Thursday, June 24
Chinatown and Orchard Road, Singapore
I started the day off with a bang today. I got hit my a car! I had just stepped out of the Inn Crowd hostel and walked a couple of blocks down Dunlop street, which is a really narrow one-way lane lined with shops who block off most of the sidewalk with their mountains of stuff for sale. Thus, I was strolling down the edge of the street when some dude's side mirror smacked me in the arm.
That means the rest of his car missed me by two or three inches. He heard the loud smack and looked back but didn't even stop to ask if I was okay. Wow. Thanks, dude. Was that a late Christmas present for little ol' me? You shouldn't have. No, I mean you really shouldn't have hit me with your car, then not ask if I'm okay and not apologize, because I believe in karma. Ha-ha! Get it?
In a foul mood, I bought a subway pass and cruised on the underground down to Chinatown. First on the agenda was a visit to Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore's oldest Hindu place of worship, which is chock-full of highly colorful and ornate sculptures of the full panthoen of Indian gods. Unfortunately, although admission is free, you have to pay a few bucks for a photography permit. I'm on a tight budget, so I just looked through the interior and shot a couple of photos from the gates outside.
Next up was the Thian Hock Keng Temple, which contained an impressive array of beautiful shrines to Buddha. I rested for a while and shot photos of all of the shrines, then a moment before I was about to leave, a full-blown Buddhist prayer service fired up out of nowhere! Two musicians--one who spooled out shrill, dissonant ribbons on a horn and another who matched that with a clanging metallic percussion racket--accompanied a priest who sang and led the prayer over a collection of candles, in front of a small crowd of devotees. It was an amazing moment that got extended for a whole half hour. I was so lucky to be in the right place at the right time. This was the second time that happened, after the intense Calon Arang performance I witnessed at Pura Dalem Puri in Bali.
I hit the streets again and just wandered around shooting photos of Singapore's endless skyscrapers. I got plum tuckered out, so I decided to catch a subway down to Orchard Road to see how the other half lives--or at least shops. I figured some more walking might cure my fatigue. Picture the Mall of America, Rodeo Drive and Times Square all blended into one and you have Orchard Road. It's a wide, long avenue completely packed on both sides with one cutting edge, high end shopping mall after another. The whole place is so glitzy, glossy and lit up, it could give Las Vegas a run for its money.