Happy Birthday Singapore! and Farewell!


Happy Birthday Singapore!








Singapore's Golden Jubilee



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Happy National Day!



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Today, August 9th, marks Singapore’s 50th Birthday as a nation, and Singaporeans are celebrating BIG!!  The president declared August 7 a public holiday making it a four-day weekend. All over the city there are red and white decorations, carnivals, concerts, fireworks, special T-shirts, even a sardine can with a wish! 

I wanted to share a few of the photos I captured over the last few days of the celebrations....






We went to the practice sessions for the air show. 

The highlight was the formation of 20 planes in the shape of a "50".



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A little history on Singapore...


On 9 August 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign state.



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In less than 50 years, this small country went from third-world to first, and has become one of the richest nations in the world.  Amazingly, 1 in 6 Singaporeans are millionaires and 90 percent own their own home.



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Much of Singapore’s success can be attributed its first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who just passed away in March of this year.   So sad he did not live to see the 50th celebration.


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Mr Lee made a promise to Singaporeans, he said: "We are going to be a multi-racial nation in Singapore. We will set an example. This is not a Malay nation; this is not a Chinese nation; this is not an Indian nation. Everyone will have his place, equal: language, culture, religion."  Singapore truly is a multi-racial country.






I posted these facts about Singapore on the blog when we first moved here and thought it would be fun to share again – with a few comments (in red) after living here for almost four years.



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1)  Singapore is a city and a country.  It is made up of one main island and 63 small islands (most are uninhabited).



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2)  The country is 240 sq miles.  Slightly smaller than New York City, over five million people live here.  Apart from Monaco, it is the most densely populated country in the world.



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3)  It is a very prosperous country with only 2% unemployment. 



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4)  It is 85 miles north of the Equator - this means it is hot hot hot. 

I confirm.... it is HOT.  It took me over two years to adjust, but I did!



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5)  It has a tropical rain forest climate with no distinct season.  It rains almost everyday.  The temperatures ranges from 83 to 90 degrees with the average humidity around 84% - which means hot hot hot. 

This is true, it does rain almost every day around 3:00.






6)  English is one of the four official languages along with Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.  English is also considered the first language. 

It is very easy to live in Singapore as most people do speak English.  The sign below is in Bahasa.  Majulah Singapura means "Onward Singapore" which was later adopted as their national anthem. 





The "little" red dot on the back of the bus was one of the themes for the 50th celebration.  The logo celebrates the Singaporean spirit – signifying that their dreams are not limited by the physical size of the "little" island nation.


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7)  There is a 12-hour time difference between Singapore and the US.  They do not practice daylight savings so it is 13 hours in the winter.






8)  They drive on the right hand side (opposite of the US!).  All cars must be  less than 10 years old and are removed or destroyed when they reach 10 years. 

But even more interesting  -  you need to buy a coupon to drive a car in Singapore - they auction for around $70,000.  This does NOT include the price of the car or insurance.  The coupon also has a 10-year expiration.






Last night we went to see the Super-Tree 50th celebration light show at Gardens By The Bay.  It was so pretty.






9)  It is one of the cleanest cities in the world and you can be arrested for spitting, littering, or chewing gum!



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10)  The crime rate is super low - making it one of the safest cities in the world. 

True.  I see woman leave their purses on the hawker stand tables to secure the table while they go to buy their food.  And the sign below is real... I am not sure if it was a child cheating on a test, a man cheating in checkers, or a man cheating on his wife... but cheating is a crime!





11)  Singapore is a foodie's dream.  It has been referred to as the food capital of the world with a mix of so many cultures and cuisines {yeah}. 

This is so true and part of what we have come to LOVE about Singapore.  We have a list a mile long of favorite foods we have come to love here but on the top are:

Roti prata - an Indian inspired round pancake, often eaten with mutton or fish curry. 






and XLBs (xou long bao) soup dumplings - little pillow of heaven.  You bite into it and the soup bursts into your mouth.



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12)  It has one of the best health care systems in the world and the best water. 

The doctors are excellent here.  You can get an appointment fast with top-rated doctors and the doctors spend quality time with you.  They seem to really want to get to know you and help you.  We will miss this.





13)  It is one of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live.  Our basic 3-bedroom apartment sells for $2.5million USD.  Our friend's embassy-provided apartment sells for $6million USD.  


