Saturday, February 21, 2015

Celebrate Monuments! At Sri Thendayuthapani Temple

Sri Thendayuthapani Temple was recently gazetted as a National Monument. On 11 January 2015, I have had the great pleasure to attend one of the guided tours at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple organized by the Preservation of Sites and Monuments, a division of the National Heritage Board.

Located at 15 Tank Road, the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple was built in the year 1859 C.E. by Nattukkottai Chettiars. The main deity of this temple is Lord Sri Thendayuthapani who is also known as Lord Murugan.

Ringing the bells to inform the Gods of one's arrival to the temple.

During the tour, I was particularly attentive to learn why the Nattukkottai Chettiars build Murugan Temples wherever they settle. I learnt that the rituals performed in Sivan Temples require Brahmin priests. In the past, before the third quarter of the 19th century, Brahmin priests were prohibited from crossing the seas. The establishment of a Thendaythapani Temple wherever the Nattukkottai Chettirs settled outside India provided a good solution because non-Brahmin priests could be engaged for the rituals in the Thendaythapani Temples.

Our dear tour-guide was Arlane. She offered us a very interesting perspective to the design and architecture of the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple as well as the history of the temple. I have to thank her for a thoroughly well-prepared and interesting guided tour.

The tour aside, I observed many interesting moments in the temple. I was particularly thankful for the beautiful music that the musicians provided during one of the prayer rituals. The music felt like sacred gift of sounds from heaven.

Throughout the guided tour, I listened to stories after stories about Lord Murugan. Through the stories, we learn about important values for humanity to be mindful of. Admittedly, there was an information overload and I cannot recall every single story. I do remember Lord Murugan is the younger brother of Lord Sri Vinayagar, more commonly known as Ganesha.

Statue of Lord Murugan with the Vel.

We were lucky people. During the tour, we have had the privilege to catch a glimpse of the Silver Chariot. This Silver Chariot is one of the rare three of its kind in the world. The other two silver chariots are found in Rangoon and Vietnam. This silver chariot would be used during the Silver Chariot procession the day before Thaipusam.

At the end of the Celebrate Monuments! guided tour, we were granted special access to a part of the temple whereby we could get a special view of the temple. The tour concluded with an unexpected yet welcomed treat to light refreshments. Many thanks to the people from Sri Thendayuthapani Temple for their generosity and hospitality.

Located in a spacious area and picturesque location, Sri Thendayuthapani Temple is also listed as a tourist attraction by the Singapore Tourism Board. I personally think that attending a guided tour of the temple will be a wonderful choice, at least for folks like myself who are not familiar with both the temple's architectural design and the religion, Hinduism.

Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (also known as the Chettiars' Temple)
15 Tank Road
Singapore 238065
Tel: 67379393
Nearest MRT: Dhoby Ghaut MRT station (5 minutes walk away)
Bus services available: 54, 64, 123, 139, 143.

Friday, February 20, 2015

My second time onboard: Secrets of the Red Lantern

Many years ago, I have attended the Secrets of the Red Lantern tour by one of my favourite local tour-providers, Journeys. When I learnt that this tour of the same title now includes a bus ride to the red light districts in Geylang, and a walk through the streets and alleys of Geylang, it was simply a matter of finding the time to fit this tour into my schedule.

The content of this tour, Secrets of the Red Lantern, may not be appropriate for those below 18 years of age. Therefore, only people ages 18 years and above are allowed on this tour.

My motivation to attend this tour is to get a sneak peek into the world of vices that had and could happen right in Singapore and to get a glimpse of one of the sides of humanity.

It was a bit challenging to find local friends who could find the time to check this tour out with me on a Friday evening at 6 p.m. Thankfully, I have a friend who is a resident here who took precious time out of her busy schedule to join the tour with me.

The meeting point of this tour is at Chinatown MRT station, outside Exit A, at the side of the escalator facing Pagoda Street. As I was attending the Secrets of the Red Lantern tour in the month of Jan 2015 and it was nearing the Chinese New Year period, I was greeting by lots of festive decorations that were preparing to usher in the Chinese New Year.

What were the secrets of the red lantern?

Admittedly, I was possibly too engrossed with all the anecdotes and tales that our dearest tour-guide was sharing that I lost count of the total numbers of secrets of the red lantern that had been revealed to me. There were about eight secrets, I recalled. If you wish to be find out what the secrets were, how about join one of the Secrets of the Red Lantern tours?

Anyway, the tour began while everyone in the tour group was preoccupied with finding our bearings about the busy streets of Chinatown. We were very excited about what the tour would entail, at least I was.

A sculpture that we saw along the way that paid tribute to the Samsui Women.

