Wednesday, 2 March 2011


“All religions must be tolerated, for every man must get to heaven his own way.” - Frederick the Great

As it was our last day in Singapore today, we decided not to go too far afield and ended up in Bugis Street. This is found in the Arab Quarter of the Bugis district, and its claim to fame is the Bugis St Market, which is the largest street market in Singapore. There are countless stalls selling everything from shoes and clothes, to jewellery and cosmetics, food and drink, souvenirs and gifts, antiques and technological gadgets, CDs and DVDs. Visitors will also find manicurists, tattooists, body piercers, masseurs, reflexologists, cosmeticians and hairdressers to mention a few of the services provided.

Before the arrival of British and American forces from the Vietnam War, Bugis Street was infamous as this was the red light district of Singapore. However, after the armed forces were stationed here everything changed – rather odd I would have thought! At the time of its vivid past, a promenade of garishly made-up drag queens marched through the crowd with sparkling dresses on. They liked to pose and have their photo taken and teased the men walking by. This seamy Old Bugis Street was demolished during the construction of the MTR underground. Nowadays, New Bugis Street is located south-west of the MRT station. The only concession of New Bugis Street to its lurid past are a couple of sex shops, which look more cute than erotic, judging from the merchandise displayed in their windows.

Bugis Street is a crowded, noisy and busy place that has the quality of night bazaar even during the day. There are many pubs, bars, alfresco restaurants, hawkers, street theatre, and of course the markets, open every day and night from about 11:00 a.m. until 3 a.m. (or until the last customer leaves…). The street has a carnival-like atmosphere and is a good place to do some shopping for souvenirs and gifts. We did some such shopping – mainly a few gifts for people back home, but then hurried on visit the temples.

Kuan Yin Temple is on Waterloo Street and rated as one of the most renowned Chinese temples in Singapore. Kuan Yin is a famous Chinese goddess, originally called “Kwan Im”, the goddess of mercy. She is a very virtuous deity as she helps those in need, according to myths retold for many generations. The original Kuan Yin Temple was constructed in 1884 but was reconstructed in 1982. It has the typical structure of a Chinese temple with an impressive gate leading to a courtyard, and then further in, the temple sanctuary. Inside the sanctuary one can see lots of statues of Chinese deities, including that of Kuan Yin. Numerous offerings are made here, including flowers, incense, oil, fruit and candles.

Outside the temple, there are many fortunetellers, flower-sellers and beggars, all of which are part of the attraction of the temple for visitors. The Chinese are very superstitious and have a tradition of asking for divine assistance, consulting mediums and fortunetellers for advice regarding auspicious dates for marriages, selling and buying, lucky number to win lotteries, etc. The statues of the gods may remain silent, but believers shake a circular bamboo box with 50 thin sticks in it, each one having a number on it. When a stick is selected, its number will lead one to the correspondingly marked small piece of paper on which is written the prediction or answer to one’s question.

A few minutes walk west of Kuan Yin Temple stands the Hindu Sri Krishna Temple. Although this temple normally attracts many Hindu worshippers, it also surprisingly attracts Chinese worshippers from the nearby Kuan Yin Temple. Lord Krishna is believed to be the eighth reincarnation of Vishnu, a very well-known principal god of Hinduism. This temple has the typical architecture of a Hindu holy shrine, and is highly decorated with gorgeous ornaments and multi-coloured statues of the gods. Visitors to both temples must take their shoes off before stepping inside.

temple 1 |ˈtempəl| noun
A building devoted to the worship, or regarded as the dwelling place, of a god or gods or other objects of religious reverence.
• (the Temple) Either of two successive religious buildings of the Jews in Jerusalem. The first (957–586 BC) was built by Solomon and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar; it contained the Ark of the Covenant. The second (515 BC – AD 70) was enlarged by Herod the Great from 20 BC and destroyed by the Romans during a Jewish revolt; all that remains is the Western Wall.
• (the Temple) A group of buildings in Fleet Street in London that stand on land formerly occupied by the headquarters of the Knights Templars. Located there are the Inner and Outer Temple, two of the Inns of Court.
• A synagogue.
• A place of Christian public worship, esp. a Protestant church in France.
ORIGIN Old English templ, tempel, reinforced in Middle English by Old French temple, both from Latin templum ‘open or consecrated space.’

1 comment:

  1. That picture looks so exotic and just what the orient is like in my mind! Glad to hear you had such an interesting trip.