In 1845, after King Kamehameha III had unified the Hawaiian Islands, he moved his royal court to the island of Oahu. The previous year, he'd purchased a house and land from the Royal Governor of Oahu. The house had been constructed for the governor's daughter, Princess Victoria, who was expected to rule over Oahu at some time in the future. While the original structure was considered to have been the most elegant building on the island, for its time, it was never intended to be used as a residence. The architectural style was that of a traditional Chief's house for ceremonial purposes, with a throne room, a reception area, and a state dining room. Sleeping quarters were in smaller buildings around the perimeter. Following his purchase of the site, Kamehameha III enlarged the building to include bedrooms for the Royal family. This would become the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii, with the expectation that when succeeding family members died, the land would be passed on. Unfortunately, in 1893, the monarchy was overthrown by a provisional government and Queen Lilli'oukalani was imprisoned in a small room on the second floor for nine months. The provisional government then used the palace as its capitol building until 1964. Fourteen years later, the building was opened as a museum and declared a National Historic Landmark. The palace and its land were only two blocks from our apartment, so it was an easy walk for us to visit it, enjoy its grandeur, and to gain a perspective about the Hawaiian monarchy.
The main entrance to Iolani Palace as it appears today.
Kamehameha III took the original Chief's house, as seen in this old photograph and enlarged it to its present configuration.
Housing the Royal Palace Guards, the barracks building sits at the main entrance to the grounds, and today, serves as the visitor center and ticket office for the palace.
Like most palatial residences, there is an elegant, grand staircase in the main entrance hallway...
...ending with a beautiful circular double-stairway on the second floor.
Holding true to the traditional Houses of Chiefs, the Dining Room is used for ceremonial State Dinners.
Of course, every monarchy needs a Throne Room in which official ceremonies take place.
The Crowns of the Hawaiian Monarchy are also on display in the Throne Room.
Known as "The Blue Room" because of the color of the drapes and upholstery, this served as a reception room on the first floor.
Displayed on the circular couch in the center of the Queens Room, is a copy of "Aloha Oe", the official state song, composed by Queen Lilli'uokalani (her most famous composition) in 1878.
Here in the "King's Study", Kamehameha III would deal with the daily tasks of his kingdom.
Following the 1893 overthrow of the monarchy, Queen Lilli'uokalani was imprisoned for nine months in this small second floor room...
...where she created this 97" by 95" quilt depicting the story of her imprisonment.
Palace meals were prepared in this basement kitchen...
...which included pantries for dinnerware ...
...and the Chamberlain's (i.e. Chief of the Household Staff) offices.
The "Coronation Pavillion", just outside the palace, is where King Kalakaua and Queen Kapolani were crowned in 1883. Today, it is used for free Royal Hawaiian Band concerts.
Known by Hawaiians as "Leahi" (meaning promontory +tuna because the summit reminded them of the dorsal fin of a tuna), Diamondhead is one of the most recognized landmarks in the state. Nineteenth century English sailors named it "Diamondhead" after mistakenly thinking calcite crystals on the beach were diamonds. Scientists believe that the volcano was originally created some 400,000 to 500,000 years ago. Because of its strategic location, in 1908, it became home to Fort Ruger, the first U.S. Military reservation on Hawaii. At 762 feet above sea level, the summit has a fantastic view of the coastline and out to sea. However, getting to the top can be a challenge. Without any roads to the summit, you have to use "shanks mare" (i.e. Walk, for the uninitiated) up quite steep and winding trails (which themselves are rocky and uneven). To say the hike up the hill is not for the faint of heart, is an understatement. If you're fortunate enough to make it to the three-quarter point, then you get to make a choice (that is if your brain is still capable of making choices because of the depletion of oxygen from the climb so far), (A) To the right are two sets of very steep stairs -numbering 74 and 93 steps respectively -leading to a spiral staircase that takes you to the inside of the observation bunker; (B) or go left, up a more gentle sloping trail to the outside of the observation platform. Being of a sound mind, but not necessarily of a sound body after the strenuous climb, we chose the more sensible, easier (but not necessarily "easy") sloping trail. Park Service employees told us that they have to make two rescues per week, on average, for folks who had difficulties on the trail. In any event, the whole effort was worth it. The views were fantastic, especially looking down the side to see the whole crater from the last time the volcano erupted (approximately 300,000 years ago). Wow!!!! Definitely add this to your itinerary when visiting Oahu.