The tour is a rather experiential tour that may not fit your usual idea of walking along the clean streets of Singapore. The tour brought me to the back alleys of Chinatown. I realized that thanks to advancements in our society's sanitary facilities, we no longer have to use the night-soil bucket system that used to be pretty common in the early days of Singapore. Out of sheer curiosity of a past that I have no recollection of, simply because I did not experience it, way after the tour, I did some search on Google and found an online article by Uncle 'Thimbuktu' titled Memories of Smell - Sewerage. My friend and I wondered why the honey-carts were designed in that particular manner with 32 doors?

Back alley of Chinatown.

Now the truth is, if I write too much about my experiences onboard this tour, you may lose the element of surprise when you go for this tour. If I write too little about what makes this tour so fascinating and worth going for even though it costs a considerable amount of $55 per adult (because it includes rides on a chartered bus to-and-fro Chinatown and Geylang), it will be challenging to convince you that this is a tour that I would recommend. So I shall err on writing too little because I think this tour is so interesting that it shall speak for itself?

Whatever it is, any adult who is open-minded enough to find out more about a time in history when vices were common in Chinatown, or just learn something new about Singapore, will find this tour interesting. In the meantime, I shall keep the secrets of the red lantern as secrets then.

Red Lanterns in Chinatown to usher in the Chinese New Year.

Chinatown Food Street.

After an interesting time learning about the days in the past when Chinatown was also referred to as "Bu Ye Tian" (The place of night-less days), a comfortable air-conditioned bus took us to Geylang.

If you know the kind of sightings that we could encounter while walking through the streets and alleys of the red light district in Geylang, you would probably be understanding enough not to expect any photograph taken in Geylang. I was busy paying attention to what went on in real life to bother about taking photographs. Anyway, our tour guide has specifically asked us not to take photographs while we were in Geylang.

Be prepared for some surprise, and remember to stay close together as a group. My friend and I were rather amused when a middle-age gentleman came forward to us to introduce himself. We knew he just meant to be hospitable and friendly.

Friday evening is quite a good time to be out for the Secrets of the Red Lantern tour. If you think you are an open-minded adult with a healthy sense of curiosity, this will be a tour that you will find interesting enough not to be missed.

South Bridge Road.

Secrets of the Red Lantern:
A Chinatown and Geylang Night Tour
Every Friday, 6.00 p.m. - 8.30 p.m.
Meeting point: Chinatown MRT station, outside Exit A (Side of the escalator facing Pagoda Street)

Reservation is recommended for this tour. Please phone Tel: 6325 1631/6 214 2451) or email by 5 p.m. on the day before the tour. Otherwise, places to the tour will be on a first come first served basis.
For more details, please visit:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

An interesting tour: Cultured Leopard, Rising Tiger: Finding Your Tao in Haw Par Villa

I have always enjoyed attending tours under The Original Singapore Walks series by one of my favourite local tour providers, Journeys. When I could find some time out from my work schedule in the month of Jan 2015, I decided it would be a wonderful idea to attend one of the new tours, i.e. Cultured Leopard, Rising Tiger: Finding Your Tao in Haw Par Villa. I have had a good time at the tour and was pleased with it.

Back in March 2014, thanks to the invitation of Singapore Tourism Board, I have had the pleasure to attend the Reliving Haw Par Villa event. Reliving Haw Par Villa included a free guided tour of the Haw Par Villa which was intended to be special preview to one of the latest tours in The Original Singapore Walks series, i.e. Cultured Leopard, Rising Tiger: Finding Your Tao in Haw Par Villa.

I will strongly recommend Cultured Leopard, Rising Tiger: Finding Your Tao in Haw Par Villa to anyone, especially non-Chinese, who would like to have a well-researched guided tour of Haw Par Villa to make their visit more enriching and entertaining.

Diorama of the story of Mdm White Snake.

As for the Chinese, I think it would have been more apt to attend a guided tour that was conducted preferably in Mandarin because many of the anecdotes from Chinese folklore would simply sound so much closer to heart if they were presented in Mandarin as the language medium. I suppose I am biased? I prefer to hear the story of Mdm White Snake and many others being related to me in Mandarin. Not that there was anything essential that was lost in translation, I simply prefer to listen to Chinese folklore being told to me in Mandarin medium.

The tour's meeting point was at Haw Par Villa MRT station, outside Exit A. The opening of the Circle Line has made it so much easier to travel to Haw Par Villa!

At the start of the tour, all of us visitors were pleasantly greeting welcomed by a structure that reminded us of a glimpse of the history of Haw Par Villa. Aw Boon Par had built this mansion - Haw Par Villa - as a gift to his brother, Aw Boon Par. The villa was demolished in 1946, I learnt.

The legend of Su Qin. It teaches one 'never to give up hope despite failures'.

