Showing posts with label merlion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label merlion. Show all posts

29 July 2011

Icons of Singapore - Merlion

I've fallen a little behind in my postings lately for a very good reason.  We've had two visitors staying with us since the beginning of July (my fiance's two sons, my stepsons) and so we've been taking them to various places on the island.

One of the first things they wanted to see was the Merlion.  I realised this was one of the tourist things I did when I came here on a pre move holiday but I've never really mentioned or acknowledged it on this blog as a result.  I wrote about what I consider to be another icon of Singapore (Raffles Hotel) a while ago and I think the merlion can also be classed in the same category.  It is one of the things that most people (even those who haven't been to Singapore) will be aware of and will recognise.

It is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body and tail of a fish.  The fish body is said to represent Singapore from the time it was a fishing village known as Temasek.  Temasek means sea town in Javanese.  The lion head represents Singapore's original name, Singapura which means Lion City.  I've mentioned this before but when an ancient prince landed on Temasek he believed he saw a lion on the shore and named the place Singapura.  As there have never been lions in Singapore it is more probable that he saw a tiger but still the name stuck and the island was renamed Singapore.  The merlion symbol was designed in the 1960's so despite it being instantly recognisable as a symbol of Singapore it is not as old as you may first think.

Although the one in my photo above is probably the one you are most likely to have seen in photos of Singapore, this is the one near the Fullerton Hotel at the mouth of the Singapore river.  There are a number of merlion statues dotted around the island including one on the island of Sentosa.  This one is big enough to go up in and has a viewing platform, personally I think this one looks a little scary.  I haven't been up on to the viewing platform so I don't know how good the view is.  There is a smaller merlion behind the one in my photo above (which also spouts water) and another at Mount Faber amongst others on the island.

Whilst thinking about this post I had a bit of a look on the Internet for merlion references and did stumble across one thing that amused me.  According to Wikipedia, so please correct me if this is wrong, Singaporeans often use the term 'merlion' in place of vomiting, due to the merlion's constant gush of water from its mouth!  It is, apparently, now used by Singaporean medical staff as a slang term for a patient suffering with this condition - lovely!

Earlier this year the merlion found a different kind of fame as a temporary 5 star hotel suite.  For a month from April to May the merlion was obscured from view as it became the centre feature in this one luxury room.  To the casual observer it could almost have looked as if the merlion were undergoing some form of maintenance work.  It was however part of the Singapore biennale 2011 organised by the Singapore Art Museum and was a piece of art by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi.  I should clarify that for the duration of this the water gushing from the merlion's mouth was temporarily turned off!  You can read a little more about this here.  The merlion is now back to how it looks in the photo above with water gushing from its mouth. 

The merlion really is an iconic Singaporean mascot, countless souvenirs can be found either of merlions or with the merlion featuring on them.  There are bars with cocktails served in merlion shaped containers and in merlion shaped glass holders.  At the Youth Olympics last year one of the mascots was a character called Merly who was based on the merlion.  The list is endless.  You would certainly find it difficult to avoid the merlion, or at least something linked to it, on a visit.

24 November 2010

Mount Faber & a Cable Car Ride to Sentosa

So this weekend we took an afternoon trip to Mount Faber.  That makes it sound like a big mountain which I guess for Singapore it is as they don't have mountains here but in reality it is only really a hillock.  Still it's surprising how you notice any vertical climbs after living here for a while!

Mount Faber was originally named Telok Blangah and was once the seat of Singapore's temenggong or chieftain.  I gather it got its present name in 1845 and was renamed after government engineer, Captain Charles Edward Faber.

We took a taxi up to the top, perhaps we should have walked but the taxi driver just kept going and having not been there before we weren't exactly sure what to expect or where the best place to get out at was.  Besides as I mentioned before walks up steep inclines particularly in this heat and humidity are not what they are cracked up to be!

