Looking for something different to do next time you visit Singapore? Check out the self-guided tour of the Ritz-Carlton Singapore art collection.
It’s free. It’s fun. It’s filled with famous names. Valued at $5M, there are 4200 pieces in the collection. (Although they’re not all on display at one time.)
Puttin on the Ritz for Singapore art
Take the Circle Line MRT to the Promenade exit. As I mentioned in my earlier post it’s easy to get around on the MRT.
Check out the spectacular Roy Lichtenstein Sculptures Plaza in the Millenia Walk shopping mall. It’s on your way to the link bridge which takes you to the Ritz-Carlton.
When you get to the hotel head for Guest Relations. When I visited there was an exquisite set of Henry Moore etchings on the wall behind the Guest Relations desk.
The staff will swap your passport for one of those itty bitty postage stamp size iPods. (What do they think you are going to do? Run off with the device? Steal one of those sublime Henry Moores? Come to think of it, they would look good in Yana de Lys’s salon, next to my etching of Captain Cook.)
The tour starts at the hotel entrance where Zhu Wei’s Mao Figures lean forward to welcome visitors. A pop art take on China’s famous terracotta warriors.
Moving inside you can’t help noticing the magnificent lobby stairs. A work of art. Or is that technically architecture?
Moby Dick is near the pool
One of my favourite works in the collection is Frank Stella’s Moby Dick.
The wall sculptures are apparently inspired by movies of beluga whales. I don’t get the connection, but maybe I haven’t watched enough movies about beluga whales. I certainly haven’t seen any when I’ve been sailing.
You can make up your own mind when you see the two pieces from the series in the lower lobby leading to the swimming pool.
While I was examining details of the finish up close, looking for evidence of whales, I reflected on how art seems so much more alive when it’s not in a museum.
Some guests were relaxing in the lounge chairs, discussing their love life. Not wanting to eavesdrop I moved on.
Through Dale Chihuly’s magnificent Anemone Wall in the Chihuly Lounge and a wealth of treasures. Including a rare Andy Warhol Poppy serigraph.
David Hockney is waiting for you in gym
I was grateful when the receptionist at the gym handed me a bottle of water. I was parched.
The David Hockney in the gym lobby is not one of his famous swimming pool pieces. That would be too obvious wouldn’t it? It’s a crayon lithograph from the Celia portraits series.
Do you have any Singapore art secrets to share? Let me know your comments. Maybe I’ll check out your ideas on my next visit to Singapore.
Our last visit to Penang was just a two day visa run. But it was sublime, totally reaffirming my love of Georgetown. We stayed at the Chulia Heritage on (duh!) Chulia Street. And yes we ate at the Red Garden Food Paradise. But shock horror tears we found the Famous Crispy Duck stall closed! For Ramadan? No doubt it was the quietest we had ever seen Georgetown. It was kinda weird the way the chaos level of the traffic was so subdued…
Tickets to the Blue Mansion
I decided we would take a look at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion after walking past it so many times on our visits to the Red Garden. I’d heard you have to book in advance so headed off on our first morning to organise tickets while the other captain did some serious TV time in the room. As it happened we didn’t need to book ahead. I ended up with some time up my sleeve before our lunch date so wandered around Muntri Street and Love Lane checking out some of the cool art galleries and old buildings.
I also snuck in a temple visit, spending some velvet devotional time in the Hainan Temple. (The other captain runs a mile when I mention temples.) The building just looked so exquisite from the outside I had to go in.
I lit a candle for my beautiful lost wild child – a Catholic ritual in a Chinese temple. (I definitely have catholic tastes when it comes to spirituality and religion.) Later I read in the Lonely Planet the temple’s patron saint is the patron saint of seafarers. No wonder I felt drawn.
Our first guided tour. Ever.
Anyway for the first time in our travelling careers, we took a guided tour. Well, it is the only way to see inside the Cheong Fatt Tze AKA the Blue Mansion.
Our tour guide was excellent, an expert at engaging her audience of some 37 people. She told great stories about the family who built and lived in the mansion, including the original owner’s (favourite) wife number seven. Our guide’s depth of understanding of Chinese culture as well as the architecture, intrinsically linked with Feng Shui, was fascinating.
