Monday, May 27, 2013

Thieves Market


I jumped off the bus onto very hot asphalt, burning all four of my feet. It was mid-day, unbearably hot, and the sky was cloudless. Ahead, I spied a long row of umbrellas so I ran as fast as I could to get into some shade.
When I got under the closest umbrella, I stood still for a moment to let my toes cool off.
A kindly old gentleman saw me and asked me what such a pretty kitty was doing in the THIEVES MARKET! He sensed I was an intelligent feline and understood him but knew I couldn't verbally respond.
As Uncle (Old folks are referred to as Auntie and Uncle in an endearing way in Singapore) walked through the market, I followed him as he explained the history of this unique place. It's real name is Sungei Road Flea Market but everyone calls it the Thieves Market. It is located on a blocked off road and it has been in existence since the 1930's.
All the vendors are worried because there is a lot of construction going on around the area to make way for a new train station. They are concerned about how this change will effect their life style and don't know how they will make ends meet if they are displaced. The market is opened 7 days a week from 1 to 7 PM. The vendors pay no rent, no licensing fees and no taxes. They simply come here every day, lay out their wares and sometimes, someone purchases something. I saw lots of used electronics, tools, clothes, shoes, toys, musical instruments, books, jewelry, pots and pans, and religious artifacts. Mostly I saw a lot of junk!
What I really liked was all the interesting and eccentric people. The vendors appeared to like what they were doing but did not seem to be overly concerned if they sold anything. And yet, people were buying their stuff.
It started to drizzle so I knew it was time to go. I really enjoyed my visit and showed my appreciation to Uncle for his kindness by rubbing up against his leg. The rain on the sidewalks cooled them off so my walk back to the bus stop was much easier on my feet.
I had a great experience and I am fairly sure the vendors are not really thieves.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fort Canning Park

Today was an overcast day, but a very humid one. Had I realized this before sneaking out of my air conditioned condo I probably would have stayed at home. However, once I was out, my itchy feet and inability to overcome my wanderlust, forced me to find out where my nose was going to lead me.
I am very glad I continued on as I found myself entering a beautiful and lush park called Fort Canning. As I climbed up a set of stairs I was greeted at the top by a 15 inch Changeable Lizard. She introduced herself as Siew Mei. She explained that she had lived in the area for a very long time and that she would love to show me around "Her" park.

Siew Mei wiggled when she walked and moved in spurts so it was hard to follow her. She took me on a paved, winding path through a spice garden, and up to the Fort Canning Centre.
The Centre used to be the barracks of the British Army in the 1920's. It is now used  by a theatre company for various indoor as well as outdoor shows. Underground is  the "Battle Box", which is where the British command center was located during WWII.
The Park was previously known as Government Hill, and on top is a small home built by Sir Stamford Raffles. It has a great view in spite of all the modern buildings surrounding it. Prior to all the construction, Raffles could look out from his porch and observe ships transiting the harbor on the Singapore portion of the spice trail.
Siew Mei had to leave me as she had a "liaison" scheduled with her boyfriend. I thanked her as she scurried away. I took my time following the tree lined path through lovely flower gardens and small mini parks designed for sitting and communing with nature.    In fact, due to the oppressive heat, I jumped up on a park bench and took a refreshing nap under a tree canopy.

When I woke up, evening was setting in so I knew I had to rush to beat my parents home. These  adventures are lots of fun but they sure make me Hungry!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bedok Reservoir And the Berlin Wall

When I jumped off the bus today, I was met at the entrance of Bedok Reservoir Park by two black birds with yellow beaks and yellow feet who offered to give me a tour of this beautiful jewel, off the beaten path. They introduced themselves as Heckle and Jeckle .

After laughing at their ridiculous claim, I told them there was no way they were telling me the truth about their names. Heckle and Jeckle were 2 cartoon crows drawn by Paul Terry right after WWII. These 2 birds were Javan Myna's which are much smaller than crows although they do have the same color beaks and feet as the 2 famous caricatures...
They seemed to be very serious but I chalked up their ridiculous claim as their silly attempt at making fun of me. In their eyes I was just a dumb red haired foreigner (Ang-Moh in Singaporean slang). Anyway, they gave  me a wonderful tour of this lovely park.
The Bedok Reservoir is surrounded by a 4.3 kilometer walking/jogging/biking trail. There are dragon boats, canoes and sailboats dotting the clean, clean waters and there is a fishing dock for fresh water anglers to try their fishing prowess. Park benches nestled among the lush trees, offer shade for the weary.


