Day 2 Singapore
A fairly early start as we would be on foot all morning and had a few things that we wanted to see before lunch. Some of us even hit the swimming pool and/or the gym before breakfast, and all were ready to hit the streets. The weather in Singapore was quite mild, 26 degrees with a nice breeze keeping us cool most of the time. We headed for the Malay sector which was about 1 1/2 kms away. We arrived just in time for the Sultan Mosque to open and so made our way in. Some of us needed to put on robes to meet the modesty requirements, ie covered shoulders, before entering the mosque, but these have changed since our last visit and were much more colourful and lightweight than the drab grey that they used to be. We spent some time looking around the interior and asking questions of the local guide before heading back out to Bussorah St Mall, where Tamika was hanging out to get lime juice in a bag. The disappointment was visible on her face when she read that our favourite shop wouldn't open for another two hours and we had places to be. The whole area seems to have changed as we couldn't find the store that sold toys and the needs for pilgrims to take with them on the Hajj either. In its place were a number of Turkish and Lebanese Restaurants, perhaps catering for most of the tourists who visit the mosque.
After a look around we headed north to Little India. This was only a few blocks away, but felt like we were entering a different world. The area was much more busy, with shops all open and trading all sorts of goods from sari's and silks to gold to take away food. We headed straight to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple on Serangoon Rd. This was a hive of activity, with worshippers coming and going, leaving offerings for the gods and saying prayers, as we walked around looking at the statues and other works of art. The smells and sounds of this temple contrast strongly with the calm silence of the mosque. From here we made our way to the Little India Arcade just up the road where henna tattoos were the order of the day. I even ran into the same shopkeeper, who has a friend who apparently owns a restaurant in Warradale, from our 2015 trip. All tattooed up, it was time to head back to the hotel to meet Helene, our guide for the afternoon. Along the way we passed a takeaway shop that sold lime juice. It wasn't in a plastic bag, and didn't quite taste as good as the ones that we were anticipating at the mosque, but after a long walk they were very welcome anyway. We ended up having lunch at Starbucks of all places and got to the hotel just in time to throw our luggage on the bus and start the next phase of the day. According to the Fitbits we had covered over 22000 steps that morning so had more than reached our quota for the day and we were ready to have some time in the air conditioned comfort of the coach.
Firstly we made our way to the Changi Museum, stopping briefly on the way to look at the remnants of the original Changi Prison, which still survive in the more modern jail that has replaced it. Helene first showed us the replica chapel and told the story of the cross made from brass from an artillery shell. After hearing the story 7 times I still tear up, as did a number of others in the group. We then went to the museum itself where Helene was able to clarify the timeline of the invasion and occupation of Singapore, and the impact that it had on the local population, including her own family. We then explored life as a prisoner of war under the Japanese and how the resilience and initiative of many of the prisoners increased their own, as well as that of their mates, chances of survival, under often horrific circumstances. I strongly recommend that if you are in Singapore, take time to visit, and if possible, get yourself into a Journeys Original Singapore Walks tour. We then made our way to the north of the island to the Kranji Cemetery and War Memorial. Helene told us the stories of a number of those who are buried here, including those of Operation Raimu. Then it was time for the first commemoration of our trip. Colin Treloar, who had been commemorated by Nigel Treloar in 2015, was this time commemorated by Nigel's wife, Mel, who did a great job, despite having to talk through her tears.
This was a very fitting way to finish our first full day of Connecting Spirits 2017, and got on to the bus and made our way to Changi Airport to begin the next leg of the trip, our 13 hour flight to London.