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A Memorable Solo Month in Singapore, Java, and Bali

A Memorable Solo Month in Singapore, Java, and Bali

Jul 3rd, 2016, 11:07 AM
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Looking forward to reading more. Sounds like it was a fantastic trip!
rje is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2016, 05:10 PM
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@ jdc: What a lovely compliment – thank you!

@ Mara: Thanks, and welcome to the journey!

@ rje: It was a fantasic trip! Thanks for reading.

Day 3: Singapore -- the Jurong Bird Park and Chinatown
• After a delicious breakfast, I
• walked around “my” neighborhood a bit before going to the
Jurong Bird Park, which I loved! (Thanks for making sure it was on my list, Kathie!) The highlight, for me, was feeding the birds of the Lory House, where stunningly beautiful birds sat on my hand, arm, shoulder -- even my head! -- to feed from a cup of liquid (available for sale just inside the entrance to this aviary). Awesome! One of the birds decided to nibble at one of my fingers, and (I'm glad to say) did so with surprising gentleness.
• I also enjoyed many other parts of this delightful park – the peafowl, toucans and hornbills, owls, roseate spoonbills ... their colors and calls, the sounds as they moved and the sounds of the waterfall …
• a show that featured gorgeous parrots and macaws and others, which I enjoyed at least as much as the many enthralled children; and
• part of a show with birds of prey, which was, unfortunately, interrupted by rain.
• After sipping a beer, I went on to

• Singapore’s Chinatown, and its
... fascinating Chinatown Heritage Centre -- WELL worth seeing, IMO; the
... Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which seemed to hold nearly as many tourists as Buddhas, and that's a LOT; and the
... Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple nearby -- the first practicing Hindu temple I'd ever seen. I must admit that it wasn't quite what I expected. I'm not sure how to put my reaction in words -- I think it was something about the colors, which seemed out of place to my eye, more Disney than Deva.... (I mean no offense in saying so -- I'm just commenting on my experience.) But I appreciated the sense of the spirituality of the place, and the reverence of those who offered thanks or sought blessing or otherwise approached.
• I strolled through the area briefly before going to
• Chinatown’s “Food Street,” where I opted for an open-air table at a restaurant serving a local specialty -- fresh black pepper crab. Delicious!
• And then back to my hotel for the night, tired but happy.

Day 4: Singapore … the Botanic Gardens, Little India, and Supertree Grove
• My first stop of the day, after a tasty breakfast was
• the Singapore Botanic Gardens. OMG, what I wonderful place! Despite the heat and humidity – the horrendous heat and humidity! – I explored many areas devoted to specific kinds of plants (foliage, evolution, rain forest, bromeliads, etc.) and, of course,
• the extensive and absolutely stunning orchid garden. Let’s put this in perspective: Over the years, I have nearly passed out every time I have visited an orchid house because the heat and humidity overwhelm me. But here, in the Singapore Botonic Gardens, there is no hothouse for the orchids – just acre after acre in which the beautiful blooms are perfectly happy because Singapore IS hot and humid. If there is a hothouse in this huge botanic garden, I missed it. I did find
• the small “cool” house where mountain vegetation is on view. It was hard to leave that little place!
• With LOTS of water and some breaks, I enjoyed a few more areas within these glorious gardens (gingers, medicinals, spices, bougainvillea, etc.) before
• finding a place for a welcome beer. From there, I went to:

Little India, where I
... visited the colorful, and nearly empty Sri Srinivasa Perusal Temple;
... the also colorful Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, with its many shrines and varying depictions of Kali and a number of worshippers;
... roamed the shophouses of Little India, some of which had delightful ornamentation;
... ventured into the Mustafa Centre. (I needed some blister prevention materials, which, I am pleased to report, generally worked quite well). This center holds an incredibly diverse array of goods crammed into what seemed an extremely well organized space. And then
... briefly explored the outdoor fringes of the Tekka Market, where flowers and fruits and vegetables formed enticingly colorful arrays. From there,
• I returned to my hotel in time for a VERY welcome happy hour.
• After freshening up (much needed!), I went to

• the Marina Bay Sands with the idea of having a light meal somewhere with a view. I ended up at
• Sky on 57 for sliders and crudities – what an overpriced, overhyped option! Even late in the evening, the outdoor area was so hot and humid that I couldn't bring myself to eat there. The food wasn’t great, my seat was uncomfortable, and the views were blocked by other people and by reflections from the lights. I thought it a HUGE waste – except, of course, that I wanted to give it a try, so I guess I can’t really complain…. And obviously, my opinion is not shared by all -- it gets great reviews (and I’m glad that jacketwatch enjoyed a meal there).

