Friday, January 17, 2014

Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle

I jumped off bus 199 on one of my weekly outings in Singapore. After a long walk I ended up in a very unique business called Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle.

Thow Kwang means pottery prosperity. The business opened in 1940 and is one of only two remaining big pottery endeavors left in Singapore. It's main attraction is it's 130 ft long, 16 ft wide, wood fired, dragon kiln. When fired up it looks like a dragon belching out fire and heat!

The pottery works is located in a jungle setting next to Clean Tech Park. The roofed, open air enterprise consists of the main kiln as well as a smaller one, areas for pottery and ceramic classes, and a huge shop which sells locally created artifacts as well as ones imported from China and Taiwan. Items for sale include beautifully manufactured bowls, plates, figurines, abstract art, as well as furniture.

In 2010, Thow Kwang was visited by Martha Stewart, a famous business person with a cooking and home tips TV show and magazine. She wrote very lovingly in her blog about this wonderful place.

Surrounding the jungle setting are several koi ponds. The most intriguing area is the very artistically thrown together junk pile. The discarded, moss covered pots seem to be alive and growing out of the terrain.  

I spent a lot of time wandering around this tranquil setting. After drinking a little water out of one of the ponds (yes, kitties can drink out of ponds when we are dying of thirst) it was time to go. There is talk that this location will be overtaken by the Clean Tech Park, however there is also talk that it will become a national heritage site. I really hope it is protected and stays the way it is.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Super Trees at Night

A few months ago I visited The Gardens By The Bay in the daytime. It was wonderful! The Super Trees (an incredible engineering feat featuring man made trees covered by natural plants) is in the same area as the gardens. At that time, I had made a mental note that I needed to return at night time to see these trees illuminated. Well, I finally got my chance!

It was a beautiful evening and I overheard my parents discussing their plans to go out for a late dinner with friends. This was my opportunity to escape from our condo to see the Super Trees all lit up at night.

After they left, I scampered out and headed to the bus terminal. I remembered that bus number 106 would get me where I needed to go. I sneaked on, hid under one of the seats and in about an hour, jumped off at Marina Bay Sands. It was twilight so it was easy to follow my nose to the huge man made trees ahead.

Two of the trees are connected by a very high walkway. I just had to get up there! There were quite a few people lined up in front of one of the 2 trees. A door opened at the base and about 8 of the people entered. The door closed behind them. About a minute later I looked up and saw them  walking around the suspended walkway. So that is how they got up there...People can't climb trees very well so the only way they can get up there is to take an elevator.

Well, I knew I would get caught trying to squeeze into the elevator. That did not deter me...I am a cat after all! I am a great tree climber so up I went. It took a while but I made it just before it got dark.

As I got on the walkway all the tree lights came on and music started to play. The music was kind of symphonic (which I love) and the tree lights started to change colors. What a great show! As I looked out over the horizon I could also see the lights of the Sands Hotel, the Esplanade, and the Singapore Flyer. This was magnificent!

The musical light show was only about 20 minutes long. I hated for it to be over. As I started my climb down I noticed the largest tree had a "roof top" restaurant. I wished I had time to sneak into the kitchen to try some of the food. I could smell the aroma of Indochine cuisine but I really had to get home before my parents found out I was out.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Joss-Stick & Figurine Manufacturing

I jumped off my bus at Teck Ghee Square today. As I was walking around the shopping area I came across a cross eyed, mangy Siamese cat named Ang Meow. She was just waking up from a nap and spotted me. Ang said she was hungry and asked me if I wanted to join her for some of the best duck and rice in Singapore. What a silly is one of my favorite dishes! Her friend Phil served us up a succulent plate of the best fowl I had ever had.

After licking the last of the juices off our whiskers, cross eyed Ang asked me if I wanted to visit a very unique work shop. I was up for an adventure so off we went. A few blocks away we arrived at a long alley of small stalls. There were all sorts of entrepreneurs busily working on their crafts. The most interesting one is called Tay Guan Heng (Joss-Stick Manufactures) which had some of the results of their artisanship drying out front in the sun.

The shop is run by fourth generation, very skilled, workers. Their main source of income is the manufacture of 2 meter high joss sticks used for ceremonies in temples. It is a shame these painstakingly created works of art are made to burn. Once lit, they smolder for 12 to 16 hours.

All of the joss sticks, as well as beautifully hand made figurines, are manufactured utilizing  cinnamon wood. The bark of the tree is where the smell and taste of cinnamon comes from. The rest of the tree is very fibrous. It is ground to a powder which is then mixed with a little water to form a paste. This paste is then spread smoothly over a pole. The artistically formed decorative patterns are then applied to the pole and left to dry in the sun. Once dry, some are left in their natural color and some are brightly painted.

Figurines can be made in any shape a customer wants. Ang told me they are not normally burned. Thank goodness for that!

It was getting late so Ms Meow walked me to my bus stop for my ride home. I thanked her for the wonderful meal and the informative tour of a very special place.