From a 2015 report - Singapore is the world's most expensive city, according to an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.  It comes in ahead of Paris, Oslo, Zurich and London.




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14)  They say Christmas is spectacular - guess I will be able to confirm this!

Confirmed!  The decorations are more spectacular than in the US.  A bit unusual given most Singaporeans do not celebrate Christmas!  The photo below was from last night at Garden's By The Bay.






15)  Did I mention Singapore is hot hot hot   :  )  YES YES YES. 

But there is something to be said about having a wardrobe you can wear 365 days a year and NEVER having to stop and think... do I need to carry a coat today?!  





Farewell Singapore....

When we board that plane on Thursday to head back to the United States I will cry.  Thank you Singapore!  We have come to love this wonderful island that we have called home for the last four years.  We have a made so many wonderful friends - Singaporeans, expats from other countries, and some folks from our own backyard at the US embassy!  We will miss all of you and we hope that our paths will one day cross again. 

Until we meet again.....





Singapore with Erin!




To get a great view in Singapore you have to pay a lot to go to the top of Marina Bay Sands (above).  But we know the secret view where you go on top of an HDB (public housing). 


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Erin was very interested in all of the cargo ships.  Singapore is the world's second-busiest port in terms of total shipping tonnage and it is the world's busiest transshipment port (to transfer or be transferred from one vessel or vehicle to another).    



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Erin was anxious to taste the popular sweets in Singapore...



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... so we got her ice kachang, Singapore's “beloved dessert” with red beans, corn, durian, and a variety of other unusual items on shaved ice.  Or just a normal topping like fresh mangoes!



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Another popular Singapore treat - ice cream sandwiches made with real bread.  They are sold on the street corner, usually by seniors. 



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The ice cream comes in blocks and are sliced in front of you then served between  a slice of soft mufti-colored bread.  They come in interesting flavors like sweet corn, red bean, durian, yam, peppermint, chocolate, coffee, chocolate chip, and my favorite - mango.



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Below is the Sultan Mosque, Singapore's largest mosque.  The mosque was built in 1824 for Sultan Hussian Shah, the first sultan of Singapore.  It is in the Kampong Glam neighborhood (fun funky area).



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Always a favorite to show visitors, the interactive street murals by artist Ernest Zacharevic.



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 Little India

 I love little India as it is one of the untouched old areas in Singapore.  You really feel like you are in India.  Erin was lucky as it was Diwali or Deepavali (festival of lights) while she was here.


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Deepavali is one of the most important religious festivals for Hindus.  During this celebration, Little India bursts with bright colors and busy stalls selling food and specialty items.



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They also decorate the streets with beautiful lights and have fireworks.



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Several rituals are part of the festival: Families dress in traditional and richly-colored clothes and head to the temple for prayers. And many homes light small, oil-filled clay lamps and decorate their doors with fresh mango leaves  to welcome the goddess of power, wealth and knowledge Lakshmi.



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Chinatown is another of my favorite places to visit in Singapore.  It is a bit more touristy then little India, but still fun.


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The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a four-story Buddhist temple and museum.  It is fairly new, built in 2005. 





The temple is based on the Tang dynasty architectural style and built to house the tooth relic of the historical Buddha.






On the third floor there is a giant prayer wheel.  You take hold of the wheel and walk around. When you hear the bell ring... it means your prayer has been answered.






There are said to be 10,000 Buddha statues in the museum.



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Erin took a little break to have a pedicure!



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Singapore at night!

Singapore is such a beautiful city and it is particularly pretty at night.



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The 13 minute Marina Bay Sands light show is free, and happens every night.



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Erin's shirt matches the colorful reflection on the water in the photo below.



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Since Erin is our artsy girl... we had to take her to a few of our favorite wacky places in Singapore - like Har Par Villa.  I am not sure how to even describe this place. 



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The park, originally called Tiger Balm Gardens, was built in 1937 by the developers of Tiger Balm, as a venue for teaching traditional Chinese values.



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It has over 100 statues that tell moral stories on how people should behave.  I would NOT take a small child there as many are very bloody and gruesome.





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But some are quite beautiful.



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And Erin had read about an old cemetery called Buket Brown.  We were not familiar with it, but learned that at one time it housed 100,000 tombs, but has been abandoned since its closure in 1973. 




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The oldest grave in Bukit Brown cemetery is from 1833.


