A Travellerspoint blog

Singapore

Lion City.

sunny

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Orchid Display at Changi Airport.

Singapore - Lion City.

Singapore is an island located at the foot of the Malay peninsula. During the fourteenth century Sang Nila Utama, a Prince from Palembang, was on a hunting trip when he saw an animal he had never seen before. Thinking it was a lion, he named the location of the sighting Singapura. This name comes from the Sanskrit words simha - lion and pura -city. Singapore was then ruled by the five kings. The city's strategic location made it a good trading hub. In the nineteenth century Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles came to Singapore and recognised its importance as a halfway point on the shipping trade route between China and India. Raffles negotiated a treaty with the local rulers and established Singapore as a trading station for the East India Company. The city grew and attracted immigrants from China, India and Malaya. Singapore remained a British colony until the Japanese invasion in 1942. Singapore resumed being a British colony in 1945 at the end of the war. 1959 saw the growth of nationalism in Singapore. This led to self-government and the country’s first general election. The People’s Action Party won and Lee Kuan Yew became the first prime minister of Singapore. In 1963 Malaya became Malaysia. It was made up of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo. Less than two years later on the 9th of August 1965, Singapore left Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign democratic nation. Singapore is hot all year round but has a wet and dry season.

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Chinese New Year, Singapore.

We have been to Singapore many times. Three times to have holidays there and many, many times as a short stopover on route to somewhere else. The time I started this page we only had an afternoon and evening on our way to Nepal and a night on our way back from Nepal, so it was a bit of a flying visit. We were staying overnight in the Holiday Inn Atrium Hotel prior to going to Nepal. This turned out to be a lovely hotel with a good swimming pool. We reached the hotel by travelling to Outram MRT Station. Then we set out to walk to the centre along the Singapore River. This was an end of the river we had not been to before. It was much quieter than around Boat Quay or Clarke Quay and had many hotels and peaceful riverside bars, restaurants and cafes. If we had had more time, we would have followed the river away from the centre, too to see where we ended up. When we reached Boat Quay on our walk, down came the rain, and when it rains in Singapore, it really really rains. You have no option but to take cover. We fled to the nearest restaurant and listened to the rain battering down on the tarpaulin above our heads. Still the downpour did not last all day and we were able to continue our walk. That visit we only had time to wander the river, look at the quays, the merlion statue, the pedang, St Andrew's Church, the Raffles Hotel and Chjmes. I wanted to climb Fort Canning Hill again and visit the Armenian Church but we ran out of daylight and the weather was not on our side.

Just returned from our latest visit to Singapore in October 2015. We had just two full days and two part days. Mainly we concentrated on sights connected to World War II though we did re-visit Chinatown and Little India, too. No matter how many times we come to Singapore we never run out of things to do. For such a small place it has got lots going for it. My own personal favourites, that I could never tire of, are wandering the colonial heart of Singapore along the Singapore River and visiting the ever stunning Chinese/Japanese Gardens. Things we have enjoyed on previous visits are Singapore Botanical Gardens, the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, Little India, China Town, Orchard Road, the Kranji War Memorial and War Cemetery, the Malay area of Kampong Glam, swimming at the beach off Beach Road, going up Mount Faber by bus and off by cable car, Sentosa Island, Haw Par Villa (though I'm not sure if it is still there), the Mandai Orchid Garden and I'm sure there is much much more.

For future visits I want to go to Singapore Zoo which everyone raves about. Then off course Singapore is perfect for day trips across to Johor Bahru in Malaysia which we have done and trips across to Bantan and Bintu Islands in Indonesia which we have still to do. I doubt we are ever in danger of running out of things to do here.

Sir Stamford Raffles.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles is considered to be the founder of Singapore. There are actually two Raffles statues commemorating him in Singapore. One is made of white marble and is located at the original landing site when Raffles first came to Singapore. The other is the older statue. It is made of dark bronze and used to stand on the padang but was relocated, as it kept getting hit by footballs. It is now on Empress Place in front of the Victoria Theatre. Thomas Stamford Raffles was born on a ship off the coast of Jamaica on July 6th, 1781. His parents were from Yorkshire, and were involved in the West Indies spice trade. At the age of 14, Raffles began working in London as a clerk for the British East India Company. In 1805 he was sent to Malaya to work as assistant secretary to a British colonial governor. In 1811 Raffles led a successful military invasion against the Dutch colony on Java. For this achievement he was made the island’s governor until it returned to Dutch rule. Later while serving as governor of the British colony of Bencoolen on Sumatra, Raffles decided to investigate possible locations for a new permanent British outpost in Southeast Asia. He landed on the small island of Singapore in 1819 and recognized its importance as a half-way point on the sea trade route from British India to China. When Raffles arrived there was a small Malay settlement at the mouth of the Singapore River. This settlement was led by a Temenggong or governor for the Sultan of Johor. The incumbent Sultan of Johor, Tengku Abdul Rahman, was under the power of the Dutch and would never agree to a British base in Singapore. However, Abdul Rahman was only sultan because his older brother, Tengku Hussein had been away in Pahang getting married when their father died. Hussein, the rightful Sultan of Johor, was living in exile in the Riau Islands. With the Temenggong's help, Raffles smuggled Tengku Hussein to Singapore. He recognized Hussein as the rightful Sultan of Johor, and provided him with a yearly payment. In return, Hussein granted the British East India Company the right to establish a trading post on Singapore. This agreement was ratified with a formal treaty signed on the 6th of February 1819 and modern Singapore was born.

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The Raffles Statue.

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The Raffles Statue.

The Raffles Hotel.

It is beyond my budget to stay here, but I love visiting this hotel. The Raffles was built by the Armenian immigrant Sarkies brothers who have left fantastic hotels all over Asia:- the E and O, Penang, the Majapahit, Surabaya (where we once had the luxury of staying), the Strand, Rangoon and another hotel on Java which we have not visited yet. The Raffles was opened in December 1887. It was in this hotel that the Singapore sling was invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. The last Singapore tiger was shot beneath the billiard room in 1902. As non-guests you can wander around the courtyards and corridors. there is a great museum here with photos of Singapore in the past. Famous guests who have stayed in the Raffles include Somerset Maughm and Noel Coward. Visit the Long Bar, sip a Singapore Sling and throw monkey nut shells on the floor. Or just wander the corridors and stairways listening to the ceiling fans whirring around, gazing into the palm tree filled courtyards below and feeling like you have just stepped into the past. Fantastic!

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The Raffles Hotel.

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The Raffles Hotel.

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The Raffles Hotel.

Chijmes.

Chijmes started out as the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus and was built by French nuns. Now it is a wonderful place to shop, eat or drink. Many restaurants and bars surround the beautiful old church which is lit up magically at night. A wonderful place to chill out and relax over a delicious dinner.

The Merlion Statue.

The merlion was designed by Fraser Brunner for the Singapore Tourism Board in 1964 and was used as its logo up to 1997. It has a lion's head and a fish tail, water spouts from its mouth. There are actually five merlions in Singapore. The original one is in Merlion Park, with its smaller cub displayed behind it. The tallest Merlion is on Sentosa Island - you can climb up inside this one. There is a fourth one on top of Mount Faber and a fifth at tourism court. The merlion is a mythical creature and owes its origins to a legend. When Prince Nila Utama first set foot on the island that is now Singapore in the 11th century, he saw a strange creature which he later discovered was a lion. The fish tail was added due to the importance of the sea to life in Singapore. Singapore is also known as Lion City due to this legend.

