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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay

One of the newest parts of Singapore has fast established itself as a favourite location for me to visit. It's called Gardens by the Bay and it's on a 110 hectare (250 acres) site of reclaimed land. Upon entering the gardens from the Marina Bay Sands, the first location you come across is the Dragonfly Lake.



The 2 sculptures leaping out of the lake are called the Dragonfly Riders.



There are series of boardwalks and paths through the various parts of the garden, it's very well signposted so easy to find what areas you want to visit. Once across the lake there's also a little shuttle which you pay a fare and can be driven around the gardens. I chose to walk.



The most amazing part of the gardens for me are these structures called the Supertrees. I love the shape, the vegetation being encouraged to grow up them and just the image of them from a distance. (I love them so much I have a photo taken on a previous trip as the wallpaper to this blog!) They're so alien like in appearance, like from an episode of Dr. Who!



Two of the Supertrees are connected by an aerial walkway called the Skywalk. At certain times it can be very crowded but the day I was there late in the afternoon, there were no queues and I could buy a ticket to go up quickly (important as it was due to close!) In the past I had thought that I wasn't good with heights, not so much afraid of heights, more uneasy. Well good news, it turns out heights don't worry me at all! Being up on the Skywalk wasn't at all unpleasant, just interesting to look out over the view.



There are two large glasshouses in the gardens, the higher one on the right is called the Cloud Garden and is a tropical glass house, the lower one on the left is called the Flower Garden and contains more mediterranean plants.


The tallest of the Supertrees has a restaurant and a function centre at the top.

Staying in central Singapore it can appear that it's something of a concrete jungle, being able to visit Gardens by the Bay shows another side to the city. It is lovely and relaxing, there is a cafe near the glasshouses, it's a pleasant place to have lunch and then enjoy the gardens.


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Singapore, Marina Bay

Marina Bay

My stopover in Singapore was quite brief, I arrived early in the morning and left the following night. I spent one afternoon being a tourist in the colonial heritage area that I like, the next day I wandered down to the newest part of Singapore. The Marina Bay area, I caught the MRT (the subway) from the conveniently close station to my hotel! Unfortunately I was relying on imperfect memory and ended up getting the train to the Marina Bay station which is further away from where I wanted to go. (Gardens by the Bay) The closer station is the Bayfront one, which is where I caught the train to return to my hotel!

Walking the shortish distance (the travel guides say 4 minute walk, I'd add a few extra minutes to that estimate!) meant that I ended up at the boardwalk at Marina Bay. 



Marina Bay, looking across to the Merlion the symbol of Singapore. It originally sat at the mouth of the Singapore river but was moved to its present location as with the opening of a new bridge it couldn't be seen anymore. In 2002 it was moved to its new landscaped position and helpfully people can take photos all around it. Previously you couldn't due to its placement. There are river taxis which can take you across from Marina Bay Sands side.



The Art/Science Museum, the building that looks like a lotus flower. I love the creativity in architecture that Singapore has, not all modern buildings are awful to look at. The seating to the left of the picture might be from the South East Asian Games which were held in Singapore a few weeks beforehand. The 'ferris wheel' as I called it once when talking to a taxi driver as we went past it, is called the 'Singapore Flyer'. My helpful taxi driver corrected me!



The Marina Bay Sands hotel, each tower is 55 storeys high and the 'ship' at the top that joins them together is over a hectare.



This picture was taken on a previous visit to Singapore and it was the view from my window at the Peninsula Hotel, I was upgraded to a very nice room with a view! From this angle you can see the shape of the 'ship' on top of the towers.



From the boardwalk I entered the shopping mall called 'The Shoppes' at Marina Bay. It has a canal that flows through it complete with boats you can be taken for a ride in. It's all very lovely and the shops are the high end of the market, basically bring lots of money kind of shopping!



This water feature is called 'The Rain Oculus' as a small stream of water flows down to the centre of the circle. Interesting and I managed to time the photo to capture a couple being rowed around it!



I liked this little tea shop, all very quaint and British!

Once through the shopping mall I entered the hotel lobby area which was huge! Enormous numbers of people were wandering around either checking in or out. I needed to get to the other side of the hotel to enter Gardens by the Bay which was my original destination.


The elevated walkway was the way to exit to Gardens by the Bay, but the day I was there the walkway wasn't open due to some problem so I had to walk through the lobby and around the outside. That was fine with me as I got to experience the size and mass of people that were in that lobby!


The sheer height made one feel very, very small! Again amazing architecture!

It was a nice contrast from wandering old Singapore colonial era buildings to the most modern buildings from the current era.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Adelaide Hills, Hamlyn Cottage

Hamlyn Cottage

Taking a break from posting about Singapore and do one closer to home. It's late spring at the moment in Australia and that's the time for the garden enthusiasts to visit private gardens that have been opened to the public. So a few weekends ago, off I went to a garden that was open in the Adelaide Hills. Hamlyn Cottage is a privately owned property just outside of Mt. Barker, the owner is a horticulturist who writes articles for various print media. She's established a garden that has low water usage (important in South Australian conditions due to hot dry summers) and is as organic as possible.