The other "must see"  are the 4 sections of the Berlin Wall on loan to the park from an American industrialist Robert A. Hefner III, and his Singapore-born wife Mei Li. The 4 panels were painted by German artist, Dennis Kaun, and are titled Kings Of Freedom. They depict a bright and happy king representing West Germany and a pale, blindfolded one, signifying East Germany.
Heckle and Jeckle explained to me that the Berlin Wall was erected after the 2nd World War by East Germany to separate Democratic West Germany from Communist East Germany. It was torn down on 10 November 1989 and the two Germanys were reunited in October of 1990.

Time for me to head home...I bid farewell to my two escorts (even though I still didn't believe their names) and thanked them for the lovely tour and very informative history lesson.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How did I end up in a foreign country?

As I have outlined in the past, I am an adventurous kitty that sneaks out of my condo and slips on to busses to take trips all around Singapore. I never know where I am going but I always end up jumping off at some new and interesting place.This time was certainly no exception.
The bus I rode off on was very crowded so I hid under one of the seats near the back of the bus. I overheard some of the passengers checking with each other to ensure they had their passports with them. I didn't worry because kitties don't have passports and I figured this was just idle chit-chat. After riding a while the bus started to cross a bridge over a body of water and suddenly came to a stop in the middle of the bridge. Everyone got off. I saw some guys in uniform (not military or police officers) milling around the bus so I was afraid to get off. All of a sudden one of the uniformed guys got on and asked the driver to see his documents. After he was satisfied the driver had all the proper documentation the inspector told the driver to drive on for a few hundred yards.
The inspector got off and another one in a slightly different looking uniform got on and checked the drivers documents again. After he was satisfied that everything was in order he got off the bus and the driver turned the vehicle around. A whole lot of passengers started to get on the bus going back the way we came from so I took the opportunity to jump off and figure out what was going on. It turns out the passengers were going through customs and immigration in Malaysia! Since I realized I was now in another country I figured I would take a stroll around and see the sights.

The Johor Strait separates Singapore from Johor Bahru, Malaysia. I am told lots of folks live in Malaysia but commute to Singapore every day to work because the cost of housing is so much cheaper in Malaysia. Johor Bahru is going through an attempt at modernizing so I saw some very old buildings intermixed with newer shopping malls.

I met a cat named Patches who is a black and white kitty but he is very lazy and did not want to show me around so I was on my own.
The view across the strait is beautiful. From the seawall you can see the immigration and customs building and the Woodlands section of Singapore. I still couldn't believe I ended up in another country! I was having fun but I was a little scared. I decided I needed to retrace my steps and get back home as quickly as possible. If my parents found out what I had been up to they would be worried to death. I was able to evade the customs and immigration officials and uneventfully made it back to my comfy condo.
This trip was exhilarating but exhausting. I think I'll stay in Singapore when I venture out on my next adventures.    


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Singapore's Little India

India is far from Singapore and the local busses (my favorite form of transportation) don't go there. Imagine my surprise when the double decker bus I jumped on took me to Little India. What an interesting place!
The area was very crowded and all the shops were doing a bustling business. The sky was overcast and a dull gray but the swirl of the full palette of colors surrounding me, brightened up the day. As I walked around I didn't see any animal friends to show me around so I wandered on my own.
In my exploration I came across the Tekka Centre, a two story shopping center that had stalls selling everything from food to clothes. The second story was where most of the stores selling clothing were. There was an abundance of beautiful hand made saris and other Indian tunics and blouses as well as children's clothes, men's brightly colored shirts, and shoes.


The bottom floor was where all the meat and seafood as well as fruits and vegetables were sold. There were also a few stalls selling lovely fresh flowers .
I was getting hungry smelling all the fresh food so I rubbed up against a guy cleaning fish. I watched him closely as he had a huge machete looking knife in his hand but he laid it down and tossed me a choice filet off of a huge sea bass. It was sumptuous!

It was time for me to go home to take a long nap. Before I sneaked back on the same numbered bus I arrived on, I noticed a mounted map indicating directions to Little India historical and cultural sites. I will definitely need to come back to investigate the rest of this area. I will be sure to come hungry so I can visit my new buddy, the fish monger.