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The Merlion Statue.

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The Merlion Statue.

Boat Quay And Clarke Quay.

Boat Quay on the Singapore River was the main centre of Chinese river trade right up until the 1960s, then the area fell into decline. In the 1980's it was restored and the former warehouses were made into restaurants and bars. More restaurants and bars surround nearby Clarke Quay. A pleasant spot for a meal by the river.

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Boat Quay And Clarke Quay.

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Boat Quay And Clarke Quay.

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Boat Quay And Clarke Quay.

St Andrews Cathedral.

The site for this Anglican Cathedral was chosen by Sir Stamford Raffles. G.D. Coleman was the architect who designed it. It was similar in design to St George's Church Penang and St George's Cathedral Madras. The Church was completed in 1834. A spire was added by J.T.Thomson in 1842 to make the building look more church like. The building is a wonderful bright white colour. Unfortunately though I would love to look inside this building it has always been closed when I have been there. It is located very close to the Padang.

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St Andrews Cathedral.

The Padang.

The Padang is a wide open green field. You find these in most places that were former British colonies. DearMalaysia, Singapore and Brunei have generally kept their pedangs well preserved. At one end of the Singapore padang lies the cricket club. The padangs were always used for playing cricket as well as for other activities. The padang Singapore is also surrounded by the supreme court building, the Singapore recreation club, the cenotaph and St Andrew's Cathedral. Apparently the Sir Stamford Raffles statue used to be next to the padang, too but it was relocated as it kept getting hit by footballs. It's now closer to the river. The Padang was wet and muddy, being dug up for some reason and looking a bit worse for wear during our visit.

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The Padang.

Sculpture.

Singapore has got some great street sculptures. I'm sure we would have encountered many more given more time, but here are pictures of a couple on the Singapore River. The sculpture of the little boys is in front of the Fullerton Hotel. The ox cart is nearby.

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Sculpture.

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Sculpture.

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Sculpture.

The Singapore River.

The Singapore River was once its life's blood as a trading route. Now it is more of a pleasant place for a stroll, or to eat and drink next to. You can also take a boat trip along it. We did that many years ago.

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The Singapore River.

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The Singapore River.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

We did not actually go to this hotel but the hotel tended to dominate the skyline almost everywhere we went. It looks like a metro train perched on top of three towers. I would love to swim in its infinity pool which must have fantastic views over Singapore.

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Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

Armenian Church.

The Armenian Church is The Church of St Gregory the Illuminator. This lovely little church is near the foot of Fort Canning Hill. There were several pet rabbits in the garden during our visit. The church was built in 1835. It is the oldest Christian place of worship in Singapore. It was designed by George Coleman and became a national monument on 28 June 1973.

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Armenian Church.

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Armenian Church.

Fort Canning Hill.

Singapore is mainly flat, so this is a small hill, but it still has good views and an interesting history. Fort Canning Hill used to be known as Bukit Larangan - Forbidden Hill. Later it became Government Hill. It is 156 ft high and can be found at the junction of Canning Rise and Fort Canning Road. In the 14th century this area was the summer home of the Majapahit kings, and in colonial times, it was the location of the residence of colonial governors starting with Sir Stamford Raffles. At one point this was the site of the Botanic Gardens. It was from here that Lieutenant General Percival made the decision to surrender to the Japanese.

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Fort Canning Hill.

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Fort Canning Hill.

The Chinese And Japanese Gardens.

You can get to this beautiful park by MRT. The Chinese Gardens are stunning and are one of my favourite places in Singapore. The Japanese Gardens are much plainer. The Chinese Gardens have a bonsai exhibition, pagodas, a lake, scenic walkways. The garden was designed by renowned Taiwanese architect Yuen-Chen Yu. This was another place where I got carried away with the photos. This is one of our favourite places in Singapore. We have visited several times in good weather and during a torrential rainstorm. The gardens are a great places to wile away a few hours. They have many sights, plants and peaceful shady places to sit in. Well worth a visit.

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The Chinese And Japanese Gardens.

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The Chinese And Japanese Gardens.

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The Chinese And Japanese Gardens.

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The Chinese And Japanese Gardens.

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The Chinese And Japanese Gardens.

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The Chinese And Japanese Gardens.

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The Chinese And Japanese Gardens.

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The Chinese And Japanese Gardens.

Sentosa.

I am not really a theme park person, but this was quite nice and worth a visit. It is good for kids. We went up Mount Faber first then took the cable car here, but you can also come here direct. The cable car ride was good fun with great views. Sentosa had some themed walks and a very pretty sandy beach. Universal Studios is located here but we did not visit it. There is a huge merlion statue here.

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Sentosa.

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Sentosa.

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Sentosa.

Hindu Temples.

Singapore is a rich mixture of cultures which is one of the things that makes it interesting to visit. Singapore was the first place I ever saw a Hindu temple. Hindu temples are rich in colour and have lots of different statues of gods, goddesses and animals.

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Hindu Temples.

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Hindu Temples.

Chinatown.

Singapore has a colourful and interesting Chinatown. You can get here by taking the MRT to Chinatown Station. We just had a quick stroll around the main market areas on Pagoda Street, but there is also a food street. Here you can also find Hindu temples, Buddhist temples and mosques. I liked the colourful buildings of Chinatown, the market, the street decorations and the Tin Tin shop. Chinatown has free wifi on the streets which was quite useful for us during our visit.

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Chinatown.

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Chinatown.

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Chinatown.

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Chinatown.

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Chinatown.

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Chinatown.

Little India.

Get here by taking the MRT to Little India Station. We have visited Little India in the past and were not over-impressed so this visit we did not expect much and to our surprise it was really interesting. We explored a colourful market, streets dotted with multi-coloured buildings, roads lined with decorations and a vibrant Hindu temple. I found it very interesting and very photogenic.

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Little India.

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Little India.

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Little India.

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Little India.

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Little India.

Tan Kim Seng Fountain.

We went to Esplanade Park to see the war memorials, but there are also some non-war related memorials there. One of these is the Tan Kim Seng Fountain. Tan Kim Seng was born in 1805 and died in 1864. He was a Peranakan merchant and philanthropist. He was born in Malacca in 1805, but later moved to Singapore where he made a fortune as a trader. Tan performed many charitable acts during his lifetime including forming a Chinese Free School, supporting hospitals and improving Singapore's public waterworks. Tan donated S$13,000 towards building the first public waterworks which helped bring fresher water to Singapore. The Tan Kim Seng Fountain was erected by the Municipal Commissioners to commemorate Tan's donation.

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Tan Kim Seng Fountain.

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Tan Kim Seng Fountain.

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Tan Kim Seng Fountain.

The Dalhousie Obelisk.

The Dalhousie Obelisk is located at Empress Place not far from Esplanade Park. This tall needle-like monument was built to mark the second visit to Singapore of Lord James Andrew, the Marquis of Dalhousie and Governor-General of India in February 1850. The Dalhousie Obelisk was designed by Government Surveyor John Turnbull Thomson. It was built to remind merchants of the benefits of free trade.

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The Dalhousie Obelisk.

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The Dalhousie Obelisk.

Chinese Temples.

There are some lovely Chinese temples in Singapore. I think this one was near Boat Quay. When you visit a Chinese temple, you are not expected to remove your shoes and you do not need to dress in any special way. Taking photos is allowed as long as you are not too intrusive towards the worshippers.

The Mandai Orchid Garden.

