Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Last Weekend in Singapore

A Lovely New "Old" Hotel and The Spectacular New Singapore Art Museum

With my time in Singapore quickly drawing to a close I had to make my last choices of places to visit. 

First things first, I relocated to the Hotel Vagabond. 

Officially opened in January this little confection has suddenly risen to become TripAdvisor's #2 rated hotel (it was #3 at the time of my booking). This ranking is pretty impressive when viewed from the perspective that this little boutique competes with Singapore's dazzling array of world class hotel chains (with names like Mandarin, Shangri-la, the Four Seasons and Raffles).

I found the hotel to be perfectly wedged between Little India and Kampong Glam.

It provides insight filled little walking maps, an in-room nespresso even a leather clad Roberts radio that easily bluetoothed to my I-Phone. 

It is also the first hotel I've experienced that provides guests with complimentary smartphones (offering data, maps and free locals calls). I was very impressed by how thoughtful (and useful) that was.

 The Hotel Vagabond

 Topiary Pups Greet You

 The Life Size Golden Lobby Elephant

The Free SmartPhone

 Rooms Are Cozy And Filled With Photos and Art

So my first evening I grabbed my little cell buddy and walking map and dove into the sights, sounds and smells that define Little India. I found a district so full of life and energy that it simply overwhelmed my senses. And, of course, I made the obligatory stop at the blocks long multi-story (plus basement), open 24-hours-a-day, Mustafa Centre. This is Singapore's mega store offering anything you could ever want (from gold to sporting goods).

The next day I opted to visit Singapore's majestic new National Gallery. On the way I walked past a nearby Mosque. 

Malabar Muslim Jama'ath Mosque

My little walking map noted that behind the mosque I'd find an abandoned Muslim cemetery and the ritual space where the recently deceased are washed before burial. That was far too interesting to bypass, so I walked around the Mosque and sure enough there was a cleansed body in full drape. 

The washing must be done an odd number of times. And after the body is thoroughly clean it is rinsed, anointed and draped. Only after washing and draping may the corpse be buried. In contrast to western traditions where we hire out funerary preparation while distancing ourselves from the dead, I found this ritual to be the ultimate sign of love and respect to a loved one.

Ritual Body Cleansing Area Behind The Mosque

And then as I walked on further, right in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in the world, there was indeed a major abandoned cemetery.

  A View Into the Abandoned Muslim Cemetery

From here I walked through some shopping malls in search of gifts ultimately arriving at the National Gallery. 

First off, this is truly a world class gallery in every sense. Opened in November 2015 it was created by combining two of Singapore's finest and historic buildings (the former Singapore Supreme Courts and City Hall) into a single new gallery venue. The resulting space is inspiring.

The section formed between the two building forms an atria / performance space with pedestrian bridges flying above that connect the two buildings on the second and third floor. 
Another wonderful feature is its rooftop garden and a viewing deck. The deck offers (IMHO) Singapore's very best view over the its legendary Padang (Malay for "Fields") cricket grounds.

The new national gallery emphasizes important art from throughout SE Asia. The collection, the meticulously restored buildings, the viewing deck and the superb quality of the new highly sustainable design for the expansion was exceptional. 

Details: There is a admission charged to non-residents who wish to visit the galleries. However, if you do not enter the galleries, the building complex itself may be explored free of admission.

 Galleries Created From Former Courtrooms

I noted that gallery spaces were carefully created by building new exhibit partitions just in front of original courtroom paneling to completely preserve intact all of the buildings original fine wood working.

Dawn On A Farm 1958
Nguyen Duc Nung - Vietnam

Forest Fire 1849
Raden Saleh - Indonesia

This painting was an enormous and richly detailed oil on canvas. I had to get a close-up of the skill in which the tiger's terror is captured as all of the animals have been forced by a fire to edge of a cliff. 
To Me The Desperation of the Tiger 
Evoked Direct Comparison to the Tiger in The Life of Pi  

 Rooftop View Over The Padang

The Padang was created under direct instructions to create an open public space from Sir Thomas Raffles in 1819.

Rooftop Reflection Pools Have Been Created as Skylight Lids Over 
Original the City Hall's Original Courtyards 

 The New Central Atria Creates a Performance Space With Bright Acoustics

After my day at the Gallery the sun was starting to wane so I completed my walk through a shopping center to look for gifts. Then I crossed the street to view the CHIJMES entertainment and dining complex (built by re-purposing the (circa 1842) Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus) and sidetrack through Raffle's Hotel so I could peer into its famous Long Bar where they invented the wickedly strong "Singapore Sling" cocktail

I passed on buying one due to its wickedly strong price ($38 SD).  

The final stretch back to the hotel included a wonderful detour through Singapore's Kampong Glam (Malay Muslim) district. I window shopped on Haji Road. That included a chance photo op of Dwight Yorke from Man U. 

 Fan Moment with Dwight Yorke

I double back on Arab Street and took a quick photo of Kampong Glam's beautiful Golden Mosque. 

 The Golden Mosque

 Kampong Glam is Filled With Unique Shops and Restaurants

My last stop was the dinner at a Halal Taqueria called Afterwit. I ordered a (I am not making this up) a beef biryani curry burrito. 

While no one would ever accuse it of being anything remotely Mexican (except in name -I live in Arizona - I know) It was quite tasty. 

True Singapore fusion!

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

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