Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chinese Garden

As I mentioned, Bryan and I got an apartment, and we've been pretty busy settling in. I know that people want to see pictures of the place, and I'll get some up soon, I promise. I just want everything to be put away before I take pictures. We're getting there.

We've had a chance to do some exploring around our apartment, and the coolest thing we've found so far is that we're a mere 15-minute walk from the beautiful Chinese Garden. The garden is located on an island in the middle of Jurong Lake, and you walk across a bridge to get to it. A separate island next to the Chinese Garden has the Japanese Garden, but we haven't explored that yet, mostly because we got caught up in the first garden and spent a lot of time there. Apparently the gardens together take up 13.5 hectares, which I guess is a lot, but I actually have no clue what a hectare is. As soon as you walk into the Chinese Garden, you're confronted by this striking seven-story pagoda (which I unfailingly pronounce as "padoga," making myself sound like a fool). It has a neat spiral staircase on the inside, and we went all the way to the top and checked out the view. We could see our apartment building from up there, so that was pretty exciting. I love buildings that have traditional Chinese architecture- the curved roofs and carvings on the doorways and things, so I really enjoyed all of the buildings in the garden...even the door handles.

Within the garden was an area that featured bonsai arrangements. We read a little bit about it when we were there. I've always been amazed at how much bonsai trees and arrangements look like smaller versions of things that occur in nature- trees look like mini versions of real trees, rock arrangements look like small mountain ranges. The information we read said that's actually the point of the ancient art, which shows how little I knew about it. It's an art that the Chinese learned from the Japanese, and the Chinese version is called penjing, not bonsai. Some of the arrangements in the garden were as old as 300 years. It seems strange to think that the care of these plants has been passed down through generations- it's pretty awe-inspiring. The penjing arrangements were in a garden with several really neat buildings and a koi pond. The koi swam right up to us- apparently they've grown used to having people feed them. We were a disappointment though, because we had no food, and eventually they lost interest and swam off. It was all so peaceful- colorful fish and bubbling waterfalls and charming buildings and beautiful plants without many people around. I felt like we'd wandered far out of the city, but we were really only a few blocks from our apartment. It was nice to get away for awhile. (Below is a picture of Bryan in the area with the bonsai- I think he looks like Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, haha).

There was a series of sculptures in the garden as well, portraying important figures in Chinese history. I was a little ashamed of my lack of history knowledge when I only recognized two of the names (Confucius and Mulan), and I only knew one because of a Disney movie. The picture on the left is Confucius, looking very wise indeed.

But I've saved the most exciting part for last. As we walked around the garden, we started seeing signs for the "Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum". Those of you who know me well know how I feel about turtles. For those of you who don't, I have a childlike adoration for all things turtle-associated. I get giddy about turtles; I think they are fascinating and cute and funny-looking and I love them. Needless to say, I was pretty excited about the idea of a gigantic turtle oasis fifteen minutes from my apartment. I was not disappointed. The museum is in the Guinness Book of World Recordsas having the largest collection of turtles anywhere in the world. The collection includes things like jade turtle figurines and turtles made out of seashells in addition to the substantial collection of live turtles. It was a quirky little place, and I loved it. I had a fabulous time, and I think Bryan enjoyed it too. At the very least, I think he enjoyed watching me act like a 5-year old at a playground. For me, the highlights were 1) pig-nosed turtles, which are hilarious-looking 2) an albino red-eared slider and 3) a pond literally teeming with turtles, which you can feed with turtle food. When you walk over the bridge where people stand to feed the turtles, they pretty much swarm it. The turtles try to climb on top of each other to get to the food, and their shells all clack together. It's so cute and kind of funny to watch. I fed the turtles and they were very eager (I even got my finger munched on, which was mostly my fault). Bryan told me I looked a little bit like a turtle goddess being worshipped by my loyal subjects.

All in all, it was a pretty fabulous day. I'm really excited to have such an awesome place so close to where we live. Hopefully we'll be going back soon.

Tomorrow is Singapore's National Day, so I think we're going to try to venture out to enjoy some of the festivities. I expect that public transit might be rather nightmarish tomorrow, but we'll give it our best shot.

Picture of the apartment are coming soon, I promise!


  1. Hi Crystal,
    A hectare is a metric unit of area. An are is 100 square meters, and a hectare is 100 ares, or 10,000 square meters. The prefix "hect" is the same as in hectometer.
    Annette and I are enjoying your posts.
    My blog, although not as exciting and exotic as yours, as at Click on "Blogs" in the blue toolbar and on "Woolgathering."
    John Whitacre

  2. Hey John-

    Thanks! I'm still getting used to not using American units of measurement. I'm glad that you and Annette are reading the blog, and I'll be sure to check yours out as well!