Friday, 25 October 2013

Street vendors, buskers and temples

Albert Mall street market, Bugis.

One of the first places we visited when we arrived was Bugis and its markets. It was a weekend and we just about managed to squeeze ourselves through the market, barely able to move for the throng of people and didn't really get a chance to see anything due to the volume. To be honest it was rather off-putting, too many crowds for me and I didn't return until quite recently.

I'm now more accustomed to Singapore and nothing seems as daunting as it did over half a year ago. I have visited Bugis a number of times recently, but would still recommend going during the week if possible. Having said that the mass of people doesn't bother me as much now, it's just during the week when it's quieter you can see more and immerse yourself fully in the area.

Albert Mall street market covers a cross section of Bencoolen Street to Bugis Village and from Middle Street to Rochor Road. The area used to be open to vehicles but in 1992 it was pedestrianised, although this took until 1998 to complete. I can't imagine it would of had the same popularity or atmosphere if this hadn't happened. 

The market is lined on all sides with stalls and street vendors. Stalls selling the everyday market products, food, vegetables, clothes, kitchen utensils etc. however there is much more you will see flower sellers, people offering massages in the street, cobblers, fortune tellers, home brewed medicines you name it. The place is truly alive with noise and life. In fact it has a more "real" feeling than Chinatown, which although enjoyable there is no getting away with the fact it is completely touristy.

Close to the temples on Waterloo Street there are stalls selling joss sticks and various flowers, but most beautiful are the lotus flowers, the colours of which almost unreal. The aunties selling these have such amazing expressive faces, you feel they have been there for an eternity and have seen so much. Trying to get a photo of them proved impossible, just like the lizards I have tried to snap, mentioned in a previous post, they turn their heads just as you "click"!

Around Albert Mall you can also see buskers which is quite unusual in Singapore. The market has been designated an official busking area by the National Arts Council Busking Scheme. On our last visit we saw an artist who demonstrated that he could write using almost every part of his body... Feet, hand, chin, mouth also using two different parts of the body at the same time, even whilst standing in his head!!! Amazing.

As mentioned the aunties selling flowers and joss sticks are outside two temples on Waterloo Street. Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho is a Buddhist temple built in 1884 and granted a historical site in 2001. This temple is one of the most popular in Singapore seeing thousands of worshipers a year. This is partly due to the fact that is believed to bring good luck to those that worship there. They worship Kuan Yin (Guan Yin) Goddess of Mercy. The temple is also well known for its donations to charities. Kwan Im Thong is popular for its use of Quian (divining sticks) which are shaken until a rod/stick falls out, which foretells the worshipers future.

Right next door to this Buddhist temple is the Hindu Sri Krishnan temple, currently mostly covered in tarpaulins (more restoration?) This temple was built in 1870 and is the only South Indian Hindu temple in Singapore dedicated to just Sri Krishnan and his consort Rukmini. 

What is a surprising sight (the rest of the world/religions take note) is that you will see worshipers coming from the Buddhist temple next door to also worship and light joss sticks at this Hindu temple. As this became popular inside Sri Krishnan they have built an altar dedicated to Kuan Jin. 

All in all this hectic, busting, crowded area just oozes life and energy.

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