The Dragon Kiln

 

 

It’s funny.  I was just looking at my last post and it too was about “dragons”.  Guess you know you’re in Asia when…

My mom would love this tour!  You can be assured when she comes to visit I will be bringing her here to Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle (home of the dragon kiln).  It is called the dragon kiln because it does resemble a dragon.  It is built on a slight incline with the mouth at the bottom and the tail at the top.  The belly is filled with local artist pottery and only fired 2-3 times a year.  There are only 2 remaining in Singapore with one being operational.

Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln was built in 1940 and is one of the oldest surviving brick-built kilns in Singapore for wood firing.  The pots are engulfed in a river of fire and the ashes reach with glaze to produce unpredictable colours and textures, producing unique pieces unlike firing by gas and electric kilns.

The big draw to this particular tour was that they were going to be firing up the dragon.  In typical Singaporean fashion, things don’t always happen the way we plan.  When we arrived we were told that the firing would be that evening (which would have made for some great photos) and not that morning as originally planned.  Oh well, life goes on and more time to SHOP!  This place was HUGE!!!  Pots, vases, bowls, statues, etc were everywhere.  I had one item in mind to purchase, an umbrella holder.  I searched through thousands of pots looking for just the right one.  In the end, I settled on a larger vase that is just going to have to double for an umbrella stand until I can find one that I like.

Although I didn’t witness the dragon awaken, I was fascinated by yet  another piece of Singapore’s historic art and culture.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Boat

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As  I peruse through the AWA tours for the upcoming month, Dragon Boating catches my eye.  I’ve watched these beautiful beasts out on the water as the crew row in perfect syncronicity.  What the heck?  I’ll give it a try.  If Emily can do crew 4 times a week, I must be able to handle this one day trial!  I successfully sold the idea to one of my friends, Frances, to accompany me. It was a beautiful sunny day and the pollution level was quite low.  We started out with some stretches and basic instruction of how to row.  Should I be this winded after stretches?  Geez, I’m really feeling my age these days.  Now, we have to walk the boats down to the water.  Luckily, they are on a trailer so it’s just a matter of not running them into anything.   Once the boats are in it’s time to get the show on the road (or water :).

I was the odd man out in the division of the boat crew so I didn’t have a partner.  Lucky me, I get to sit up front with the professional!  Well, I only felt lucky for about the first five minutes when the realisation that the rest of the boat follows the first two rowers set in.  We set the pace.  This fit young lady that I’m partnered up with is counting on me to keep up with her.   Ok, I got this.  The first two runs, not so bad.  Took a bit to figure out the oar placement, body form, and which muscles I should be using.  More rowing….and more rowing….my mind is going to its happy place. We reach this beautiful area right by the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Gardens By the Bay, and the Sports Arena.  We stopped to rest and enjoy the view.  Singapore has amazing architecture.  Getting to know my partner (Fabi I believe was her name) while we rest, I find that she is a fitness instructor at the Navy base.  Her husband is a Navy pilot that has just left for Hong Kong for a year.  Lovely young lady that is definitely making the most of her time here.  She is giving me praises on my technique as I’m apologising for slowing her pace down (I’m pretty sure the ladies behind me were grateful for the slower pace).

Ok, it’s race time!  We’ve waited for the second boat to come meet us and now we are going to row to the bridge to start the race.  I feel sufficiently rested and ready to “do this!”.  We row to the bridge to line up with the other boat.  Uh oh, that was a lot farther than I thought.  Now I’m tired again!  Taylor Swift’s song pops into my head, “shake it off, sh shake it off!”  I shake out my rubbery arms and get in ready position…GO!  My partner is yelling, “1, 2, 3, 4” I’m digging into the water like it’s a tub of Nutella!  Dig, dig, dig.  Arms… so… tired…. More yelling, “come on ladies, we’ve got this”.  I can’t tell who is ahead, but from the frantic yelling I’m thinking we are behind.  Finally, the words I need to hear, “hold!”.  I was so happy to stop the pain, that I didn’t care that we lost.  Well, not totally true, I am a pretty competitive person.