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Unfortunately a new road is being built on the property and some 5000 graves have had to be moved.



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It is an interesting place to visit with a jungle feel.  If you go be sure to use bug spray!



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We are so happy Erin was able to come and visit us and explore Singapore and Vietnam. 

We had an awesome time with her!


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Hello Singapore!



May, 2014


It was fun showing Tammy Singapore.  It makes me realize I show so many other countries and so little of my own adopted home. 

First stop, one of my favorite places in Singapore, the Orchid Garden in the Botanical Garden.  They say you can see over 60,000 orchid plants consisting of 400 different species.  It is a photographer's dream.







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Flower colllage


The Colors of Little India

Singapore is unique in that there are so many ethnic neighborhoods to visit.  It is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and British cultures.  Little India dates back to the 1800's and is one of the most culturally authentic districts.



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The Tekka Center has a large food market on the lower level and on the 2nd floor shops sell traditional Indian costumes and clothing.  This is the view from the 2nd floor looking onto the fish section. 



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 Classic - shopping with no shirt... welcome to Asia!



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There are so many wonderful Indian restaurants here, mainly serving southern Indian food.   We took Tammy to one of our favorites and ordered the cone shaped dosa (pancake made from rice batter and black lentils) - a crowd pleaser, especially for kids!



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We visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, a Tang-Styled Chinese Buddhist Temple in the heart of Chinatown.  It houses what the Buddhists regard as the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic composed of 320 kg (over 700 pounds) of gold donated by devotees.




Tammy turning the prayer wheel.  The Buddhist prayer wheel (mani) should be turned clockwise and it circles with you as you recite mantras or prayers.  Many Buddhist will do this several times a day.



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Arab Street


During the 1820s, Arab Street was a bustling trade center with businesses ranging from textiles, to spices.  Today, it still is a Muslim district but everyone from all walks of life gathers here to indulge in Arab Street's rich culture, especially to savor the ethnic cuisine.  It is also fun to shop at the stores selling Arab goods (Qurans, prayer mats, purses, clothes, scarves, and more).   It is also known as a great place to buy fabric.



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Street art



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We took Tammy to visit a bit of local history in Singapore - the Ho Tit Coffee Powder Factory where they still roast their coffee beans using the old method.


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They have been roasting coffee beans here for over 60 years and the machine is over 100 years old!



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It is a little out of the way for us, but whenever we are in this part of town, we always stop to buy coffee.  They have several blends, all very good.  And the price is very reasonable.  Not to mention the owners are so friendly. 



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Tammy loves her desserts - so we made sure she had a few...

Singapore style!






Above is the Singapore ice cream sandwich and yes that is a piece of bread!  Below is mango sago, one of the most popular Chinese cold desserts.  It is shaved ice with a thick, creamy mango puree, sweet mango cubes and chewy Sago (tapioca) beads.




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Ice kachang, which is also shaved ice but it comes with crazy colored syrups, evaporated milk and gula melaka (palm sugar) along with very unusual items, not usually associated with desserts -  beans, rice,




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Cheng tng - a sweet soup made with a variety of fruits.  "Cheng tng" means clear soup, and is extremely popular, either hot or cold.  Ours was served hot.  Just what you need in the hot Singapore heat!  But they say it really does cool you down.



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And our evening out... a perfect clear evening.



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Singapore does have a very pretty skyline.


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It was a full moon - beautiful!







And the symbol of our city - the Merlion.  The fish body represents Singapore's origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means "sea town" in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore's original name — Singapura — meaning "lion city" or "kota singa".



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This is the last post of Tammy's Asian Adventure.  We had a wonderful visit!  We hope she comes back for round 2!!



Thaipusam - an eye opening festival with new friends


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Thaipusam is a Hindu festival to celebrate and to give thanks to the Hindu God, Lord Subramaniam (also known as Lord Murugan) son of Lord Siva.  It is a celebration of faith and atonement, of family and friends, and of devotion.



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This is my third year going to the Thaipusam festival in Singapore.  Last year, D, Helena, and I were invited to walk with a family where it was the young man's first time participating in the walk as a devotee (click here to see photos).  It was an amazing experience, but unfortunately we did not exchange information so we lost contact with the family.



