Tasting The Spice Of South East Asia


In Search of the Tag Fairy
Dec 25, 2007
At this time of the morning, the shuttle bus serves all hotels. We stopped at Explorer’s Lodge and Hollywood Hotel on the way to the park. When we got to the other end, I said goodbye to Graham at the MTR station and then I headed down to the park. This time round it was a little bit busier, but I was still through back check very quickly. Unfortunately, they did not let us in early that day, but time soon passed. At 10:30 on theft, I was on my way. Got side-tracked on my way into the park. There were Photopass photographers by the train station. I stopped for some photos. It looked like they were taking Magic Shots as well, but the magic never appeared on mine.


My first port of call that morning was the Town Hall Annex, which is used for meet and greets. The opening times can be a little erratic, so I have never actually been in there before. During the holiday season, Santa Mickey was resident there. The line did not look particularly long but moved at snail pace. I decided that I would put the time at good use and download my Photopass photos from the previous visit. Unfortunately, the park Wi-Fi is pretty useless. I managed to download maybe a dozen and then it kept failing. I gave up.


Eventually it was my turn to meet Santa Mickey. I am not sure if they change the decor in there depending on who is in residence. The first time I visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Baymax was meeting and greeting in this area. If the decor is the same all the time, this must have felt a little strange. The area looked like an old-fashioned living room. This was perfect for Santa Mickey. There was a Christmas tree with presents for the different characters underneath. I was wearing a t-shirt with StellaLou and Duffy on it that day. Mickey took me to the tree and showed me there presents. The whole meet and greet was a very nice experience.



When I had said goodbye to Santa Mickey, I went across the street to get my Photopass for the day. I then at a quick look at the shop that is between the Photopass shop and the Main Street Cinema. I was planning on doing some serious shopping at the end of the day. The main thing I wanted was a medium StellaLou Tsum Tsum. They had two of those on the shelf. I was also eyeing ShellieMay in her winter costume. What I was really hoping for and had kept checking for ever since arrived was a StellaLou in her winter costume. I knew that there was such a thing as she was included on the seasonal Photopass frame. There was also a pin of her in her winter costume. However, there was no sign of her anywhere in plush format.

As I came out of the shop, I saw that Chip and Dale were out near the Emporium. I went to see them. The line moved pretty swiftly. They were a lot of fun. I then crossed over to the Main Street Cinema to check out who was there. It was Cookie Ann. I went to see her. This time she was not pouting.




Once I had said goodbye to Cookie Ann, I decided it was time for some rides. I went up to the hub to check the information board. I noticed that Hyperspace Mountain was temporarily down, but that Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars was up and running again. I decided to head there first. Pretty much as soon as entered Adventureland there was a cast member trying to convince people to meet Moana. He did not have to try very hard with me. Poor Moana was all by herself. I could not believe my luck, especially considering that I had waited to see her for nearly 2 hours at Disneyland Paris a couple of years earlier.


This little detour meant that I had ended up right by the entrance to the Jungle River Cruise. Although both Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland have this ride, I had never done this outside the USA. My curiosity was piqued. They have three different lines for different languages: Mandarin, Cantonese and English. I had my longest wait of the trip for that ride, but that was still only 10 minutes. The version at Hong Kong Disneyland is more compact and quite different. I also learned that the kind of humour associated with ride does not really travel. It just felt kind of flat. Still, I can say that I have now done the ride. I doubt that I will repeat the experience.

This time round, I found the right turn off for Grizzly Gulch and saved myself the walk-through Toy Story Land. Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars was indeed up and running and was a walk on. The only issue with that ride is that it was built with serious lines in mind. You seem to walk a mile from the entrance to the loading dock. The irony was that I have never seen this ride with more than a 5-minute wait and it takes at least that to just walk through. As I approached the loading dock, one train was just leaving and the next one pulled in. This train actually sat at the loading dock for a short while waiting for customers. I really love this ride and it definitely did not disappoint on this occasion either. I thought about going again but decided that I would go to Mystic Manor first and then come back.

Mystic Manor was also a walk on, and I squeezed into the room with the pre-show just before the doors closed. This time round, I was on my usual side of the room again. On the way out, I popped into the gift shop. They usually have a table with stuff on sale and I promised a friend I would pick up a Halloween ShellieMay for here. I was in luck and they had a couple on the table with the sales merchandise. I got myself a lucky bag with TsumTsums. I was not too impressed with the selection of Tsum Tsum’s in there, which were mainly Marvel, but there were also Bashful and Eeyore Ufufies in there that I like very much.

I then headed back to Grizzly Gulch. It looked like the Fastpass line for Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars was less of a hike than the standby line. I still had all of my priority access passes. I decided to ride again. I headed to the Fastpass line and ended over one of my priority access passes. The cast member asked me if I was sure about this as there was no wait for the regular line. I asked her if this way involved less walking. She said it did. I headed down the Fastpass line. In the end this was the only priority access pass that I used, and it was about a third of the distance compared to the standby line. I am glad that I did do this ride again.


