Poor James got sick last night--with a fever and throwing up, so I was on my own today since Dani stayed home with the poor kid.
I really wanted to find some artwork, and see if I couldn't find local artists. The rough guide noted a building, the MITA building, that had a number of galleries in it. I hopped in a cab and off I went.
Singapore is a great city for pointing yourself somewhere and just going. Basically, it's an island, so you can't get lost for too long. Also, cabs here are as common as fur on a dog, and since Singapore is pretty much the safest city in the world, you don't worry about stumbling into some dangerous back alley. You'd be more likely to stumble into a dangerously large mall.
So the cabbie took me to the MITA building. Oddly enough, it was a building that I had noticed many times--a great neo-colonial building with multi-colored shutters. We pulled up--but the sign said MICA building. I pointed this out the cabbie. I'm sure the implication in my voice was "you took me to the wrong building!" He kindly pointed out that the address was the same as I wanted, so what's a letter? Maybe I got it wrong.
Looks like I didn't--the guidebook definitely said MITA, and when I did a search for MICA Singapore, the web address was www.mita.gov.sg, soon redirected to www.mica.gov.sg. They must have changed the name!
MICA stands for the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. The top floors are all offices, and the main floor is art galleries. They were all extremely high end--not at all what I was looking for, but fun to wander around nonetheless.
Turns out I was just across from the IT mall, so I wandered over and sat down to have Kaya Toast and white coffee at Ya Kun Kaya Toast. Kaya is a local jam made with sugar, coconut and eggs. They take slices of bread, and cut them in half so that that you have two, very thin slices. They butter and put Kaya in this and grill it. Delicious! Buttery and sweet, it's akin to bread with honey or something similar.
Since I had no plan, I decided to wander. I walked past the government buildings and the under-construction supreme court building, which echoes both a flying saucer and a sports stadium at the same time.
I wandered near the river, where we ended up the day before. I saw the original statue of Raffles. When Singapore was occupied by the Japanese during WWII, they took the statue of Raffles and ordered it melted down. The commander defied orders and hid the statue, reporting it as destroyed. So, the statue that I showed yesterday marks the landing site of Raffles, but the one I saw today is the original statue.
I walked past the war memorial, over near the Swissôtel. I wandered to the bug-eyed Esplanade arts center (which some locals call the durian) down to the mouth of the river, and then over the Esplanade bridge into the business district.
At the west end of the bridge is the huge Merlion fountain. Singapore was named called Temasek earlier in its history--which means Sea Town. Legend has it that a visitor saw a creature he thought to be a lion here, so it was named in sanskrit Singa Pura around the 14th century. So, the emblem of the city is a the merlion--half mermaid, half lion, perfectly represented by this great fountain which spits a strong stream of water into the river outlet.
It was nearing lunch time, so a crush of locals were pouring out of buildings. I wanted to find an authentic hawker center for lunch, instead of relying on any of the many western style stores and cafes I was seeing. I walked through Change Alley, a strange assortment of mall and skyscraper lobby.
I started off in generally the direction of Chinatown, just following my nose wherever it wanted to go. Luckily, I stumbled onto the hawker center that we were at the night before where they closed off the street for satay. I ordered some dumpling and noodles, and then got a delicious lime juice. Altogether, lunch cost $4.50 sing, or less than $3.00 US.
I walked in the direction of Chinatown, and sure enough before too long I was in the thick of it. I wandered down streets, finding (quite by accident) Amoy street, where all the design studios are. Again, I walked the stalls and hawkers of Chinatown, the vendors sticking there hands out to shake yours as you walk by. I suspect that a handshake leads into a heavy sales pitch, so I would just nod and keep walking.
It was nearly 3:30 at this time, so I hopped the subway back home. Charles and I walked to the store and a local hawker center to pick up a variety of Chinese, maylay and Indian food for dinner. We went for a swim and watched About Schmidt on HBO to cap the evening.
Posted by: Martin McClellan
On the date of: October 28, 2004 07:23 PM