It was a pleasant drive up the freeway through the hills, the countryside was still very green, the summer dryness had yet to begin. Once in the town of Mt. Barker it was easy to follow the signs back out into the countryside again to the open garden. It was very busy with a full carpark of other garden enthusiasts!

The house is an old stone cottage which has been restored, there was a photo posted of the derelict cottage before restoration. I'm always happy to see people with the desire, (finances!) and ability to restore the historic past of an area.


The restored stone cottage. (So many people that it was difficult to take a photo without them in the background! I'd wait for some people to move and new ones would come into the picture. Sigh, I gave up after 5 minutes and conceded that there would have to be random members of the public in my photo!)


The photo of what condition the cottage was in before restoration.


The rustic nature of the 'outdoor room' or entertainment area. I loved the use of random objects, the old pram, a baby's iron cot (crib for the North Americans!) to hold pot plants.


I loved these pods (so did many of the other people wandering around, I had to wait quite a while and take a quick photo, to get one with no people in it!) According to the information pamphlet, her husband made the metal frame and pod frames and basket weaves wove the pods for her.



The owners of the property are a husband and wife, Sophie is the horticulturist and her husband Richard has quite an artistic talent with metal. All around the garden are a variety of metal sculptures he's created and I was charmed by all of them. These are metal cutouts of children playing.



This was the first one I saw and thought it was brilliant, I spent time seeing how many metal objects I could identify! A rake head, wool shears, garden forks, just amazing.



A climbing frame for plants (or arbour if you like), it's just possible to see vines starting to climb on the lower parts of the legs. Loved this as well! The old train carriage in the background is used as a gardener's shed.


Another favourite (so many!) a horseshoe gate!


Balanced on this enormous tree stump, an onion sculpture ( at least to me it looked like an onion!)


A creative water feature!!



There was an orchard which was a fenced off area, chickens and geese roamed around helping to keep the bug population down. Here they come marching down, with a gosling!


There were 2 geese who were nesting, this one had a new hatchling in her nest along with the eggs she was still sitting on.


Not all the sculptures were metal, here's a stone (concrete?) dragon.



An iconic image of the Australian rural landscape, the windmill. It's used to pump underground water to the surface.

A nice way to spend a few hours on a weekend and inspiring to see what other people can do. In this case in just 4 years!




Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Rendezvous Hotel, Singapore

Rendezvous Hotel, Singapore

Price
This is a favourite hotel of mine to stay at and have experienced the fluctuations of the price, depending on what events are happening in Singapore at the time. Booking through Booking.com and the price was reasonable.

Location
It's at the Orchard Road end of Bras Basah Road, so a great location as it's the area I really like. The hotel is a 5 minute walk from a MRT station so easy to get around. There is a convenience store around the corner for cheap snacks!

Facilities
It has a nice pool area, a gym and now a small library bar in the lobby.







I was on the third floor so had the pool just outside my window, it was an easy stroll down the hall to the pool!





It has a large walkin shower, interesting how with hotel renovations, the bathtubs are taken out and walkin showers installed.

Optional Extras

The location makes this hotel for me, but they have good customer service. I tend to arrive very early in the morning and checkin is in the afternoon but the hotel will try their best to get you an early checkin. On the last trip I was given access to the showers by the pool and had to wait an hour, while I waited for the cleaning crew to prepare a room. This time a room was available and I was able to enter it at 8am.

Over the years I've stayed many times at this hotel and will continue to do so in the future.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Armenian Church, Singapore

Armenian Orthodox Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, Singapore



On a stopover in Singapore about 7 years ago I bought a book called Final Notes From a Great Island A farewell Tour of Singapore by Neil Humphreys. A quick read of the blurb, which promoted the book as an affectionate farewell journey around Singapore, encouraged me to buy the book. I enjoyed the book as it gave me a greater insight into Singapore, but what really struck with me was a small mention of the Armenian church.

The Armenian Church is the oldest church in Singapore, built in 1835, at a time as Neil Humphreys wrote Singapore was mainly jungle and there was a greater population of tigers in Singapore than there were Armenians. The small Armenian community raised the money to build their church, along with some funds raised in the Armenian communities in Java and Calcutta.

The Armenian population in Singapore was never particularly large and yet made their mark on the colony. The national flower of Singapore the Vanda "Miss Joachim" orchid was bred by a woman of Armenian descent, Agnes Joachim. The Raffles hotel was built and run by two businessmen brothers of Armenian descent. The Straits Times newspaper was founded by an Armenian. By the 1930s the Armenian population in Singapore had dropped and the priest was transferred, no new priest has ever been reappointed. The church administration is run totally by volunteers.