As I am a major lover of plants and flowers, we had to visit the Mandai Orchid Garden. The garden was established by British lawyer John Laycock in the 1950s. The garden had a colourful display of beautiful orchids. There was also a little cafe here for refreshments.

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The Mandai Orchid Garden.

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The Mandai Orchid Garden.

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The Mandai Orchid Garden.

Accommodation in Singapore.

We have stayed in many Singaporean hotels some are listed below.

Crowne Plaza Changi Airport: Clean and Comfortable. Singapore.

We stayed here for one night on our return from Kathmandu where we had stayed in a budget guest house. Our first impression was how stunningly clean everything was. The check in was fast and efficient. The room was large with a huge, spotlessly clean and comfortable bed. There was a large bathroom, shower room with glass walls. We did not notice the blinds you could pull down due to the fact we were so tired when we got there. Not pulling them down meant light shone in from the corridor all night. That could have been easily remedied if we had been a bit more with it. There was a very comfortable seating area in our room, a large flat screen TV, a safety deposit box, tea coffee making facilities with different kinds of tea, a fridge. The swimming pool opened at 7am and we had a lovely swim there. Part of it is open and part of it has boxes of plants which you can swim around. I think it closed at either 6 or 7pm. There were restaurants in the hotel or you could walk back to the airport which is right next to the hotel. The hotel is excellent if you arrive in Singapore and are leaving next day. if you have longer you can easily travel by MRT into town. If you travelled Singapore Airlines you can get discount on the buses that run from the airport to various tourist sights. Check out was polite, fast and efficient. I would happily stay here again. You could hear aeroplanes taking off and landing from the hotel but it was not so loud that it was disturbing.

Holiday Inn Atrium Hotel: Pleasant Stay.

We stayed in the Holiday Inn Atrium for one night prior to flying off to Kathmandu. To reach the hotel we took the MRT from Changi airport to Outram Station 2 Singapore dollars plus one dollar returnable deposit. From there it is a 20 minute walk, but we took a taxi for 4.40 Singapore dollars because it was pouring with rain. Check in was quick and efficient. The hotel is built around a central atrium. You get a view over it as you travel up in their fancy glass lifts. You must use your hotel card to access floor 6 and above. Our room was spotlessly clean with a very comfortable double bed. They even placed a pillow menu on top of the bed. Tea and coffee making facilities were available in the rooms with quite a good selection of teas to choose from. There was lots of storage space in the room. There was a minibar and a safety deposit box. There was a large flat screen TV in the room. Free internet was not available. Internet access cost 28 Singapore dollars for 24 hours. We walked into the centre of Singapore - Clarke Quay, Boat Quay by going along the Singapore River. It took maybe around 30 minutes or so, but we went slowly looking at all the riverside bars and cafes on route. The hotel had several little convenience shops. It also had several restaurants western and Chinese but we did not eat in them . There was a very nice swimming pool on the sixth floor open from 6am to 9pm and a well-equiped gym on the same floor open 24 hours. In the evening when we walked back to the hotel from Outram Station we found a street close to the hotel with lots of Chinese restaurants serving very reasonably priced food. we also passed a seven eleven near the hotel. Check out was also polite, fast and efficient. I would happily stay here again. The only downside is the 20 minute walk to the MRT.

Park Hotel Clarke Quay: Quite a central location.

We travelled to Singapore in October 2015 on a Cathy Pacific package. Our flight time was not very good. We left Hong Kong at 1.45am and arrived in Singapore around 5am. Obviously we could not check into the hotel at that time, so we did a bit of sightseeing. The official check in time for the hotel was 2pm, but we had requested an early check in, so we turned up around 1pm. To our disappointment no room was available unless we paid for an upgrade. We did not pay for an upgrade so we just sat in the lobby and waited. We got our room at exactly 2pm. To get to the hotel take the MRT to Clarke Quay Station, take the exit for Merchant Road, turn right on Merchant Road. At some point you will have to cross the Singapore River on one of the bridges. It is about a 10 minute walk to the hotel from the MRT. There is also a shuttle, but we did not use it. When the new Downtown MRT line is finished, Fort Canning will be a closer station. Our room looked over the city. Some rooms look over the river and swimming pool. The room was clean and comfortable. We were given 2 complimentary bottles of water. We had tea and coffee and a kettle. In the bathroom, we were provided with shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap, tooth brushes, cotton wool.The room had a safe, an iron, an ironing board and a hair dryer. We were perfectly happy with the room. We slept well every night. Our package did not come with free wifi, though some packages do. We got a code from reception to get free wifi at the pool and in reception. The signal was strong enough to still get it in our room on this code. I think as a hotel they should just include free wifi on all deals and that it is rather petty not to. Breakfast was included on our package and it was very good, though very busy. There were around four or five hot items, an egg making station, bread, cheese, cold meat, cakes, cereal, juices, water, tea and coffee. On our last day when we came to breakfast a bit later we had to queue. On the other days, we were seated straight away. I loved the hotel's pool and was delighted that it stayed open till 11pm. This meant we could be out all day and still manage to have a swim. The hotel has a restaurant downstairs and one by the pool. We did not use these. The hotel is right next to Robertson Quay which has lots of great restaurants. We ate there each night of our stay. The hotel was a good base for sightseeing. It was 10 minutes from the MTR, 1 minute from a bus stop and centrally located for sightseeing being on the Singapore River and next to Fort Canning Hill. It was also perfect for restaurants and bars. I would definitely stay here again. Address: On Unity Street.

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Beautiful Pool.

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View of Hotel.

Restaurants.

Singapore has many lovely places to eat. We ate in the ones below on our last visit.

Amber Nectar: Friendly Restuarant/Bar.

Our hotel was right next to Robertson Quay so we ate there a few times during our stay. There are three quays on the Singapore River: Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay. All three of them are lined with restaurants. Boat Quay and Clarke Quay are possibly more touristy than Robertson Quay, but Robertson Quay is bigger and has a wide selection of restaurants. Amber Nectar is located right up in the corner of Robertson Quay. It was a friendly place with good service and a strong wifi connection. During Happy Hour 330ml of beer was S$5++ here, which is not bad for Singapore. I had a very tasty chicken burger with fries here and my husband had a tasty bratwurst. We were happy with the food, drink and service here and would eat here again on future visits.

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Amber Nectar.

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Amber Nectar.

Lucca's Trattoria: Great place for a pizza.

Lucca's Trattoria is located in Robertson Quay which was quite close to our hotel. During Happy Hour a pint of lager here cost S$10 here. We ate the four cheeses pizza here and it was very good. We were served bread with oil and vinegar while we waited for the pizza. Service was pleasant, friendly and efficient. We would eat here again.

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Lucca's Trattoria .

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Lucca's Trattoria .

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Lucca's Trattoria.

Transport.

Singapore has an excellent public transport system. I'll put some information about it below.

Changi Airport.

Singapore's Changi Airport is a large modern airport with plenty of facilities such as ATMs, shops and restaurants. The MRT can be accessed from Terminal 1 and 2. To get into town take the train from the airport to Tanah Merah then change trains. At Tanah Merah the line goes all the way to Joo Koon Station via such central stops as City Hall or Raffles Place. It is also possible to go to Pasir Ris in the other direction.

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Changi Airport.

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Changi Airport.

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Changi Airport.

MRT Singapore: Mass Rapid Transit.

Singapore has great public transport which can get you to anywhere you want to go. We travelled around by MRT and bus. Public transport in Singapore is clean and safe and comfortable if you get a seat, though some services can be crowded. The MRT has 5 lines: Downtown, East West, North South, Circle and North East.