In Search of the Tag Fairy
Dec 25, 2007
I then headed over to Fantasyland. This time round the line for Mickey in his holiday outfit was open. I got in line. It was moving slow, but steady. I used the time for taking some photos of the progress that is being made with the castle and to catch up online. There was just one family in front of me when Mickey went for a cheese break. However, he was back 10 minutes later. I enjoyed the interaction.




While I was in line for Mickey, I also played with the Hong Kong Disneyland app. For the first time I noticed that there was a character tab. This solved the mystery what was happening at Fantasy Gardens. Anna and Elsa were meeting there as was Olaf. I decided to go there next. Anna and Elsa were out when I got there. There line was already closed when I got there. I was not bothered as it was Olaf I wanted to see. I headed over to where he was supposed to meet and greet. Even though he was not due to come out for another 30 minutes, his line was already closed.


I moved on to Tomorrowland. A quick check at the Star Wars Command Post showed me that R2-D2 was in residence again so I moved right along. When I got to Hyperspace Mountain, this was down. I am not sure if it was down all day or if it had just gone down again. I went to ride Ant-Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle! one last time. The posted wait time was 10 minutes, but I probably waited half this amount.

I then went back to Main Street. I wanted to see Duffy once more, who was currently holding an audience at the Main Street Cinema. His line was closed as well even though he had only just come out and the line did not look very long. I pushed on to Town Square where Donald Duck was due to be out shortly. His line looked longer than Duffy’s line, but was open. The cast member with him kept the line moving at a good speed. Soon it was my turn. There was no Photopass photographer present, but the cast member that was with Donald took plenty of photos with my phone. There was one more character I wanted to see, which was Goofy. According to the app, he was also meeting at Town Square. When I retrieved my phone, I asked the cast member if he was meeting and greeting in the same spot. She knew nothing about this. She flagged down another cast member, who told me that Goofy was meeting near the sweet shop. I thanked him and headed that way.



I had assumed that Goofy would meet in front of the sweet shop like Chip and Dale met in front of the Emporium. Indeed, on my first day in the park Daisy was in exactly that spot. However, that day, there was no sign of life there. I noticed that there were some people waiting behind the sweet shop, so I went there. I ended up third in line. A couple cast members turned up shortly afterwards to set up the ropes. They cut this fine as Goofy arrived before they were done. Again, there was no Photopass photographer present, but I got plenty of photos on my phone.


At this stage, I was officially done. I decided to do my shopping and then head back to the hotel. My first stop was the Pin Trading shop. I got pins of ShellieMay and StellaLou in there winter outfits and also a 14th anniversary pin with Cookie Ann. I then wandered over the shop next to the Main Street Cinema. There had been two developments since I was in there in the morning. One I was very happy with, the other not so much. When I got to the shop, I headed straightaway to the shelf where Duffy and his friends in there winter costumes were. I was reaching for ShellieMay when I saw some rather long ears. Three StellaLou plushes had appeared since the morning. I also managed to pick up a ShellieMay in a nautical costume for a friend. However, when I got to the shelf where the medium StellaLou Tsum Tsum’s were in the morning, there was just an empty spot. I decided to speak to a cast member to see if maybe had some more in the back. Initially the answer was no, but she then asked me to wait until she checked. She comeback a short while later asking if I was able to wait for a bit. I happily agreed. She disappeared again and seemed to be gone for an eternity. Eventually she came back carrying a medium StellaLou Tsum Tsum. Goodness only knows where she had to get it from. I really appreciated it and thanked her profusely. After I had paid for my goodies, I headed out of the park. I went to the bus station where I had the longest wait for the shuttle bus that I had all trip. It still only took about 10 minutes.
Graham had arrived back from his adventure just ahead of me. We had a little bit of downtime. I finally downloaded all my Photopass photos. The Wi-Fi in the hotels is very good. Around 18:00 we headed over to Explorer’s Lodge for some dinner. Our destination was the Chartroom Cafe, which is their quick service restaurant. Graham had the Meat Lovers Flatbread with Parma ham, salami and pepperoni. I had the baked pork chop with black truffle fried rice and a mushroom and tomato sauce. This ended up being something completely different than what I had expected This was layered into an oven dish and covered in melted cheese. It was very delicious though. All main courses come with a soup of the day, which that days a tomato soup, which was also very nice. I had an orange Fanta to wash down my food.

Once we had finished our dinner, we walked back to our hotel. We decided to get the bulk of the packing out of the way. I my case, this was pretty much just reorganising my suitcase. I have discovered the pleasure of packing cubes earlier in the year and I had used a different packing cube for each part of the trip. I had just removed the packing cube for Hong Kong from the suitcase plus some stuff that I needed for every part of the trip like my swimsuits, shoes and my wash kit. The rest had stayed in the suitcase. It was just a question of putting the laundry into the empty packing cube and put it in the suitcase.

Once we finished packing, I read for a bit. Graham decided to get an early night. I did not last too much longer either as it had been a pretty busy day and soon, we were both asleep.


<font color=deeppink><marquee>We must work harder
Jun 26, 2004
What an amazing number of character pics! Love the costume variety!

