Singapore: Clarke Quay and Little India

12 11 2008

As part of P’s grand tour of Singapore, we took the MRT (mass rapid transport) to Clarke Quay, a historic riverfront area.  Originally a bank of warehouses on the Singapore River in the colonial era, over the last thirty years Clarke Quay was transformed into a vast entertainment and commercial district.  The city state cleaned up the polluted Singapore River, actively developed the area for restaurants and shops, and made it into one of the trendiest nightspots on the island.  According to P, this area is a haunt for expats and is great for nightlife.  It is very similar to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.


All the shops and restaurants in this part of Clarke Quay are painted in bright pastel colors.


Moored Chinese junks have been transformed into floating restaurants and pubs.


We could screams from the brave souls who rode the GMAX reverse bungee.


Central is a mixed use shopping center and office building.  We exited from the MRT in the basement of this building.


More shops and restaurants across from Clarke Quay.

We headed over the bridge from Central to the actual Clarke Quay plaza, which is canopied throughout.  Although we came in the afternoon, I can just imagine the bright lights and pumping music that would be coming out of the line of trendy restaurants at night.


Restaurants are lined up all along the pedestrian only street.


We come to the central square, which has a fountain.


There is a Moroccan restaurant called Marrakesh.


Here is the Forbidden City, a Chinese restaurant.

And here’s my favorite: Clinic the hospital themed restaurant.  So weird!

Later that same day, P and I went to Little India.  In my opinion, this is a must see.  This is the closest geographically I have been to the Indian subcontinent, and I have been told it is one of the best Little Indias in the world.  We went to Little India on Saturday night and it was packed with people. We were also lucky because we went the weekend of Deepvali, the Indian Festival of Light.


Our first view after we exited the MRT station.


People were busily buying materials for their Deepvali celebration.


For an authentic Indian experience, dive into the five foot walkways between the shopfronts and the street.


Street vendors selling beautiful flower garlands for Deepvali were everywhere.


A closeup of the colorful and bright flower garlands.


One of the many rows of Indian storefronts.


We turned into one of the main roads here, and both human and automobile traffic was heavy.


Celebratory Deepvali banners lined the streets of Little India.


The doorway to a large marketplace.

We walked up Serragoon Road, the main thoroughfare that cuts through central Little India until we came to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, the central Hindu temple. It was magnificent.


You need to take off your shoes before entering the temple.


Behind the main temple sanctum was a courtyard full of stone deities, including Ganesh, the elephant headed god.


The statues of the Hindu deities were vivid and colorful.


I believe this is Kali, the ferocious form of the divine mother.


Another statue of Ganesh.

After visiting the temple, we set off to find the famous 24 hour Mustafa Centre. This Indian shopping mall sells everything you can think of, including electronics, toiletries, toys, clothes, food, and much much more. Once one of P’s friend needed a vacuum in the middle of the night and was able to purchase exactly what he needed from the Mustafa Centre.

We ended our visit to Little India with a delicious meal at an Indian cafeteria/restaurant called C.M.K. 2001 (see prior post, Singapore: Diversity through Food, for photos). It was the perfect finish to our exciting adventure in Little India.

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Lukang, Part 3

26 10 2007

We wrapped up our visit to Lukang with two Taiwan Living Heritage Artist shops, shrimp monkeys in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and a quick peek at Tianhou Temple.

The main north-south artery that runs through the historic part of Lukang is Jhongshan Road.  On the southern end of Jhongshan Road are the Martial Temple, Wenchang Temple, and Wenkai Academy.  Longshan Temple is also in the southern section of the historic center on Sanmin Road, which is perpendicular to Jhongshan Road.   Meanwhile, the entrance to the cleaned up part of 9-Turns Lane is just off Jhongshan Road on Sinsheng Road north of Longshan Temple.  Tianhou Temple caps off the northern end of historic Lukang and Jhongshan Road.

The first place we visited, at 312 Jhongshan Road, was Master Wu Dun-Hou’s Folk Lantern shop.