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MRT Singapore: Mass Rapid Transit.

Singapore Tourist Pass.

We bought a three day tourist pass for ease of getting around. The Singapore Tourist Pass is a special ez-link card that offers tourists unlimited travel on Singapore's basic bus services, MRT and LRT trains for the duration that it is valid. When you buy the pass you must pay S$10 deposit which you will get back if you return the card within 5 days of purchase. A one day pass costs S$10 plus deposit, a two day pass costs S$16 plus deposit and a three day pass costs S$20 plus deposit. We bought our pass at the MRT in terminal two of the airport. You can also buy it at the following places: TransitLink Ticket Office Operational Hours Ang Mo Kio 08:00 am – 09:00 pm Daily; Bayfront Closed on Weekdays 12:00 pm – 03:45 pm 04:45 pm – 08:00 pm on Sat, Sun; Bugis 10:00 am – 09:00 pm Daily; City Hall 09:00 am – 09:00 pm Daily; Changi Airport 08:00 am – 04:00 pm; 05:00 pm – 09:00 pm Daily; Chinatown 08:00 am – 04:00 pm; 05:00 pm – 09:00 pm Daily; Farrer Park 12:00 pm – 03:45 pm; 04:45 pm – 07.30 pm Daily; Harbourfront 08:00 am – 04:00 pm; 05:00 pm – 09:00 pm Daily; Jurong East 12.00 pm – 03.45 pm; 04.45 pm – 7.30 pm Daily; Lavender 12.00 pm – 03.45 pm; 04.45 pm – 07.30 pm Daily; Orchard 08:00 am – 09:00 pm Daily; Raffles Place 08:00 am – 09:00 pm (Mon – Fri); 08:00 am – 05:00 pm (Sat);Closed on Sun; Somerset 10:00 am – 02:00 pm; 03:00 pm – 06:00 pm Daily; Woodlands 08:00 am – 09:00 pm Daily.

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Singapore Tourist Pass.

MRT Etiquette.

Singapore is famous for having lots of rules and regulations and fines. I was quite amused by the MRT's campaign to ensure good behaviour on the trains. It featured nice quiet characters like Hush Hush Hannah, Stand Up Stacey who gives the needy her seat, Bags Down Benny who never puts his bags on a seat, Move in Martin who never blocks the door and Give Way Glenda who lets others on and off before her. We could do with a similar campaign here in Hong Kong.

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MRT Etiquette.

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MRT Etiquette.

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MRT Etiquette.

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MRT Etiquette.

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MRT Etiquette.

Posted by irenevt 00:14 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Singapore in World War II.

October 2015.

sunny

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Changi Beach Park.

Pasir Panjang Fort

When we visited Singapore in October 2015 a lot of the sights we went to see were connected to World War II. The first war related site we visited was Pasir Panjang Fort which is also known as Labrador Battery. It is located on the Labrador Nature Reserve. In the early nineteenth century, the British government built eleven artillery forts for the southern and western coastal defence of Singapore. Pasir Panjang Fort was one of these. To get there take the MRT to Labrador Park Station. Exit the station, go left, walk along the main road, then take the first road on your left. After 5 minutes you will reach a sign saying Labrador Nature Reserve. At the sign we went up Tamarind Hill. At the top of the hill on the right there is a restaurant called the Tamarind Hill Restaurant located in an old colonial building. On the left the path leads towards Pasir Panjang Fort. Some of the walls of the fort still remain, there is also an underground tunnel and a large gun with models of soldiers around it. The entrance walls to the fort also remain and there are two concrete machine gun pill boxes. There are rumours of many more tunnels in this area including one to a fort on Sentosa Island though it has never been found. The fort is located in an area that is now a nature reserve and there are lots of short trails through beautiful trees and vegetation. It is a peaceful and beautiful place, but it was the site of terrible fighting on the 13th of February 1942 when the Japanese unexpectedly invaded Singapore from the North West. The soldiers defending Pasir Panjang Fort were eventually driven out and forced to retreat.

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Pasir Panjang Fort.

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Pasir Panjang Fort.

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Pasir Panjang Fort.

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Pasir Panjang Fort.

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Pasir Panjang Fort.

Labrador Nature Reserve

We went to Labrador Nature Reserve to see Pasir Pajang Fort, but the nature reserve itself is worth visiting even if you are not interested in history. There are several short walking trails through the trees. Apparently there are wild monkeys, though we did not see any, we just saw signs telling us not to feed them. It is also supposedly a good place for bird watching. However, the only wild life I saw was a squirrel. The nature reserve is near the sea and there are picnic tables and play areas at the waterfront. There is also a walkway along the waterfront.Two huge granite rocks used to stand in the water between Labrador Park and Tanjong Rimau on Sentosa.They looked like Dragon’s Teeth so they were called Dragon’s Teeth Gate by ancient Chinese maritime explorers such as Wang Dayuan and Zheng He. The British blew these rocks up in 1848 to widen the harbour. I passed a replica of one of these rocks. This area was once plagued by pirates. Keppel Harbour was created in 1886 and was named after British admiral Sir Henry Keppel who reduced the threat of pirates in the region and did the surveying for the new harbour. To get there take the MRT to Labrador Park Station. Exit the station, go left, walk along the main road, then take the first road on your left. After 5 minutes you will reach a sign saying Labrador Nature Reserve. At the sign we went up Tamarind Hill. At the top of the hill on the right there is a restaurant called the Tamarind Hill Restaurant located in an old colonial building. On the left the path leads into the nature reserve.

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Labrador Nature Reserve.

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Labrador Nature Reserve.

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Labrador Nature Reserve.

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Labrador Nature Reserve.

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Labrador Nature Reserve.

Changi Museum And Chapel.

On this trip we visited a lot of sights connected to World War II in Singapore. Originally I had only intended to visit Changi Museum and Chapel, but as I started reading up on it, I found there are lots of wartime sites to visit. We got to Changi Museum and Chapel by taking the MRT to Tanah Merah station then taking the number 2 bus to the museum. The museum is located at the stop after the woman's prison. The original Changi Prison Museum was demolished in 2000 when Changi Prison was expanded. This new museum is one KM away from the original museum site. Entry is free. The museum displays information about Singapore in the war and in particular what it was like to be a prisoner of war in Changi Prison. I found the museum interesting and moving, but was not so pleased that it was forbidden to take photos inside. I wanted photos of the chapel murals, easily solved as I just bought the postcards, but I also wanted a photo of the quilts the women prisoners made and the prison cell door. There did not seem to be postcards of these. I don't know what the original museum was like, but it is a shame they do not have a replica of a cell here as that would have been interesting. Instead they had an outline of a typical cell on the floor, but a model of a cell would have been better. The museum had lots of interesting old photos and paintings and drawings done by the prisoners. These showed what life was like for them here. There were quotes from people involved in the prison which portrayed the prison from all angles: prisoners, guards, people living nearby. I thought this was good. In the garden there was a replica chapel and the Changi Cross. The Changi Cross was made by Staff Sergeant Harry Stogden of the 18th Division Royal Army Ordnance Corps from a 4.5 inch Howitzer shell. The Changi Museum and Chapel has a replica of Changi Chapel. There was a gift shop with postcards and books about Changi in the museum. Staff helped people research information about relatives who were imprisoned at Changi which I thought was good, too. Next to the museum there is a cafe and toilets. While we were visiting someone, not me, took a photo and a really loud announcement was played demanding they stopped photographing. I took photos of the outside part of the museum which seemed to be allowed, but I took them nervously and in a hurry as I was not sure they were allowed hense the fact they are not very good.

