Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chinatown, Singapore

Today, I decided to have a wander around Chinatown here in Singapore. It has always baffled me that a city where the dominant culture is Chinese has a “Chinatown”. It’s a pretty large area, with a lot to see, so I parked my car at the People’s Park Plaza and took a look out over New Bridge Road from the Car Park at the Chinatown main area:

Red Lanterns

I crossed the street using the MRT (no pics) and emerged some distance away (stupidly took the wrong exit). Eventually, I found myself back immediately opposite the building I had parked in, and found the walkway that leads over the road from it (d’oh!). Anyway, I grabbed a nice shot of the length of Pagoda Street as seen from the walkway:

Pagoda Street

Then I walked the length of it, hoping to get some shots of the Pagoda at the far end (not visible from this vantage point). I found this carved door that leads into the back of the Pagoda complex (it was locked, unfortunately):

Carved Door

Then, upon reaching the end of the Street, I discovered, to my dismay, that the Pagoda was closed for renovation but I got a good pic of the street sign, and the sign for the next street too (Temple Street). Many of the streets in this area have these plaques which give some information on the history of the area:

Under Renovation  Pagoda Street Sign  Temple Street Sign

As I was walking through an alleyway from Temple Street to Food Street, I happened to catch a glimpse of an impressive looking temple through the buildings ahead

 Temple Found  Temple Side View 

So I decided to have a look to see what it was – it turned out to be a huge Buddhist Temple (The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple)– and they allow photography (but they do request you refrain from using flash, which was fine by me). The interior of the temple was bedecked in Gold, which was fine, except much of the ambient light was very yellow, so many of my shots appeared over-exposed. After some tweaking in Lightroom, I managed to get a few of them looking decent. Here are some shots taken in the main chamber of the temple:

Temple Statue 1  Temple Statue 2

Temple Main Hall 1  Temple Main Hall 2

Then I made my way upstairs, past this great Horseman Statue and finally found myself in the Orchid Garden on the roof. Many of the orchids here are of the variety “Dendrobium Buddha Tooth Orchid”, an orchid flower named after the museum.

Horesman Statue  Roof Garden

The walls here are completely covered in these tiny Buddha statues, they are only a few inches high.

Buddha Wall 1

Each has a name attached, so perhaps they are paid for by local Buddhists, like a devotion to support the Temple, or maybe, as my friend Narelle suggested, they could be to honour the dead. Whatever their purpose, they line the walls in all directions:

Buddha Wall 2  Buddha Wall 3

In the middle of the garden sits a pagoda containing the Vairocana Prayer Wheel. Prayer Wheels originated from ‘The School of Shakyamuni sutra, volume 3 – pagoda and temple’ which states that, “those who set up the place for worship, use the knowledge to propagate the dharma to common people, should there be any man or woman who are illiterate and unable to read the sutra, they should then set up the prayer wheel to facilitate those illiterate to chant the sutra, and the effect is the same as reading the sutra” (Source). I didn’t get a good shot of the wheel, but inside the pagoda, the walls are covered with more of the little Buddhas:

 Buddhas in the Bell Room 1  Buddhas in the Bell Room 2

Finally, I headed back downstairs to take a couple of shots of the entire temple. On my way back though the main room of the Temple, a ceremony was in progress with much chanting. I discretely took a quick shot of one of the monks, and headed outside.

Temple Service

I finally found a good vantage point from the 2nd floor of a building nearby, and got a great shot of the whole thing:

View from the HDB

And this Black and White shot from the front of the Temple (from the steps of the food court opposite):

 View from the Front (BW)

Then I headed back to my car to come home, but not before taking a picture of the most photographed shutters in Chinatown - do a search on Flickr, they’re everywhere, hehe – I also saw at least 3 other photographers taking shots, but they were all at street level, I snuck into the building opposite to get a better view:

Red Shutters

That was my little ‘photowalk’ for today. I quite enjoyed myself, and got some pretty good exercise to boot – Something my wife is likely to be happy about ;)

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