Glad you were able to accomplish your shopping goals.
  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 7

    And just like this, our stay in Hong Kong was over. When we got up, we got showered and ready. We packed the last odds and ends and then chilled out in the room for a bit. I checked my emails and saw what was happening in the world of Facebook. Then I read for a bit. Just before 10:00, we headed down to check out. This did not take long at all. One slight issue with Disney’s Hollywood Hotel is that there is nowhere to sit near the entrance. We left our luggage under the watchful eyes of the bellmen and headed down towards the bus stop to sit down. About 10:15, we went back to the entrance. Our transfer pulled up shortly afterwards.

    I enjoyed the last views over Lantau on our drive to the airport. We had a clear run to the airport, and it took not long to get there at all. I had read that following protesters essentially taking over the airport for a few days in the summer, that all traffic would be stopped on the bridge leading to the airport and that passports and tickets or boarding passes would be checked at this point. Nobody showed any interest in us at all and soon we pulled up to the terminal building.

    In front of the terminal building they had set up queuing areas with heavy concrete barriers. The line looked pretty impressive but moved fast. They had plenty of security staff on duty. The security guard asked where we were travelling to and with which airline. He then checked our passports and boarding passes and then wished us a pleasant journey. The whole process including time waiting in line took about 10 minutes.

    When we got inside the terminal, we headed towards the big screens to see where we needed to go. Before we could get close enough to read anything, a member of staff approached us and asked who we were flying with. He directed us to the correct aisle. One thing that really surprised me was that there was no baggage drop desk. After all, this is Cathay Pacific’s hub and they account for approximately half the traffic at Hong Kong International. They also only had two desks open for economy class check in and one for business class check in. The line was quite long with three switchbacks, but it moved pretty quick. It also helped that a few people got impatient and left. It took about 20 minutes before we got in front of the line. We were not worried as we still had nearly 4 hours until our flight. Check in itself was very smooth and efficient and soon we were on our way. The only slight irritation was that I noticed that they had changed our seats. I had picked seats right at the back of the plane where the plane gets narrower and there are only two seats by the window. They had moved us quite close to the front of the aircraft to a window and middle seat.

    With check in out of the way, we proceeded to immigration. Although you have to see an immigration official when coming into the country, to leave the country, they have e-gates. I often have trouble with e-gate in that they can’t seem to read the chip. However, it was smooth sailing for me. I entered the e-gate, scanned the photo page of my passport and looked at the camera. The gate opened a few seconds later. Graham however had issues and it took a while until somebody came to his rescue. Once he was through, we went through security. This was very quiet with just one person in front of us. The whole process including the very short wait took about 2 minutes.

    My next stop was the Hong Kong Disneyland shop. Sometimes they have stuff that is not available in the park. There was nothing that caught my eye, but I was amused that they were offering the same annual pass merchandise discount as in the park. There is a Pandora shop right opposite and I checked if they had the Santa Stitch charm, but I was out of luck.

    We decided it was some time to get some breakfast. The previous year, we had found a really nice restaurant in this area, but this has already gone again. The airport is constantly changing. There is an outlet of Pacific Coffee not too far from where we were. That would do for breakfast. Graham had a ham and cheese croissant and a sausage roll plus an Americano. I was not impressed by the food offering. I was even less impressed that my favourite drink at Pacific Coffee, Pink Salt Madagascan Vanilla Latte, was not on the menu that we were handed. I had a Matcha Latte instead. While we were waiting for our drinks to be made at the pick-up counter, I noticed that they had the Pink Salt Madagascan Vanilla Latte after all. I thought I may have to go bock for a second drink.

    While we walked over to Pacific Coffee, I saw a bakery. This was only a couple of gates over, so I went back to this. I ended up having a pineapple bun with egg and luncheon meat and a barbecue pork bun. Unlike the normal steamed buns, this was more like a brioche bun and absolutely delicious. Once I had finished my breakfast, I decided to get a Pink Salt Madagascan Vanilla Latte. Unfortunately, their card machine had broken down and I had used my remaining cash at the bakery.

    I decided to have a look at the various shops. I found a chemist and got some antihistamine tablets, stocked up on the stuff to go on the bites and also got some natural mosquito repellent. As I have learned that the mosquitos in South East Asia do not fight fair, at least with this stuff, I could spray it underneath my clothes as well. This ended up being the only stuff I bought. Most shops at Hong Kong airport are high end designer shops and not my thing. I did try to get some more cash out of a cash machine, but the transaction was denied for some reason. A quick check on my online banking app showed me that all was well my end. I never did get my Pink Salt Madagascan Vanilla Latte.