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Changi Museum And Chapel.

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Changi Museum And Chapel.

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Changi Museum And Chapel.

The Changi Murals.

Part of Changi Museum and Chapel is a replica of a Chapel. Its walls are decorated with copies of the Changi Murals. The Changi Murals are five paintings created by Stanley Warren. Warren was a British bombardier and prisoner-of-war. He was interned at Changi Prison, during the Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II. He was a religious man and had worked as a commercial designer before the war. His murals are amazing because he painted them while weak and ill with dysentery and in terrible pain. He also had very limited access to materials. At the end of the war the murals were covered over and forgotten about. They were rediscovered in 1959, but no-one knew who had painted them. A newspaper campaign was mounted in Britain by the Daily Mirror to locate the artist and Warren was eventually found in 1959. He was asked to return to Singapore to help restore his murals, but his experiences there had been so horrific he refused. After a great deal of persuasion, Warren came out to Singapore three times between 1963 and 1988 to restore his work. One mural remains incomplete as it was badly damaged in the war and Stanley Warren died before he could finish restoring it. The murals saved Warren's life. In September 1942, just a few weeks after he began his painting he was informed that his work party was to be sent to Thailand to help build the Thai-Burma Railway. A colonel in charge of the hospital stepped in and had Warren kept behind to finish his paintings. Almost all the men in his work party died building the railway. The murals depict the Nativity, the Ascension, the Crucifixion, the Last Supper and the unfinished St Luke in Prison. The original murals still exist in an army barracks, the ones in the museum chapel are replicas but they are still very very moving and wonderful to see.

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The Changi Murals.

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The Changi Murals.

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The Changi Murals.

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The Changi Murals.

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The Changi Murals.

Changi Beach Park.

After visiting Changi Museum and Chapel, we took the number 2 bus to Changi Village. The bus station is next to the Hawker's Centre which is famous for food. We walked down to Changi Beach Park. We crossed a bridge next to the ferry terminal and walked to the seafront. This is a peaceful place with a long stretch of silvery white sand. Apparently it is not too good for swimming though. There are lots of trees and shady spots to sit. I saw a huge lizard which was really cute. We did not fully explore this area as we wanted to do the Changi board walk instead and it was too hot to do everything. This area has not always been as peaceful as it is now. During World War II Changi Beach was the site of a massacre. Sixty-six Chinese men were killed here by Japanese military police on the 20th of February, 1942. This was part of the Sook Ching operation to purge suspected anti-Japanese elements from within Singapore's Chinese population. Apparently there is a plaque commemorating this terrible event.

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Changi Beach Park.

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Changi Beach Park.

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Changi Beach Park.

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Changi Beach Park.

Changi Point Coastal Walk

While visiting Changi Village we decided to walk along the Changi Point Coastal Walk. Changi Point Coastal Walk is a boardwalk that runs along the coast. It has six sections: Creek Walk, Beach Walk, Sailing Point Walk, Cliff Walk, Kelong Walk and Sunset Walk. The scenery on this walk is very pretty and definitely worth seeing. However, the walk is very hot and not all the sections have shade. Make sure you wear a hat, apply sunscreen and bring plenty of water with you. The shadiest part of the walk is Cliff Walk, the hottest part is Kelong Walk. On this walk you will pass Changi Sailing Club and Changi Beach Club. The whole walk is 2.2KM and takes around 45 minutes. Instead of walking all the way back from Sunset Point, we exited onto Cramwell Road and then took a bus from Netheravon Road.

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Changi Point Coastal Walk.

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Changi Point Coastal Walk.

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Changi Point Coastal Walk.

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Changi Point Coastal Walk.

Plane Spotting At Changi Village.

We noticed when we were at Changi Beach Park and when we started off walking along Changi Coastal Walk that we got a very good view of the planes coming in to land at Changi Airport. If you want a plane photo this is the place to come.

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Plane Spotting At Changi Village.

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Plane Spotting At Changi Village.

Raintr33 Hotel.

Changi is full of old buildings related to the British Army. The Old Commando Barracks in Changi were built in 1935. They were the barracks of the Royal Engineers. After the Japanese takeover of Singapore many of these old colonial buildings became places housing prisoners of war. At the end of the Second World War Changi's Old Commando Barracks were abandoned and fell into a dilapidated state. Rumours began to circulate that the buildings were haunted. This led Singapore's youth to dare each other to enter the buildings and spend the night there. The Singaporean Authorities tried to counter this by stepping up security. Finally, a hotel group moved in and refurbished the building as Raintree 33 Hotel. Many locals are too superstitious to stay here, but I thought the renovation of the old building was done well and the hotel looked like a lovely old colonial style building with ceiling fans and shutters. I would happily stay here, but for one big defect, I do not think the hotel has a swimming pool. In a country as hot as Singapore a pool is a must in my book.

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Raintree 33 Hotel.

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Raintree 33 Hotel.

The Old Changi Hospital.

Not too far from Raintree 33 you will find the Old Changi Hospital. It was built in 1935. I was only aware of its existence because of a tip on a V.T. Changi page. Old Changi Hospital was the hospital for the Royal Engineers in Kitchener Barracks, the Royal Artillery in Roberts Barracks and the Gordon Highlanders in Selarang Camp. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore the hospital was used as a prison camp. The Japanese secret police tortured people here. After the war the building was used as a hospital again. In 1997 the hospital was abandoned as impractical due to the steep stairway up to the main entrance. The building began to crumble. People started to spread stories about it being haunted and the youth of Singapore regularly dared each other to spend a night here. In 2006, the Singapore Land Authority put the site up for commercial lease. The tender was won by Bestway Properties, which planned to build a luxurious spa-resort here by the first half of 2008, but these plans were never realised. The crumbling hospital became popular with film-makers. Many popular television series such as Growing Up, The Crime Hunters and Incredible Tales were filmed here. In 2010 a mockumentary called Haunted Changi featured this old hospital building. What interested me about this building was the stories of hauntings that surround it. It has been broken into by young people so much that a high fence has been put round it, there are motion detectors to find intruders and a watch man. You can find advice on line about how to bypass these obstacles. Sadly my jumping fences, dodging motion detectors, evading watchmen days are over and I just took a photo from the outside. The other interesting thing was the large number of people on-line wanting to visit this hospital because they were born here. I'm guessing many of them were the children of army personnel.

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The Old Changi Hospital.

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The Old Changi Hospital.

The Old Ford Motor Factory.

The Old Ford Motor Factory was built in 1941. It was Ford's first assembly plant in South East Asia. During the Malayan Campaign, the factory’s assembly equipment was used by the Royal Air Force to build fighter planes. When the Japanese invaded Singapore in 1942, they set up their headquarters in this building. After several days of continual bombing at the hands of the Japanese, a delegation of British soldiers marched from their bunker on Fort Canning Hill to the Old Ford Motor Factory to surrender to the Japanese. Inside the factory, which is now a museum, you can see the actual room where Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival formally surrendered to General Yamashita Tomoyuki on the15th of February 1942. The British surrendered because the Japanese had cut off their water and food supplies, they were running out of ammunition and their troops were poorly trained and badly equipped. The British did not realize that the Japanese were similarly low on food, water and ammunition. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, referred to that event as the "worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history". This event marked the end of the British colonization of South East Asia. Nowadays the Old Ford Motor Factory is a museum with lots of written displays about the war; artefacts from the war such as guns, air-raid sirens; the surrender room and lots of old photos. There is also a theatre where you can watch a documentary about the war and a war-time garden behind the factory. Address: 351 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 588192. Entry to the museum costs $3.00. To get there use MRT and bus as follows: Bukit Batok MRT: Board 173 at interchange and alight opposite Memories at bus stop B06. Choa Chu Kang MRT: Board 67 at interchange and alight opposite Memories at bus stop B06. Clementi MRT: Board 184 at bus stop B16 and alight at bus stop B09. Opening Hours: Mondays to Saturdays: 9.00am – 5.30pm; Sundays: 12 noon to 5.30pm.

