A Visit to Singapore’s Little India

Inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

I had the chance to visit Singapore’s Little India this weekend. I love how Little India is just bustling with excitement and activity. The vibrantly coloured temples, together with the unmistakeable scent of exotic spices stimulate the senses, are truly an incredible experience.

In order to make the most out of my time in Little India, I set out to accomplish two main things: firstly, to take in the sights, sounds and scents of the district by walking through the famous historical five-foot walkways and secondly, to visit and appreciate one of the local Hindu temples.

I started my journey at Serangoon Road, the main thoroughfare of Little India, taking my time to wander through the little streets.  There are so many meandering walkways and streets that one could venture off into. Along the streets there are many little stalls selling floral garlands. These garlands,  which are used as a form of offering and adornment for the Hindu deities, are truly beautiful – handmade and created with fresh brightly coloured flowers.

Colourful garland stalls can be found all over Little India

Colourful garland stalls can be found all over Little India

I also enjoyed admiring the colourful animated altars that sat prominently on street corners and outside of Hindu-owned shops.

The Hindu god Ganesha is one of the more popular gods that can be seen in little altars around Little India

The Hindu god Ganesha is one of the more popular gods that can be seen in little altars around Little India

After taking my time exploring the effervescent streets of Little India, I decided to spend the next part of my afternoon in one of Singapore’s most famous Hindu temples, the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. Located along Serangoon Road, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is one of the oldest temples in Singapore, built by Indian immigrants who came to work and live here in Singapore in the 1800s. The choice of deity, Sri Veeramakaliamman as the chief deity is also significant.  In the pioneer days, Indian immigrants experienced many hardships and obstacles.  Sri Veeramakaliamman is seen as a goddess who destroys evil and therefore worshiped for her power to help them overcome their struggles and challenges.

Inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Visiting the temple was really an eye-opener. Life-like deities filled the temple with dedicated devotees paying homage to them. There was a distinct smell of incense in the air as the priests lit bowls of fire and incense to honour the gods and goddesses.

Little India has since become one of my favourite places to recommend to visitors. Its distinct character so far removed from the skyscrapers that fill the Marina Bay skyline and the air-conditioned malls of Orchard Road. It is a place where time has learnt to stay still, and, hopefully, for many years to come.

Little India is an easy 25-minute drive from Capella Singapore. Our Personal Assistants will be able to assist to organise tours and transport for you. They can be reached at +65 6591 5034/35 / pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

 

A Visit To The New Singapore Sports Hub

The new 55,000-seater National Stadium

Since it opened on 30 June 2014, the Singapore Sports Hub was on my must-visit radar.  So, when I found out that The Singapore Selection was playing Juventus Football Club in a friendly match on 16 August 2014, I made it a point to buy tickets so that I could enjoy the new National Stadium, which is part of the Hub, and support our Singapore team at the same time.

I must say that when I arrived at the 35-hectare Singapore Sports Hub, I was quickly swept away by the excitement and flurry that filled the air.  There were football fans getting ready to enter the National Stadium to support the Home team, there were diners, shoppers, families and the curious – like me.  All keen and eager to visit our new national sports icon.

The Singapore Sports Hub comprises a wide range of venues, namely, a 55,000-capacity National Stadium, 6,000-capacity Aquatics Centre, 3,000-capacity Sports Arenas, a Water Sports Centre, a Library and about 41,000 sqm of retail and dining space.  Before the big game, I decided to roam the shopping and dining area named the Kallang Wave.  A huge shopping centre featuring a wide range of international fashion brands, sports wear as well as a large variety of dining choices, I easily lost track of time in the mall!

Just before the match began, I quickly made my way to the National Stadium.  The best part about the new Sports Hub is how close the National Stadium is to the shopping mall.  It took just five minutes to get from the shopping mall to my seat!  How convenient!