    I spent some time online and read for a bit. At one stage I checked if our gate was listed yet and it turned out that our flight would depart from the gate right next to the one, we were sitting at. Time passed quickly enough and soon it was time to board. Again, the boarding was a very smooth operation and it did not take long until the process was complete. The flight was not particular busy, and we had three seats between the two of us. The flight was uneventful. As soon as we were at cruising altitude, they came round with peanuts and drinks. I had a gin and tonic and Graham had a glass of red wine. I checked out the movies on offer and then read until lunch. I had a hard time making a decision. They had chicken in soy sauce with rice or beef with polenta. Normally I would have gone with the Chinese dish, but I love polenta and Graham hates it with a passion. In the end, I went with the beef with polenta, which also came with green beans. This was very nice. Graham had the chicken, which he seemed to enjoy. Both options were served with melon and a warm roll. Dessert was chocolate ice cream. I ended up with both of them. We had some white wine with dinner and coffee afterwards.

    After lunch, I settled down to watch the live action remake of The Lion King. As a rule, I have loved the live action remakes, but I was not sure about this one at all. Well, I did not hate it as much as I thought I might, but I was still glad that I did not pay money to see this.

    Once the film was over, the descent into Singapore was just about to start. I alternated reading and looking out of the window. First impressions were a little disappointing. We flew over all kinds of islands. Knowing that Singapore is tropical, I expected lush greens. I kind of had images of Lantau or the approach to Oahu in my mind. Instead I got bleak red dessert with all kinds of industrial installations. We circled for a good half an hour before we got ready to land. We were welcomed by our first tropical shower.

    Once we got off the plane, I had disappointment number 2. Changi airport is always mentioned as the best airport in the world and I was really excited to see this for myself. We landed in terminal 4. This terminal is used by 9 airlines. It looked very dated with narrow corridors and old-fashioned carpets. I was very shocked when I found out afterwards that this terminal is only two years old with operations having started in October 2017 and the official opening in August. As a little spoiler, this is only the arrivals area. The departure area is positively charming.

    On our way to immigration, we stopped at the bathroom. Then we proceeded to the immigration hall. This is a very impressive space. It is bright and modern with high ceilings and some rather impressive light fixtures. It looks more like the lobby of an upscale hotel than an immigration hall. Unfortunately, we shared this space with a couple of thousands of our new best friends. I think 6 planes had arrived within about 5 minutes of each other. When we got there, only three regular lanes were open plus one each for crew/ diplomats and people with special needs. Not long after we get there, important looking people with radios appeared and soon some more lanes opened. They also kept an eye on how busy each line was and were distributing people around accordingly. We were ultimately sent to the crew/ diplomats lane. All in all, it took us about 20 minutes to get through. I did get a bit of a lecture. About a week before we left on this trip, I had received an email from Royal Caribbean inviting us to fill out electronic landing cards, which are currently being tested in Singapore. As I am not overly keen on filling out physical landing cards on the plane, I had done this and printed out the confirmation page as suggested on the website. Other than not having to fill out the paper form, there was no advantage to doing the electronic landing card when arriving at the airport. I was however challenged why I had printed this out rather than just showing this from my email account or the app. I promised that I would next time. After this, I got my stamp and I was officially in Singapore.

    We did not have to wait more than about 90 seconds for our luggage. Once we were through customs, I saw the ground transportation desk straightaway. I had done a bit of research and the airport shuttle seemed to be the best and cheapest option. According to the airport website, this runs every 15 minutes and at SGD9 per person, this was very good value. We went to the ground transportation desk and were advised the next shuttle was already full and the next one after this would be about 35 minutes. We were asked to pay in cash. The person manning the desk would not take the money then but told us she would call us once our bus number was confirmed. I got some money from the cash machine that was just opposite and then sat down. The benches in this area are strong on design and very weak on comfort or even functionality. They essentially looked like a loosely tied knot. They were very narrow and the area you could actually sit on was tiny. They were also very hard. In the end, it was an hour until we were called. I paid and our bus turned up about 5 minutes later. We were the last people on. Once our luggage had been stowed and we had sat down, we were on our way into the city.

    It did not take long until we reached the city and the first thing, I recognised were the giant tree structures at Gardens of the Bay, which were all lit up. They looked stunning. Shortly afterwards we started weaving into and out of narrow streets as we dropped off people at their hotels. This gave us a really nice overview over the city even though it was dark. Historical neighbourhoods are framed by modern skyscrapers and it just works. For me Singapore was love at first sight. Graham had lived in Singapore as a child and although the city had completely changed, he recognised a lot of landmarks from his childhood. We were the last people to be dropped off.

    When we arrived at the hotel, our luggage was taken care of by a bellman. We went inside to get checked in. I had literally agonised over a hotel in Singapore for months. I had a hotel booked that I was really happy with, but then due to flight constraints, we had to add one night, and the extra night was not available at this hotel. I did not really want to switch hotels after one night, so we had to change plans. In the end, we booked the Holiday Inn Atrium, which was in roughly the location I wanted to be and was competitively priced. We were very happy with that decision. The hotel is absolutely stunning. The lobby literally took my breath away.

    Unfortunately, I had plenty of time to admire it. The person checking us in was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. The process took forever and there was a lot of scratching of head on his side. At some stage he commented that we had booked a smoking room, which we most certainly had not. Eventually we got our key cards. We got our luggage as we did not want to wait for this to be delivered and then headed for our room. The room was in a great location and thankfully a non-smoking room. It was a really good size with a comfortable bed, a split bathroom and a killer view. In fact, I had a hard time tearing myself away from the view.