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The Old Ford Motor Factory.

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The Old Ford Motor Factory.

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The Old Ford Motor Factory.

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The Old Ford Motor Factory.

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The Old Ford Motor Factory.

Kranji War Memorial And Cemetery.

The Kranji War Memorial and cemetery is located near Kranji MRT at 9 Woodlands Road. The cemetery contains the graves of men and women from Britain, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Malaya, the Netherlands, Nepal and New Zealand who died in the line of duty during World War II. The cemetery has more than 4,400 white gravestones lined up in rows. Some of these graves are the graves of unknown soldiers. Most of the dead buried here died very young, mainly in their early twenties. There is also a Chinese Memorial which marks a mass grave of sixty-nine Chinese servicemen killed by the Japanese when Singapore fell in February 1942. At the top of the hill stands the Kranji War Memorial. The War Memorial symbolizes the three branches of the military - the Air Force, Army and Navy. The columns represent the Army, which marches in columns, the cover over the columns is shaped like the wings of a plane, representing the Air Force, and the upright pillar at the top looks like the sail of a submarine and represents the Navy. The Memorial's walls are covered with the names of over 24,000 allied servicemen whose bodies were never found. The cemetery is well-kept and peaceful, but is a testimony to the horrific and pointless loss of life during times of war.

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Kranji War Memorial And Cemetery.

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Kranji War Memorial And Cemetery.

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Kranji War Memorial And Cemetery.

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Kranji War Memorial And Cemetery.

Fort Canning Hill.

Fort Canning Hill is a tree covered hill in the centre of Singapore. This hill was once known as Bukit Larangan, or Forbidden Hill as it was once the home of the Malay Sultans. It was here in a bunker now known as the battle box that the British decided to surrender to the Japanese in 1942. The battle box is now a museum but it is currently closed and undergoing renovation. When Raffles arrived in Singapore, he decided to live on the Forbidden Hill. He also established botanical gardens here. In 1859 a defensive fort was built on the hill. The fort was named Fort Canning after Viscount Charles John Canning, who was then Governor-General and the first Viceroy of India. All that remains of the fort nowadays is a sally port, a gateway and some cannons. We climbed Fort Canning Hill after a rain storm. It felt like walking through a hothouse in a botanical gardens. It is lush with greenery. Highlights of Fort Canning Hill include an old Christian cemetery, the Asean Sculpture Walk, the tomb of a Malay king and other attractions.

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Fort Canning Hill.

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Fort Canning Hill.

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Fort Canning Hill.

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Fort Canning Hill.

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Fort Canning Hill.

The Civilian War Memorial.

The Civilian War Memorial is located on Beach Road not far from City Hall MRT. The monument looks like four huge chopsticks each stick represents a Singaporean ethnic group who suffered in the war: Chinese, Eurasian, Indian and Malay. The memorial was designed by Leong Swee Lim and was completed in January 1967.

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The Civilian War Memorial.

The Cenotaph.

Singapore's cenotaph honours those who lost their lives in the First World War and in the Second World War. It is located in Esplanade Park. Unfortunately, this park is a bit of a mess at the moment (October 2015) due to the construction of the Downtown MRT line. Hopefully it will all be back to normal soon.

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The Cenotaph.

The Indian National Army Monument.

There is a wartime monument marker showing the original location of the Indian National Army Monument in Esplanade Park. The monument marker was erected in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. The Indian National Army ( INA ) was formed in South East Asia in 1942. The Japanese encouraged soldiers from the defeated British Indian Army to join the INA and try to liberate India from the British. The INA was originally led by Captain Mohan Singh, then later by Indian independence campaigner, Subhas Chandra Bose. The INA was dissolved when the Japanese surrendered in 1945. The original INA monument was dedicated to an unknown Indian soldier and was built just before the Japanese surrender. The motto of the INA, Unity (Etihaad), Faith (Etmad) and Sacrifice (Kurbani), was inscribed on it. When British forces returned to Singapore in 1945, the Head of Southeast Asia Command, Lord Mountbatten, ordered the INA Memorial to be demolished, because it was anti -British. That is why there is a monument marker rather than the monument itself.

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The Indian National Army Monument.

The Lim Bo Seng Memorial.

The Lim Bo Seng Memorial was the hardest monument on Esplanade Park to visit. It was surrounded by fences and located in the middle of a construction site due to the building of the downtown MRT line. I could not actually get anywhere near it. I just took a photo using my zoom. This was a pity as it really was an attractive looking monument. The Lim Bo Seng Memorial is a tribute to Major-General Lim Bo Seng, one of Singapore’s war heroes. Lim Bo Seng was a prominent Hokkien businessman who led many anti-Japanese activities before and during the Japanese Occupation. He created an intelligence network in Malaya, but was betrayed by a spy and arrested by the Japanese Secret Police in Ipoh. He was imprisoned and tortured. He died in Batu Gajah Jail on the 29th of June 1944. He was posthumously given the rank of Major-General by the Chinese Nationalist Government. In 1946, the British brought Lim's remains back to Singapore and buried him with full military honours at MacRitchie Reservoir. The Lim Bo Seng Memorial was designed by architect Ng Keng Siang, and was funded by donations from the Chinese community. The memorial is a pagoda with a three-tiered bronze roof and four bronze lions at the base.

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The Lim Bo Seng Memorial.

Posted by irenevt 22:09 Archived in Singapore Comments (2)

Nikko

Never say you're satisfied until you've seen Nikko.

rain

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Lanterns, Nikko.

Nikko

Day Trip to Nikko

We decided to go for a day trip to Nikko to see the famous temples and hopefully a bit of autumn colour. To get there we travelled by Tobu Railways from Tobu Asakusa Station. This was a very convenient station for us as we were staying in Asakusa at the time. Asakusa is our favourite part of Tokyo. There are hourly rapid trains between Asakusa and Nikko. The journey to Nikko takes approximately two hours and costs 1360 yen one way.

We were unfortunate with the weather as it rained all day in Nikko. It was also really, really cold and as it had not been particularly cold the day before, we were not really appropriately dressed. We still had a good day, but it was good to get onto a warm train at the end of it. We were too early for autumn colours here, but I believe Nikko is a fantastic place to visit in November.

Nikko is located 125KM north of Tokyo. Nikko is set amidst beautiful natural scenery, but is most famous for Toshogu - one of Japan's most sumptuously decorated shrines. This shine is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. While we were in Nikko, we even tried the local Nikko beer and very good it was, too.

