I had a rather unusual adventure with my five year old son, Lex, this weekend – we went for a reason, but I won’t bore you with the details. Anyway, we started off at the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery – a massive complex near Bishan Park and Ang Mo Kio. I’ve often driven past this complex, seeing its towering structures in the distance, but this is the first time I went in.
I thought we’d be in the monastery for 30 minutes tops, but we got sucked into the beauty and grandeur of it, staying for a couple of hours. The monastery is a massive complex, with temples everywhere, decorated with dragons and lots of other mythical creatures, the adornments on the buildings fantastical, and so much more – it’s definitely an amazing place to see and I want to share this sort of stuff with my boys because I never had the benefit of these experiences as a child.
But it’s great for kids too. There are hundreds of stairs to climb, meandering paths, fishponds, turtle ponds, massive statues, beautiful gardens, wall frescos, and so much more. Considering what a runner and climber Lex is, the whole experience was amazing in that he seemed to enjoy being there, but it was also such a new big world for him that he got caught up in the moment as well. I hardly experienced a moment where he was “breaking the rules”- although the joss sticks offered a few challenges. Fire is always appealing to youngins’ after all. I also had to keep him out of the prayer halls, which was a shame because the statues were magnificent, so you may need to factor this in as well if you have boisterous or active kids. I suppose I’ll just need to go alone if I want to enjoy them.
We also found ourselves at one point in the crematorium. It was very strange, as family ceremonies were taking place for departed loves in front of us, something that felt so personal to be on such public display, AND the cremation ovens where right there as well… Death in Asia and how it is dealt with remains quite surreal to me. Thankfully Lex didn’t appreciate what this place was all about and no coffins went into the furnaces while we were there – phew! Surprisingly, it wasn’t beautiful here – all a bit rough and ready, but fascinating none-the-less. If this was Australia, the “gory” aspects of death would be hidden behind silk-draped closed doors, so it was a little strange seeing this side of life/death.
On this occasion, we spent nearly two hours wandering around the complex, and then I figured a nice place to have lunch would be at the Polo Club– which isn’t too far away. I have been to the Polo Club many times before – as my husband used to work across the road – but this was the first time with kids and he was welcome. After a nice lunch (they do a chicken curry/Roti Prata to die for) in the quaint colonial club house overlooking the Polo field, we wandered around to look at the horses, and Lex got to play with one of his great loves – a ginger pussy cat. I’m not sure what you are allowed to do at the Polo Club when you are not a member, but no one stopped us wandering around, it is lovely and peaceful, and Lex enjoyed himself thoroughly.
So there you go, a bit of an unusual adventure for the day, but one I can see us doing again. If you’re not from around these parts, or want to expose your kids to the myriad religions and cultures from around the world, I can definitely recommend going to the Monastery. It’s not perfect, but it is truly spectacular.