    We needed something to eat. We went downstairs to the hotel restaurant. They either offer a buffet or an a la carte option. It was getting quite late. We went with the a la carte option. Graham had rack of lamb with chips, broccoli and carrots. I had a ribeye steak with roasted tomatoes, truffle mashed potatoes and a mushroom sauce. We both had water and I also had a mango juice. We both thoroughly enjoyed our meals. I am still dreaming of those mashed potatoes.



    Once we finished our meal, we charged the meal to our room and then headed back upstairs. I just got our wash kit out of the suitcase and my various chargers out of the hand luggage. Then we got ready for bed. It did not take long until we were both asleep.


    Apr 15, 2014
    Greetings from Singapore!
    I can't wait to read more about your impression of the city.

    I like Terminal 1 and 2 of Changi airport best, but unfortunately I fly out of Terminal 4 almost exclusively for the past few years. But I do like the more efficient security check in Terminal 4.

    The Pink Salt Madagascan Vanilla Latte sounds interesting!
    I hope I can visit HK in December this year and I've added it to my notes.
    Last edited:


    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    Greetings from Singapore!
    Welcome on board.

    I can't wait to read more about your impression of the city.
    I absolutely fell in love with Singapore. We were hoping to come back for two weeks at the end of May, but this is somewhat unlikely at the moment. Hopefully we can come back later this year. I will post about our first full day in Singapore shortly.

    I like Terminal 1 and 2 of Changi airport best, but unfortunately I fly out of Terminal 4 almost exclusively for the past few years. But I do like the more efficient security check in Terminal 4.
    So far I have only seen terminal 4. We were supposed to fly into terminal 1 in May.

    The Pink Salt Madagascan Vanilla Latte sounds interesting!
    It is absolutely delicious.

    I hope I can visit HK in December this year and I've added it to my notes.
    I keep my fingers crossed for you that you can go.

  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 8

    Even though we had gone to bed quite late the evening before, I was wide away at 6:00. Graham was still asleep. I got up and admired the view for a while and then I went back to bed to read. At just before 7:00, Graham woke up as well. We took turns having a shower, quickly unpacked and then got ready for the day.

    Before we left the hotel, we asked for directions to the closest MRT station. Ultimately there will be a MRT station very close to the hotel as they are currently massively expanding the train network, but at the moment it is a bit of a hike. It did not help either that we were sent on a bit of a wild goose chase. Still, something good came out of this. We walked past an outlet of a local coffee shop chain and they were advertising breakfast sets for SGD4.50 per person.

    Something that was high on my list of things I wanted to try was kaya toast. Kaya is described as coconut jam and is made from coconut, sugar, egg and pandan leaf. This is spread on chargrilled or griddled bread and then a slap of cold butter is put between the slices. This is served with half boiled runny eggs. Essentially the eggs are boiled just long enough that the egg whites turn opaque white but are still completely runny. If somebody would serve me eggs like this back home, I would turn up my nose at this, but I developed a taste for this in Singapore. This is then washed down with Kopi. Kopi is the traditional local coffee. It originally comes from Malaysia but can be found all over Singapore. I was warned by a local contact in Singapore that this is completely different from any coffee I would have tried and is an acquired taste. Well, it turned out that we both acquired the taste after the first mouthful. Kopi is made from Robusta beans, which are more bitter than the Arabica beans we are used to. They also have a higher caffeine content. The beans are roasted over coals with sugar and either oil or butter before being ground. The coffee is then repeatedly poured between two tall coffee pots before being poured into small cups from some height. The resulting coffee is so smooth and rich that you want to weep. Graham had his black and unsweetened. I had mine sweetened and with condensed milk. This truly is the breakfast of the gods.

    The coffee shop is attached to a hotel and we decided to walk through to the lobby to ask for further directions. Those directions were a lot more detailed and spot on. It did not take long until we arrived at the local MRT station. That brought the next challenge. Our plan was to get a tourist pass. This is a smart card that can be used on a pre-set number of days on buses and trains. The issue with this is that it is only available at 16 stations and not all of them are open daily. The closest station to our hotel that sells them is Chinatown, which is only one station away from the station we were now at. This station does not even have a ticket office. The ticket machines supposedly accept cards, but I could not get this to work. I also did not have enough small notes for two tickets. There were some signpost pointing towards the Chinatown MRT station and the distance given was not very far. It was a very pleasant walk along a tree lined street and soon we saw the first buildings of Chinatown.

    The station made quite an impression on me. The station concourse had its own food market with all kinds of weird and wonderful things. I knew all along that Singapore is a street food paradise, but I did not expect a station to have a full-blown street food market. The actual station itself was bright and modern. We headed straight to the ticket counter. We had a short wait and then we got our Singapore tourist passes. This was really straightforward. We were planning to try them out later, but first we had some exploring to do. We crossed the road and went into Chinatown.

