Thongs and Wantons

This morning I packed my bags and checked into my second hotel in Singapore, ready to continue with my explorations – first stop – the Singapore Pinacoteque de Paris, a short walk away.

The Pinacoteque has only been open a few months and I was keen to check it out.  However, there was nothing really on in any of the rooms so basically all there was to visit was a small room on jewellery and carvings from different parts of Asia and a small room of paintings.  Most of the paintings weren’t to my taste and the only few that were, you couldn’t photograph in any case.  I wish I had saved myself the entrance fee as it really wasn’t worth it – in fact, for the little that was on display, they shouldn’t even be charging an entrance fee.

It was just as well that the museum was at Fort Canning because it meant I could have a little bit of a look around.  I hadn’t visited Fort Canning properly – the one time I made it here, was for a Motley Crue concert years ago (full face of makeup, humid weather, rock concert – never going to work well).

Fort Canning was known as Bukit Larangan (the Forbidden Hill) before the British arrived in the 19th century.  It was reserved for Malay royalty and banned to the general populace.  Once they had established Singapore as a trading settlement, the British renamed it Government Hill and Stamford Raffles had his home here, with a view to the harbour, which these days you cannot see.

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In the mid 19th century, the fort was built here – it was the first British built fort in Singapore – and the hill was renamed Fort Canning.  The fort consisted of barracks, officers’ quarters, two magazines (containers for holding supplies of gun cartridges) and a hospital.  The fort was demolished in 1907, never having been used.  However the grounds are a lovely place to walk around today.

Next stop was the National Museum just down the road from Fort Canning.  I should note here that there is a new museum shuttle bus that is free and does a route between the Pinacoteque, the National Museum and SAM (the Singapore Art Museum).  All you have to do is grab a sticker from the information/ticket counter at the first museum and you’re in.

It actually surprised me that I had never been here before – did I not realize it existed?  I’m not sure, but although it wasn’t on my list of things to do this time round, I couldn’t not go when I was right nearby.  Plus it’s a rainy day today, so perfect museum weather.

The museum has several different sections each with different exhibitions about the creation and growth of the little red dot known as Singapore.

It was interesting to see pictures and paintings of Singapore back in the early days before all the land reclaimation and glitzy malls.

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One of the parts of Singapore’s history that always fascinates me is that of it’s World War II days, when the island everyone thought was impregnable, was taken over by the Japanese and even renamed – Syonan, meaning “light of the south”.  It is frightening to think how close the war came to my own country and that such brutality (including to many of our own Australian soldiers) was taking place so close to home.

The museum building itself is a graceful old lady – beautiful colonial architecture with a simple, but stunning stained glass domed roof.  The building was originally the Raffles Library and Museum and was built in 1887, making it Singapore’s oldest museums.

The Singapore Art Museum is my favourite museum in Singapore, mainly because of it’s contemporary themes.  There are usually some offbeat but amazing works in here and I love to check it out whenever I can.

One of the most intriguing displays was this one below.  Walking into a small white room with a high ceiling, shimmery, glittery little squares greet you.  Look closer and inside each little pocket is a blood sample.

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There are some great themes that run through the current exhibitions…

…and some just really cool stuff (did you know the thong is considered the national footwear of Singapore?).

I was certainly museum’d out by the end of the day and looking forward to a good dinner.  My new hotel, Lloyd’s Inn is situated in Lloyd’s Road (a more residential area and quieter than being on Orchard Road) which runs off Killiney Road (which intersects with Orchard) and which plays host to a load of little restaurants with different cuisines.  It was difficult to narrow down the selection, but as I’m here for a few nights, I figure I can give a few of them a go.  So tonight I choose to go with The Chicken Rice Express restaurant, where for a ridiculous amount of money I ordered wanton noodle and a nice glass of lime juice, which came to my table very quickly.  Really nice tender meat and nicely flavoured noodles.  I found it hard to eat the wanton’s with the slippery chopsticks, but managed without splashing myself too much.  Yummy!

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