The new 55,000-seater National Stadium

The new 55,000-seater National Stadium

When I entered the National Stadium, I was blown away.  The 55,000-seater stadium was unlike anything else in Singapore. Featuring the world’s largest free-standing dome, the National Stadium also boasts a retractable roof and customisable, mechanised and automated retractable seating configurations on the lowest tier making it suitable to host a wide range of sports, concerts and other events.

What I found the most breathtaking was the view of the city skyline and the water.  How magnificent!  How beautiful!

The view of the Central Business District from the new National Stadium

The view of the Central Business District from the new National Stadium

While the Singapore Selection lost to Juventus Football Club, I left content.  I felt happy that I had the opportunity to visit this amazing stadium and be part of history, watching the first ever football game played in the new National Stadium.

Upcoming concerts and events held at the National Stadium include:

Mariah Carey, “Me. I am Mariah”, Friday, 24 October 2014
Jay Chou, “Opus 2 Jay 2014 World Tour”, Saturday, 8 November 2014
Asia Pacific Dragons vs Maori All Blacks XV’s Match, Saturday, 15 November 2014
One Direction, “On the Road Again”, Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Click here for more details and listings

If you are staying at Capella Singapore during any one of these periods, I strongly recommend contacting our Personal Assistants who will be able to assist with ticket bookings and transport.  They can be reached at +65 6591 5034/35 / pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

An Insider’s Tour of the Sultan Mosque

The Sultan Mosque

One thing I love about Singapore is that people from all races and religions live harmoniously together.  Because of the diversity of our citizens, we have public holidays to celebrate significant days within the different religions and cultures.  The most recent holiday we celebrated was Hari Raya Aidilfitri on 27 July 2014.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri is a celebration that comes right after Ramadan, a month of fasting for all Muslims who are physically and emotionally able to.  To learn more about Ramadan, I decided to pay a visit to one of the most prominent mosques in Singapore, the Sultan Mosque.  The Sultan Mosque regularly welcomes guests to teach them more about the history of the mosque as well as share a little bit about Islam.

The Sultan Mosque

The Sultan Mosque

One of the most distinguishing features of the Sultan Mosque is its golden dome.  Its golden dome glistens in the sunlight, enhancing its beauty.  Another unusual feature are the rows of soya sauce bottles that line the building.  Soya sauce bottles?  Yes, indeed!  When the mosque was built in the early 1800s, the villagers nearby wanted to donate something to the construction of the mosque.  However, they did not have much money and decided instead to donate soya sauce bottles.  These soya sauce bottles were readily accepted and formed a unique decorative feature of the mosque!

Soya Sauce Bottles form a decorative ring at the bottom of the golden dome

Soya Sauce Bottles form a decorative ring at the bottom of the golden dome

The inside of the mosque is as beautiful and as distinctive as the outside.  Dark green ornate carpets cover the prayer hall.  The moment I entered the mosque I felt a sense of peace and serenity.  I appreciated how simple the prayer hall was.

At the entrance of the prayer hall was a digital signboard filled with a row of numbers.  When I asked my guide what the numbers meant, my guide shared that the numbers were actually times.  The time Muslims must say their prayers everyday, the time of sunrise and the times Muslims must start and stop fasting.  It was very interesting.

The Prayer Hall

The Prayer Hall

When we finished our tour of the prayer hall, my guide brought me up to the roof.  This was a very special experience, offered only during Ramadan.  The view from the mosque’s roof was breathtaking, the experience itself was truly unforgettable.  While we were on the roof, I had the rare opportunity to listen to the beautiful Azan (call to worship) from the neighbouring minarets, watch the fiery orange sun descend into the grey-blue sky and feel the gentle evening breeze wrap itself around me.  It was truly a moment I will never forget.