• Despite a surprising lack of clear signage, I finally made my way to
• the Supertree Grove – and was glad I did: Cool! (As in: Nice! Make no mistake: It was still ridiculously hot and humid.) I was too late for the light show, but the trees were still lit, so I had some quiet moments with these structures that are, IMO, much more interesting at night than during the day.
• And finally, back to my hotel.

To be continued….
kja is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2016, 06:31 PM
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Awesome that you made it to both the Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay. In addition to the Supertrees, the domed gardens are well worth the time should you return. Also agree with you on the Chinatown Heritage Center. We didn't make it to Jurong Bird Park, but it sounds from your description that it would be a place we would enjoy very much (we visited the one in KL and loved it).
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2016, 07:29 PM
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I have the same feeling about Hindu temples (and I have seen quite a few), but then I remember that Greek temples were painted bright colors back in the day. And the second Hindu temple built in my area was stark white when I saw it, and it looked quite strange like that.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2016, 10:38 PM
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@ tripplanner001: I believe the applicable expression is, “Oh ye of little faith!” Of course I visited the domed gardens! Just later in this visit – on my “day 6.”

@ thursdaysd: Your idea about the colors could be right. I agree that currently used temples made of bare stone look odd. Too, I’ve seen depictions of the colors originally used on ancient Greek and Mayan temples, and actual remnants of colors on parts of a few Mayan temples and Christian churches, and each time, I had to stop and rethink. Still, what struck me about the Hindu temples I saw in Singapore (which were very different than those in Bali) was something about the quality of the paint – something about the paint itself seemed more artificial than natural. Just my perception, though, and I'm certainly glad to have seen them!
kja is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 04:02 AM
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; Glad you got to see the domed gardens.

Re: the colors of the Hindu temples, I don't know if it's the same everywhere. I seemed to notice that the brightness of the colors were more subdued in Sri Lanka, which made the places seem more "real" to me. On the contrary, some of the Buddhist temples there had the intensive colors that you mentioned.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 06:32 AM
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Great report kja - makes me want to get to Singapore even more. I didn't realize there was so much to do. Thought 2-3 days would be enough.
dgunbug is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 07:17 AM
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I think you might have the same feeling about the paint in India. See, for instance:

thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 08:32 AM
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Loving your report! You visited some of my favorite places in Singapore.

My first trip to Singapore, as we were flying in a man leaned over and asked me whether I'd been there before. I said no, this was my first trip. He replied "You won't like it - it is not like it used to be." lol - that was back in the mid 1980s - and it isn't like it was back then either!

I'm thinking we have to make time for a longer stay in Singapore next trip, as we haven't made it to the Gardens by the Bay.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 10:37 AM
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kja, tripplanner001 and thursdaysd,

Regarding the ways Hindu temples are painted in India:

I gave this subject some thought during our recent trip to India. Particularly in Southern India. I remembered that the first time I ever saw Hindu temples, I too initially found some of them "cartoonish" looking.

But there is another factor. The look of the paint can also vary depending on who painted them. I'm not talking about temples in different regions, but just different individual temples in the same region. I saw temples which had pretty much the same carvings as others nearby, but the paint had been applied so crudely by whoever did it that they looked of less quality, if that makes sense. And sometimes the actual nature of the paint used --- the shades and brilliance of the paint differed, and some paints used were more shiny or more matte than others. All of these things affect how the finished temple looks.

And of course age usually softens the colors of the paint, and weather creates texture, making it look more subtle, and to me, better.

I think many of us learned to expect a certain look from antiquities, but as you point out, they looked very different when they were new. And I think I actually prefer them looking old!
rje is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 11:10 AM
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@ tripplanner001, thursdaysd, & rje: Isn’t the use of color in different cultures and contexts fascinating? I hope I get to see some of the many temples each of you has seen. (Stunning photo, thursdaysd -- thanks so much!) And I think rje may have articulated part of what I was experiencing – an unexpectedly texture-less quality to at least some of the paint I saw. I need to go back to see if that’s it!

@ dgunbug: Thanks! I must admit that my initial expectation was that 3 days would be enough for me for Singapore. I didn’t realize how much time I would want to spend at the various gardens or parks, or how many things I would find to enjoy. I’m very glad that a glitch with my flights meant that I spent an extra day there!