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In the beginning of this year, I received an email from Vans' (the young man we walked with last year) sister (Kas)... he had been looking at photos on the Internet and found some of himself.  When he clicked on the photo, it took him to our blog!  The family not only asked us to walk with them again, but they also invited us to their home two nights before the walk for a special vegetarian meal.  During the evening, they honored lord Murugan with fruit, and blessed Vans' headpiece and spears.  Their mother cooked all the food and it was delicious.






Lord Murugan is regarded as a destroyer of evil and preserver of good and the festival marks his victory for conquering evil.  He is usually depicted with a spear or vel.  This is why the devotees pierce silver spears or vels in various sizes through the skin of their back, cheek, and tongue.   



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Before the walk - preparation at the temple


Here Vans is with his posse.  They are close friends who will help him through his devotional walk.  As a devotee, Vans had to grow his beard.  This year, he had two of these friends play drums.



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Vans' father is helping him prepare to carry the kavadi, which means, "sacrifice at every step". 




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Next all of the spears are put in place.  Family and friends do the piercings.  And they do go through his skin.  Most devotees pierce themselves, as they believe it will please Lord Murugan and he will fulfill their wishes. 



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I really like this photo of Vans.  It was taken shortly before he underwent the piercing to his tongue.  Devotees pierce their tongue and cheeks to help them meditate and to stay silent.






The piercing, which I have now seen many times, still amazes me ... how there is not any blood.  And they do not leave any scars.  Holy ash is placed on the needle before the piercing.  They say it is the sacred ash that prevents pain, bleeding, scarring, and infection.  Some say it is made of burnt cow dung, which has medicinal features and contains a styptic, similar to the shaving pencil that constricts blood vessels to stop shaving cuts from bleeding. 



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 It is truly a family affair; his sister decorated his kavadi with a little bling.



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Their neighbor, who was also at the dinner we attended, was next to Vans, preparing for his own devotional walk.  I have some really good photos of his piercing on last year's post.



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The photo below shows Vans as he begins to balance his kavadi.  They are usually decorated with flowers and peacock feathers, but you will see other things.  Vans' weighed 50 pounds!




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Some of the kavadis can be quite tall and weigh up to 100 pounds.



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It is believed that carrying the kavadi washes away sins through self-inflicted suffering.



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The procession starts at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple and ends at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.  It is a 3-mile walk and everyone, including us, must go in bare feet.  There is one other option, to walk it on spiked shoes.  It took us about 5 hours for the entire walk.







All ages walk in the procession demonstrating many different forms of worship.  I have to say, we felt very special, as we did not see any other westerners in the actual parade.



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There is quite a bit of chanting and singing as you walk along the procession.  This is to help support and encourage the devotee through his pilgrimage.  I think Vans' dad (below) sang and danced the most.  I even got into it this year - yes dancing and singing!


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Each devotee will also dance along the way, especially when they pass by a temple.  Here is a clip of Vans dancing and all of us singing!






Limes, which are hung from hooks on the devotee backs, represent protection by the deities.



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Other devotees fulfill their vows by carrying Paal Kudam (milk pots), which or represents the burden they are carrying either for themselves or their family.  In the end, the milk is given to the temple as an offering.












The family carried the jug pictured below.  Helena and I even had our turn at carrying it.  At the very end, we all ate a handful of the special fruit mixture their father made.  The mixture is called panchaamirtham and it means five immortal substances and includes five special ingredients  - dates, cashew nut, banana, honey, and ghee.






Devotees usually wear yellow, which is said the have been Murugan's favorite color.  It is also the color worn to mark any religious festival in Hinduism.



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The big hooks below are for pulling a chariot.








The chariot is the green structure, they are very heavy.



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The forehead is considered the center of the mind and by piercing it, devotees refrain from evil thoughts.






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Women, Children, and Family


Very few women pierce.  I was talking to one young woman who did it last year but her Hindu boyfriend told her he did not want her to do it again this year.



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Clean-shaven heads covered with sandalwood paste is a symbol of humility and atonement.  Sandalwood is also depicted as purity.



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Many devotes, especially families, will each carry a pot of milk on their head to show devotion and love to the god.  Most hold them up with both hands and they never put their arm down for a rest.  This young girl was behind us in the procession and she kept her eyes closed the entire time.






Many devotees who do not participate in the procession will still shave their heads to honor Lord Murugan.



