Temple Frenzy

We flew back to Singapore at 7:35 am. That meant having a taxi pick us up at the hostel at 5:30 to make sure we were at the airport by 6. The fare was $3.50 for the 30 minute ride- I gave the driver $4. By noon we found ourselves back at Service World Hostel once again. For lunch, we decided to eat at a Filipino Restaurant located nearby. We figured that it would make Ade feel right at home. I had sisig, which is pig’s ears, cheeks, and snout mixed with chili, onion, and lemon juice. It was interesting but I won’t be craving the dish anytime soon. After lunch we decided that we would try to hit as many temples and mosques that we could in the time that we had left. Becky, although she had successfully avoided the sisig, was not feeling very well- so she opted out of the afternoon tour.

We started out at the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Hindu Temple. We had walked by this temple many times on the way to the Outram Park MRT but had not yet gone inside. Lord Vinayagar is another name for Ganesh, the Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles, who has four arms and an elephant’s head. After this, we walked to the Thian Hock Keng Taoist/Buddhist temple not far from Chinatown. The name translates as the “Temple of Heavenly Happiness” and the main part is dedicated to Mazu, the Taoist goddess of the sea and protector of all seamen. This seemed like a fitting temple for Chinese immigrants arriving via passage across the hazardous South China Sea to have built in the 1820s, shortly after Singapore became a major trading port. When the temple was built, the area around it was beach, before land reclamation projects expanded the shoreline another mile or so to the southeast. Part of the temple is also dedicated to Guan-yin, who we had also met in Jerantut and Kuala Lumpur. We then walked down the block to the Nagore Durgha Shrine, a place of worship used by Indian Muslims. This shrine was the color of the sandy beach on which it once stood, along with pink trim as well as minarets at each of the four corners of the rectangular building. Despite its striking outward appearance, the shrine was quite plain on the inside. A very nice man there showed us the meditation room and told us a little about the history of the building. From there, we walked to the Raffles Place MRT station and headed to Little India.

While I had stayed in Little India on my first visit to Singapore, I had not had time to visit any of the temples there. We walked past the Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple but it was closed to visitors until 4 pm, so we did not go in. The Angullia Mosque down the street was open, however, so we ducked inside. Like Nagore Durgha, the interior of the mosque was largely unadorned. There was a large prayer room which faced Mecca for the men, and a smaller prayer room upstairs for the women. Ade went upstairs to see the latter, while Zach and I waited in the former. While waiting, I couldn’t help but smile at the signs which were posted near the prayer rug explaining that, if your butt crack was showing during your prostrations, Allah would not hear your prayers. We next entered the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Hindu Temple. Perumal is another name for Krishna, one of the incarnations of Vishnu in which he appears as a blue-colored man. They were performing a ceremony in the temple, which we stopped to watch for a while.

We next stopped at the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple. This was of interest to me since it was one of the few Theravada Buddhist temples in Singapore, as opposed to the more Chinese-influenced Mahayana ones. The whitewashed temple was more akin to those I had been to in Thailand and Myanmar. Indeed, a Thai monk is credited with building the temple in 1927. Inside was the 45-foot high statue of a seated Buddha, with the extended earlobes and the pale complexion I was used to seeing in that part of Southeast Asia. You could even walk around back and enter into the hollowed-out Buddha, which we did. Another Buddhist temple directly next door had closed by the time we reemerged from Buddha Gaya but the Leong San See Temple across the street was open, despite having its courtyard under construction. This “Dragon Mountain Gate” Temple was founded in 1913 and is dedicated to Guan-yin, depicting her as a 1000-handed goddess in a gold statue that was brought from the Fujian Province in China to Singapore by the temple’s founder.

We ended the day by walking to the Boon Keng MRT station and visiting the Central Sikh Temple across the street. Unlike on our previous stops, it was important to have our heads covered in the Sikh temple. Ade had brought along a scarf for this very purpose and had used it in the mosque, while Zach and I were allowed to purchase simple turbans at the entrance to the temple. We were most impressed by the sarovar, the sacred pool of water that was located inside of a large courtyard. Upstairs, we saw the Guru Granth Sahib, the religious text of Sihkism, on a canopied seat in a plushly carpeted sanctuary. Back on the main floor, we were welcomed by people who were sitting in a large fellowship hall filled with long tables. We were given hot tea to drink along with some crackers. We really enjoyed sitting there in the Sikh temple; it was a nice end to our temple frenzy.

Back at the hostel, Becky reported that she was feeling better so we headed to Clarke Quay for dinner. We had been craving Mexican food, and specifically margaritas, for a number of days. Someone had then surfed the web and discovered that, in addition to Chilis on Orchard Road, Café Iguana in Clarke Quay served the cuisine that we so desired. We sat on the riverfront and ate nachos, burritos, and tacos after we had toasted the trip with margaritas. We were all stuffed by the time we walked down the riverwalk until we reached Marina Bay. There, we admired the skyline of Singapore and saw the most recognizable symbol of the country- the Merlion. This 26-foot tall fountain in the shape of a creature with a fish’s body and a lion’s head symbolizes the country’s origins as a humble fishing village which has been transformed into Singapura, the “Lion City.” It was the perfect end to our last evening together in Singapore.

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