Kongsi Clan Temple
The next morning I felt inspired to continue the theme with a visit to the Cheah Kongsi Clan Temple. The other captain was out buying electrical wire for Yana de Lys God bless him.
I was amazed at how the stuff I learnt in the Blue Mansion tour helped me understand and interpret what was going on with the design and history of this gorgeous building. Without a tour guide heh heh.
Found in translation
By the end of our Penang visit I had almost been able to dredge up and appropriately use the Malaysian language I’d learned in my on and off two years in Langkawi. It’s all about the menus. Roti Canai. Yes! Mango Lassi. Yes! (I hadn’t found my Malaysian breakfast favourites in Phuket. Well not in the English alphabet or picture menus anyway.)
Then we were back in Phuket International Airport with our three month- convertible into six-month visas. (I know it’s complicated. Let’s not go there.) I had to switch back to my basic basic basic Thai.
How do people know how to speak multiple languages without getting confused?
The drive shaft was wobbling dangerously the whole way. I concentrated on steering while the Other Captain kept an eye on the drive shaft down below, appearing white faced and chain smoking after each engine room check, a prophet of gloom telling me how bad it looked, providing an extensive litany of the serious structural damage we could be causing to Yana de Lys, saying he’s going to need a tropical holiday after this leg. (How about a holiday on Ko Phi Phi Thailand I wondered?)
The whole situation felt scary and wrong. Our average speed was just three knots (about 5.5 kmph) with the wind and choppy swell coming from the direction in which we were headed. Sailing wasn’t an option. We had to use the engine despite our profound misgivings.
To make things worse, we were towing our new super size Queen Mary dinghy, slowing us down by at least one knot. However we had managed to wrangle Thumper (the outboard) onto the deck, so that helped a bit I guess.
Hordes of daytrippers
So, in between bouts of the Chief Engineer sweating it out in the engine room, trying to figure out how to fix the latest problems, we took a holiday on Ko Phi Phi Thailand.
We were told by lots of people before we arrived that Ko Phi Phi’s a rat race. And compared to the serenity of Ko Muk and the laid back peace of Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi was swarming with tourists.
Every day hordes of young backpackers in bikinis and bare chests came in on the ferries. We could hardly move on the narrow walking streets, or in the shops and restaurants. And this was the quiet season.
By around four in the afternoon, the day trippers vanished leaving room to move but still plenty of action.
Stranded in paradise again
We played at being tourists for ten days – snorkeling, drinking cocktails and even shopping.
There was a stall selling dresses printed with famous Impressionist paintings. I had my eye on Monet’s Water Lillies, but they didn’t have my size (too big of course) so I settled for a Van Gogh instead.
We were anchored in about 12 meters of clear as clear turquoise water. We could swim over to where the tour operators take the punters for snorkeling trips. The water was a perfect temperature with outstanding visibility. There were more fish in our face than we could poke a stick at, although the coral was sadly degraded.
The weather was glorious and sunny for the whole time. I suppose you could call it a voluntary stranding in paradise. Ko Phi Phi Thailand is certainly a tourist paradise.
The Chief Engineer (AKA the Other Captain) discovered and replaced a second broken engine mount. We discovered later our mechanic in Langkawi had tried to save us money by supplying non-marine engine mounts.
We set off for a last overnight anchorage at Ko Yao Yai before heading in to Boat Lagoon at Phuket once the Chief Engineer managed to reduce the drive shaft wobble, after endless hours of trial and error in the engine room.
This leg was an uneventful 16 miles, again at an average of three knots, but with very little swell.
We towed both the Queen Mary and Thumper, sacrificing even more speed. We figured it’s such a drama manhandling the 47 kg Thumper outboard engine on and off Yana de Lys, we’d probably be in terminal danger before we could use the tender as an tow vessel if we ended up in trouble again…
The final leg of 13 miles to the entrance of Boat Lagoon was even easier – no swell whatsoever, totally benign conditions. We parked Yana in the mud at Boat Lagoon Marina. Finally.