Beauty in Black: the LBD at the National Museum of Singapore

3/29/11

Every woman I know has a little black dress, or LBD, hanging from their closet. It's a wardrobe staple that has spared a lot of ladies from those irksome "I don't know what to wear" moments. It's not just stylish women who appreciate the value and importance of the iconic LBD. The National Museum of Singapore has taken note, too. 
 "With one black dress you're safe. 
With two, you have double-edged security."
-The Straits Times, 18 April 1965
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The National Museum of Singapore currently has 18 little black dresses on display as part of a special exhibition called "Beauty in Black." The dresses on display range from the 1950s to the 2000s and reflect a broad difference in styles, eras, and designers. On the walls of the exhibit are photographs of women from Singapore's past donning their own LBDs, as well as commentary on the importance of this timeless instant outfit. 
The "Beauty in Black" exhibition is free to the public at the National Museum of Singapore until June 13, 2011. It is located on the Balcony, Level 2. For more information, click here

Exploring Mount Faber and Henderson Waves

3/28/11

Mount Faber is a misnomer. They should have named it Mound Faber, because it really isn't much more than that. It used to be called Telok Blangah Hill until the man who cleared a road to the top of it decided he wanted the hill named after him. There is a merlion statue at the top, and a terraced area where you can walk around and take photos of the neighboring areas.
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Merlion, I love you this much.

Despite my disillusionment with what I thought would be a morning hike (this is the first time I've been on a hiking trail comprised of stairs and sidewalks), we had a pleasant morning here this past weekend. 
 A view from the top of Mount Faber towards Telok Blangah. It was a bit hazy the day we went.

The view of Singapore from Mount Faber is good on a clear day, and if you aren't afraid of heights you can ride the Jewel Box cable cars to Sentosa Island and back. There are a few restaurants at the top of Mount Faber, too. 
You can also access the Henderson Waves from Mount Faber. Henderson Waves is the tallest pedestrian bridge in Singapore and at night is beautifully illuminated with LED lights. It is part of a series of trails called the Southern Ridges which connects parks in the southern part of Singapore. We didn't see it at night, but the bridge is still pretty spectacular during the day. 
Henderson Waves, the coolest looking pedestrian bridge I've ever seen.

And here are some gratuitous dog photos I took later that day. 
Stan and Jeff taking a nap together. 
 Little Joe. He'd rather nap alone.

If you're interested in visiting Mount Faber and Henderson Waves, it can be done in less than a few hours. It will take you longer if you decide to continue your journey through the rest of the Southern Ridges. You can even take a cab all the way to the top of Mount Faber (and back to the bottom, if you don't feel like walking down stairs to get back down). Go on a clear day for a better view. Check out the Singapore Parks and Gardens page here for more information.

Shopping at Mustafa Centre

3/27/11

Eventually, everyone who comes to Singapore will find themselves getting lost in the retail labyrinth that is Mustafa Centre. It's a Singaporean institution that started off as a small, 900 square foot shop on Serangoon Road in 1973. Today, Mustafa Centre occupies a 150,000 square foot retail space at Serangoon Road and Syed Alwi Road. You can read more about the store's history here.
Don't expect to adhere to your shopping list when you come to Mustafa's. I always manage to come home with a handful of really random things I didn't anticipate buying whenever I come here. You can buy everything from groceries to DSLRs, saris to toilet seats, expensive watches to cheap school supplies. They have almost anything you could ever want (and tons of things you'd never want). 

Some products are really good name brands, while others are of questionable quality. You can also exchange currencies, book plane tickets, get a visa processed, and have a snack at their own cafe. It's all about the hunt at Mustafa's, which is why it can take hours to shop if you are just planning on wandering around. 