Having said earlier, that I prefer listen to Chinese folklore and mythologies in Mandarin, during the tour, I was particularly more interested in the history of Haw Par Villa and how the Aw brothers built their business empire with the household ointment, Tiger Balm.

One of the Archways. The Yi Cui Archway.

The Haw Par Villa can be considered a rather fascinating dream-like place. As I stepped into Haw Par Villa, I was greeting with sculptures of tigers, leopards and many other large-than-life creatures. Then, there were familiar and not-so-familiar characters from Chinese legends and folk tales that awaited me as I toured the Haw Par Villa with the rest of the tour-group.

The Eight Immortals.

A tour about the Haw Par Villa reminded me of the virtues that were considered desirable to the Chinese.  The sculptures in Haw Par Villa seemed to be vehicles to educate the masses of virtues such as filial piety, diligence, generosity, humility and more.

In the background, the signature pond.

I was particularly intrigued by the signature pond and the remains of the foundations of the mansion that had once stood within Haw Par Villa. Do go for this tour under The Original Singapore Walks series to find out more.

During the tour, I realized that there are a few peaceful spots in Haw Par Villa where one can enjoy a quiet reading time or a peaceful moment of reflection. The cost of the tour aside, admission to Haw Par Villa is free at least for now.

There were many interesting sights and dioramas awaiting us all at the Haw Par Villa. No wonder there are visitors who can visit Haw Par Villa for countless number of times and still love returning to Haw Par Villa. Each visit, one could enjoy a different perspective and experience.

A reminder of a time when Haw Par Villa was reopened as a theme park
called 'Dragon World' by International Theme Parks.

The tour ended at the Ten Courts of Hell section of the Haw Par Villa. This section speaks about the Chinese concepts of purgatory and reincarnation. Probably the message that was embedded for all visitors was to do the right thing and the reward is to stay out of Hell?

For anyone new to Haw Par Villa, or simply wants to have a guided tour about the Haw Par Villa, this tour, i.e. Cultured Leopard, Rising Tiger: Finding Your Tao in Haw Par Villa, is a tour that I would recommend.

Cultured Leopard, Rising Tiger:
Finding Your Tao in Haw Par Villa

Every Friday, 9.30 a.m. - 12.00 noon
Meeting point: Haw Par Villa MRT station, outside Exit A (262 Pasir Panjang Road)
For more details, please visit:

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Ju Ming Taichi Series, Monumental Outdoor Exhibition at Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Ju Ming's Taichi Series - Preparation for Underarm strike,1985. Bronze.

Ju Ming Taichi Series, Monumental Outdoor Exhibition 
Singapore Botanic Gardens, Bukit Timah Core 
17 Jan 2015 -16 Apr 2015 
Extended till 31 May 2015
Free admission 

The artworks by Ju Ming have always fascinated me. He is arguably Taiwan's most influential sculptor. Born in 1938, Ju Ming attained fame in Taiwan in the 1970s and in New York in 1983.

Ju Ming's Taichi Series, 1994. Bronze.

Back in the year 2004, I have had the pleasure to see and experience a number of his sculptures at various location in Singapore. The brilliant colours of his "Living World" series caught my attention immediately. It was however his "Taichi" series that I have found intriguing and more innovative. When I learnt that Ju Ming's Taichi series would be exhibited in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, I planned and made time to check out the Ju Ming Taichi Series Monumental Outdoor Exhibition.

Ju Ming's Taichi Series - Taichi Arch, 2000. Bronze.

This monumental outdoor exhibition will feature fifteen of Ju Ming's bronze masterpieces from the Taichi Series, set within the landscaped outdoor spaces of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

I enjoyed viewing Ju Ming's sculptures outside the usual confines of a gallery. The beautiful landscaped spaces of the Singapore Botanic Garden greatly complemented Ju Ming's sculptures from his Taichi Series. Words cannot quite describe the experiences of viewing Ju Ming's sculptures. If forced to find words to describe, in essence, each sculpture is like a poetic form that seems to interact with the surrounding works of Nature.

Ju Ming's Taichi Series, 1996, Bronze.

Go and experience his sculptures in the outdoor spaces of the Singapore Botanic Gardens for yourself. This exhibition is free-of-charge and will continue till 16 Apr 2015.

Members of the public enjoying their recreational activities at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

For visitors using public transport such as the MRT or buses, enter via the Bukit Timah Gate, or take the MRT train to the Botanic Gardens MRT station.

For visitors who are driving and need parking spaces, enter via the Cluny Park Gate and park your vehicles there.

Updates on 10 Feb 2015: iPRECIATION will be organizing a guided walking tour for the monumental sculptures exhibition at the Bukit Timah Core area, near Eco-lake. For more information, please visit Ju Ming Tachi series Walking Tours.

For more information, please visit: