HAL 2019 World – Day 60 Singapore Day 2

March 24, 2019 Paul Groves

Today Ron and Paul took different tours.  Ron’s excursion today was called “Around The Island” and Paul’s was called “Mysteries of the Orient”.

Ron’s tour started off with a visit to the Tiong Bahru Wet Market to view the local vegetable and meat available in Singapore.  He had seen wet markets in other cities and saw nothing unique except for what looked like a couple of stalls of toys.  On closer examination they turned out to be cardboard or paper replicas of real products made to be burned at an ancestor’s grave due to a folk belief in China that if you burn these, the deceased will receive them and benefit from them for a happy afterlife.  The practice is often seen on the annual tomb-sweeping day in early April known as Quingming Festival.

The second floor of the market contained a large food court.  Ron thought the names of two of the foods being offered were interesting.

After he left the market he traveled to to north side of the island to see Kranji Dam area which is another of the huge water reservoirs in Singapore.

A short distance from the dam is the WWII Kranji War Memorial & Cemetery.  The building was designed to honor the different branches of the Armed services.  The columns honors the Army.  The roof in the shape of a wing honors the Air Force.  Lastly the structure sitting atop the roof resembling a submarine’s conning tower honors the Navy.

The War Cemetery is the final resting place for 4,458 Allied servicemen of the British crown in marked graves laid out in rows. Over 850 of these graves are unidentified.  Inscribed on the walls of the memorial are over 24,000 names of allied personnel whose bodies were never found.

What appears to be a large cross in front of the Memorial is in fact a sword indicating the military nature of the cemetery as it honors soldiers of all faiths who died in the defense of Singapore.

It’s interesting to note that from the cemetery you can look across the Straits of Johore and see the small tower amongst the skyscrapers in Malaysia that was once the headquarters of Japanese general Yamashita who directed the attack on Singapore and later received its surrender.

Later Ron visited the Johore Gun Battery site on Singapore’s eastern coast in Changi (home to the infamous prisoner of war camp) whose “monster” guns were built to prevent invasion by Japan.  Unfortunately the guns were very inefficient and never really caused any damage to attacking forces.  The originals were destroyed by the British at the fall of Singapore, this is just a replica.

Lastly Ron visited what may be the largest Buddhist Temple complex in the world “Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery”.  Multiple temples comprise the complex each with a different manifestation of the Buddha.  Many of the buildings were very beautifully ornamented.  He also saw the workers setting up tables for the annual tomb-sweeping day on April 5th known as Quingming Festival for ancestors without a local tomb.

The ancestor’s name is written on a paper and posted on a table.  A makeshift altar is then added to the table, incense is burned, and the ceremonial rituals are performed there.  This is just one hall of many being readied for the festival.

Ron spent about 45 minutes at the temple and then returned to the ship.

Paul’s excursion was a lesson in Feng Shui and how it applies to buildings in Singapore.  We heard about the five elements and how shapes of buildings represent these elements… tall for wood, short for earth, pointy for fire, round for metal, and wavy for water.  Our first visit was to the financial center where the buildings represent the five elements and form a hand to draw in and hold the wealth for Singapore.

Four tall buildings (wood) form the fingers, a smaller building (earth) is the thumb.  Fire is represented by the pointed tops on the convention center.  The gold ring-shaped fountain represents metal and the water element is in the fountain.  Water also represents money.  The fountain is even called the Fountain of Wealth.

Below the ground level, you can enter the fountain through a mall and perform a luck-building exercise.  Walking three times in a clockwise direction, you hold your hand in the fountain’s waters and make a silent wish.  I wished for good health.

The number 13 is an auspicious number for the Chinese and is represented in this hotel building in the arrangement of the windows as well as the 13 rows of windows on the building.

Our final stop was to the largest bank (UOB) in Singapore where Feng Shui principles were also in play.  Located along the river, the water represented money.  The open spaces and large lobbies of the buildings represented ambition and stability.  Across from the bank’s main entrance was an enormous gold coin.  The sculptures of a bird and Salvador Dali’s Isaac Newton meant that even though the bank was in business about money, it also valued heart and nature.  Equilibrium between the elements was an important part of Feng Shui.

All in all, it was an interesting tour and gave insight into this culture.