought that the destination would not only be beautiful, but we would learn about the smart technology incorporated into the buildings in this new government centre. We were disappointed that we learned less on this tour than we did from a virtual tour online. After stopping and looking at the massive Pink Mosque, President’s office building and the President’s home, we went for a stroll through the Botanical Garden. We had expected to at least get a glimpse of Kuala Lumpur (KL) but were surprised to discover that Putrajaya is about 35 km away from KL ☹

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The new administrative city reminded Donna of the National Capital Region in Ottawa and Gatineau with its concentration of federal government buildings and beautiful landscaping. The reason Putrajaya was set up at the site of an old tin mine was to make it easier for government workers to move around between departments to take part in meetings. Kuala Lumpur was becoming too big and congested for government to function efficiently. The new buildings allow the leaders ample space to govern graciously. A few government departments are located in nearby Cyberjaya, Malaysia’s wannabe Silicon Valley.

The landscaping around the new buildings is very restful on the eyes. It looks like a lovely place to work!

There is a lake in the middle of the city and the bridges in the city are apparently inspired by famous bridges around the world. For more on the bridges, see: http://abckualalumpur.com/info_guide/putrajaya3.html

Posted by HosMiniTravels 00:34 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Penang, Malaysia

Thursday, December 8

Our day in Penang was a Stumble Upon Adventure day. The ship docked just a few minutes’ walk from the Georgetown Historic Town Centre, so we decided to take some maps and strike out on our own.

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There were lots of points of interest on the maps, so we just had to get ourselves oriented on the streets and we’d be fine except…. A lot of the points of interest were vaguely indicated (they could be on one street or on the next one), and the maps differed in what points of interest were named.

Our first item of interest was the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower in the centre of a roundabout. We carefully crossed over several roads leading off the roundabout (reminding ourselves to look right first, then left!) and headed confidently down a main road beside a park.

Several taxi drivers offered their services and we politely declined. When we paused for a few minutes to consult the map, a taxi driver offered to drive us around for a couple of hours for a reasonable price. We were starting to feel the heat and humidity, but we still insisted that we wanted to be on foot. We bumped into some friends from the ship and decided to tour together. From that point on, no drivers bothered us.

We encountered a number of groups of school kids – some racing around on foot, some on bicycles, and others on a pedal machine that 4 people operate. These vehicles would be a challenge on the rough, narrow road surfaces where you have to dodge other vehicles and people! On foot was definitely the easiest way to get around!

We walked past the British era administration buildings (still in use) and then stumbled upon some Buddhist temples, mosques, Hindu temples in Little India, a Chinese clan house, a gold museum (which we didn’t visit), a batik museum (which we did visit), and a restaurant that served authentic Peranakan food (Peranakan means it’s from the Straits of Malacca area).

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The Chinese clan house (“Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi”), was established by Chinese immigrants in the early 1800s. It was built by and for the Khoo clanspeople who had travelled from the Hokkien province of China to Penang as labourers and traders.

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The complex consists of 4 rows of townhouses which form a square inside of which are the large multi-roomed clanhouse, a courtyard and an opera stage. The clanhouse and the opera stage are elaborately carved and painted. In addition to rooms that were probably used for social purposes, the clanhouse has several rooms on the upper floor with shrines to ancestors and tablets of ancestral records. The clanhouse was intended to provide a feeling of ‘home’ for the Khoo clanspeople but in the early part of the 20th century, things got a little shady, so they were disbanded by the 1950’s. This site received a UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2008.

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Penang seems to have more than a dozen of these Chinese clan associations, each of which maintains a clan temple for worshipping their ancestors. Because of these records, some clans can clearly trace their lineage back 48 generations!!!

The Batik Painting Museum displayed a number of batik paintings in different styles. When we hear of batiks, we usually think of fabric designs. This museum focuses on the work of Teng, Dato’ and other Malaysian artists who tapped into the traditional batik techniques and then applied innovations to create wonderful pieces of art.

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The final site we stumbled upon is referred to as the “Clan Jetties”. In the 1800’s, Chinese traders, fishermen and dock workers built houses on stilts over the water in the dock area, with wooden walkways joining the homes. Today, some of these jetties have shops at the front of the homes. A number of elderly people living in these homes were sitting in front of their homes to catch a cooling breeze. Lyle splurged in this market area and bought me two things: a stylish evening purse and an extremely light fabric hat that collapses like a Japanese fan! It’s much cooler than the Tilley type hat I have been wearing!!

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Today, we realized that we could explore a city on our own. We really enjoyed being able to go through the museums and sites at our own pace and had fun darting around, spontaneously choosing to explore whatever tickled our fancy.

Posted by HosMiniTravels 00:17 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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