View of Diamondhead from across Waikiki beach.
The lighthouse was built in 1917.
In order to access the trail to the summit, you first have to use this tunnel that goes through the outer rim of the crater.
Posing at the base of Diamondhead, we've no idea what is awaiting us ("Do you really want to do this?").
"That doesn't look too bad."
Evidence of previous volcanic activity (although 300,000 years ago).
"OMG! We've got to go that way?"
While not exactly "easy" this route seemed better than those stairs.
We made it!
There really was not a lot of room inside the bunker....
...but the views are spectacular!
We especially enjoyed the view down into the volcano crater.
Approximately ten hours after leaving Singapore ( including a brief stop in Shanghi), we arrived in Honolulu (meaning "Sheltered Harbor"). Located on the island of Oahu, it is the Capitol of Hawaii and its largest city. Considered to be the most remote city of its size in the world, it also is said to be both the westernmost and southernmost major U.S. city. According to oral history, there is evidence that the original Polynesian migrants settled here as far back as the eleventh century. By 1794, the first "foreigner" to sail into Honolulu harbor was the British captain William Brown. At the time, several indigenous groups laid claim to ruling the various islands. King Kamehameha I, ruler of the island of Hawaii, finally united Hawaii following his conquest of Oahu in 1804, and moved his royal court to Waikiki. In 1809, it was moved again to what is now downtown Honolulu. Thirty six years later, Kamehameha III made Honolulu the permanent Capitol of his Hawaiian Kingdom. However, in 1893, the monarchy was abolished by a provisional government. Six year later, the territory was annexed to the United States. Our preconceived idea of Honolulu was there would not be much for us to explore here, other than beaches. We're we ever wrong! We discovered there is so much here that two weeks may not be enough time to see everything..
Diamondhead (from across Waikiki beach) is one of the most recognizable symbols of Hawaii.
Hawaii's state flower is the yellow Hibiscus..
While not originally native to Hawaii, the pineapple is considered to be the unofficial state fruit.
Since 1845, the Iolani palace was the residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
King Kamehameha I unified the islands of Hawaii in 1804.
Kawaiaha'o Church, built between 1836 and 1842, is considered to be the Mother Church (and Westminster Abbey) of Hawaii
The one attraction in Honolulu that has the most impact of folks is the Arizona Memorial.
Seen in the movies "Tora, Tora, Tora" and "Pearl Harbor", this observation control tower is part of the Pacific Aviation Museum.
The USS Missouri received the surrender of Japanese forces on September 2, 1945 and now serves as a museum ship.
Honolulu as viewed from the summit of Diamondhead...
...and on the other side, across the crater of the volcano that last erupted 300,000 years ago.
During the two-and-a-half years of this journey, there have been many, many fine people that we've met. So, periodically, we've posted about those encounters. Unfortunately, it has been way too long since the last time we've acknowledged the pleasure of meeting fellow travelers and locals.. We are about to remedy that with this posting from Singapore. Since a number of people didn't want their names included with their photos, we decided not to include any names in this presentation.
While on our way to Chinatown, we took this selfie of fellow travelers.
Thanks to my friend Rob, we were able to hook up with part the Singapore Dell/EMC team.
One of our favorite documentaries is "The Journey of Man" which describes the population of the world and how so many groups are related to each other. Along that line, this was amazing! We would've sworn this professional photographer we met at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was Native American. In actuality, he is Chinese.
Restaurants are one of our favorite places to meet folks, such as this mother and son on the edge of Chinatown.
During the Chinese New Year celebrations along the waterfront, we got to enjoy the company of this fellow traveler.
These three exchange students from France were exploring the National Museum of Singapore at the same time we were.
The folks at the Sri Thendayyuttapani temple, such as this family, were very helpful in explaining their religious practices.
Two weeks after our first meeting, we had the pleasure of meeting the rest of the Dell/EMC team.
While visiting the Botanical Gardens, we came across this fellow traveler who has been touring the world for the past five years...
...as well as this group from Germany.
While walking near city hall, this fellow's tee shirt caught our attention, so we stopped to talk. He has been living in Singapore for the past three years, while playing professional basketball.
We happened to come across the Thaipusam Hindu festival when we had the chance to talk to these two women.
We loved our time in Singapore...
