|Today we got up early and squeezed ourselves onto a very full MRT (tube) to get to the meeting place for the China town walking tour. There were only 2 other people on it, so it seemed quite exclusive!
Our first stop was the Thian Hock Kheng Temple. I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but the Chinese often believe in a mixture of faiths. This one was mainly Taoist (ancestor worship) but they can combine that with Hinduism, Buddhism and Confuscionism, and other faiths. So they have adapted some of the other faiths' Gods to their own needs. The temple was very busy with some big tour groups, but once we got out of the main area and went around the back it was much quieter, and we saw all the smaller altars dedicated to the dead.
Then we went to a Chinese medicine shop where we had some tea, and heard a bit about Chinese medicine and bought some herbs for making our own tea. They sold all sorts in there - goji berries, tiger balm, dried up fish, ginseng, etc. The tea was nice and also gave us a chance to shelter from the rain!
Then our guide took us through the little arcade full of shops and market stalls. We stopped at a Chinese bakery and had a bright pink cake full of Lotus paste (I think that's one area that SAP won't replace Lotus!) which was nice but very sweet - you couldn't eat more than one - and looked like a dumpling. We passed the very popular, and not so traditional, meatball and mashed potato shop, then had a walk down Food Street which is very famous. Also down there was a sort of funeral shop. The Chinese believe that you will need things from this life after you die, but instead of giving you the actual objects they buy paper replicas. So you can buy paper clothes, credit cards, mobile phones, laptops, cars, anything! It all goes up in flames with you when you're cremated.
We finished up at the heritage museum which we then visited and had a look round. It was interesting because they'd set up some of the rooms to look like they would have done when people used to live in them years ago. They were very small and crowded with one common kitchen and toilet. Quite like the ones we saw in Edinburgh. I wouldn't want to live there. Some of them were opium dens or brothels, some were bedrooms and/or workrooms.
It was hungry work doing all that walking so we went to a noodle shop our guide had recommended - stall number 19 on food street (aka Smith Street), called "Lan Zhou La Mian". The chef makes the noodles from scratch and it's amazing seeing how he starts off with one big lump of dough and then separates it all with his fingers somehow to make noodles. I'm not quite sure how it works, because it was so fast, but he let us take a photo of me beside him while he was stretching out the dough. So we had a couple of bowls of noodles and a basket of 8 dumplings and a couple of drinks and the bill was just under $20 (Singapore dollars) so about £6 - 7. A bargain as we were both stuffed afterwards. We highly recommend this noodle house!
Feeling pretty confident about our first visit to China town we then went back to a temple we'd seen but not been into on our tour - a big new temple that cost $60 to build and reportedly houses an actual tooth of Buddha, although it wasn't on display today so we can't tell you much about it. Our guide told us it's about 7cm long! The temple was beautiful with a big Buddha on the main altar in the middle and lots of medium sized Buddhas all along the walls and then around each of the medium sized Buddhas were lots and lots of small Buddhas. Very beautiful. These temples always smell good too, because there is lots of incense burning. Behind this main area was another smaller altar with a different statue and some side altars dedicated to those who had died.
After a bit more window shopping in Pagoda street we caught the MRT to Orchard Road so that we could have a coffee and then easily find a taxi to come back in.
Bev's been out at "the races" all day (since 10am) - it's the Melbourne cup day so lots of people meet up to watch the races, and drink, and she's just got in at 5:30pm! Oh dear.