Saturday, 28 February 2015

Last Day for River Hongbao and Chingay 2015

I thought I would catch up with the RHB (River Hongbao) carnival on the last day on its 12-day festivity.

Unlike last time when I walked here after visiting the Singapore Philatelic Museum, this time I took the train to Promenade MRT station, and walked from there.

Sculptue by :phunk and is titled "Dreams in a Social Cosmic Odyssey", Promenade MRT station, Singapore
Sculpture by :phunk at the Promendae MRT station
 entitles "Dreams in a Social Cosmic Odyssey"

I only spent briefly here on CNY Day in my last visit on 19 Feb. It was about 1.5 hours, which were hardly enough. It was after 6pm when I arrived, and so I know I missed many events / activities / programmes like tightrope walking, gold coin shower from God of Fortune, etc. Well, that's the price for trying to avoid the heat.

I came about 6:30pm in this visit. Yeah, even later. Since I had already been here once, I came really mainly to see the live performance on the stage, which I had never done.

Before I entered the RHB, I thought I walked around the area a little bit, and I found myself strolling the promenade between the Float and The Durian, and had seen some nice CNY light touches of decorations.

Theatres by the Bay, Singapore
(one half of ) The Durian

After a little stroll, I returned to the Float. Took a few last opportunity snaps, and headed for the stage show.

River Hongbao 2015, Singapore

Old Singapore River lantern, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
Lantern of the theme of Old Singapore River
with Singapore Flyer and Helix Bridge in the background

As expected, the crowd turn-out was much lower than CNY Day. This wasn't just because most that heard about RHB had already visited it, but it was also because Chingay was also on the same night. While RHB was a 12-day event, Chingay was only on for 2 nights, so one could expect at least some - if not most - of the crowd had gone to Chingay.

When I left Promenade MRT, after walking a block the crowd was split into 2 at the intersection of Raffles Blvd and Bayfront Ave. The people traffic going left was going to the Chingay while people going straight ahead like me headed for the Float. I'm writing this because this was all new to me. I hope this helps those who had never visited these events.

Anyway, as I approached the entrance to the stage, the staff was trying to get passer-by to see the show by telling us it's all free, no tickets were needed because it was the final night. Only then that I realised the show wasn't free (except this final night). I guess it would make sense not to charge visitors on this night of low crowd turn-out.

The show was quite interesting with a variety of different performances and themes that ranging from multiculturalism to the mix of new and tradition, professional to amateurs, etc. The performance program theme was Harmony Night (和谐之夜).

The show started with the drums band from Westspring Secondary School. I was quite impressed by their performance. And having learnt a bit more about this public school, I was even more impressed with Singapore public education system. It deserves a round of applause from me.

The Indian folk dance was nice, colourful, and full of symbolism. Just wished there were more of this.

Indian Folk Dance, River Hongbao, Singapore
Indian Folk dance

Stage dance performnce, River Hongbao, Singapore

The show started at 8pm (instead of the 7:30 they advertised because they needed to lasso potential audience). I didn't sit through the show, which finished at 10pm. By 9:15pm, my stomach rumbled louder than the stage performance. Ada often said that I want to become an immortal (做神仙) because of my extended fasting (usually not due to my conscious efforts. My body likes fasting). Taoists believe that one condition of becoming immortal is eating less and less until you stop eating (kid, don't do this at home or outside!). Anyway, I decided to give immortality a break.

I went to the RHB Food Street for some street food.

Food Street, River Hongbao, Singapore

I picked some deep-fried soft shell crabs and skewers. You eat the crabs whole with the shell. As for the skewers, you can spare the sticks (unless you want to perform some sticks swallowing. Kids! Don't do this at all! It should only be done by a satay-stick-swallowing professional)).

Food stall, River Hongbao, Singapore

Feeling human again, I left RHB and made my way toward Bayfront Ave to go home, I saw some dazzling floats coming out of the Marina Bay Street Circuit area. This was where the Chingay was held. I was under the wrong impression that you wouldn't see anything of Chingay if you don't buy tickets. Now I realise that the ticket holders simply get a better vantage points, and enjoy the live performance. Like Hong Kong's CNY's floats, the Chingay floats will come out of the area and make their rounds in the public. So I decided to stick around for a little while to view this Chingay Parade for the 1st time in Singapore. It was an eye opener for me (my eyelids were getting a little heavy).

Chingay Float, Singapore

Chingay Float, Singapore
This blue peacock float celebrates 50 years of Singapore-Indian relationships

Chingay Float, Singapore

This is without the doubt, the busiest night of the year. At least around this nick of the wood. And I hadn't seen so many oldies out on the streets this late. I'm guessing because I'm rarely out this late (it's past 10pm). If you want to soak up the "heat and noise" (熱鬧), meaning happy and gay in Chinese, you would want to be here tonight. If noise gives you a headache, stay away from this corner of Singapore.