@ Kathie: I’m gald you are enjoying my report! I think you will enjoy the Gardens by the Bay when you get the chance to see them -- give yourselves lots of time!
kja is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 11:31 AM
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The paint discussion reminds me of the shock I got watching the Brother Cadfael mysteries on TV - those medieval buildings looked so different when they were new! And also of visiting the Geffrye Museum in London. Turns out that oak is pale when new, instead of the almost black it turns after a few hundred years.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 11:34 AM
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Kja, yes, it is indeed fascinating. Rick, I agree with you that I prefer the older look and when the colors have more of a matte finish.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 01:41 PM
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Love these updates. See you hit all the hot spots in SP! Keep the updates coming��
I too LOVE the Botanic Gardens in SP. I try to go every time I go to SP.
Smeagol is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 01:47 PM
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Enjoying your description of Singapore -- sounds amazing (except for that heat and humidity!). I'm enjoying your report and look forward to the rest.
progol is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 04:14 PM
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@ thursdaysd, tripplanner001, & rje: I love “traveling” with others who also appreciate the nuances of color and the ways in which our current views of things differ from their earlier, historical presentations!

If you don’t already know of them, some of you might find interest in the Nationality Rooms of the University of Pittsburgh, where I first learned about some of these differences. And thursdaysd, are you familiar with the black oak of Lithuania, known as bog oak? If not, you might want to click on the room for that country – they are in alphabetical order -- and listen to the narration:

@ Smeagol – I’m glad you are enjoying these “updates” – I guess I went a bit beyond my plan to “provide a bit more detail.” ;-)

@ progol – oh, have I already mentioned Singapore’s heat and humidity?!? OMG, it was HOT and it was HUMID and it was worth every sweat-drenched moment. Hope you keep enjoying my report….

Day 5: Singapore -- the National Museum, Peranankan Museum, Raffles, and the National Gallery

• After another delicious breakfast (the poached eggs at the Adonis were quite good ), I began this day with a vist to
• the National Museum, which had a very informative and well-signed collection documenting the area’s history. I was particularly impressed by the
• section on the Japanese occupation during WWII, about which I had known very little, and Elizabeth Choy (nee Yong Su-Moi), about whom I had previously known nothing. Too, I happened to visit while there was
• an excellent temporary display of works from the British Museum. It was very nice to revisit some extraordinary pieces and see others for the first time.

• After a brief stroll though the lower reaches of Fort Canning Park, I visited
• the Peranankan Museum, with its fascinating displays and charming monument to a beloved cat on the stairs that lead to its entrance.
• From there, I quickly made my way to

• Raffles, where I had made a reservation after reading comments from AskOksena (robert) and thursdaysd – I must admit that I had always thought of “tea” as tea and sweets, which I can easily do without; I had no idea that it could also include savories! I freshened up and soon made my appearance for:
High tea at the Raffles Tiffin Room. A glass of sparkling wine, an astonishingly delicious and extensive array of savories and sweets, a gifted harpist, excellent service.… I’m so glad I listened to the advice I was so generously given!!!

• After a last cup of tasty tea, I went to the Swisshotel Stamford, where I was able to secure a perfect seat for watching the sun set over Singapore – so much nicer, IMO, than Sky on 57! (Kathie – the revolving restaurant is gone, but I’m very glad you suggested that I try it, as the option this hotel now offers was perfect for my needs.) I enjoyed a glass of prosecco, confirmed that I could still walk ;-) , and then set off for

• Singapore’s magnificent National Gallery Singapore. What a delightfully deep collection !
• My kudos to the staff – attentively discreet and unobtrusively helpful. And,
• OMG, what an extraordinary use of re-purposed space! (I thought of AskOksena/robert often while there, and trust he will give it my regards when he next visits it.) I found it awesome and truly delightful. From the roof deck through the displays of both the structure and interior of the original dome of what had been the Supreme Court; from the use of spaces around original stairwells to the breathtaking new space connecting these two former buildings … WOW!
• I was very fortunate to visit while there was a temporary exhibit that paired works by Southeast Asian artists with works of European post-Impressionists – with which I am, at least in general, quite familiar. (I didn’t know all the European pieces, but was aware of all the European artists who were represented, and I always enjoy encountering museum-quality pieces from that genre that I haven’t seen before.) I can’t imagine a better introduction, for me, to the art of the area!
• My only regret was that I didn’t have more time before the museum closed.

• From there, it wasn’t far to a stop for a boat along Singapore’s waterways. Unfortunately, I reached the ticket kiosk just as it was closing – even though it was nearly an hour before the last boat was scheduled to depart according to information on the web. Nothing to do except admit defeat.
• I had a beer at a local, and ALL too lively, establishment and then, exhausted, took a taxi to my hotel.