    I instantly fell in love. This is very unlike any Chinatown that I had seen previously. Yes, the usual Chinese restaurants, souvenir shops and shops selling cheap clothes were all there. However, the architecture is very different. They are beautiful ornate terraced houses in all kinds of interesting colours. We had just turned into Chinatown when somebody from a jewellery shop approached me. I did not really high hopes, but I was still hoping to find a nice pendant. I figured it could not hurt to have a look. I was not impressed with what they had in the display case outside, which was essentially cheap looking silver jewellery. I still decided to have a look inside and I am glad I did. They were heavily pushing jade jewellery. I am not particularly keen on the colour green and therefore do not tend to give jade more than a passing glance. I was just about to turn around and leave when something caught my attention from the corner of my eye. There was a whole display case with lilac jewellery. I asked what this was and was told lavender jade. I had never even heard of this. Right at the back of the display case was a pendant that really caught my eye. It was a ring of lavender jade with a beautiful ornate silver Chinese dragon in the middle. I asked to have a closer look and it was love at first sight. I called Graham over and he liked it, too. He got this for me as my birthday present together with a gorgeous silver chain. I love this so much that I have worn this virtually every day since I got it.




    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    With the shopping out of the way, we went to find the first of the temples I really wanted to see. Sri Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. It dates back to 1827 and I think this makes it the oldest temple I have visited. A lot of the temples we have visited are relatively contemporary. This was also the first Hindu temple I have visited. This temple is known for its annual fire walking ceremony. I had seen photos of the entrance area before the trip above the entrance is a tower made up of a lot of different statues. This looks absolutely stunning. We had to take off our shoes outside the temple. Just to the right of the entrance were a bunch of cubbyholes where you could leave your shoes. We then went inside the temple complex. Although there were some buildings, most of it was out in the open. There were signs saying that photography for private purposes was fine, but you need to purchase a photo permit. I went to a window, which was signposted as ticket office and asked about the photo permit. I was told that no permit was required, to enjoy and take as many photos as I wanted. I did not need to be told twice. We did have a walk around and I stopped every now and again to take a photo. This was so much brighter than the Buddhist or Taoist temples we have visited. It almost had a child-like quality. I did enjoy the visit and I am glad we made the time, but I do prefer the Buddhist or Taoist temples.













    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    Speaking of Buddhist temples, I was soon back in my comfort zone. Our next stop was the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This is the most modern temple I have visited. It opened in 2007 and was consecrated as a temple the following year. It is a quite unusual temple. To start off with, it is huge and covers 4 floors. It took 9 attempts until the style of the building was agreed on. One of the designs was rejected because it was too contemporary. I still think that the building does look very contemporary, but it is beautiful. Supposedly it is a mixture Tang Dynasty (618-907) and Japanese architecture. Whatever it is, it definitely eye-catching. What amused me is that the temple has its own underground parking structure and multiple lifts. That is not what you normally would expect in a temple.

    Once inside, it looked like a pretty normal Chinese Buddhist temple with lots of red and gold, Buddha statues and a few Chinese dragons. On the ground floor is the main hall and a couple of side rooms. A lot of the temples we have visited were fairly opulent, but the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple takes this to another level. Still, it is all very tastefully done, and the overall effect is stunning. From where we were standing, I could see a gallery overlooking the main hall and there were definitely people up there, but I could not work out how to get there. We ended up back on the street and I asked somebody who seemed to work there on how we get up there. He directed us to a side entrance that contained a staircase and a lift. Everybody else seemed to head to the fourth floor. We decided to check it out, too.












    This is the location of the Sacred Light Hall, which is the inner sanctum of the temple. This is where the Buddha Tooth Relic is kept. To enter, you need to take your shoes off and there are cubbyholes just opposite the entrance. The whole hall is stunningly beautiful and makes the main hall look very understated and simple. Initially you just see some golden Buddha ornaments at the walls and the lanterns hanging from the ceiling. On the sides are meditation platforms and they were in good use. At the far end of the room is a glass partition. This is where the centre piece is, the home of the Buddha Tooth Relic that the temple is named after.

    The backstory is that the tooth relic was retrieved from the Gautama Buddha’s funeral pyre. It was then discovered in 1980 during the restoration of a collapsed stupa in Myanmar and taken to a local monastery. It was brought to Singapore in 2002 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Golden Pagoda Temple. Within a few days, 300000 visitors had come to see the tooth relic. As a result, the abbot of the monastery in Myanmar donated the tooth relic to the abbot of the Golden Pagoda Temple under the understanding that a monastery worthy of the relic would be built. There was some controversy just before the temple opened. A number of forensic scientists stated that the size and dimensions of the tooth make it unlikely that it is of human origin and that it is more likely from a large animal. The abbot of the temple countered that it is real to him and that this is good enough. It is definitely real to the thousands of devotees that come to see the relic every year.