Once we reached the top we were dropped off near a cafe and what seemed to be a conference and dining centre called the Jewel Box and from here it was a short walk to the viewing point at the top.  Unfortunately it was a typically wet and therefore slightly hazy / cloudy day so the views weren't brilliant and you couldn't see that far.  Perhaps also this is something that should be done sooner as a lot of the views did seem to me at least to be the same views as at other vantage points in the area just from a different angle.  For example the view towards the city of the CBD skyline. 

On the plus side though there were lots of helpful boards pointing out the main points of interest you were looking too and markers on the ground pointing towards key points on the island and the direction of places beyond such as Bangkok, the Indian Ocean, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and so forth.  There was also a fascinating set of murals illustrating key points in Singapore's history from the point of discovery when legend has it that a Sumatran prince visiting the island of Temasek saw what he thought was a lion which prompted him to name the spot Singapura or Lion City, Sir Stamford Raffles colonisation of Singapore for the British, the Japanese invasion in the Second World War right through to a mural depicting modern day multi-cultural Singapore.

From here we decided to catch a cable car to Sentosa. I've only been on the monorail to Sentosa so I thought it would be fun to get there via another means and would hopefully provide some lovely views.

I was surprised by high up the cable car was but how smooth a ride it was and we were lucky to have a whole car just to the two of us.  So plenty of opportunity to take photos without getting in other people's way.  Again the views were restricted due to the weather but we got some nice views back towards Singapore, across Sentosa, across the port of Singapore and out to sea.  There was also a cruise ship moored in port and we went right over the top of it so had a bird's eye view of all the people on the ship lounging by the pool (which wasn't very big though they did have two pools).

You could easily pick out the merlion at Sentosa but again some of the views were a bit disappointing as where there is building work going on on Sentosa at times you were just riding over what looked like a building site.  Nonetheless though it was a nice alternate way to arrive at Sentosa.

After a wander around Sentosa, which is always a pleasant though always busy spot to while away an afternoon we ended up at the Hard Rock cafe on Sentosa and had a couple of drinks in the bar. This was made all the more fun by the unexpected entertainment provided by the bar staff. They suddenly started dousing this one girl in water, spray cream, and the fruit juice mixers they use for cocktails etc. and she ended up absolutely drenched. Though she did get her revenge on a few of her colleagues as well by giving them a good soaking too. It turned out it was her birthday and this is a little ritual they have for anyone on duty on their birthday! If it were me I think I might try and keep my birthday quiet .....

04 October 2010

Tourist Stuff and Chilli Crab

As I've mentioned my friend from the UK came out to stay with me last week, it was lovely to see her and also fun to be doing the tourist things again.  Once the Grand Prix was over I organised a full itinerary of things to do and see and I think she saw the main parts of Singapore during her week. 

The list is endless but we went on a boat trip on the Singapore river, saw Sir Stamford Raffles statue, the merlion statue, went to a couple of museums, the Central Business District with its amazing modern buildings (the picture to the left is of this area at night on the evening of the Grand Prix), Sentosa (a lovely island off Singapore which has beaches, bars and other attractions), Little India, Chinatown, Kampong Glam (or the Arab Quarter as it is known to tourists), Orchard Road and of course a multitude of bars and restaurants including the must do - a Singapore Sling at Raffles.

My friend made me laugh when she said she couldn't remember the last time she had been out every night of the week.  I admitted to her that although you could easily do that here it wasn't the norm for us either but for her visit it seemed a much nicer thing to do then sitting in front of the TV each night.  Especially with so much food choice to be had here.

Despite me doing a lot of things I've done previously I did succeed in a couple of firsts myself as well.  I went with my friend to an attraction on Sentosa called Images of Singapore.  I have to be honest in that this is one of several attractions across Singapore giving an account of the island's history or an aspect of it but this place is great for someone here on a brief visit who wants to get the main headlines of Singapore's history.  The wax works and fun interactive displays also made it a lot of fun and worth the visit.

In my continuing quest to try different foods whilst here I braved chili crab as well for the first time last week.  Well when I say I braved it we had a portion between four of us and I tried a bit but I still think that counts.  Before you ask yes it wasn't bad at all just a bit too messy with the chili sauce everywhere for my liking.  I doubt I'd ever order it again but at least I can now say I've tried it! 
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