I had some more familiarity with the RHB and Chingay Parade this year. I'll probably participate more next year (hopefully it's cooler. February tends to be the hottest month of the year as it's has the least clouds with ghastly blue sky. The horror!!! I'll pray for London sky: plenty of clouds with a good chance of drizzle).

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Friday, 27 February 2015

Jurong Gardens Park: Chinese Garden

The Chinese Garden (裕华园) is one of the 2 gardens that's part of the Jurong Gardens Park located in Jurong East.

The park is quite close to my place. I have no excuse not to go there, except that there're so many other places and events I want to go. So it has been put on the back-burner for the last 5 years. So why now? Why not?

I read somewhere that there're lantern displays in the Chinese Garden during the Mid-Autumn Festival. While I haven't yet come across similar tradition in Chinese Garden during CNY (Chinese New Year), I want to confirm it.

The Chinese Garden could be easily accessed with Chinese Garden MRT station.

Chinese Garden MRT, Singapore
A little Zen rock garden under the escalator of Chinese Garden MRT station

As soon as you got out the MRT, you see this path that leads you to the park. If you don't see this tree-lined narrow trail, you get out on the wrong side of MRT station.

Path connects MRT station to the Chinese Garden, Singapore
A path connects MRT station to the Chinese Garden.
You can see the 7-storey pagoda from MRT station.

I went there about 5:30pm to avoid the hot afternoon sun, and the best time for photography. The sun sets about 7:15pm ± 15 mins in Singapore.

Map of Chinese Garden, Singapore
Map of Chinese Garden at the entrance
(Click to enlarge)

Map of Chinese Garden, Singapore
You know the map is in safe hands because it's guarded by 2
fearsome security guards from Xian, China.
Replica of Xian entombed warrior
While I'm guarding the map, who's guarding me?

Unfortunately, the highlight - at least the highest profiled - of the garden, the 7-storey pagoda is wrapped in green mesh and scaffolding. Well, give me another reason to revisit.

Pagoda, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Work in progress

Next to the tall pagoda are the 8 statues of popular Chinese historical figures / national heroes.

One of the statue is Admiral Zheng He ("He" is pronounced like "Her", not "He". He was an eunuch. But that has nothing to do with the mis-pronunciations of "her" for "he". Or has it?). He's shading his eyes from the sun, peering into the distant ocean horizon. But the gesture can also be viewed as that he's doing a modern day naval salute. Again, it's ambivalent.

Hua Mulan statue, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Hua Mulan
The Hero(ine)
Hua Mulan statue, Chinese Garden, Singapore
My life was made into an animation by Walt Disney Pictures
with some supernatural elements added for children entertainment

Qu Yuan statue, Chinese Garden, Singapore
He's responsible for Chinese eating zhongzi (粽子)
on the Double Fifth Festival (Click to enlarge)
Guan Yu  statue, Chinese Garden, Singapore
He's responsible for the name of the halbert
he's holding (关刀)

The Chinese Garden's respectable distance from the city is both a blessing and a curse.

A curse because of its distance, it has very few visitors. At any given point in time and place, I had never seen more than 10 heads. The distance maybe a bad point, but its low crowd is surely a good thing if you want peace and quiet. And I assume people go to parks and gardens to seek solitude, peace and quiet from civilisation. So this isn't really a curse, but a blessing in disguise.

The blessing is that because of its distance from the city, it won't be turned into property development any time soon. This place is saved by being far from the city. Having said that, with Singapore public transport so convenient, this place isn't really far or expensive to get to. Also for this reason, its fate won't be so safe, not so much because of its property value, but the cost of maintaining it. It's hard to justify the maintenance cost if few people are using it. So this isn't really a blessing, but a curse in disguise.

Green toilet in Chinese Garden, Singapore
Green toilet with Chinese characteristic (as Chinese political analyst would like to say)

Having said all that, the fact that the pagoda is being maintained suggesting to me that this place is here to stay at least for the foreseeable future. This is a testimony to the Singapore government's commitment it made to the idea of "City in a Garden" (as supposed to "Garden in a City") by keeping as many green spaces (or lungs of the city) around this city-state as possible.

While I visited there, this place is being used mainly by joggers. It could just be because of that time of the day where sightseers had left and joggers arrived. I doubt this place is ever got too crowded. I'm not complaining, of course. I get the place all by myself, and my photos aren't spoiled by "people mountain people sea" (I want to photograph people, mountain and sea, but not people mountain people sea. Ok, occasionally, but not all the time. I want to shoot some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but I don't want to shoot all of the people all of the time. Honestly).