    The relic chamber has beautifully intricate lacquer ceilings and at the centre of the chamber is a solid gold stupa that houses the relic. The stupa is 3.6 meters high and is made from 420kg of gold. At least half of this came from jewellery donated by devotees that was melted down. It is quite a sight to behold. Apparently for a big chunk of the day, the relic chamber is covered by a curtain, but we were lucky that when we were there, it was open for view. Whereas you can take photos everywhere else in the temple, it is strictly forbidden on the fourth floor. I did however manage to find some stock photos online.



    When we left the Sacred Light Hall, we decided to check out the rooftop garden. This is a peaceful oasis in the middle of bustling Singapore. On each of the four corners is a pavilion housing a Buddha statue. Most of the area is taken up by an orchid garden that is home to a special orchid hybrid that is named after the temple. In the middle is a pavilion that houses the biggest Buddhist prayer wheel. We spent quite a while up there just enjoying the serenity and beauty around us. Unfortunately, the benches in this area are not overly comfortable so after about an hour, we moved on.


    We decided that as we were here, we may as well check out the rest of the temple. Most of it is taken up by various museums. On the third floor is the Buddhist Cultural Museum that houses numerous Buddhist artefacts and relics and also shows a film about the history of Buddhism and important Buddhist sites. This is very interesting. On the floor below is a museum about the history of the temple and Chinatown. There is also an exhibition hall and a reference library, but we passed this by. Eventually we did end up on the mezzanine floor. This is split into three parts - the Dharma or lecture hall, the Ancestral Tablet Hall and the Eminent Sangha Museum. The term Sangha refers to the Buddhist monastic orders, which are composed of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. The Eminent Sangha Museum is not quite as inclusive in that only monks are featured. Each display case covers one monk, his life story and some artefacts that are associated with him. Each monk is represented by an incredibly life-like wax figure down to wrinkles, little hairs and blemishes. You would not be surprised if any of them would get up and walk right out of the display case. After about the third display case, Graham made a comment that he hopes that the display cases do not contain “the real thing”. He had not come inside the main hall at the 10000 Buddhas Monastery and had no idea what was displayed there. His comment just attested to just how life-like they were. With the knowledge I had, I did start to wonder. I was more than just a little relieved when we got to monks that are still very much alive including the abbot of the temple. We took one lap around the gallery and I enjoyed the view over the main hall from this perspective. Then we left the temple.





    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    There was one last temple I wanted to see, which according to Google Maps was very close. As we were heading in that general direction, we came across a kiosk selling cheese tea. I did not need any convincing. We both had a jasmine cheese tea. It was tasty, very refreshing and definitely hit the spot. Still, it was not as good as Heytea and I was still craving their cheese tea. Once we had our tea, we headed off again. We left Chinatown and its quirky architecture behind and instead there were loads of gleaming skyscrapers. At some point, we turned into a side street that had a very Bohemian feel about it. It was absolutely packed with quirky restaurants and bars. We turned into another side street and suddenly there were a lot of Chinese buildings including the temple I was looking for. Next to this was a little park and Graham found himself a bench under a tree while I went exploring.

    Thian Hock Keng is the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore. It was built in 1840. It is somewhat unusual in Singapore as it is not dedicated to a single religion, but it encompasses Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Ancestral Worship. In addition to its main deity, Mazu, the Taoist Goddess of the Seas, other deities include Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and Confucius. Thian Hock Keng Is built in a Southern Chinese style and is a lot simpler that a lot of other temples I have seen. The colours are a lot more muted and although there is still some gold used to accent certain features, it does not feel like the place is dripping with it. Rather than excessive bling, they have used wood and stone carvings to decorate the temple. I particularly enjoyed the Chinese dragon carvings that turned up around every corner. I wandered around for about 15 minutes and just enjoyed the peace. Even though there were people around, this is a bit off the beaten track and nowhere near as busy as most other temples I have visited. One thing that I particularly enjoyed was the contrast between the intricate architecture of the temple set against the modern and very minimalist buildings around it.













    Once I had seen everything I wanted to see and taken all the photos I wanted to take, I went back to get Graham. With all the walking we had done, breakfast was a distant memory at that stage. There are plenty of hawker centres around this part of Singapore. The plan was to try as many different hawker centres as possible while we were in Singapore. We somewhat failed in that endeavour although we did try a few. There is always the next trip. The destination for lunch was Lau Pa Sat. We were really there at the wrong time of day as Lau Pa Sat is kind of famous for Satay Street that jumps up on an adjacent street at night. However, there were plenty of food options at lunchtime as well. Lau Pa Sat started its life as the Telok Ayer Market in 1824. It was the local fish market. Initially it was a simple wooden structure. The building was rebuilt in 1838 and then again in 1894. In 1894, it was also relocated to the present location. It is now the oldest Victorian building in South East Asia. It was turned into a hawker centre in 1972. The locals referred to the market as Lau Pa Sat, which means Old Market in Hokkien Chinese. In 1989, it was officially renamed to Lau Pa Sat. The building is absolutely stunning. It is an octagonal structure with cast iron supports. There are 54 different food stalls. Each of those stalls offers about half a dozen dishes. There are 2500 seats inside the hawker centre itself, but there are also some seats outside, which is where we went. I was initially totally overwhelmed, which was not helped either by the fact that we ended up there during peak lunch hour. In the end, we got our lunch from stall that has the reputation that they have some of the best char siu in Singapore, which is served with either rice or noodles. We had the char siu rice, which was served with a drizzle of a sauce and some cucumber. This definitely did not disappoint and at SGD4.50 per person, it was a bargain as well.






