Fort Canning Park

11/28/10

I forget that so many of Singapore's landmarks and places of interest are located so closely together. A very short walk from the Peranakan Museum is Fort Canning Park. The park is cool and covered in shade, making it a perfect respite from the beating sun and hot sidewalks. It's a small and quiet park, but it has so much history. This is the blurb about Fort Canning Park from Singapore's National Parks website: 

Steeped in history, Fort Canning Hill was once known as "Forbidden Hill". This is because Malays in the 19th century believed that it was the seat of royalty for rulers of Temasek (or "Sea Town", an old name for Singapore) in the 1300s. Later, Singapore's colonial leaders made their residences there, and the hill became a military base during the Second World War. Today, ancient relics dating back to the 14th century have been unearthed and the Fort Gate, remnant of the fortress built in the 1860s, is a reminder of Singapore's colonial past.

I was here with notabilia and although we covered a lot of ground, I am pretty sure there is a lot left to explore. Maybe the next time I'm nearby I'll take another stroll through the park and see what I missed.

Peranakan Museum

11/25/10

I took a trip to the Paranakan Museum earlier this week with fellow blogger notabilia to learn more about the Peranakans and their place in Singapore's history. Peranakans are people in Southeast Asia with mixed ethnic origins. Their ancestors were immigrants and traders who moved through Southeast Asia and eventually settled here. The largest group are the Peranakan Chinese, but there are also other ethnic groups such as Indian Hindu Peranakans (known as Chitty), Indian Muslim Peranakans (known as Jawi Pekan), and Eurasian Peranakans (known as Kristang; Kristang means Christian). 
A photo of the gate to the museum
This is a traditional blouse worn by Peranakan women, called a kebaya. They are pinned closed with brooches and worn with a skirt called a sarong. This one has a non-traditional pattern of bulls, matadors and flamenco dancers on it. East meets West.
Traditional porcelain vessels called kamcheng. This type of china is called Nonyaware.
 Fu Lu Shou, representing good fortune, prosperity and longevity.

Also currently on display at the Peranakan Museum is an exhibit called Ramayana Revisited: A Tale of Love and Adventure. The Ramayana is an epic poem from India about Rama, a prince, and his quest to save his wife Sita with help from an army of monkeys. The exhibit shows how the story is depicted using puppets, paintings and other objects from throughout Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, none of my photos turned out well because the exhibit was very dimly lit. I guess that means you'll have to check it out for yourself. 

Line dancing. At the mall.

11/21/10

The other day I went to Funan DigitaLife Mall to pick up a new webcam. Funan is like a huge tech mall, with stores carrying all sorts of electronics, gadgets, and more. For my friends and family back in the US, imagine if Fry's Electronics broke itself up into a bunch of stores and turned into a mall. An eight story mall! I enjoy geeking out here from time to time. 

But anyway, this information is not the reason for my post. This is:

At first I thought these folks were doing a sort of flashmob. Then I realized they were way more serious about dancing than that. There was no obvious leader or instructor. Most of the people had proper dance shoes. Everyone knew different dances, and knew which ones to do for each song that came on. Notice the lady that walks into the shot at around the 30 second mark. She has the dance memorized.

I was sort of caught off guard because they were dancing to country music in the center of this enormous tech mall. But what really caught my attention was the Western attire of a few of the dancers. Down to the eagle shirts and American flag bandannas tied around their necks. 
 Check out those people with the cowboy hats. They mean business. They even have huge belt buckles and cowboy boots. Yee haw!
Okay, this guy stole the show. He was so into his line dancing, and his outfit was straight out of the Southwest. You could definitely tell this wasn't his first rodeo (yeah sorry, that was cheesy).
Kinda makes me want to participate in an actual flashmob now. 

Lame duck.

11/19/10

Stanley had to say goodbye to his good friend Quackers N. Cheese this week. They played a little too rough and as a result, Stan is now without a squeaky toy to annoy the neighbors with. We have a basket of tennis balls for him courtesy of bad tennis players in the neighboring apartment complex, but Stan prefers his toys to squeal in agony when he's playing with them. 

The next time I go home to the US, I'm coming back with a bag full of squeaky toys for him to destroy at his leisure. I'm sure our neighbors will be thrilled. 
Little Joe, on the other hand, would rather sleep all day. Every once in a while he gets into it with Stanley, but then he remembers he's not the young pup he once was and goes back to his corner of the living room. 

Hope everyone has a great weekend! 

I finally learned to ice skate!

11/15/10

Well, I finally did it. I finally learned how to ice skate. In Singapore, of all places. 

I had never been ice skating in my life. With all the talk around here about hockey and ice skating, you'd think I would be really good at it by now. The first time Jeff asked me out on a date (I think we were 13), it was to go ice skating. I couldn't go because my sister had a dance recital that day. I've always been scared to try it. Something about falling on a cold, wet surface never seemed really appealing to me. 

When Jeff asked me to marry him a few years ago, he said he wouldn't marry me unless I went ice skating with him. I guess I kept him distracted long enough to get married without meeting that condition, but ever since he has constantly bugged me to go ice skating. So finally last week I caved. And I didn't fall! Jeff said I did pretty well for never having skated before in my entire life. 

By the way, the pro shop I mentioned in the post about hockey in Singapore has now closed. I guess I have to look elsewhere for my own pair of hockey skates. Shipping a pair over from the States would cost US$60! 