I just love what this little church represents, to me at least. The ability it had to be established and continue despite the odds, it's still there, a visible presence of a minority. It also represents a minority's desire to keep a piece of their history going, the church receives no government money, it's run by volunteers. There is a small donation box in the church for anyone who wishes to leave some money.

I'm a regular visitor when in Singapore, to pay my respects for its past and just to experience the oasis of peace and tranquility in a busy city.



The church is on Hill Street (off Bras Basah Road), the church was repainted and restored four (?) years ago, I know I visited at the time and was disappointed to find the church closed and covered in scaffolding.



As you enter the grounds life sized Stations of the Cross are scattered in the grounds.



The grounds don't actually have a graveyard, these historic headstones of Singapore Armenians were transferred here in the 1970s from a cemetery in Singapore. Agnes Joachim's very modest headstone is here, one of 'her' orchids is always placed next to it.



The parsonage, the last priest left in the 1930s, it's now used as the administrative centre to the church and run by volunteers. It was built in 1905.



The interior of the church, it's very small! Built for tropical conditions pre-airconditioning, wicker seating, doors on both sides to catch the flow through breezes and verandahs outside. From reading the guest book I could see that the church does periodically hold services with a visiting priest and weddings are held there.

It's a lovely place to stop when walking around the historic colonial district and it's marked on their historic trail.




Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Singapore, Heritage buildings

Singapore, old colonial area

Singapore has a heritage area from its colonial past. In its haste to modernise many old buildings were demolished but there are still a few gems around which have been beautifully restored. Using Bras Basah Road as a starting point, these buildings can be found in the surrounding streets.


One of the most famous buildings from Singapore's colonial past is the Raffles Hotel, just the name to me invokes images of prewar British expats sitting in the Long Bar drinking Singapore Slings. The hotel has been restored with a new accommodation tower behind the historic facade. This section is the shopping arcade to one side of the hotel.


The Stamford building (named for Sir Stamford Raffles, the Brit who established a trading port at Singapore in the early 1800s) The building has recently been restored, I can remember it looking somewhat ragged a few years back. 


The Freemason's Lodge.


The Philatetic Museum. (Stamp collecting)


Restored houses. 

In the first 20 or so years after independence, Singapore rushed into modernising and demolished much of its past, including large areas of Chinatown that had this type of housing. A shop on the ground floor and the family home above the shop. Thankfully the importance of these houses was recognised and the demolition stopped and the houses they are left have been restored.



Fire station

The historic area around Bras Basah Road is signposted with information about each building. A historic trail is displayed on the sign boards if you want to follow a more directed route, rather than just wandering and exploring. 


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Singapore, Peranakan Museum

Peranakan Museum, Singapore

Moving away from Bras Basah Road but still within walking distance is the Peranakan Museum. The building it's housed in is historically interesting as well. It was the Tao Nan School, a Chinese medium school, the first that changed from teaching in the Hokkien language to Mandarin back in 1912. Very groundbreaking at the time. This change was done at the time the school moved to the building which is now the Peranakan Museum. 

It's a beautiful building and work on it began in 1910, it was finished for the school to move into, in 1912. Eventually the school numbers declined as more people moved away from the city centre to the suburbs and like the catholic schools on Bras Basah Road, it moved to a more spacious location and the school still exists today.


At the time it was built is was very much the best of its kind. There is a central atrium with walkways and stairs, wide verandahs to capture the breezes to help keep the building cool.

By the 2010s it was decided to use the building as a museum to the Peranakan history and culture.

The Peranakans were originally traders who moved from China and settled in the Malay peninsula and Indonesia. A smaller group came from southern India, eventually they moved to the trading post that became Singapore. Culturally they considered themselves different from those who had settled in Singapore having moved directly from China or India, rather than having lived and traded away from their countries of origin before moving to Singapore. The Peranakans were different as they could speak several languages, were highly educated and the British colonial authorities employed them in large numbers.

The museum had an exhibit while I was there of prominent Singaporeans of Peranakan origin and it was fascinating reading what they had achieved, and how many highly educated women there were, from the pre-independence era. Lee Kuan Yew's wife was one, she also identified Lee Kuan Yew's family as Peranakan, even though he himself never did as he chose to emphasise the importance of a unified Singaporean identity rather than dividing Singapore among its ethnic divisions. Interesting she pointed out that growing up Lee couldn't read or write Chinese and his family spoke English, something that distinguished them apart of those who identified as Chinese and had moved to Singapore directly from China.

The museum itself was divided into different rooms showing different aspects of Peranakan culture. As you entered you were greeted by a statue of Queen Victoria.

Placed in Singapore for her Jubilee (50th?) shows the Anglophile nature of the Peranakan people at the time.


Table setting for a banquet.


A wedding party.


A wedding bed.



An altar for deceased family members.

I really liked this museum as I learnt so much about the Peranakan people and culture. People, about whom I knew next to nothing about previously, a museum well worth visiting on a trip to Singapore.