    While we had our lunch, we saw the first rain. It was just a few spits and there was a roof over the outdoor tables. By the time we finished lunch, it had stopped again. We wandered over to the closest MRT station. My next place on the list was St. Andrew’s Cathedral. St. Andrew’s Cathedral is only one stop on the MRT from where we were, but there was a great big river in the way so we figured taking to the MRT would probably be the safest option. On the way, I came past my first plumeria trees. Plumerias are my favourite flowers and I love their scent. The ones here were pink rather than the white and yellow ones I normally see and to my surprise, they had no scent. I learned later on the trip that the plumerias in Singapore only seem to give off a scent shortly after it has rained.

    St. Andrew’s Cathedral is just a few steps from the closest MRT station. Unfortunately, when we got there, we realised that the church was closed for refurbishment. We peeked through some open windows and this definitely warrants a return visit. Outside the church, they have a display about the history of St. Andrew’s Cathedral and that was very interesting. I also got my first photo of the Marina Pay Sands hotel from their car park.



    We headed back to the MRT and decided to head down to the port. Quantum of the Seas was in port that day and was leaving for a 4-night cruise before the one we were booked on. I could not resist seeing the ship again. It did not take long after we came out of the MRT station when we got our first glimpse of the ship and we were able to go pretty much right up to it. It started to rain again. Fortunately, the walkways are covered so we stayed try. We ended inside the port building to wait out the weather and noticed that there was a bus. We got on the next bus that came along. It looked like that there was a stop very close to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which was our next stop. However, it was still a fair way and we got a little wet.




    Th reason we headed there is that there is an observation platform on top of the hotel. Unfortunately, this is completely out in the open and when we got to the hotel, it was raining very heavily. We had a look around the hotel. At one point when our travel plans changed, I considered booking a night there as a special treat. I am glad that we did not bother. The hotel kind of reminds me of the Contemporary at Walt Disney World, but with less atmosphere. There was however one added bonus. They have a shopping mall attached to the hotel. For the main part, this consists of high-end designer shops, but there is a Bath and Body Works shop in there. I had not been inside one of those since 2016. The prices were pretty fair, but there was nothing I liked. All the scents were too sweet for my liking. They used to have a great range of scents, but this seems to have changed. I am not sure if this is specific to Singapore or if this is the same in the USA. In any case, I did not spend any money.


    I walked back towards where I had left Graham and, on the way, I checked out what the best route back to the hotel was. It turned out that there was a bus route that got us back to the hotel with one change. The bus departed from outside one of the exits to the MRT station. We headed down there and looked for the exit. Every other exit was signposted, but not the one we wanted. We headed towards where it should have been according to the letters of the adjacent exits, but there was nothing there. We were ready to give up and headed towards the escalators down to the MRT platforms. Just before we got to the escalators, I spotted the right exit and we took to the buses instead. We did not have to wait long for a bus and the connecting bus arrived shortly after we got to the interchange bus stop as well. There was a bus stop right by our hotel, so this was nice and easy.

    When we got to the bus stop, we decided to head straight to dinner. We were both aware that if we went back to the room, we would not leave again. Our destination that evening was the Zion Road Food Centre, which is a hawker centre that is about a quarter of a mile away from the hotel we were staying at. This had been recommended by a local contact. Unfortunately, when we got there, this was closed. All hawker centres are periodically closed for deep cleaning and unfortunately that day, it was the Zion Road Food Centre’s turn. Fortunately, there are a bunch of restaurants in this area as well.

    We ended up at a place called Indochilli, which was an Indonesian restaurant. It was a little unusual. The furniture was very basic and of the kind you may have on your patio or balcony. The menu however came on iPads and that is how you ordered as well. The exception to this were the specials, which came on laminated paper. There were no alcoholic drinks on offer, but they had a really good range of soft drinks. I was particularly taken with their selection of cream sodas. Graham had a Pina Colada cream soda and I had a citrus cream soda. I went for something from the standard menu - Nasi Goreng with prawn crackers, fried egg, a carrot and cucumber salad with the most amazing dressing and the best chicken satay I have ever tasted. Graham went with one of the specials, which was a spicy mutton hot pot. Unfortunately, as this was not ordered the iPad, this had somehow fallen through the cracks. I had finished my food and he still had not got his food. He got it shortly afterwards and they also brought him some complimentary rice by way of saying sorry. Once he had finished his food, we paid and headed back to the hotel. We got ready for bed. Graham fell asleep straightaway. I read for a bit, but soon my eyes started to fall shut and I called it a day, too.


  • tiggrbaby

    <font color=deeppink><marquee>We must work harder
    Jun 26, 2004
    Those temples were stunning!

    Can you share a photo of your necklace? It sounds lovely!


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