Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Misadventure in Little India

Last weekend, I was itching to explore someplace new, but the haze was making Bryan and I hesitant to spend the day outside.  I dusted off our Singapore guidebook and found the Museum of Shanghai Toys, which looked like a delightfully bizarre way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  The museum's website boasted photos of boatloads of toys, most of them antique, some of them creepy enough to star in their own horror movie.  I though my dad, who enjoys collecting old toys, would particularly enjoy seeing photos from this little adventure, so we headed off.  Our destination was Little India, which seemed to me an unlikely location for a museum featuring Shanghai oddities.

Little India was all decked out in anticipation of next month's Deepavali festival, which is huge for Indians- most of our Indian friends are flying home for the celebration, and plane tickets to India for next month have increased to the preposterous rates usually reserved for flying to the U.S. for Christmas.  Little India looked like it was ready to start the celebration now.
Deepavali street decorations
The museum was quite a walk from the MRT station, so we set about the tedious task of weaving our way through the extraordinarily crowded streets of Little India.  A stroll through this neighborhood is an absolute assault on your senses- the smell of Indian spices permeates the air, horns honk almost continually as pedestrians plunge out into the streets wherever they please, Bollywood music blasts from speakers mounted outside shops, and every bright shade of the rainbow is represented in the stands along the street- bright yellow thalis, vivid red saris, deep orange pakoras, lush green herbs.  If you weren't hungry before you got there, you will be after a couple of minutes of smelling all that food!

We passed by a temple that we'd seen a couple of times before- the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (say that five times fast).  No matter how many times I see it, I always want to pause to photograph it.  At my request, Bryan snapped a few shots from across the street.
Beautiful temple with a not-so-attractive backdrop
Mind-boggling detal
We finally turned down Rowell Street, where we expected to find our museum.  Instead we found a vacant building at the address we'd gotten from the website.  We walked up and down the length of the street, but despite the fact that the Shanghai Toy Museum's website is still up and running, the place itself was obviously gone.  We were out of luck!  We'd planned to spend a few hours at the museum before trying out Banana Leaf Apolo for dinner.  Unfortunately, the restaurant closes between lunch and dinner, so we were now just kind of stuck with nothing to do but wander around.  We roamed awhile, admiring the blend of modern and colonial architecture that characterizes Little India.
Futuristic architecture with old townhouses in the foreground
See the plants growing out of the building wall?

The little girl in me has always wanted a purple house
Love this funky staircase
We ended up at a place called Sitara for an early dinner.  It was tasty enough to make me forget all about the restaurant we intended to visit, and we both left with full stomachs and smiles.  To end our day, we headed to the positively chaotic Mustafa Centre to buy some frozen paneer.  Mustafa is ludicrous- it's a massive shopping centre, taking up four or five stories and covering more than one city block (I honestly don't know how big it really is.  In my mind, it's endless).  They sell everything, from frozen Indian dinners to Playstation 3's.  And it's ALWAYS packed with people, every day of the week, day or night.  The aisles are close together, and apparently they're always being cited for violating fire codes, but I guess they just pay the fines and keep doing their thing.  They have to be raking in so much money that those fines are barely a blip on their radar anyway.  Whenever you buy stuff at Mustafa, they seal up your shopping bag to prevent shoplifting.  It sure looks funny!

On the purple line train, we noticed a little window that was originally built for the driver to look out.  I don't know if the trains are automated now, or if a separate compartment for the driver was built, but the place where the control panel used to be was boarded over, so we stood in the little window.  Bryan took pictures as we sped through dark underground tunnels.  It was a perspective we don't usually see, and it made me feel like we were rocketing through outer space!
Zooming through the MRT tunnel

1 comment:

  1. I love the staircase picture, and the MRT picture. Bryan's photos are really great. I'm envious.