They've got plastic bank notes! The notes are all shiny and new looking as they are made from a plastic paper so they don't tear! And probably to avoid germs.
So Christmas day was different. Went to gym, had a swim, brunch, present opening, walked Bella (the round blonde dog that can roll her tongue)and then we sauntered down to Orchard Road. It was like a normal day, looked in a couple of shops (all open) and at the Christian floats (a short of static carnival). Billy Wangs Christian aerobics, gospel choirs and a few bands didn’t start until 6.30pm and we needed to be back to speak to the folks at home so, made do with just people watching, enjoying the ambiance, sharing another kebab from the posh kebab shop and being slightly confused by a mini parade of Chinese Roman soldiers carrying standards proclaiming that "Christmas is Love" and escorting the three wise men (women with felt tip marker drawn beards) and other Galilean styled people up and down the road whilst looking largely fed up. (sorry about that long sentence) Then headed home for our BBQ, (no oven in the apartment!) and the luxury of a film on a huge tv!
We’ve visited the Botanical Gardens which are exactly as you expect….beautifully laid out, well designed and even has an amphitheatre on the lake where the Symphony Orchestra sometimes play. Unfortunately they are not performing while we are here but we did get to see the Evolution Garden, the Healing Garden, the Fragrant Garden and rainforest all clearly labelled with plant names and info.
Chinatown and Little India were interesting. Chinatown was not dissimilar to London’s area with lots of shops selling the usual chopsticks, chinese dragons and silk outfits. A whole street with a roof over that had food hawker stands down the sides and tables and plastic chairs in the middle where you’d try and find a space once you’ve bought your noodles or your chicken claws. Do you know you can actually buy them in the supermarket, eewwhh. Little India was something we were eager to see having just spent the last 2 months there we were intrigued to see how Singapore could do India. It was like coming home. The sing song voices, the smells, crossing the road at an angle with complete disregard for green men, piles of clothes for sale for $5, even some rubbish! It was India without the beeping, the beggars, the raw sewage and mountains of rubbish. And we had a delicious vegetarian indian meal with a sweet lassi. Yummy.
So we’ve gone on about the Singaporeans and how fabulously they do everything so I won’t cover that again. But I will tell you about Haw Par Villa. A roasting hot and humid day, the idea of a couple of hours visiting this well known attraction with over 1,000 statues depicting Chinese folklore and the Ten Courts of Hell that is only a few stops away on the train sounds like a cultural way to spend the afternoon. What a shock…the only way to describe first impressions is like Disney on acid. Its completely bonkers. There are pictures on the gallery that give you an idea of the complete and utter weirdness of the place.
You enter past a great dragon, tiger and snake through a pagoda shaped gateway. Then everywhere you turn there are brightly coloured, strange scenes that we cannot make sense of. An old lady with one saggy boob out and an even older man suckling while a baby lays in a cot behind them. One of hamsters fighting rats that have all had their feet cut off. I know what you’re thinking, can’t get any more bizarre. But it does. I’m curious to see the Ten Courts of Hell so we follow the signs and all along the way there are life sized Tiger characters with tiny necks and big heads holding tubs of Tiger Balm. Obviously sponsorship but cannot see any connection and you can’t even buy the stuff there!
The Ten Courts of Hell does have some explanation before you go in, about how you have to look in the mirror and face your lifes deeds. Then judgement is made by a chap with a long thin moustache and you are sent to face your punishment before being given a cup of tea by a little lady which cleanses you of your past live and you’re born again as a slug or a king. We then see the most gruesome depictions of hell and what purgatory would be if you’d been bad. A couple of examples of some of the crimes and their punishments that we can expect:
Tax Dodger/Refusal to pay rent - pounded by a stone mallet (don’t think that’s what Ken Dodd faced)
Money lenders with exorbitant rates - thrown on a hill of knives (banks and credit card companies watch out for retribution)
Possession of Pornographic material - body sawn in two down the middle (knowing my background I can suggest a few people that qualify for that one!)
Cheating during examinations - intestines and organs pulled out (sounds a little harsh to me)
Neglect of the old and the young - crushed under boulders (now, I can think of several people that would be up for this….you know who you are!)
Well it was certainly not up to the usual standard we have come to expect but it was interesting and I would still recommend visiting, if you want a giggle.
And then came New Years Eve. We had our tickets for ‘Celebrate 2013’ at the Float@Marina Bay. Live music, DJs and fireworks from 7.30pm till 3am. The rain started about 12.30pm, and it rained and rained and rained, torrential rain until about 8.30pm. so a late start to the evening for us old ‘uns. We left about 9.15 and eventually got to the Marina at 11.15pm. that was after getting off at the wrong station but it was ok because I needed the toilet and they’re always really clean at the stations. Then asking which station but not listening to the attendant and getting off at the wrong station again. We were on the wrong side of the river and they’d closed the footbridge! It was ok, we crossed on the road bridge and got some great pictures and were joustled by hundreds of thousands of people that had turned out to get a view of the fireworks from across the river. Got our seats and listened to some awful commentary from their equivalent to Davina Macoll and Chris Tarrant. The music selection was eclectic to say the least. A Korean girl band, a Japanese lady in beautiful long red dress singing ballads, a Korean Hip Hop band and the cast from Jersey Boys. At least we knew their songs!
Then the moment we and everyone else had been waiting for…..midnight. And the fireworks went off in an amazing display of colour, light and noise like we’d never seen before. Huge explosions colouring the skies,Curtains of glitter punctuated with fountains of sparks from the floating harbour, spotlights picking out certain buildings in ever changing colours and lighting up a sea of floating orbs anchored in the marina. The sheer volume of the display took our breath away and was made even more spectacular by the fabulous setting. Everyone was standing - teenagers, parents, kids, middle aged couples ooohing and arrgghiing. It was truly spectacular. They did not disappoint.
Happy New Year and good luck for 2013!