Jogger on Rainbow Bridge, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Jogger running on White Rainbow Bridge
Visitor, Chinese Garden, Singapore
The few visitors leaving the park

The Tea House Pavilion is a centrally located venue where people enjoy the view of the lake, and the Stone Boat across the lake.

Tea House Pavilion, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Tea House Pavilion
View of Stone Boat from Tea House Pavilion, Chinese Garden, Singapore
View of Stone Boat from Tea House Pavilion

Tea House Pavilion, Sunset over the lake, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Sunset over Tea House Pavilion

Visitor enjoy sunset view, Tea House Pavilion, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Young Thai tourists enjoying sunset over the lake at the Tea House Pavilion

Stone Boat, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Stone Boat

I've little doubt that this Stone Boat is inspired by the Marble Boat (石舫) in the Imperial Summer Palace (颐和园) in Beijing. It isn't a carbon copy as the pavilion design is quite different. The Pavilion in the Marble Boat is totally constructed of marble while this Stone Boat are made from mostly timber and other building material. The architecture of the pavilion is also different.

Stone Boat, Chinese Garden, Singapore

The White Rainbow Bridge (白虹桥) is another architecture that's modeled after the 17-Arch Bridge (十七拱桥) over the Kuming Lake in the Imperial Summer Palace. I haven't counted them, but I do believe there're fewer than 17 arches in the White Rainbow Bridge. Also, the arches in this bridge are also slightly more pointed, making them looking more like European Gothic arches than the typical Chinese round arches.

White Rainbow Bridge, Chinese Garden, Singapore
White Rainbow Bridge

I've an affinity for sundial (maybe I was a sundial in my previous re-incarnation. Just an educated guess). Whenever I saw a sundial, I would surely share them in my blog, like the ones I saw in Beijing Ancient Observatory and Kings Park in Perth.

If there's a country where the use of sundial is suitable, it would be Singapore. Not so much because it's very sunny (no, most countries in the world are sunnier), but because it's so close to the equator, meaning there's no season. In other words, it needs no correction (since Singapore's latitude is 1.3°N, not 0°, so there's a slight error if no seasonal correction is applied).

Timestamp on this photo is 6:46pm while the sundial marked 6:15. (Click to enlarge)
This is about 30 mins error. Much larger than I expect.
Next time I'm here, I'll compare the difference in error. I suspect 30 mins error is maximum.

Confucius gets a place on his own outside the 8 Heroes memorial.

Twin Pagodas, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Twin Pagodas

Xuan Wu or Black Warrior, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Xuan Wu, Black Turtle or Black Warrior
Next to the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum (LTTM) is a little stream with Shallow Jade Bridge (浅玉桥) over it. In the stream you will see the sculpture of large tortoise with a snake and tiny tortoises on its back.

Shallow Jade Bridge
According to Taoist legend, this snake and turtle is associated with the northern god Xuan Wu (玄武, or Genbu in Japanese, Hyeonmu in Korean or Huyền Vũ in Vietnamese). In Journey to the West, he's a king of the north, and has a Snake and Turtle generals served under him.

Another legend is that the ancient Chinese wrongly believed that there were only female tortoises and no male tortoise, and so the only way to have tortoise off-springs is to mate with a snake. I think the little tortoises on the giant tortoise's back where the snake lovingly caresses is suggesting this particular legend. Parents pose for a family portrait with their kids huddle between them. The 2 tiny tortoises are snuggled between the snake and the large mother tortoise.

There're many many stories and legends floating around about the turtle and the snake. I'm just scratching the surface of it.

By the time I arrived, LTTM had already closed or was was about to close.

Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum, Chinese Garden, Singapore
LTTM promotional poster
(Click to enlarge)

Entrance to Fishes' Paradise, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Entrance to Fishes' Paradise (and then LTTM)

Koi carp pond in Fishes' Paradise, Chinese Garden, Singapore
Koi carp pond in Fishes' Paradise

I was somewhat disappointed because there was no lanterns on the lake to be seen. But I certainly didn't regret one bit to have visited this place, and quite enjoyed the photo taking and tranquil stroll (jogging with the camera will lead people to think that there was breaking-news occurred in the garden). Especially being so close to my place and admission is free.

I had covered about 70% of the ground in about 1.5 hours. I guess one can comfortably see the whole of Chinese Garden in 2.5 hours (excluding the LTTM). I will certain come back to see the rest of the Chinese Garden (perhaps including LTTM), and the Japanese Garden, as well as Jurong Lake Park located opposite to the 2 Gardens. I'm looking forwards to these visits. To save time, and kill 2 birds with 1 stone, I'll probably come here during the Mid-Autumn Festival to see lantern display, if any.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Chinese New Year's River Hongbao Carnival 2015

After our visit to Singapore Philatelic Museum, we walked to The Float @ Marina Bay to see the annual RHB's (River Hongbao 春到河畔) lantern display.