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The photo below is near the end... you can see the exhaustion in Vans' face.  It is very difficult when you reach the entrance of the final temple, as you have to wait in line for nearly two hours; the entire time the men countinue to support the heavy kavatis.  Many men sat down on chairs, but Vans refused to rest.  I thought for sure he was going to pass out - but he stayed strong.  It was so amazing to experience this with him. 



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When you enter the temple, the devotee does his final dance. Where they get the energy to do this is beyond comprehension.  We were completely exhausted at the end, and we did not have to carry anything (nor did we fast for 48 hours like the devotees).



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The final step in his journey was to kneel down and pray at the temple.  This concluded a long but rewarding day.   



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I'll end this post with some fun group Shots...



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New Friends



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Vans' Family Photos



Brother and Sister



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Mother and Daughter



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Proud Papa



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Mother and Son



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Thank you Vans, Kas, and your parents for allowing us to be part of your special day... giving us memories we will never forget! 

This is my favorite photo - after a grueling journey, Vans is as energetic and happy as can be!



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Thaipusam Festival: A colorful and extreme celebration



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Thaipusam is a Hindu celebration of devotion, occurring on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb).  It is a time to give thanks to Muruga, the son of Shiva. Thaipusam is celebrated in many places around the world, with the largest observances in India, Singapore, and Malaysia.  Aren't we lucky it is celebrated here in Singapore! 






My friend H and I went last year (click here to see the photos) and were mesmerized by the event.  At the end of my post I wrote... “next year, I hope to get to see the actual piercing take place”…. well guess what?  We went to the temple and saw the actual piercings!  Oh my.  If you are bothered by needles or piercings, you probably should not read any further!   


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And not only did we watch the piercings, we were invited to walk with a family - read all about this further down!  It truly is one of the most bazaar religious festivals in the world.  This year it fell January 27th, a Sunday, so D was able to join us.  Last year’s post has many facts, so please visit here if you want to learn more about this celebration. 



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The preparations and the piercings.


Holy ash is placed on the needle before the piercing.  They say the sacred ash prevents pain, bleeding, scarring, and infection.  Some say it is made of burnt cow dung which has medicinal features and contains a styptic, similar to the shaving pencil that constricts blood vessels to stop shaving cuts from bleeding.  It also contains natural local numbing component.



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It must be something special as there is absolutely NO bleeding during the piercings.  What about sterilization you ask?  There wasn't any, other than the cow dung.  Prepare yourself for this video!  Just click on it to start.






D watched and photographed this man's journey.



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The devotee begins mental preparations a month in advance.  They are only allowed to eat vegetarian food, cooked at home.  They observe strict celibacy, no alcohol or drugs.  They also fast several days before the walk.



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A sigh of relief, the first piercing is complete.



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It is said that a small spear pierced through the tongue "symbolizes" the vow of silence.  I am pretty sure it would be impossible for him to speak so I think it is a little more than a symbol!



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He is ready for the day.



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This teen caught my eye, so I stayed with him through his piercing.  They started by hanging "burdens" on his back.  You will see a photo of his back later in the post.



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A little liquid to keep him going.



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They then pinned a green feather emblem to his chest.  The photo below shows his piercing guru coaching him.  I read that they put the subject in a trance before skewering the skin. 



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I could feel the support of his friends... and I could feel his pain.  Family and friends surround the devotee and loudly chant to the gods as he is being pierced.  Watch the friend on his left with the sun glasses in the series of photos - how he coaches him during the entire process.  




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There it goes.  There is NEVER any blood.  Mind boggling!




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I like this photo... his friends are all cheering him on.  He did not have a tongue piercing.  They say that is a more advanced piercing and this teen is pretty young; it is probably his first time.


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Other piercings at the temple...



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Muruga (who the celebration honors) is regarded as a destroyer of evil and preserver of good. He is usually depicted with a  spear.  This is why the devotees pierce silver spears in various sizes through the skin of the back, cheek, and tongue.  It is a symbol of stopping evil, purifying yourself, and becoming more noble.



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The tip of the spear actually goes through the skin.


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I think he was psyching himself up for the long walk.



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Jars filled with milk hanging by hooks in the skin is a way to show devotion.





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Check out those large hooks to go with those big ones!



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Most devotee are of Tamil - Indian descent.  There were a few Asian guys who participated.



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Another way to show devotion is by hooking smaller burdens like lemons or limes on the chest or back.