As a rule, we tend not to pay much attention to food. It is bought when the pantry needs restocking, or, if out-and-about, stopping at a restaurant is a choice to make. Food is just one of those things we know we need in order to survive and the tendency is to deal with it out of necessity. Since starting this journey, we generally eat lunch out and buy groceries to eat supper in, so we've become very cognizant of the huge variations in pricing from one country to the next. Singapore is one of those countries in which food prices are quite high. But, even in that, there are some major differences. Buying groceries in a supermarket, we found, is more expensive than at restaurants (we would have thought the opposite to be true, even though restaurants add a ten percent service fee and seven per cent tax on top of menu prices), especially in the Hawker Wok Centers where most Singaporeans eat (tourists and many foreign residents tend to choose the more high end , and thus pricier, restaurants). For those not familiar with Hawker Wok Centers, these are a conglomeration of small family owned food stalls, all under one roof. One of the problems with Hawker Wok type dining, at least for us, was the food tended to be devoid of vegetables. So, we needed to stock up on vegetables and fruits for our nighttime meal. When we rent apartments, grocery stores need to be within walking distance. In Singapore, there were two supermarkets within a quarter-mile of our abode. In both, food prices were unbelievable!! Chicken breasts came out to around fifteen dollars per pound, while steak was as much as fifty-six dollars per pound, and hamburger was as high as twelve dollars per pound. Fruits were not much better. We found three pears for ten dollars (three!!); two peaches for eight dollars; and worst of all, cherries at nearly sixty dollars per kilo (that's two and a quarter pounds, making it almost thirty dollars per pound)! Unbelievable!! How can Singaporeans afford to live?
As this picture demonstrates, hamburger was selling for $12.95 for 1/2 a kilo - that translates to nearly $13 per pound!
Believe it or not, this was a special promotion: two packages of sausages (four to a package) for $24 - translation: three dollars per sausage! Unreal!
"And the winner is...cherries for $59.98 per kilo ( or $30 per pound)."
A runner-up to the cherries was this package of ten strawberries for $29.80 (that is nearl $3 per strawberry) - we found another package of seven strawberries for $28 ( or $4 per berry).
Look at this one - three peaches for ten dollars (and that is on sale per the sign).
This one really got me - $128 for one melon!!!
If you carefully watch prices, restaurant eating can be affordable. The Marche chain offered lunch specials....
...such as this roast beef plate for $12.90.
But, by far, the cheapest places we found to eat lunch were at the Hawker Wok Centers. The Marshall Road Hawker Center in Chinatown was one of the more popular eateries.
And the most popular dish was Chicken Rice...it was EVERYWHERE. (If we never see another chicken rice lunch, it will be a blessing).
Named after the founder of modern day Singapore, the Raffles Hotel was founded by the Sankier Brothers in 1887.. Prior to that however, it was originally started as a privately owned beach house in the early 1830's. As the beach house began to expand, it became known as the Emerson Hotel. This establishment closed in 1883, at which time the Raffles Institute used it as a boarding house. Four years later, the Sankier Brothers bought it. The Raffles continued to expand several times over the years. During the early years of the new century, the hotel became a popular gathering spot on Sundays for gentlemen to enjoy a drink. At the time, it was considered inappropriate for women to consume alcohol in public. Raffles bartender Ngiam Tong Boom saw an opportunity to allow women to drink alcohol disguised as a fruit drink. Thus, the Singapore Sling, now considered the national drink of the country, was created. The Long Bar, where Boom introduced his new concoction, was often frequented by celebrities such as Somerset Maugham. The Raffles was designated a National Monument in 1987.
Established in 1887 by the Sankier Brothers, the Raffles is a colonial style hotel.
Walking into the main lobby, one can quickly determine that this is not a run-of-the-mill establishment.
In 1915, bartender Ngiam Tong Boom created the Singapore Sling here in the Long Bar...
...where celebrities, such as Somerset Maugham, frequently spent time.
The Singapore Sling is considered the national drink of the country.
Several spots throughout the hotel are set up for relaxing, having light refreshments, and/or gossiping, such as this lounge...
....or this outdoor courtyard.
Even the Breakfast Room emotes a sense of luxury.
