Temples, temples and more temples in Little India. A mosque in Kampong Glam and a lion mermaid statue spitting water into Marina Bay. My first morning metrotrek in Singapore.
Today is my first full day of metrotrekking around Singapore. So it's up at the crack of dawn to take full advantage of the day and full advantage of the cooler morning temperatures. Unlike yesterday where I walked randomly to get my bearings, today I have a plan ... well sort of. There are a few temples and mosques to check out in Little India and Kampong Glam and then it's down to Marina Bay again. So this morning's walk will start off with the older traditional aspects of Singapore and then finish off with the modern evolution of Singapore.
I start my walk heading north through the inner streets of Little India. Unlike yesterday there is hardly anyone around and it is amazingly peaceful, the only sound coming from trucks with construction workers piled on the back. Sure the peace and quiet is not as exciting of the hustle and bustle I experienced yesterday, but it nice to be able to take a leisurely stroll through the neighbourhood and take in Little India during it’s more still moments.
Before I go too far into my trek it is best to have a good breakfast. Going to need all the energy I can get today. I stop in at a small food outlet in Little India to see what is on offer. Not sure what half the food is, but most of it is in curry form. Curry for breakfast? Why not, when in Little India do as the Little Indian's do. As I tuck into my hearty curry breakfast I am offered a drink. Think I will get a coffee, or as the Singaporeans call it, a "Kopi". Not the type of coffee I am used to but absolutely delicious. Instead of milk as a whitener this type of Kopi has a layer of condensed milk at the bottom. I am sure todays trekking will burn off all those calories.
My first point of call is the Sakya Mui Buddha Gaya Temple on Racecourse Road, also known as the Temple of 1,000 Lights. As you can tell from the image below, it is currently undergoing a face lift, however the outside is no way near as impressive as the inside, which contains a 15 meter high statue of a seated Budda. I don’t tend to take pictures inside religious buildings out of respect, so you will just have to visit it yourself. Well worth a look.
A few seconds walk further along Racecourse Road is the Leong San Taoist Temple, which is decorated with ornate clay and wood carvings. No massive statues inside, but plenty of Chinese lanterns and religious items in red and gold. The incense filled temple is beautifully decorated with dragon figures, red lanterns, calligraphy and religious statues.
The next temple on the list is the vibrantly coloured Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Hindu Temple on Serangoon Road, which is a short walk from the Leong San Taoist Temple. The artwork on the exterior of the building is brilliantly detailed and full of activity. I spent quite a while looking over the numerous statues and other decorations. Could have spent hours beholding the intricacies of the temple facade but it was time to move on.
The intersection of Serangoon Road, Balestier Road and Lavender Street is as far north as I want to go today, so I make a U-turn and head south along Serangoon Road to my next stop, the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple. Once again I am impressed by the detail of the artwork on this Hindu temple. The Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple is a gazetted national monument, one of Singapore’s earliest Hindu temples and well-known for the elaborately colourful and detailed 5-teired gopuram (tower entrance) which depicts the various incarnations of Perumal (or Lord Vishnu, the main deity in this temple).
So far today I have visited a Buddhist temple, a Taoist Temple and two Hindu Temples. Time to try out a Mosque; the Sultan Mosque located in Kampong Glam, south of the Rochor River, which is a few kilometres walk away. On my way I pass down Petain Road, off Serangoon Road, and come across a block of beautifully restored shophouses on Petain Court. The tile mosaics lining the exterior of the building are something to behold.
From Petain Road I head south down Jalan Besar, then over the Rochor River onto Arab St where I reach my destination of Sultan Mosque located on Muscat Street. The massive bright golden dome at the top of the building stunning and is one of the most impressive religious buildings in Singapore I have visited today. Visiting the Sultan Mosque is one of the few memories I have from my childhood holiday in Singapore and I can now understand why it burnt into my memory. Bussorah Mall, the charming pedestrian laneway bordered by renovated shophouses directly in front of the Mosque is the perfect spot to rest and enjoy the grandeur of the towering minarets and balustrades. As I rest I watch the tourists past by and become a little envious of a group of photographers using their fancy and expensive photographic equipment to capture the surrounds. I think my iPhone photography does the Mosque justice though.
I have really enjoyed visiting the old religious buildings of Singapore with their brilliant colours, intricate carvings and splendour, but to be honest I am all templed-out. Think it is time to explore some of Singapore's modern architecture. From Sultan Mosque I head south down Beach Road and then take a diversion onto North Bridge Road and continue south. Along the way I come across colonial era architecture, such as the back of Raffles Hotel and Chijmes (will have to explore the front another day), and interesting modern buildings, including the New Supreme Court Building which appears to have a flying saucer hovering on top of the building.
I also come across Singapore's Parliament House on North Bridge Road and next to the Singapore River. Personally, I think the building looks like a bit of a fortress and first I thought it was some sort of police or military building. Guess the government was going for a bit of authority in the design.
Next it is across the Singapore River using the Elgin Bridge and into Boat Quay.
Boat Quay is a very nice area, with great views over the river and colourful shophouses converted into bars and restaurants. It is quite at this time of the morning, but I am sure it gets a lot busier.
As I head downstream towards Marina Bay I pass by the Cavenagh Bridge, which is a suspension footbridge dating back to 1868. A sign on the bridge reads “The use of this bridge is prohibited to any vehicle of which the laden weight exceeds 3cwt and to all cattle and horses”. I guess a herd of sheep or goats would be fine then.
Soon enough I pass by the Fullerton Hotel and join the hordes of tourists heading under the Esplanade Bridge to the mouth of the Singapore River and to the Merlion statue, the icon of Singapore.
The Merlion was packed full of tourists. It seemed the popularity of the Merlion was not the statue itself but the ability to create the photo-illusion of taking the Merlion’s water spray into your mouth. You know, like how people visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa so they can get a photo of themselves “holding up” the tower. Not sure why this is a good look, basically the Merlion is spitting into their mouth. Ironic really, a country well known for a tough stance against spitting and tourists are more than willing to have an icon of Singapore spit into their mouth.
Despite the crowds, the Merlion steps are the perfect spot for a rest and a gaze over the architecture of Marina Bay, my next destination.