Toshogu Shrine
The Toshogu Shrine is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. His mausoleum was a relatively simple shrine at first. Then, out of intense respect for his grandfather, Iemitsu, grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu, enlarged and enhanced the mausoleum in the first half of the 1600s. This shrine is now made up of more than a dozen buildings. Unlike most Japanese shrines Toshogu contains a mixture of Shinto and Buddhist elements. It also contains several famous carvings such as: the three wise monkeys, imagined elephants and Nemurineko. The three wise monkeys are of course the famous depiction of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Imagined elephants is a carving of an elephant created by someone who had never seen an elephant, just heard tales of them. Nemurineko is a famous depiction of a rather cute sleeping cat. You will find the sleeping cat on the Sakashitamon Gate, which is located at the bottom of a flight of stairs that lead up to Tokugawa Ieyasu's mausoleum. All around Toshugu are beautiful moss covered stone lanterns. Please note parts of Toshogu are being renovated until 2019.

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Toshogu Shrine.

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Toshogu Shrine.

The Three Wise Monkeys.

The famous carving of the three wise monkeys is located over a doorway in the Toshugu Shrine They were also carved by Hidari Jingoro. The monkeys show see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The three wise monkeys are panel two of a series of eight panels using monkeys to show major life events in the cycle of life, such as: baby monkey achieving independence, falling in love etc.

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The Three Wise Monkeys.

The Sleeping Cat.

I paid extra to see the carving of The Sleeping Cat as I have rather a soft spot for cats. Even so it is so little and so high up I almost missed it. I searched and searched but it was only because I saw someone else craning their neck trying to photo it that I finally found it. It was carved by Hidari Jingorō, a famous Japanese wood sculptor with a fondness for cats. He pioneered the depiction of animals in a life-like realistic way.

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The Sleeping Cat.

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The Sleeping Cat.

Stone And Bronze Lanterns.

The shrines at Nikko are lined with large numbers of beautiful moss covered stone and bronze lanterns. A really lovely sight. These are also incredibly photogenic. Not sure if they are ever lit up nowadays.

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Stone And Bronze Lanterns.

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Stone And Bronze Lanterns.

Rinnoji Temple

Rinnoji Temple was founded by Shodo Shonin. He was a Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko in the 8th century. The temple's main building houses large, gold lacquered, wooden statues of Amida, Senju-Kannon and Bato-Kannon. Senju-Kannon has many arms; Bato-Kannon has a horse's head.These three gods are considered to be Buddhist manifestations of Nikko's three mountain spirits.

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Rinnoji Temple.

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Rinnoji Temple.

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Rinnoji Temple

Shinkyo Bridge.

Shinkyo Bridge means sacred bridge. It is one of the famous sites of Nikko. The current style of bridge dates from 1636, though the actual bridge has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. The bridge crosses the Daiya River. It is very scenic and makes a good photo. There is a famous legend about the bridge. In the year 766 a priest named, Shōdō, and his followers climbed Mount Nantai in order to pray for national prosperity. When they tried to return from the mountain, due to heavy rains they could not cross the fast flowing Daiya River. Shōdō prayed and in answer to his pleas a 10 foot tall god named Jinja-Daiou appeared. Around his arm were two huge twisted snakes: one blue and one red. He released the snakes and they transformed themselves into a bridge which Shōdō and his followers used to cross the river. At one time the Shinkyo Bridge could only be used by messengers of the Imperial court. It has been open to everyone since 1973.

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Shinkyo Bridge.

Posted by irenevt 20:53 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

Hakone

Day Trip from Tokyo.

overcast

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The Beginnings of Autumn, Hakone.

Day Trip to Hakone

It was my husband who really wanted to go to Hakone and we decided we would do it as a day trip from Tokyo. Actually as a day trip it was a bit rushed, though we did manage to see quite a lot. We bought the Hakone Free Pass which is valid for two days of travel. This pass only lets you do the Tokyo to Odawara and Odawara to Tokyo part once so unless you get accommodation in the Hakone area you will only be able to use it on one day. As we had already booked and paid for accommodation in Tokyo we did not stay overnight in the Hakone area. The pass may not have been good value for us, but we bought it anyway. The pass allowed us to travel from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo to Odawara. From Odawara we took the Hakone Tozan Railway to the second last stop - Chokoku No Mori. From there we visited the fantastic Hakone Open Air Museum - the highlight of our trip. After that we went to Gora. From Gora we took the Sounzan cable car (actually a funicular railway) to Sounzan. Next we boarded the ropeway (actually a cable car) to Owakudani. We explored the volcanic areas and enjoyed fleeting views of Mount Fuji. Then we reboarded the ropeway to Togendai on the shore of Lake Ashi and went for a sail on a pirate ship around the lake.

Our main reason in going to Hakone was to get a good view of Mount Fuji. This did not really happen, though at least we did see it briefly. When we were in Owakudani, the clouds parted for a few minutes and there was Mount Fuji outlined before us. I took a couple of pictures; then Mount Fuji disappeared for the rest of the day.

Hakone fortunately has a lot more to offer than just views of Mount Fuji. We loved the open air sculpture museum, loved the mountain scenery which was just beginning to show touches of autumn colours. We loved trying out the different types of transport. As my husband likes odd forms of transport, we came back by the same transport methods instead of taking a quicker bus option. The cable car from Togendai back to Sounzan was amazing. A thick fog had descended and while our view was obliterated the whirling fog was really atmospheric and fun.

Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. It is located less than 100 kilometers from Tokyo. It is well worth seeing, though if we returned I would spend a night in this area and explore at a more leisurely pace.

Autumn in Hakone.

We visited Hakone in October. Autumn was just beginning and already some of the trees had changed to beautiful shades of red and orange. It must be utterly spectacular in November when autumn is in fill flow.

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The start of autumn.

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The start of autumn.

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The start of autumn.

The Hakone Open Air Museum

I'm not usually a fan of museums, but I cannot recommend this one highly enough. We loved it. The museum is located a short walk from Chokoku No Mori - the second last station on the Hakone Toznan Railway. The reason the museum is so wonderful is its sculptures are exhibited outside in beautiful natural settings, so you have wonderful works of art, trees, plants, mountain scenery, during our trip the first hints of autumn. Absolutely spectacular.

The sculptures were very varied in style - some of them quite unusual. I loved the one of someone who seemed to have dropped out of the sky onto a field below. I loved the Henry Moore's. As well as the outdoor areas, there are indoor galleries, including one devoted to Picasso. The museum is open from 9:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30) every day. Admission costs 1600 yen (1400 yen with the Hakone Free Pass, 1500 yen with online discount coupon.)

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

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The Hakone Open Air Museum.

Owakudani

Owakudani is one of the stops on the Hakone Ropeway from Sounzan to Togendai. Owakudani is a volcanic area and as you are travelling by ropeway above it you will see billows of white sulfurous smoke rising from the charred earth below. Owakudani centres around a crater which was formed when Mount Hakone last erupted around 3000 years ago. This area has hot springs and hot rivers. You can buy eggs that have been boiled in the volcanic springs here. Each egg is supposed to prolong your life by seven years. Owakudani also has good views of Mount Fuji on clear days. It was from here we caught our only glimpse of Mount Fuji before it disappeared behind cloud for the rest of the day. There are several hiking trails which start from here but we did not have time to do any of them.

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Owakudani.

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Owakudani.

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is symbolic of Japan. Our original purpose in going to Hakone was to see it. We did catch a glimpse of it from Owakudani but only fleetingly. On a clear day the view of it must be amazing. I have actually seen Mount Fuji more clearly from a train than from Hakone, but it is all a matter of luck and Hakone has lots more to offer than just views of Mount Fuji anyway.

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Mount Fuji on a cloudy day.

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Mount Fuji on a cloudy day.

Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi was formed when Mount Hakone last erupted around 3000 years ago. I have seen spectacular pictures of Lake Ashi with Mount Fuji in the background, though we could not see Mount Fuji from the lake at all during our cloudy day visit. We boarded a pirate ship at Togendai on the shores of Lake Ashi and went for a lovely sail to Kojiri. This journey is covered by the Hakone free pass. The scenery was beautiful, especially the touches of autumnal colours that were beginning to appear in the forests around the lake.

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Lake Ashi.

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Lake Ashi.

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Lake Ashi.

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Lake Ashi.

Posted by irenevt 18:26 Archived in Japan Tagged hakone Comments (0)

Kitakyushu

Japan.

sunny

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Hubby in Kitikyushu.

Kitakyushu

Kitakyushu means the north of Kyushu Island and consists of 5 areas which have joined to form Kitakyushu. We originally intended to visit 2 of these areas Kokura and Mojiko, but we liked Mojiko so much we ended up staying there all day and the only part of Kokura we saw was its station. We will have to get round to the rest of Kokura on a future trip.

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Looking Towards Kitakyushu.

Mojiko

Mojiko used to be a major port linking Kyushu with Honshu Island to its north. Now there is a bridge and a tunnel linking the two islands and the port has moved to a nearby area called Moji.

Mojiko Retro Town

Mojiko had a grand past and has lots of beautiful historical buildings dating from the early 20th century, some wonderful shrines, a picturesque bridge, its own brand of beer and delicious baked cheesy curries.

Mojiko JR Station.

This station opened on February 1st 1914. It is in Neo-Renaissance style and has been a designated national cultural property since 1988. The building is currently undergoing renovation, but is still attractive and interesting to explore. Trains from Kokura will drop you here.

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Mojiko JR Station.

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Mojiko JR Station.

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Mojiko JR Station.

Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

This building was built in 1917. The Kanmon Strait Hall is on the ground floor it was filled with bonsai during our visit. The Seizo Watase Gallery of the Sea is upstairs. It holds exhibitions and entry to it is 100 yen. This building is open from 9am to 5pm.

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Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

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Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

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Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

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Old Mitsui OSK Line Building.

Old Moji Mitsui Club.

This building was built in 1921 to house important company guests. Einstein and his wife stayed here in 1922. Downstairs is free entry and has a restaurant. The first floor has an entry fee of 100 yen and contains memorial rooms to Einstein and Japanese writer Fumiko Hiyashi. Open 9am to 5pm.

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Old Moji Mitsui Club.

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Old Moji Mitsui Club.

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Old Moji Mitsui Club.

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Old Moji Mitsui Club.

Drawbridge.

The two sides of the harbour are connected by a frequently raised drawbridge. We managed to walk across this at one point when it was lowered. This lovely bridge is beautifully illuminated at night and well worth seeing.

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Drawbridge.

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Drawbridge.

Old Moji Customs Building.

This building dates from 1912. I did not go inside but apparently the ground floor has a coffee shop and a lounge and the upstairs part of the building has a Fine Art gallery. Admission is free and it is open from 9am to 5pm.

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Old Moji Customs Building.

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Old Moji Customs Building.

Commemorative Library Of International Friendship.

This building is a replica of the Chinese Eastern Railway Office that the Russians built in Dalian, China. It was built to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the friendship agreement between Kitakyushu and Dalian. There is a restaurant downstairs and a library upstairs. Open 9.30am to 7pm except Mondays. Admission free.

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Commemorative Library Of International Friendship.

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Commemorative Library Of International Friendship.

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Commemorative Library Of International Friendship.

Kanmon Bridge.

It took us around 20 minutes to walk from Mojiko to the Kanmon Bridge. On weekends and public holidays a steam train runs part of the way. It was a pleasant walk past a busy marina. The bridge connects Kyushu and Honshu. There is a shrine next to the bridge and a pedestrian tunnel also open to bikes through which you can walk under the sea to Honshu in around 15 minutes.

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Kanmon Bridge.

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Kanmon Bridge.

The Mekari Shrine.

This shrine is right under the Kanmon Bridge. On Japanese New Year's Day the priests here gather seaweed a symbol of long life. The shrine had a collection of dolls near the entrance and an inari fox shrine with red tori. I enjoyed the contrast between the huge modern bridge and the traditional shrine. A good place to watch the busy waterway.

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The Mekari Shrine.

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The Mekari Shrine.

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The Mekari Shrine.

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The Mekari Shrine.

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The Mekari Shrine.

Koso Hachiman Shrine.

Apparently this shrine houses the guardian deity of Mojiko Port. It was a very pretty shrine with statues, foxes and red tori. We detoured here to take a look at the shrine on our walk back from Kanmon Bridge.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

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Koso Hachiman Shrine.

The Moji Telecommunications History Hall.

The Moji Telecommunications History Hall was built as the telephone department in 1924. It was the first modern building in Mojiko. It has exhibitions upstairs. We did not go in. Open 9am to 4.30 pm except Mondays.

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The Moji Telecommunications History Hall.

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The Moji Telecommunications History Hall.

The Kyushu Railway History Museum.

Open 9am to 5pm. Admission 300 yen. It was shut before we got there. It is near the station, housed in a former railway building and has real locomotives, a driving simulator, a large railway panorama of Kyushu and a track where visitors can drive a small train.

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The Kyushu Railway History Museum.

Kanmon Strait Museum.

Open from 9am to 5pm. Admission 500 yen. We did not visit this museum I am not a museum fan, but apparently it houses a retro room which shows Mojiko in the Taicho Period and has exhibits on the history of the Kanmon Strait. The building dates from 2003.

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Kanmon Strait Museum

Have Your Photo Taken With A Banana.

I think Mojiko was the first Japanese Port where bananas were imported. Anyway in the harbour you can pose with some bananas in order to celebrate this historic event. I also noticed a lot of banana products in the shops.

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Have Your Photo Taken With A Banana.

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Have Your Photo Taken With A Banana.

Mojiko Harbour.

Mojiko Harbour is very pretty. It has historical buildings, shops, restaurants, even a boat restaurant. Boat trips leave from this harbour. You can sample Mojiko's cheesy baked curry here and try Mojiko Station beer and Mojiko Retro beer from the shops.

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Mojiko Harbour.

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Mojiko Harbour.

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Mojiko Harbour.

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Mojiko Harbour.

Mojiko Retro Observation Room.

The Mojiko Retro Observation Room is open from 10am to 10pm. Admission is 300 yen. We did not go in. It is supposed to have good views. The observation room is on the 31st floor. You can see this building all over town.

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Mojiko Retro Observation Room.

Sunset Over The Kanmon Strait.

We walked back from the Kanmon Bridge just as the sun began to go down. This was very beautiful. There were several very pleasant places to sit and view the strait on route. This was particularly pleasant after our long walk.

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Sunset Over The Kanmon Strait.

Norfolk Square.

Kitakyushu is twinned with Norfolk, Virginia. The dogwood tree was introduced to Japan from there, while the Japanese donated cherry trees to Norfolk. There are plaques and information boards commemorating the friendship between the two towns on the walk to the Kanmon Bridge. There is also a large anchor memorial. Good view point for the bridge and strait.

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Norfolk Square.

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Norfolk Square.

Trains Review

We got to Mojiko by taking a train from Fukuoka to Kokura; then another train from Kokura to the JR Station in Mojiko. Service between Kokura and Mojiko is frequent and only takes around 10 minutes. Travelling anywhere in Japan always seems to be comfortable, efficient and easy.

Posted by irenevt 07:37 Archived in Japan Comments (4)

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