During my most recent trip, I decided to take photos of some of the stuff I saw. After a while my eyes glazed over and I stopped taking photos. This is just a small fraction of the stuff they have for sale. 
 An aisle of bangle bracelets.
 Hair accessories...right next to power strips. 
 So many beautiful saris. I think I want to get one for myself.
 Rows and rows of underwear...
 ...and rows and rows of calculators, too. I didn't know people still bought calculators.
 Tons of Singapore souvenirs, like these merlion chocolates...
 ...and merlion figurines in every color and size you could think of.
 Outfits like those of the Singapore Airlines flight attendants.
 Jesus or Mary nightlight, anyone?
 Singapore merlion handkerchiefs. I think I want to go back and get some of these.
 I was looking for a "no durian" sign but I could't find one. 

Mustafa Centre is open 24 hours, so the next time you're jet-lagged in Singapore you could wander the aisles and have them mostly to yourself. I recommend coming on a weekday morning when it's less crowded. On the weekends, the store is ridiculously packed since most people come on their day off.

Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple, Singapore

3/22/11

Every time I take the bus somewhere from our house, I pass by a sign pointing to The Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple in the Katong neighborhood off East Coast Road. The ziggurat-like roof of the temple always catches my eye as I drive by. I finally got a chance to check it out yesterday while wandering around with my friends notabilia and Singapore Noodle

The temple has a foundation stone dating to 1915, and inside is a mural depicting the temple's growth and construction over the years. It is a temple that was built by Sri Lankan immigrants who settled in the Eastern part of Singapore. Some members of this community owned cattle farms in the area. As far as I know, there are no more farms in the Katong area, but the temple still stands and was actually renovated a few years ago. The Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple is the second oldest Hindu temple in all of Singapore. You can read more about the history of the temple here
Beautiful carvings such as these can be found inside and outside the temple.
Foundation stones in a wall of the temple; this one dating back to 1915 is the oldest.
More beautiful carvings. According to this infopedia page from Singapore's National Library, 27 artisans were flown in from India to work on these carvings which were part of the temple's most recent renovation. 
This elaborate mural is on the ceiling.
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Photo taking looking upwards at the terraced roof of the temple. Absolutely beautiful! 

The Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple is at 19 Ceylon Road, just off East Coast Road in case you want to have a look. You can also take a virtual tour at the temple's website

Putu piring

3/21/11

Ladies at the putu piring stall
Making putu piring
The putu piring is steamed in these cones to give the cake its shape
Left: putu piring, Right: cross-eyed cat that joined us for breakfast

In a corner of the S11 Food Center on Geylang Road is a small food stall selling putu piring, a traditional Malay pastry. Putu piring is a small cake made of tapioca flour, which is filled with palm sugar and steamed in a special cone-shaped container to form a round little cake. It is served with banana leaf and shaved coconut. Putu piring has a soft, fluffy texture and tastes like brown sugar. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

For S$1 you can get three of these cakes bundled in a brown piece of paper. They make for a delicious late breakfast (the food stall opens at 11 am), although they would make for a great snack anytime of the day. Watching the ladies make these quickly as you order them is pretty neat, too. 

Men's Fashion Week 2011 Singapore

3/18/11

Let's be honest, Singapore isn't a name that comes to mind when talking about fashion. There's a lot of shopping to be had, but that's not the same as being a fashionable city like Paris or New York. Singapore hopes to put itself on the map and gain sartorial credibility as being the first Asian city to host a men's fashion week. After Paris and Milan, Men's Fashion Week 2011 Singapore will be only the third men's fashion event in the world. 


From March 30 to April 3, over 30 designers will debut their latest collections at the Marina Bay Sands, part of which will be transformed into a fashion runway. While a few of the designers are better-known European labels like Canali and Hugo Boss, MFW is placing a heavy emphasis on Asian designers and labels. A handful of Singapore's own designers and labels will debut fashion collections at MFW. 