One of the aspects we like about Singapore is how easily integrated its multi-cultural communities are with each other; such as Buddhist Temple within the heart of Chinatown, or Chinese Clan Associations smack dab in the middle of "Little India." All of these ethnic groups brought their various religions to Singapore. In the past, we've mentioned being advised to stop in at any house of worship, no matter what the denomination, which we found open, in order to marvel at the beauty , and the history each had to offer. That certainly has proven true up to this point. So it was an easy decision for us to go in search of the churches, mosques, and temples of Singapore. Presented here are the highlights of those visits;
"MASJID SULTAN MOSQUE" -built by Sultan Hussain Shah of Jahore between 1824 and 1826, this is the oldest, and one of the most important mosques in Singapore. After bringing his family here, he built a palace for them in which to live. He then went on to build the mosque next to his palace. Situated in the Arab Street neighborhood of Singapore, it is the top attraction here.
"SRI THENDAYUTHAPANI TEMPLE" - better known as the "Chettier's Temple" after the mercantile caste of south India that funded its construction in 1859 , this Hindu temple is dedicated to the six-faced Lord Subramanion. During the Thaipusam festival, pilgrims, after 40 days of fasting, walk to this temple, through the streets of Singapore, with their bodies pierced by hooks, spears and spiked steel structures as a sign of devotion.
"BUDDHA TOOTH RELIC TEMPLE" - located in the heart of Chinatown, this is one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in Singapore. Architecturally, the temple is based on the Chinese Tang Dynasty style. In addition to the temple proper, this building also houses a museum and a roof garden.
"ST. ANDREW'S CATHEDRAL" - located near city hall, this country's largest cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican diocese of Singapore. Sir Stamford Raffles had allocated land for the cathedral in 1822 but construction did not begin until 1834 because of the need to raise funds. Due to complaints that the building looked like a college or town hall, a spire was added in 1842. However, no lightning protection was included, so when the spire was struck in 1845 and 1849, the building became unsafe and was eventually demolished in 1855. A new cathedral was constructed between 1856 and 1861.
"CHURCH OF ST. GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR" - commissioned in 1835 by the first twelve Armenian families that immigrated to Singapore, this is the oldest Christian church in Singapore. Located at the foot of Fort Canning, it is just a short distance from the National Museum of Singapore. It became the first building in Singapore to have electricity in 1909. By 1973, the church was designated a national monument.
" HONG SAN SEE TEMPLE" - dedicated to Guang Ze Zun Wang, the God of Fortune, this Chinese temple was originally built in 1836 by migrants from China. In the early 1900's, when the government took the temple's land for urban redevelopment. With the compensation received for the takeover, the temple was relocated to its present location on Mohamed Sultan Road and rebuilt using materials imported from China. It was designated a national monument and a UNESCO World heritage site in 1978.
Masjid Sultan Mosque in the Arab Street neighborhood is the oldest mosque in the country.
Its main prayer room was one of the more beautiful ones we've seen..
...and the colors were stunning.
Situated on Tank Rd., off of River Valley Rd., the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple is one of the most important Hindu temples in Singapore.
This huge temple had several prayer shrines inside...
One of the many golden Subramanion statues around the temple.
During the Thaipusam festival, pilgrims walk through the city, their bodies pierced with these scary looking steel needles. We had heard about this practice but had never actually seen it. Amazing dedication.
Located within Chinatown, the four story Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in the country. We were informed that 34% of Singaporeans over the age of 15 are Buddhists.
Looking at the main prayer area from the second floor balcony, we could appreciate fully the blaze of colors facing worshippers.
One of our earliest images of the Buddhist religion was their use of Prayer wheels. We got to get "Up close and personal" with this one on the roof of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. The gentleman in the right corner of the picture kept encouraging us to give the wheel a spin.
We must admit that we found the roof-top garden quite peaceful and relaxing (the building in the background houses the prayer wheel ).
Sir Stamford Ruffles provided the land for St. Andrew's Cathedral in the central business district, near city hall.
This three panel set of stained glass windows were among the best we've seen.
While this is a smaller window than most, it appeared to be one of the more visited parts of the cathedral.
This 1843 Revere bell was presented to the cathedral by Mrs. Maria Revere Balestier, daughter of Paul Revere, and wife of the first American Consul to Singapore. It is the on,y Revere Bell outside of the United States.
Built in 1835, the church of St. Gregory the Illuminator is the oldest Christian church in the country. Since 1973, it has been designated a national monument.