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There were colorful offerings at the temple.  In Hinduism, food plays an important role in rituals and worship.  The food offered to the gods is called prasada. The Sanskrit word "prasada" means "mercy," or the divine grace of God.



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The three of us separated to take photos in the temple.  After 30 min or so D comes to get me – he says… we’ve been invited to walk with a family!  What?  H was chatting with a young women (below) whose brother was walking for the first time carrying a Kavadi and she asked us to walk with them.  Oh my gosh – what an honor!



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"Our guy" was a 23-year-old student.  He was carrying his kavati (headdress) with a belt vs directly in his skin.  His sister told us this is a "trainer". 



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Thaipusam is a family affair and supporting a kavadi bearer is the duty and honor of each family member.  His sister is helping him with his ankle bells.



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We felt odd at first, not sure if we really should join in this special celebration.  We decided that we would insult them if we declined.  Here is the view as we walked out of the temple.



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This photo gives a good perspective on how tall the headdress can be. 



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The first young man in this video is our guy!  It is hard enought to just walk, every once in awile they dance.  Click on the middle to start the video.






If you look closely at the more senior devotee below, you can see where his kavadi rod goes directly into his skin on his stomach.



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 Here is D walking in the parade.




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It was just over 3 miles and we walked the entire way barefoot.  Although not that big of a deal when you are walking with men carrying heavy headdresses with pins and rods in their skin!






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Some walk the entire three miles on spiked shoes.



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It was fun seeing the parade from the participants perspective.  One British woman in the crowd made the comment to us that we must be very special friends of the family to be walking with them.  Very few westerners walk in the parade.



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 Our guy!



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 Below is the teen I photographed for the piercing.  I am guessing these are "trainers" as well, as they do not have the weight of the lemons or the milk cans.


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Very few women participate in the piercing.  But I think there were more this year than last.



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Some devotees choose to shave their heads, a symbol of humility and atonement/ fulfillment.  The yellow color on their heads is saffron paste or sandalwood paste.  



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Even women and children shave their heads.



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Not all worship involves self inflicted pain, and many men and women make the walk with an urn of milk on their head.  I read it is in thanks for any children born that year.



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We viewed the ceremony from a very different perspective this year.  We saw the love and loyalty of family and friends.  This is my favorite photo below  It was at the very end of the parade and they were backed up getting into the temple to take off all the spears and head wear.  It was very hot and they had been walking for over 4 hours.  Our guy is holding on to his sister and father.  I love his sister's worried look on her face - feeling the pain and exhaustion her brother was experiencing.



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We did know their names; I just did not want to put them in the blog.  We also talked with his friends and family as we walked.  A few hours into it we were even clapping along with them.  We did not understand the chants so we could only clap.

Certainly an experience we will never forget!


Thaipusam- a Hindu festival




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Warning……this post is not for the faint-hearted!  I thought we had interesting parades in Brussels…wait to you see the photos from this one!

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Thaipusam is a fascinating Hindu festival celebrated in India, Singapore, and other places around the world.  We have a sizable Indian population here in Singapore so the festival was quite large.  D had to work, so I went with H, a new friend I made here in Singapore.  We met at 6:55 am – we did not want to miss anything!

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The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati (a Hindu Goddess) gave Murugan (Hindu diety or god)  a "spear" so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadam - which he did.

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Thaipusam is a time for Hindus of all castes and cultures to say thank you and show their appreciation to Murugan.  


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It is not so much a celebration, but more of a time of penance and consecration to the gods, usually involving self-mortification in a test of mind over pain.

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The foot procession starts at the Srinivasa Perumal in the Little India district and ends at Thandayuthapani Temple – a 4 kilometers walk (approximate 2.5 miles).


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Yellow and orange are the colors of Murugan, and this is what you will see most people wearing.


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Most carry pots of milk or "paal kudam" on their heads or in pails as a show of devotion and love to the gods. 

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The most intense form of devotion is the carrying of kavadi — an elaborate framework carried on their shoulders. 

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The kavadi has various shapes and sizes, from the simple - a wooden stick with two baskets at each end (they contain rice, milk or other articles that the devotee has vowed to offer the gods) slung across the shoulder....

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....to the decorative structure of flower interwoven with peacock feathers.