Binh Tay Market

11/14/10

I love markets like Binh Tay Market in the Chinatown area of HCMC. You can buy everything you need (amd don't need) here. It is a colorful and busy place. It sort of reminded me of the flea markets back in San Jose, only this market is indoors.
Vendors say a prayer for good business and light incense at an altar in the middle of the market. The bust is of the man who built the market, Quách Đàm. 
The main entrance.
This is a shot looking towards the street from the main entrance. Scooters and motorcycles are everywhere.
Peace out!

Hair today, gone tomorrow

One of the things I read I should do while in Ho Chi Minh City is to get a hair cut. There are lots of places to get your hair done, a massage, or manicure and pedicure, and it's all done on the cheap. I got a hair cut, color and blow out for next to nothing while I was here (I needed a hair cut so badly). Jeff got a massage while he waited for me. 
This is what the entrance at street level looks like for the Sai Gon Spa. It's a little dive-y, but the staff is really good. The guy that cut my hair has been doing it for 20 years. I think it's on the third or fourth floor of this building. In case you were wondering about the scooters, lots of businesses have room on the ground floor for people to park their scooters and motorcycles.

A girl on the street handed me a flyer for their salon's services and I couldn't resist. You could get a manicure and pedicure here for $10! Sadly, I did not have time to indulge in this service. I just got my hair done.
Me and my new 'do. See that rain behind me? I did not have an umbrella when I left the salon. I had the newspaper that I grabbed from the hotel on our way out. Newspapers are not waterproof. I think you all know how this ended.

At least my split ends are gone. 

How to take a nap in Vietnam. Plus, a video!

11/13/10

We were impressed to see this guy completely out on a busy street in HCMC. The business next door was receiving a large delivery, cars and scooters were honking away as they drove down the street, and there were lots of pedestrians passing him on the sidewalk. I wish I could nap like this!

Here's a video Jeff took of traffic outside of Ben Thanh Market, to give you an idea of what traffic in HCMC is like and what crossing the street is like. The locals say that some tourists "dance" with traffic because they jump off the curb and back on, hesitating to cross the street. You just have to take a leap of faith, as Jeff likes to call it. 

Thien Hau Temple

11/12/10

This is the entrance to Thien Hau Temple in Chinatown, Ho Chi Minh City. Chinatown is also referred to as Cholon. See those two huge yellow lanterns on either side of the entrance gate? They are placed there by temple-goers who pay a large donation. The donor's prayers and name are written on the lanterns and these remain hanging until the next large donation is made. They were the biggest lanterns I've ever seen. 
Jeff lit some incense and said a prayer. I did, too.
 These strips are along the walls of the temple and have the names of people who have made donations. 
Paper money to be burned as an offering. 
These coils of incense hang from the rafters of the temple. The little red slips of paper have prayers written on them. For a small donation, you can have your prayer hung on a coil of incense (we did this while we were here).

The sounds of the busy street in front of the temple seemed to disappear when we were inside. I'm sure they were still audible; Vietnamese people honk the horns on their cars and scooters all day long! But the temple was serene and calm inside. There were a few tourists, but it was mostly full of locals. 

Bến Thành Market. And weasel coffee.

11/11/10

Bến Thành Market is a popular tourist attraction in Ho Chi Minh City, but it also sells items for the locals. It is the largest market in Saigon. There are so many vendors here; the market is like a huge maze. Aisles are small in some areas, and it's usually crowded. There's a map of vendors at one of the main gates in case you are looking for a specific stall or are looking for a particular item. All vendors selling similar items can be found grouped in the same general vicinity. Ready, set, shop!

You can find souvenirs, decorative items, jewelry, art work, fabric, clothing, and so much more. Did you forget something on your trip to HCMC? You could probably find it here, and reasonably priced too. There is an area near the center of the market with food vendors selling meals and drinks as well as fresh produce and groceries, and a wet market outside.
That Tintin print that Jeff is holding came home with us. 
I used to watch Les Aventures de Tintin as a kid!
A kilo of weasel coffee came home with us, too. What's weasel coffee, you might ask? Let me tell you.

Gross alert: Weasel coffee comes from coffee berries that have been eaten by weasels, or civets. They poop the beans out, which are then thoroughly cleaned, dried and roasted like normal coffee beans. The acids in the civets' stomachs eliminate much of the acidity of the coffee beans. Apparently weasel coffee is really expensive and sought after (it wasn't that expensive, actually). 

So, who wants to come over for coffee?

Anyone?!

Saigon Notre Dame Basilica

11/10/10

One of the first places we checked out was the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica in Ho Chi Minh City. All the materials used for its construction came from France. The bricks came from Marseille. It isn't as elaborate as some of the other cathedrals I've been to, but it's still a beautiful building. In case you want to go to church while in HCMC, there is an international mass held every Sunday at 9 am. 
As we approached the cathedral, we noticed quite a few wedding couples being photographed. I thought it was a busy day for the cathedral, but in reality all these couples were taking wedding photos prior to their wedding date, as is customary. The superstition of not having the bride and groom see each other in their wedding attire until the bride walks down the aisle does not apply in Vietnam. 

These couples have photos taken of themselves in traditional wedding clothes so that these can be printed and displayed prior to their actual wedding date. Our guide said that the dresses the brides were wearing were probably rented or borrowed; sometimes brides in Vietnam wear many "wedding dresses" for their weddings, including the traditional ao dai.
Notice the groom standing on a box! The photographers covered it with the bride's dress.
Of all the couples being photographed that day, this couple was my favorite. They posed with a vintage motorbike and she was wearing a white sun dress and yellow heels. They looked like they were having the most fun, too.
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