The interior is not very large, as the Armenian community it serves is small.
The landscape design of the church's ground was tastefully done...
Located a short ten minute walk from our apartment, the Hong San See Chinese temple was built with materials imported from China...
It was designated a national monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
Right from day one of our arrival in Singapore, folks had recommended that we include the island of Sentosa as part of our itinerary. In the Maylay language, "Sentosa" means "Peace and Tranquility." One theory (of which there are many) about the origins of this name claims that "...it is the material paradise of warrior spirits buried here." Whatever the real origins might have been, the actual history of the island had been anything but "Peace and Tranquility." Early in the nineteenth century (as far back as 1827) , plans called for the fortification of the island in order to protect passage into Keppel harbor. However, not much of these plans were accomplished until the 1880's. At the outbreak of World War II, the British military occupied the island. Once the Japanese had captured Singapore, Sentosa was turned into an Allied Forces Prisoner of War camp. It wasn't until 1970 that things began to change for Sentosa. At that time, the Singaporean government decided to develop the land into a holiday resort. Today, this popular location hosts 20 million visitors per year, making it the number one attraction in Singapore. When we made our own journey to Sentosa, we'd had hopes of finding some remnants of its past history. However, it was hidden from us by the glitz of the amusement park atmosphere that the island had become. While it was a bit interesting to walk through this "fun-filled " attraction (especially seeing a rather large Casino in the heart of the island - they do love gambling here), it was disappointing for us because we love history and were looking forward to finding some of it here. Oh, well!!
Coming out of the Harbor Front train station, you can see the large "Sentosa" sign across the harbor (very much reminding us of the "Hollywood" sign in Los Angeles).
There are a number of ways to get across the harbor to Sentosa island, including numerous ferries and two trains (although this one was a bit small)...
...or the cable car ride.. However, being walkers, we chose the leisurely stroll across the Sentosa Promenade bridge (about ten minutes).
This 8.6 meter (28 foot) tall porcelain statue Merlion statue (half lion and half fish) personifies the image of Singapore.
Universal Studios in the heart of the park certainly appeared popular during our time on the island...
...but we were "more interested" in the Hershey's Chocolate World pavilion...
...which certainly had a lot to offer ( but notice the prices...unbelievable!).
Across the square from Hershey's Chocolate World was this apparent competitor...
...however, we quickly learned that this one is also owned by Hershey's. So much to choose from!
We were somewhat baffled about the symbolism (if there was any) of this elephant-on-stilts statue outside the Casino.
We guess we'll have to think about it some more.
The architectural design of the whole complex was interesting.
One of the oldest museums on this island is the "National Museum of Singapore." Officially founded by the Singapore Institute Committee in 1849 as a section of the Raffles Library and Museum, its first conception was stated by Sir Stamford Raffles in a memo dated in 1823. During its early years, the museum's location changed several times, until it settled in its present, permanent location next to Fort Canning Park in 1887. Today, it is one of four national museums in the country (including the Singapore Art Museum and two Asian Civilisation museums). As a center for research and knowledge, the National Museum of Singapore focuses its exhibits on depicting the history of the country. Since museums are attractions that we tend to gravitate towards, and so many folks that we met here extolled the virtues of this particular museum, we knew that we just had to explore it. Getting there was an easy twenty minute walk from our apartment, and since the country was celebrating Chinese New Year, admission was free.
With its main address on Stamford Road, the National Museum of Singapore backs up to Fort Canning Park. In its early history, the museum was known for its zoological collections of Southeast Asia. Following Singapore's independence in 1965, the zoological collections were moved to the biology department of the National University of Singapore, while the remaining collections, focusing on the history of Singapore, remained in this building.
Restoration of the Rotunda stained glass dome occurred in 2004. Each of the 50 Victorian glass panels is nine feet long and are curved in shape to best fit the profile of the dome.
Eleventh century carving from India, of Sarosvatl, Hindu goddess of learning and knowledge.
In 1998, fishermen diving in the Java Sea discovered an unnamed ship wreck containing over 60,000 artifacts, including thousands of ceramic bowls and jars (dated to around 830)...
....because of the way they were packed, and the soft sand in which they lay, most of these ceramic pieces were perfectly preserved.
Because of the large numbers of Chinese immigrants pouring into Singapore, much of the island's history has been influenced by Chinese culture.