Day 6: Singapore -- Asian Civilizations Museum, Gardens by the Bay domes, river cruise, and more...

• My first stop of the day, after breakfast, was the Catholic cathedral of St. Andrews, with its koi pond,
• and then the tiny Armenian Church nearby, with its very small, but poignant and evocative cemetery.
• I took a hot, steamy walk to the

Asian Civilizations Museum, which holds some extraordinary Chinese ceramics and other noteworthy artifacts. (MaryW – as already noted, I thought of you while visiting this museum, and am glad to know you’ve seen it.)

• After a brief break, I crossed the Cavanaugh Suspension Bridge, with its endearing scuplted family of cats, and then visited the
Fullerton Hotel lobby – OMG! If you have any interest in Art Deco, do block out some time to savor this space! From there, I visited the
Merlion. Of course, I visited it with hordes of others. More specifically: Hordes of selfie-taking people so absorbed with their own smartphones that they didn’t even know when they were walking into others. Argh! Enough said. I am glad I saw it, though! (Thanks, jacketwatch, for making sure I didn’t forget to do so.)

• I then took a taxi to (are you ready, tripplanner001?) the Flower Dome, part of the Gardens by the Bay. While en route
• a downpour hit – causing every person in the greater Singapore area to conclude that the Flower Dome would be the best place to be in heavy rain. ;-) OK – it’s not like I was going to skip it, even if I had to share it with throngs.
• I spent hours and hours enjoying the Flower Dome – its glorious fuchsias in full bloom, gardens featuring flowers from a delightful array of environments (California, the Mediteranean, South America, so many more!), intriguing baobabs and bottle trees and succulents, and an extensive temporary tulip exhibit – not to mention its comfortably cool, dry air.
• I then spent some time at the Garden by the Bay’s Cloud Forest – worth seeing, IMO, even if it did mean re-entering a hot, humid space.
• After passing some interesting sculptures and by a VERY long line of people waiting to walk the Skyway (OK, that’s going to have to wait for my next visit!), I
• once again meandered through the Supertrees (they look so different in daylight!), and

• found my way to a subway station, where I boarded a train for a restaurant I had flagged in advance for Baba Nonya fare. While en route, I belatedly decided that a boat along the city’s waterways was a higher priority, given my difficulty the night before, and I confirmed that the restaurant would be open late enough for me to go there afterward. I plotted a route to
• the nearest jetty. I was soon at a kiosk for the boat ride, ticket in hand, with an assurance that a boat would arrive within 15 or 20 minutes.
• As an unexpected bonus, I had a distant view of the light show at the Supertrees from the pier – nice! BUT
• the clock moved forward … 30 minutes passed, then 40, 50…. FINALLY a boat arrived and I boarded for a river cruise.
• The boat ride was pleasant, and parts were really quite nice. But after that LONG delay, I was hungry and angry and in absolutely NO mood to tolerate the drunken partiers who subsequently boarded. My advice: Board at a high-use dock and with a willingness to wait, or don’t try at all. (Anyone sensing a grumpy moment? ;-) )
• By the time my cruise ended, it was too late for my target restaurant. I returned to
• “my” neighborhood, where I chose an OK (but otherwise totally forgetable) meal in one of the shophouses near my hotel. Good enough, though!

To be continued….
kja is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 04:57 PM
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Wow! You really packed a lot into these two days. Glad you liked the Flower Dome; if there is one place to see at Gardens by the Bay, it would be my pick. Making a note to check out tea at the Raffles next time.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 07:00 PM
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Such good info for a future trip. Thanks for all the details. Enjoying the read.
dgunbug is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 07:52 PM
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I'm loving being along with you, enjoying old favorites in Singapore and flagging things I haven't done. We've never done high tea at Raffles... but we will next trip.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 4th, 2016, 09:54 PM
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@ tripplanner001: Yes, I did pack a lot into those days, didn’t I? (IIRC, you filled every moment of your last trip there, too.) Worth every minute, IMO! Definitely consider having tea at Raffles on your next visit – it can be quite a treat!

@ dgunbug: I’m pleased that you are enjoying my words and finding helpful information – thanks for letting me know!

@ Kathie: By all means, consider having high tea at Raffles! and be prepared for differences from high tea at the Hotel Tugu Malang – differences that I would say are neither good nor bad; just, well … different. ;-) And again, many thanks for helping ME enjoy some of YOUR old favorites in Singapore.
kja is offline  

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