Sunday, April 18, 2010

Singapore – China Planning and National Museum Living Exhibits

Sightseeing for the day was an evening trip out to the Living Exhibits at the National Museum, which are free in the evening. The four exhibits were Food, Photography (family portraits), Film (and Opera), and Fashion. All the exhibits were well put together. There was also a bonus exhibit on shopping bag history.

The food exhibit talked extensively about local dishes and the local food hawkers. With most Singaporeans being single workers, there was a huge demand for cheap ready-to-eat food, and back in the day, people who lived upstairs would lower a basket with money out the window, and then hoist it back up with their food! They also showed a variety of cooking implements and had a huge display (including sniffing opportunities) of spices/flavors used locally. The hawkers would advertise what they were selling by banging different sized pieces of bamboo together to make a distinctive tone unique to whatever kind of food they were selling.

From Singapore

The fashion exhibit was also surprisingly interesting. It was really more about women coming into their own in Singapore, and how that was reflected in fashion. I'm going to write a side topic about this at some point (it's been on the agenda since we got to Thailand), but the basic thrust is that women choose to dress differently when they are free equal members of society with their own money with which to purchase their own cloths. It also had some interesting details about how new fabric technologies allowed for changes in traditional garments.

The exhibit on bags showed a variety of shopping bags, talked about how they were made, the economics involved, advertising, and so forth. A very modern exhibit, and pretty cool.

From Singapore

From Singapore

After, we tried to go see the historic Raffles Hotel, but instead found ourselves wondering around Raffles City, which is a fancy upscale mall. However, like several of the malls we've been in, it had a reasonably priced grocery store in the basement where we picked up some food. Our hotel provides us with a breakfast of all-you-can-eat duck bread, cornflakes, and stuff to go on them. Also provides us with 24-hour tea (caffeinated only) and coffee, plus access to the refrigerator, toasters, and hot water, so we've been buying our own whole grain bread, cereal, and herbal tea. There's still good value to the included breakfast though. The butter, kaya (the incredibly good local coconut-egg jam), milk, coffee, and toaster are the expensive parts of breakfast anyway. There was an incredible fountain in the mall too.

From Singapore

Before all this we spent the morning sleeping and the afternoon booking our flight to Hong Kong (April 23rd, giving us a nice long vacation from our vacation here in Singapore), and doing research about what we will see and how we will get around China. It seems that Chinese trains cost about 4x as much booked online as at the train station or through a local agent. Good to know. We've cut basically all the stuff we wanted to do in Southern China due to it being too hot-—southern China seemed like a good idea when we thought we'd be in China in February—-thus cutting our time there almost in half.

Our proposed China itinerary is as follows:

April 23rd – Arrive in Hong Kong
April 24-26th – See Hong Kong
April 27th – Travel to Yichang (end of Three Gorges), probably an overnight train on the 26th followed by a rest day.
April 28th-May 1st – Three Gorges cruise upriver to Chongqing (this is upstream, which is not what most people do, but works better with our overland Hong Kong to Beijing itinerary).
May 2nd – Travel to Chengdu (can probably do this the same day the boat gets us in, but allow a day to be sure)
May 3-4th – Chengdu
May 5th – Travel to Xi'an, probably another night train followed by rest day
May 6-7th – Xi'an
May 8th – Travel to Beijing, probably another night train followed by rest day
May 9-12th – Beijing/Catch up
May 13th – Fly to Cairo

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