Representing the East India Company, Sir Stamford Raffles founded modern day Singapore, in 1849, as a trading post....
...however, while he went off to persue other adventures, Raffles left Major William Farguhar to carry out his plans.
This bell, which was cast by the Paul Revere Iron Works of Boston in 1843, hung in St. Andrews Cathedral here (and those characters standing next to the bell are NOT decendants of Paul Revere).
Dated somewhere between the 10th and 14th centuries, this "Singapore Stone" fragment was part of a larger stone found by the British when they arrived here in 1819.
We've had the opportunity to visit several exquisite botanical gardens around the world. Right at the top of the list of ones we've enjoyed, HAS to be Sinapore's Botanic Gardens. Founded by the agri-horticultural society in 1859, on a virgin rainforest (which pre-dated the Gardens) and an abandoned plantation, this is the only tropical garden honored as an UNESCO World Heritage site. Singapore is one of only two major cities in the world with a tropical rainforest within its city limits (the other one being the Tijucs Forest in Rio de Janeiro). Because of the research conducted by the gardens, it played a pivotal role in the rubber tree boom from this area of the world.
Encompassing over two hundred acres, the gardens exhibit more than ten thousand species of plants, trees, and flowers. It plays host to better than 4.5 million visitors per year, making it the top attraction in Singapore. By far, the number one exhibit is the 7.5 acre National Orchid Garden, which has become a pioneer in the development of over 2000 hybrids. Its "Orchid Diplomacy " exhibit honors visiting heads of state (and other dignitaries) by naming its finest hybrids after them. Burkill Hall, the restored original Anglo-Malayan plantation house, today, serves as the residence for the Director of the Gardens, as well as a main back-drop for special occasions (e.g. Weddings).
We spent a full day exploring this marvelous attraction and it was well worth it. If you ever make it to Singapore, be sure to include the Botanic Gardens as part of your itinerary.
The Tanglin Road gate is the main entrance to the Gardens.
Today, serving as the Residence for the Director of the Gardens, the restored Burkill Hall once was the main house on this abandoned plantation.
Flowing water is a main landscape design throughout the gardens.
For more than two millennia, the Kapur tree has been harvested for the development of camphor. It was even mentioned by Marco Polo during his visit to this area in 1290.
This 150 year old Tembusu tree is part of the design for the Singaporean Five Dollar bill (which we are holding).
Perhaps one of the more unusual looking exhibits is this "Canon Ball " tree, because of its characteristic-looking seeds.
Perched atop one of the hills in the gardens, this 1862 bandstand creates a wonderful photo opportunity.
Undoubtably, the most popular exhibit here is the National Orchid Garden...
...with over 1200 original orchid species...
....and more than 2000 hybrids...
....this is truly the most colorful exhibit .
We could have stayed here forever...it was so relaxing and beautiful.
The landscape design of the whole garden was amazing. This walkway behind the waterfall reminded us a lot of the caves we visited in the Hocking Hills section of Ohio.
Swan Lake is dedicated to a group of swans that lived on the grounds...
...and sports this 1850's Victorian cast iron gazebo in which to sit and enjoy the view.
There are dozens of cast iron sculptures throughout the gardens ( like this "Girl on a Swing") that add ambiance to the scenery.
By far, the most impressive (we felt) creations were those made by Mother Nature.
There has been a Chinese community of one sort or another in Singapore as far back as 1330. Known as Niu Che Shui (meaning "ox water-cart" because the principle means of transporting water to this section of town was by animal-driven carts), Chinatown has played host to the largest ethnic group in the city. The British founder of modern day (1819) Singapore, Sir Stamford Ruffles, outlined a plan to develop various sections of the city for the specific use of the different ethnic groups. Yet, in spite of his segregation efforts, the early immigrants in Chinatown showed that they had no problem with multi-cultural groups living together. Thus, you can find the oldest Hindu temple in the city - Sri Mariammon Tamil (India) temple - and a Buddhist temple - the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple - within the heart of Chinatown. At one time, this section of Singapore was the center of slave trafficking and opium dens, but no longer. While Mandarin is one of the four official languages of Singapore, Cantonese is now the dominant dialect within Chinatown. We were fortunate to be here during the fifteen day celebration of Chinese New Year ( this being the year of the Rooster). It made touring Chinatown that much more entertaining and fun.
New Bridge Street entrance into Singapore's Chinatown.