"We can still make fashion exclusive, but never to exclude," said Frank Cintamani, Chairman of MFW 2011. In an effort to make MFW accessible to anyone who wants to attend a fashion show, tickets are available for S$40 per person from Sistic or at the Marina Bay Sands ticket counter. A schedule of events can be found here

Also bringing fashion to the public are three fashion installations currently on display at MBS highlighting some of the designs that will be seen on the runway as well as by labels found in The Shoppes at MBS. These installations can be viewed free of charge until April 23.
I got a chance to preview the designs of some of the Asian designers scheduled to debut at MFW this year and it was pretty exciting. Don't worry, this isn't going to become a fashion blog. I just thought I'd share with you a cool event that's come to the Little Red Dot. If you're interested in fashion or just want a peek into the fashion world, I encourage you to get tickets to a show. 

I hope something like this encourages people here to step it up, sartorially speaking. Enough with the Crocs, people! 

Singapore Biennale 2011 Open House at Old Kallang Airport

3/14/11

While Jeff stayed home on Saturday afternoon to make beer, I went to the official opening of the Singapore Biennale 2011 Open House with notabilia. The event was held at the Old Kallang Airport. The airport has been closed to the public for decades now, and they recently opened it up for the Biennale. Did you know Old Airport Road is actually the old runway? 

Despite all the art on display, the good live music, and the constant flow of red wine and greasy finger foods, the belle of the ball was the airport herself (Amelia Earhart once flew through here). We wandered off from the crowd to explore the abandoned buildings and hangars and to brainstorm all the possible ways Singapore could preserve this historic structure without turning it into another mall. Like other old buildings I've explored in Singapore, I couldn't help but feel a sense of hopelessness as I walked around. Development moves like quicksand on this island; who knows how long these buildings will remain? 
Another thing that made the night really special was being handed sparklers and prayer lanterns by a group of art students creating their own art installation. It was spontaneous and made us feel truly welcomed at this event. 
I can't guarantee your trip to the airport for the Singapore Biennale 2011 will be as magical as ours was, but I think you should check it out anyway and see all the art for yourself. The event runs until May 15, 2011 at various venues around Singapore. 

German Girl Shrine at Pulau Ubin

3/8/11

When we first moved to Singapore, we started compiling a bucket list of places to see and things to do. I don't remember exactly how the German Girl Shrine ended up on our list, but while we were at Pulau Ubin this past weekend, I wanted to check it out. 

The details of the German Girl, her shrine, and why some people worship her are all a bit obscure, but what little information exists is rather interesting. From what I've read online, she was the daughter of a coffee plantation manager who lived on Pulau Ubin. Sometime after World War I, something happened involving her parents and British soldiers; she was frightened and ran away (what she was running from is where the stories differ). In her attempt to escape, she fell off a cliff to her death. Her body was discovered by workers and eventually given a proper burial. I'm not sure why or how she became a deity, but she has many devotees who visit her temple regularly. 

To find the shrine, first follow the signs to the Ketam Mountain Bike Park. This park has gravel and dirt trails labeled by difficulty similar to ski parks, but you won't have to ride on any real trails to find the shrine. On your way there, you'll get to a fork in the road. At the fork you'll see this sign on the left, in the shrubs: 
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Keep heading in the direction of the park; by now you should be on a gravel trail. You'll eventually see the back side of a yellow structure on the left. Turn left towards it, this is the shrine. As you approach the front of it from the trail, it looks like this:
There is no further signage directing you to the German Girl Shrine once you past the first yellow one above, so look out for the small yellow temple. 
This is the front of the temple from the outside. 
This is the temple from the inside. Sadly, it's quite dirty and dusty inside. 
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The figure at the altar is actually a Barbie doll. Behind it is an urn. 
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Lots of feminine offerings have been left on the altar for the German Girl. I saw makeup, perfumed water, toys, nail polish, headbands and hair clips, little purses, and jewelry.
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Articles about the German Girl are posted on the walls of the temple. If you want to read this article, it has been posted here.

A lot of visitors come to the shrine to leave offerings and ask for prayers to be answered, while others come out of curiosity. Either way, the German Girl Shrine is a unique piece of history at Pulau Ubin.  
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