Sign board, The Float @ Marina Bay, Singapore
Sign board, entrance to the Float Platform
This annual tradition of 12-day carnival started on the 17 Feb (2 days before CNY Day) this year (and finishes on 28 Feb). We went there on the CNY (Chinese New Year) Day. Expectedly, it was quite chock-a-block as it's being a public holiday.

While we have been in Singapore since 2009, we didn't start this yearly tradition ourselves until the Year of the Snake 2013. This RHB tradition has been around for 28 years, a bit longer than our attendance.

We typically entered the carnival through the gate with the above sign to get to the Float Platform. Can't really call this a carnival without the fair rides. The amusement park rides are usually setup in the area between the Float Platform and Raffles Ave.

Carnival ride, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
Carnival ride, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore 

The RHB this year is promised to be the biggest, because in addition to the usual CNY celebration, this year also celebrates Singapore's 50th birthday. And so some extra lanterns would be installed for this reason.

Main Entrance Arch, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
Main Entrance Arch and the packed crowd

The main entrance arch this year, expectedly, was grander than previous years. The right half of the on the pillar of the arch says 建国五十 or "50 Years of Nation Building".

After the entrance arch comes the ranks of arches that form the Entrance Walkway that created a nice vanishing point that impressed the visitors .

Entrance Walkway, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
Entrance Walkway
I don't remember that there were lantern displays being setup behind the bleachers' area. I think this is the 1st time that this was done, and they put the largest display there.

Peacock Couple, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
Peacock couple lantern display entitles "Let's Celebrate Together!"

Peacock Couple and Goats, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
The Peacocks and Goats displays installed behind and high above the bleachers area of the Float

Peacock Couple, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
From this angle, they're kissing. "Pecking" is the perfect word.
Space between their necks: not quite a heart shape, more like a n upside-down vase.

The centre piece, at least the most high profiled, lantern figure has always been the GOF (God of Fortune), who has grown taller over the years in RHB carnival. This year, GOF has grown to a towering 18m tall (something like a 6 or 7-storey building). As I mentioned in this article, GOF is really the face of CNY.

He held a large golden ingot. Large gold coins fell out of his sleeves. In this ancient Chinese costume, pockets are hidden inside sleeves. This explains why they're so large, and flared out.

God of Fortune lantern display, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore God of Fortune lantern display, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore God of Fortune lantern display, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore God of Fortune lantern display, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore

As usual, there's a Mural Wall, and this year the theme is SG50, and the panel showed various Singapore icons.

SG50 Giant Mural Wall, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore

SG50 Giant Mural Wall, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
Singapore icons from left to right: Stamford Raffles, Elgin Bridge, Singapore Airline, Sentosa, MRT, Singapore Airport, Supreme Court, Pinnacle @ Duxton, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, ArtScience Museum, and last but not least, the Merlion.

Of course, there're always the traditional lanterns that are based on the 12 Chinese animal zodiacs. And as usual, the animal of that year - in this case - the Goat would get bigger lanterns.

Collage, 12 Chinese animal zodiacs, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
Lanterns of  12 Chinese animal zodiacs

Some of the lanterns that based more on the local heritage to go along the SG50 theme includes the Dragon Slide partial replica that found in the Toa Payo HDB.

Dragon slide, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore

The photo below isn't an animal zodiac as there's no lion in the 12 Chinese zodiac. It isn't Merlion because it has 2 legs. It's Singa the Lion, created for the National Courtesy Campaign in 1982. It's the mascot of the Singapore Kindness Movement. This is all part of Singapore heritage with its various national campaigns that social engineered Singapore to what it's today: clean, green and an efficient machine. One of the national campaign was Keep Singapore Clean campaign. It was so successful that it exported to Australia in 1970s. Sydney today is almost as clean as Singapore. The quieter capitals of Australia are cleaner.

Singa the Lion, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
Singa the Lion

There's also a lantern of a Wishing Well where visitors tossed coins, trying to strike the row of 5 bells that hung above the Wishing Well for wishes to come true. I threw some coins into it and wished for a 20% greenhouse gas reduction in the next 5 years, and a 50% gold price increase in the next 3 years. I'm not greedy. I didn't ask for world peace.

Wishing Well Lantern, River Hongbao 2015, Singapore
Wishing Well lantern

With that, I wish you maaaa...ny happy returns and a prosperous Year of the Goat!