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To wear a kavadi, the devotees must abstain from meat, alcohol, cigarettes and sex for at least a week prior to the festival, some extend the period up to a month.  And they must fast completely for 24 hours prior to the walk.


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They attach the kavadi by piercing a number of metal rods into the torso skin to hold it in place.  


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So if you were wondering if it really went through the skin...you can see the answer is YES!

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The white powder is holy ash.

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Some of the kavadis can weigh up to 60 pounds.  In recent times, the men wear belts in order to carry the weight of the kavadi on their waist instead of on the piercings. 


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It is said that devotees are able to enter a trance, feel no pain, do not bleed from their wounds and have no scars left behind.  Really?  I am pretty sure I would be crying from the pain!  We did not see any blood.

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Many of the hooks had limes at the end.  The lime symbolizes protection by the deities but it is also to add weight and therefore pain.

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Most of the men carrying the kavadi were pierced with two skewers (or 'vels' - symbolic spears); one through the tongue, and one through the cheeks. 

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The piercing by skewers symbolizes several things including that the devotee has temporarily renounced the gift of speech so that he may concentrate more fully upon the deity and that the devotee has passed wholly under the protection of the deity who will not allow him to shed blood or suffer pain.   

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As a rule, men wear kavadi; the women "only" skewer their tongue or cheeks and we saw very few women with piercings.

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A few of the men were pulling a small chariot with hooks attached to their backs.


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How about this photo??  She is as happy as she can be while he is struggling to walk.


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Some walk on sandals studded with nails.


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Some believe carrying the kavadi washes away sins through self-inflicted suffering; others say the kavadi symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.


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An entourage of relatives and friends who support and encourage them throughout the pilgrimage accompanies those who carry the kavadi. 


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This made it very difficult to photograph them as the entourage was in the way of the “perfect” photo!  The helpers sing and dance and protect them from the crowds and form a protective ring around the kavadi so that the wearer can dance freely….Yes, these men actually dance around with spikes in their sides!


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It is definitely a family event and all ages participated from the young to the old.

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At the end of the night, the kavadi is dismounted, the needles and skewers are removed by the priest, and the milk in the pots—which has stayed pure—is poured over the deity (god) from head to foot.  

Next year, I hope to get to see the actual piercing take place!


What and where are we eating?


At hawker stands!


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A hawker center is the name given to an open-air complex that has several small booths or hawker stands that sell a variety of inexpensive food.  

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Each dish is made to order, so it arrives hot and is delicious.  You can add additional peppers or spices if you like it hot.


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Hawker centers sprung up in urban areas in the 1950s and 1960s and were considered a venue for the less affluent.  They were primarily built to reduce the unhygienic food preparation by unlicensed street hawkers.  

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Over the years, hygiene standards have vastly improved and the food stall operators are given cleanliness grades (A,B,C) by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to help customers make an informed choice.

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Today the hawker stalls are becoming mainstream and are popping up in food courts in shopping malls.  They are still independently owned by the family - no McDonald's or Burger King in these food centers.

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All meals are served with rice or noodles.  They predominately serve pork, chicken, and fish.  And eggs, lots of eggs.  Beef is not very popular here.  


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The one below has dried fish on the top - I think this is an acquired taste.  Luckily I tasted it before I mixed it in the soup. 




Oh and the very best part of the hawker stands is they are CHEAP!  We have never paid over 5 Singaporean dollars ($3.85 USD) for these meals.


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The restaurant in the photo below is one step up from a hawker stand. They seat you and take your order, but it is still very casual.  This one was located in the part of Singapore they call Chinatown.



This restaurant served chicken only and you could have it on noodles or rice.  Look at that beautiful crispy skin.




We picked noodles.  This meal was twice the price of the hawker stands, 9 SD ($7 USD).  The owner told us they have been in business since 1963!  It was very good.





If you want to see what a rambutan is - hop over to my art blog, ma vie trouvee.


Our new grocery store in Singapore


Singapore Begins Now!


We are settling into our new apartment - well,  with three suitcases full of stuff.  We have been out and about and have explored the neighborhood.



The closest grocery store - about a 5 min walk across the main street is what they call a wet market - which is an outdoor market with very local food.



Beautiful fresh fish.







Unusual fruits and Vegetables.



We bought these - sweet and interesting - some what like a lychee.  They are called Rambutans.




And the very smelly, icky durian fruit.  We have not tried them yet - but will soon!