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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Day One in Singapore

Want to go to a Film Festival in the sky????  Fly Singapore Airlines from LA nonstop to Singapore.  17 hours with your own little movie screen and a choice of 95 movies.  Not a bad way to make the time go by.  We saw 5 movies and took naps in  between.  

Then Welcome to Singapore!  Probably the world's cleanest and safest country.  When filling out the entry card on the plane you're reminded that there is the Death Penalty for traffic-ing in drugs here.  Then the soldiers with their loaded and ready to shoot machine guns patrolling the airport are also a reminder that you don't want to come up against these guys.



Here's what we did for our first day here...

We took a long walk along the Singapore River in the heat and humidity of a typical day in this country which is so near the equator.   You can take a cruise up or down the river or just sit alongside it. 



Singapore is famous for being meticulously clean.  We were interested to see these gentlemen, whose job it is to pick up rubbish from the river's surface...




Here's the beautiful underside of a bridge.



And there were some fantastic trees to admire...
Notice the ferns growing all the way up the branches.  (The "Cherry Blossom Trees" aren't really trees - they were sculptural pieces from a Year of the Rat New Year's celebration in an open park here).



And another great tree called a Ravenala Madagascariensis (thank you Jeff Chemnick who says they're a tad too tropical to grow in SB.)  What a pity!



Then we went to the Asian Cultural Museum and saw an exhibit entitled:  "On the Nalanda Trail".  It was as much of a meditation for us as sitting quietly in our meditation room at home.  We were lucky to tag along with an Asian tourist who stood and prayed at many of the relics, so the sound of his hypnotic voice chanting was trance-like and beautiful.  The highlight was the room of the Relics from the Buddha.  Apparently his physical remains had been distributed out to 8 branches of his family and devotees.  But later a king found most of them, and re-distributed them to over 1000 places. One place was not found until much later though - the relics given to the Shakya clan. Of the 22 remaining bones, 4 of them were on exhibit on a magnificent golden throne here. (Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos of this.)  You could still feel the spiritual power emanating from these bones.



This Buddha has seven serpents, representing the seven chakras.  He is also seated on the 3.5 coils of the serpent, which represent the coiled Kundalini at the base of the spine.  It is so amazing to be in a culture where meditation is dominantly portrayed and the process of awakening is a reality known to all, whether they individually pursue it or not - everyone holds it out as the ideal.



This is a giant bronze Buddhapada from Thailand representing the footprint of the Buddha.  It has 108 symbols of good omens, animals of the horoscope and royal insignia.  It is one of the earliest no-iconic representations of the Buddha and act as a reminder of the Buddha's enduring influence even after entering Nirvana.





Here was a fun way to end our day - enjoying a cup of 4 different flavors of Turkish Ice Cream - chocolate, mango, pistacho and lemon. We had a little trouble understanding his Turkish/English, but we think he told us that his unique ice cream was made out of goat's milk - hence its thickness. It tasted great, and no goat flavor, until you were all done with it, and found yourself wondering what that somewhat unusual aftertaste was...