The Sultan Mosque is open to visitors daily until 4:00 pm.  They have local guides that will be delighted to share more about the history of the mosque and Islam.  If you do plan to visit Sultan Mosque, I suggest spending a day walking the streets of Kampong Glam where you can enjoy delicious authentic Malay food, visit the Malay Heritage Centre and browse the shops selling authentic Malay clothes, perfumes and accessories.  Capella Singapore’s Personal Assistants will be more than delighted to arrange for local tours of Kampong Glam for you or perhaps recommend a good restaurant in the area.  They can be reached at +65 6591 5034/35 / pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

A Unique Chicken Satay Recipe

rsz_photo_1

With Singapore’s 49th National Day just around the corner on 9 August 2014, I decided to catch up with Capella Singapore’s Junior Executive Sous Chef, Aaron Goh, to talk about local food. As proud Singaporeans, we love our food. Visitors to our country often comment that Singaporeans are seen eating all day long – it is true! We have 24-hour coffee shops and hawker stalls such as Old Airport Road Hawker Centre, Newtown Hawker Centre, Chomp Chomp Hawker Centre and more all around the country just to satiate our huge appetites!

Chef Aaron shared, during our conversation that he was working on a very Singaporean-inspired dish Tiger Beer Chicken Satay. Yes, you heard right! Chicken satay marinated in Singapore’s national beer, Tiger Beer.

It sounded too delicious, so I persuaded him to share the recipe with you in celebration of National Day!  And if you happen to be in Singapore for the holiday, make plans to join Aaron at the hotel and try it yourself.

Chef Aaron's Tiger Beer Chicken Satay

Chef Aaron’s Tiger Beer Chicken Satay

Tiger Beer Chicken Satay Recipe

Ingredients

4 chicken legs and thighs (preferred) or 4 chicken breasts (boneless and skinless)
Bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 2 hours to avoid burning)
1 Bottle Tiger Beer

Spice Paste:

1tsp coriander powder
2 stalks lemongrass, white parts only
6 shallots (peeled)
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
4 tbsp cooking oil
1tsp chili powder
2 tsp turmeric powder (kunyit)
4 tsp of kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
1tsp oyster sauce
1 cucumber (skin peeled and cut into small pieces)
1 small onion (quartered)

Method:

  1. Cut the chicken meat into small cubes and marinate in Tiger beer overnight.
  2. Grind the Spice Paste in a food processor.
  3. Add in a little water if needed.
  4. Marinate the chicken pieces with the spice paste for 10-12 hours.
  5. Thread the meat onto the bamboo skewers and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  6. Serve hot with the fresh cucumber pieces and onions.

The History of Sentosa Island

officers_mess_-_party

I love history.  I find that knowing the history of a place adds to its unique character and personality and makes it even more endearing and charming.  With that in mind, I thought I would share a bit about the history of Sentosa Island and Capella Singapore.

Did you know that Sentosa Island, where Capella Singapore, is located, is the largest of Singapore’s southern islands and an island with a rich history and heritage?  In the past it was an island fortress and military base for the British army and today it is an island of pure entertainment and recreation.

On the western side of the island was Fort Siloso which has underground passages, bunkers and gun emplacements dating back to the 1800s.  It was built in the 1880s to protect Singapore, which was a thriving port under Great Britain’s rule.  Fort Siloso was part of Singapore’s coastal defence with Fort Serapong and Fort Connaught.  The guns at Fort Siloso were used during World War II and are part of Singapore’s rich history.

Capella Singapore is home to four colonial buildings – the two blocks where the main lobby, Capella Library and Chinese restaurant, Cassia, are located are actually two Colonial Manors.  In fact, they received conservation status in 2000.  These colonial buildings were formerly the Royal Artillery Officers’ Mess.

 The Officers’ Mess was where the officers and their families had their meals and recreational activities such as dining, dancing and tennis. There was a tennis court beside the block.

Royal Artillery Officers Christmas Party 1951

Royal Artillery Officers Christmas Party 1951

Christmas and New Year parties were celebrated at the Officers’ Mess.  Formal table settings extended out to the wide corridors of the block and band performances were held in the room at the entrance. From the Officers’ Mess, there was a good view of the Singapore harbour and it was a practice for the officers and their families to welcome in the new year with the loud horning from the ships in the harbour.