I wanted to buy one of the lanterns displayed outside (shown below) but my mom laughed because most of these lanterns were run of the mill lanterns for restaurants, and say things like “fried noodles” or “fish” on them.

Folk Lantern Shop - Lukang

Master Wu Dun-Hou is a renowned creator of traditional Chinese lanterns who is one of the winners of the Living Heritage Awards in Taiwan.  The Living Heritage Awards are given by the Ministry of Education to recognize Taiwan’s top craftsmen.  Lukang is unique in that it claims 6 Living Heritage craftsmen, the most of any city in Taiwan.

Master Wu Dun-Hou

Master Wu has been making lanterns in the traditional way for over sixty years and has devoted his life to developing and passing down this traditional art form.

Folk Lanterns - Lukang

Although Master Wu was not there when we visited, we met one of the artisans who told us about the lanterns.  Most of the lanterns are still hand painted, but some of the smaller, cheaper lanterns are partially printed and finished off by the artisans.  The lanterns inside the store are more suitable for inside the home, unlike the ones displayed outside!  When you purchase a lantern, you can pick an auspicious saying that they will paint on the lanterns for you.  You can then pick them up in about an hour.

Amidst dozens of lanterns are the artist’s paint brushes:

Folk Lantern Artist Tools

We got the yellow lantern with the dragon in the bottom right hand corner of the photo above.

After the lantern shop, we walked up Jhongshan Road to the Tianhou Temple area to eat lunch.  There is a small square outside the temple with dozens of food stands, tea shops, and restaurants.

Lukang - Main Square

Main Square

Like most tourist destinations in Taiwan, Lukang has a bunch of local food specialties. They include oyster omelettes, deep fried oyster cakes, shrimp monkeys (fried mud shrimp), ox-tongue cake, and steamed port buns.

We had oyster omelette and shrimp monkeys for lunch.  Honestly, we were not too impressed with the food here.  It could just be this restaurant, though, which was a little too hole-in-the-wall for our taste, if you know what I mean.
Shrimp Monkeys (Fried Mud Shrimp)

Shrimp Monkeys

Since it started raining again, we were only able to catch a quick outside glimpse of Tianhou Temple.

Tianhou Temple

Tianhou Temple

Our last stop of the day was at another Living Heritage shop called the Divine Woodcarving Shop.  I didn’t realize until we found the shop that its name was literal.  This shop carves religious statues for temples around the island.  It was just past Tianhou Temple on 655 Fusing Road, but it was difficult to spot because it looked like the living room of someone’s house.  One of the master carvers was hard at work carving, but I didn’t want to disturb him.  He was shy about pictures, but let me photograph the wood carvings on display.

Heavenly Carvings

We had to end our trip to Lukang at this point because it started pouring rain.  I would have really liked to see some more sights though!  I think we missed some good stuff.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Craig Ferguson, a photo blogger, did a great series on Lukang with beautiful pictures (on a very sunny day!).

Wandering in Lugang, Part 1

Wandering in Lugang, Part 2

Wandering in Lugang, Part 3





Kaohsiung – A Local Temple

3 10 2007

While wandering around Kaohsiung, we saw this interesting temple and decided to explore it.  Given how elaborate the temple decorations look, it seems that this is primarily a Daoist temple.  The temple is called San Feng Gong.  I grabbed a brochure but I seemed to have misplaced it.  When I find it, I’ll post some more details.

 Kaohsiung Temple

KS Temple

KS Temple 3

KS Temple 2

Inside the Temple

Inside Temple

Temple Art and Architecture

Stone Carvings

Temple Ceiling

Wall Art

Besides being one of the larger working temples in the area, this temple is known mostly for the paintings of the guardians on the grand doors.

Temple Door

According to the temple worker who stopped to talk to us, temple artists from all over the island come to observe and copy these particular guardians because it is the finest example of this kind of art.  The wood is painted so that the guardians’ eyes and feet will follow you around and look like they are facing you from whatever you angle you view the doors.  We tested this and found it to be true!

