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Singapore: discriminating against Durians and the future city

A friendly reminder

Neither of us had been to Singapore and expectations were varied. We’d heard such things as chewing gum being illegal and couples not being allowed to cuddle in public but what constituted a cuddle? Was holding hands OK? A kiss? Not wanting to test the boundaries too firmly we opted for platonic walks around Singapore. Our paranoia was rewarded- we saw signs at most entries and exits to the metro clearly stating that “indecent behaviour” was a fined offence and the pictogram depicted a man and a woman looking perilously close to a chaste kiss. Not wanting to over-excite the local police, we refrained from holding hands or gazing at each other for too long over our meals.

 

No-PDA photograph

 

Singapore really impressed us. The public transport was clean and efficient (thanks to the no canoodling laws) and even overground, the city wasn’t overflowing with traffic thanks to their strict importing regulations and cap on numbers of vehicles allowed into the tiny country.¬† The city was easy to walk around in and we opted to start in the Marina bay sands area and walk to the skypark by the ocean. We were so delighted to be back in a city which had pavements and allowed pedestrian traffic that we didn’t mind the long walk to the oceanfront.

 

Singapore cityscape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sky gardens

The futuristic and well planned gardens of the SkyPark were lovely to walk around in. The mix between constructed and organic has been completed to good effect- although the place comes into its own at night when artificial lighting makes the garden useable and beautiful 24 hours a day.

The city isn’t dominated by rules or Hi-tech urban planning. There are areas which are still organic and full of charm. We went to see the Buddha Tooth relic museum which was nestled within the Chinese market area, filled with tourists, laughing school children and food stalls. This was during the preparations for Chinese New Year and the whole city was decorated with red lanterns and roosters and lights, lending a festive and happy atmosphere to the place.

Buddha relic temple

 

Buddha and protectors at the relic temple

We entered the Buddha relic museum on the ground floor, discovering it to be a popular temple and a hybrid of Chinese zodiac and Buddhist beliefs. Different deities have been paired with zodiac symbolisms in an effort to personalise the experience. Being that it was almost Chinese New Year, the temple was busy with people leaving offerings to their deity of choice. The temple walls were filled floor to ceiling with different manifestations of the Buddha, each one complementing a different zodiac. The offerings reflected the five senses (plus an empty stand for the sixth sense) with clementines offered for the taste sense, the result being that the temple smelt wonderfully of clementines and incense. The word for Orange or Clementine in Chinese is similar to the word for gold hence why these were everywhere during new year.

After walking around the temple downstairs, we noticed a lift which would take us to the museum upstairs and discovered a whole floor dedicated to the story of Buddhism and to various relics of the Buddha. Another floor again was dedicated to the Buddha tooth relic, enclosed in its own gold stupa in a separate room paved with gold, with a large glass viewing window from the meditation space. The roof space had a contemplative walkway around the central prayer wheel. Anyone could go up and turn the wheel (be sure to go clockwise). Every square centimetre of wall space enclosed a tiny meditating buddha as part of the 10,000 Buddhas residing in the temple complex.

 

Temple entrance

After a whirlwind two days in Singapore, it was time to move on to Kuala Lumpur. We decided to take a bus as although the flights are normally comparable in price to the bus, this being Chinese New Year, everything was expensive. We booked a ticket for an express “5 hour” bus ride to K.L. Thankfully it was air-conditioned and comfortable as the 5 hour quote was clearly just a gimmick. Nine hours after setting off, we finally rolled into K.L. at about 11pm, tired and hungry. An uber ride later, and we were settled into our airbnb for the night in Petaling Jaya. Which, although out of the way, has plenty of cheap eats and even a cinema!

Our bikes were due to arrive in less than a week so we had to secure insurance and our ICP before an agent could clear them. So began our Malaysian adventure!

 

 

 

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