After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the government decided that it was important for the emerging nation to have a place of recreation.  Soon after, Sentosa Island was chosen for this purpose.  Sentosa Island was then given the name Sentosa Island in 1970, which means “Isle of Tranquility” in Malay and developed by the Singapore government into a recreational area in 1972.  It has now become an island of fun, filled with amusement parks, beaches, museums, restaurants, aquariums and many more attractions.  It is truly amazing how in just a few decades it has transformed from a military base into an exciting playground.

If you are interested in the history of Sentosa, you may wish to go for a tour at Fort Siloso or visit Images of Singapore where you can learn about the colourful history of Sentosa and of Singapore and how we became the thriving and successful country that we are today.  Do speak with one of our Personal Assistants to organise a tour at +65 6591 5035 / pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

Historical pictures of Capella Singapore’s past as the Royal Artillery Officers’ Mess are available for viewing in The Library.

Art Along the Banks of the Singapore River

img-20140618-wa0009

Singapore River is the lifeline of the country. It was on the very banks of Singapore River that the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, stood in 1819. Since then it has played an integral role in our country’s development serving as one of the busiest trading ports in Asia.

One of my favourite ways to unwind after a busy day at work is to spend time strolling the banks of the river. While it is no longer the busy trading port it was in the 19th century, the Singapore river is now an idyllic destination to eat, work and play. The shophouses along Boat Quay and Clarke Quay that used to be filled with spices, sugar, salt and other items of trade, have now been converted into trendy bars and restaurants – the watering hole of Singapore’s stylish and sophisticated crowd.

Today, during my usual walk down the banks of the river, two particular bronze sculptures caught my eye: A Great Emporium by Malcolm Koh and From Chettiars to Financiers by Sculptor Chern Lian Shan.

These sculptures depict life as it was along the banks of the Singapore River in the 19th century.

A Great Emporium by Malcolm Koh

A Great Emporium by Malcolm Koh

In A Great Emporium, there are four distinct characters represented in the sculpture, a British Trader, a Chinese Merchant, a Chinese Coolie and an Indian Coolie all engaged in trade. Coolie refers to manual labourer, the origins of the word has both Chinese and Indian derivations.

It really brought me back 200 years ago. When life was tough. Many of these coolies, liked the coolies in the sculpture, worked without a thread on their backs. They carried gunny sacks of rice, flour and spices from ship to shore for pittance.  These coolies were indeed the backbone of our society. They built up Singapore. Without them, we could not have developed as fast and as furious as we did.  The sculpture reminded me of how fast Singapore has developed and how grateful I am!

The sculpture to its left, From Chettiars to Financiers, is also a depiction of life along the banks of the river in the 19th century.  This sculpture shows the dramatic change of Singapore’s finance industry.  From simple Indian Chettiars who were most commonly moneylenders with the pig-tailed clerk to a female financier.  How times have changed.

From Chettiars to Financiers by Chern Lian Shan

From Chettiars to Financiers by Chern Lian Shan

The Indian Chettiars originated from Chettinad in Tamil Nadu.  Interestingly, the term “Chettiar” is actually a caste label, not another name for moneylender.  These moneylenders were private financiers who lent money to entrepreneurs and businessman.

I spent quite a while admiring these two sculptures. Indeed, life has changed for us here in Singapore. We have evolved from a small trading port to one of the most stable and secure economies in the world.  As we reap what our forefathers have sowed, we should never forget where we came from.  These bronze sculptures along the Singapore River serve as fitting reminders of our past.

Capella Singapore’s Personal Assistants will be able to share more information about Clarke Quay and Boat Quay and recommend restaurants and bars along the river. If you would like to organise a private tour or book a restaurant, please contact our Personal Assistants at +65 6591 5035 / pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.