Eyes

Shoes

In Taiwan, temples are everywhere since they are the Eastern equivalent of churches in the Western World.  As a result, it is easy to get “templed out” and have one start looking the same as the next.  So here’s a tip to travelers – try to spread out your temple exploring so that you can better remember the temples you do visit!





Kaohsiung – Lotus Lake

29 09 2007

On our first full day in Kaohsiung, we visited Lotus Lake, which is located near the Zuoying THSR station. I thought it was a delightful trip, although we weren’t entirely used to the weather yet. It was also a bit cloudy that day.

We started at the Dragon-Tiger Pavilion and worked our way down to the Confucius Temple.

Unfortunately, the Dragon-Tiger Pavilion was under renovation. For good luck, you are supposed to enter the dragon and exit the tiger.

Dragon-Tiger Pavilion

A view of the Dragon-Tiger Pavilion from the Wuli Pavilion.

Lotus Lake

Here we approach the Spring Autumn Pavilion and the Wuli Pavilion on the pier.

Wuli Pavilion

The Spring Autumn Pavilion consists of two towers surrounding a statue of Guanyin on top of a dragon.

Spring Autumn Pavilion

Turtles in the pool where the dragon sits.

Turtles

We saw this Chinese version of the fortune teller in a box that you often see at American carnivals. We had to try it. You put $NT10 in the machine and think of your question really hard.

Fortune Teller Machine

Then this lady comes out and drops your fortune that is rolled up in a tube in the slot.

Fortune Teller Machine 2

Apparently you are supposed to pick a topic for your fortune, and the paper you get is organized by topic. My aunt read my fortune and said it was good. Of course, every single fortune you get in this machine is good.

We entered the dragon, which goes into a tunnel where the walls are garishly painted with Chinese gods. Inside there were piles of religious books that were free of charge. There was even a comic book version. I should have took one just for fun, but the heat was getting in the way of my thinking.

Qiming Temple and the Spring Autumn Pavilion from the Wuli Pier

Spring Autumn Pavilion 2

Inside the Wuli Pavilion on the water – you can see the Beiji Xuantian Shang Di Pavilion

Inside Wuli Pavilion

A picture of the painted walls inside the Wuli Pavilion

Wuli Pavilion 2

The next stop around the lake was the Beiji Xuantian Shang Di Pavilion, which has a large painted statue of the Emperor of the Dark Heaven. We were getting really hot at this point, so we didn’t stay long.

Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven

My uncle was telling me the story of the Emperor of the Dark Heaven (Xuantian Shang Di), which is a very interesting tale. From what I can understand and what I remember, the Emperor of the Dark Heaven was once an ordinary butcher. He felt repentant for killing so many pigs, however, that he did good deeds to make up for it the rest of his life. When he died he was raised to the status of a god for his good deeds. At some point he was given a sword or maybe just a scabbard, which he used to banish the monster kings from the human world, which are represented by the snake and turtle under his feet. This god is able to control the elements, especially fire. I think I messed up the story a little there, so I am open to any corrections.

Our last stop at Lotus Lake was the Confucius Temple, which was the most impressive part of Lotus Lake, in my opinion. The Confucius Temple is one of Taiwan’s largest, and is an impressive complex of buildings. It is hard to describe so I will just post pictures.

Outside Confucius Temple

Gates of Confucius Temple

Approaching Confucius Temple

On Sundays, people gather on the grounds to dance with each other.

Dancing on temple grounds

A side gate

Side gate

Gate to the central temple complex

Confucius Temple Gate

The Confucius Temple on Lotus Lake

Confucius Temple

To the Right

To the Left

Inside the Confucius Temple

Inside Confucius Temple

Ceilings and Art

View from Temple toward the entrance from which we came

Opposite View

Another picture of the Temple complex

Another View of the Confucius Temple

All in all we really enjoyed this trip. Although some parts of the pavilions were rather garish and cheesy (like the fortune teller), it was a fun morning to poke around the different temples and pavilions. Charles and I especially liked the Confucius Temple, which was not cheesy at all.








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