2017 is the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese New Year calendar.
The Kong Chow Cultural Center is one of the clan social associations within Chinatown.
During the Chinese New Year celebrations, vendors crowd the sidewalks and streets.
While individual "department stores" are quite small...
....they are usually part of much larger "mall" areas.
Playing checkers appeared to be a community event.
The four-story Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is right in the heart of Chinatown, next to the Visitors' Center.
It is open to the public, free of charge, even during daily prayer services.
Even here, street musicians are prevalent.
Attaching our personal well wishes to the Wishing Tree.
Happy Year of the Rooster to everyone!
Finishing up with our visit to Australia, we were faced with the question "where do we go next?" New Zealand proved to be untenable at this time, as the apartments we researched were either too expensive, or already booked. One of our friends had suggested that, as long as we were in this part of the world, go visit Singapore. Sounded good to us.
It's name is the anglicaisation of the Malay name - "Sinagapura" ( which itself is derived from Sanskrit) meaning "Lion City." It is the world's only island city-state.
The Merlion" (half lion and half fish) is the symbol for Singapore. The fish body represents the city's origin as a fishing village and the lions head represents Singapore's original name - Singapura.
In 1299, the Kingdom of Singapura was established as a trading post city and was inhabited by less than one thousand people. A little over five hundred years later (1819), Stanford Ruffles founded colonial Singapore as a trading post for the East India Company. By 1826, it officially became part Britain's empire.
Marina Bay Sands Resort is the world's most expensive stand-alone casino. Its Skypark (which looks like a boat on top of the building) is 1,120 feet long and can hold up to 3900 people.
Because of the growing impact of the rubber industry on the island, by 1860 population growth exceeded 80,000. In 1963, Singapore aligned itself with several other nearby countries in order to form the independent nation of Malaysia. However, because of strong ideological differences with the other nations of this federation, Singapore was expelled to become solely independent.
Supertree Grove in the Gardens by the Bay.
Part of the Chinese New Year celebrations along the waterfront on January 27th.
As we wrap up our postings about Brisbane, sharing a few "lessons learned" here hopefully will prove helpful, or, at least informative:
This free City Hopper ferry provides public transport along the central portion of the Brisbane River.
As a country, Australia is younger than the United States. And Brisbane began as a British Penal Colony in the early 1800's. The weather here tends to be hot and humid (much more so than in Melbourne, so it would be advisable to bring a hat and sunscreen.
In every place that we've visited during this journey, one of the first things we do is to find the Tourist Visitors Information Center, not only for a street map of the city we happen to be in, but also to learn about when attractions are open for visits ( every country has its own holidays when places are closed). This is also the place to learn about what attractions are available for no charge (including free walking tours. You can even arrange for an individual free walking tour based upon a particular theme - such as the Aboriginal tour or the World War II tour).
Musgrave Park was the original meeting place of the Brisbane aboriginal tribes, especially for settling disputes.
Throughout Australia, food is expensive, so it is important to compare prices carefully. You can always find bargains if you keep a close eye on things.
One of our favorite lunch places was this restaurant at the Mill Hotel, opposite the Old Wind Mill in Wickham park. For the price shown in the picture, you can get a wonderful rump or sirloin steak meal, or a fish dish. There are always four or five choices on the lunch menu.
Make sure to leave time to visit Mt. Coot-Tha (for great views of the city) and the Botanical Gardens. Bus #471 will take you from King George Square to the top of Mt. Coot-Tha, will wait five minutes while you enjoy the view and take some pictures, and then brings you part way down the mountain to the marvelous Botanical Gardens. This bus runs only once per hour, so you do need to keep track of your time.
Brisbane is very energy conscious and strongly encourages alternate transportation, such as using bicycles to get around the city (as evidenced by Community Bike Repair Stations set up in various locations.).
All in all, we had a great time in Brisbane and would highly recommend you put this on your itinerary if visiting Australia. The folks here are very friendly and helpful; the city is quite cosmopolitan and full of history; and the climate is enjoyable (especially if you're trying to escape the winter doldrums).
Our wonderful guide, Tina, took us on two fantastic walking tours around Brisbane. Look her up at the Tourist Visitor Information Center on Queens Street if you're ever in Brisbane, and say "Hi" for us.
Carl and Lorraine Aveni are two retirees planning on traveling through Europe for at least one year.