Afloat in South Asia

Afloat in South Asia
Reclining Buddha; Rangoon

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Singapore Botanical Garden - Thurs. Jan. 20st

We joined our group for its first official outing, which was a visit to the Botanical Garden.
It was a thrill to me to be able to photograph the Nepenthes in the Botanical Garden at Singapore, much as Marianne North painted them in 1876. North was a botanical artist and an adventuress who travelled from England to these parts. She left us a remarkable gallery at Kew crammed with over 800 of her botanical paintings done in all the fascinating nooks of the world. I have her autobiography with me (on an iPad, of course) and she will appear from time to time over the next few weeks. Our guide mentioned that the Maharajah of Johore still owns the land adjacent to the Botanical Garden. Marianne North had dinner with the Maharajah’s ancestor and remarked on his beautiful velvet coat with diamond buttons, as well as his turban, his perfect English, excellent manners – and his skill at billiards!

Here is Marianne North, as photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron in Ceylon in 1876.Marianne North01

And here is one of her paintings of her precious Nepenthes. She wrote that "The Botanical Garden at Singapore was beautiful. Behind it was a jungle of real untouched the jungle I found real pitcher-plants ...It was the first time I had seen them growing wild and I screamed with delight." Nepenthes northiana by Marianne North
And here is my photograph of the Nepenthes in the Garden today....

We headed back out into the streets of modern Singapore, where traffic was a bit snarly. It is the Hindu festival of Thaipusam, which is celebrated in heavily Tamil areas and in the Straits settlements. During the kavadi, or burden-bearing, portion of the festival, those who want to atone for their sins strap on a devilish metal cage the holds sharp metal spears that pierce the flesh. The devotee then walks for miles being tortured by this device before being freed from it and soothed by his family and friends. Probably just as well my photos of this gruesome procession, taken from the moving bus, did not turn out well…Suffice to say, we are not in Kansas any more….

This evening we went aboard our ship, the Clipper Odyssey. With 95 passengers, 77 crew and 17 tour staff, we should be well looked-after!

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