We did do a second race and I won’t go into detail, but we lost a second time.    Now it’s time to get the boats back to the boat house.  I thought the physical exhaustion was over…um no.  Getting the boats in the water was WAY easier than getting them out.  I honestly thought I was going to toss my cookies I was that physically drained.  It’s times like these I wish I had the mind of a 40 something and the body of a 20 something. It’s now three days later and my body is still cursing me.  Am I glad I did it?  Hell yes!  When am I ever going to do things like this again.   Emily is going to be doing dragon boating in the spring (insert evil laugh) and doesn’t know what she’s getting into!

Deepavali

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Deepavali is translated to “Row of Lights” and is the most important festival in Hinduism.  It celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.

What an amazing tour in Little India!  Along with some of my friends, we headed out to explore and learn about the Deepavali festival.  We were greeted and adorned with a bindi and jasmine flower bracelet by our tour guide, Charlotte.  Fragrant flowers are often offered to the god/goddess.  Buyer beware!  These are real and the bees LOVE them!  Next, we learned all about the history of the betel nut and it’s role in the Paranakan (local born) culture.  The betel nut is chewed as part of a package consisting of small pieces of the betel nut combined with some lime paste or powder (from limestone or coral) and some times tobacco, gambier or other spices, and these ingredients are packaged in the betel vine leaf. This whole package is referred to as the betel chew, quid or wad.  On the plus side, it doesn’t leave a ring on the back pocket of your Levi’s! You Texans know what I mean :).

Off to the temple!  I learned from my previous mistake and wore appropriate clothing today, so as not to embarrass my friends and get kicked out again.  We were told that all the priests come from India on a “local package” and stay about 3 years.  There is a lot of interesting history here, but I’m only going to tell you about one as it was the most graphic.  Periyachi, guardian goddess of children and is associated with childbirth and pregnancy.  Please feel free to zoom in on this picture to get the best visual.  If you look closely she has a women on her lap,  baby in her hand, a crazed look in her eye, and intestines hanging from her mouth. Her fierce appearance is said to ward off evil spirits.

Tea time!  It was actually very good, but I like things sweet. If you are expecting Chinese tea, then this is not for you.  It tasted like chai tea to me.  Wish it would’ve been a few degrees cooler outside though.  Tried some delicious prata and will be back for more of that yumminess!  On our walk to our final destination we passed some interesting sights (gold adorned truck, Deepavali decor, and Little India goddess with four arms).

Last stop, Sari demo!  I volunteered to be the model and quickly started to regret it, layer upon layer of heavy beautiful material.   Lordy, that was hot!  For only $200 that beautiful sari could’ve been mine.  If only I had a place to wear it to.  😉  Made a quick stop for some Naan to finish off our morning.

The only bad part of these amazing tours is that Bill and the kids aren’t with me.  Oh well, hope my memory is sufficient for when I take them later!

Mooncake

 

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The first thing my good friend, Tammy Hansen, said to do when I got to Singapore was to register with the AWA (American Women’s Association).  I’m so glad I did.  I went on my first “local tour” on Wednesday, the Mooncake tour in Chinatown.   Below is a youtube video on the legend of the Autumn Festival.  Long story short, a guy shoots down 9 moons and was rewarded with a special potion that his wife drank and she floated up to the moon.

By the way, mooncake is not something I would ever consider “cake”.  Its not sweet like cake and is very dense.  Didn’t quite care for it, but did try 3 different kinds (lotus with an egg yolk, date, and regular lotus)  These cakes are made with lotus seed paste (lotus seeds stewed in water and then mashed into a paste) and also red bean paste.  Not a big fan, but they look really pretty.

The fruit in the pictures is called a Pomelo, which is like a sweet version of a grapefruit.  It’s very popular at this time because of the Autumn Festival.  Anyone know why that is?  It resembles the MOON!!! 🙂  This fruit I would definitely eat again.

I loved this tour and am excited for my next one…the US Embassy!

Miss everyone, but enjoying our adventure 🙂

Kathy