I’ve got a pretty cool adventure today – well I think it is – which takes in Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery in Toa Payoh, and then onto the RSAF Museum on Airport Road. Both are great for different reasons, and by combing them, you get a pretty full day, but most importantly, end up at a place with air-conditioning.
My motivation to visit Shuang Lin Monastery has been with me for some time, as I’ve driven past it hundreds of times on the PIE. It’s always looked stunning from the road, and so I finally bit the bullet and took the boys for a visit. Driving is easy (as is taxi or public transport), and you take the Toa Payoh exit off the PIE (if driving towards Changi), but do stick to the right lane. I couldn’t quite see how to stay in the right lane, and had to do a lap back around. The actual temple is within a HDB Complex, so it takes a bit of weaving and ducking to find it – here’s a map for ease. The address is 184 Jalan Toa Payoh, Singapore 319944 and it’s open from 7am to 5pm.
The Temple is really beautiful. The oldest Buddhist Monastery in Singapore, it was built in 1902, and while originally based within 50 acres, life has certainly built up around it. It looks quite small when you first enter, but as you move from section to section, you really start to understand how complex it is. While not as physically large as The Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, which I blogged about in January, I found this absolutely delightful and definitely worth a visit. The boys enjoyed it to, but this was definitely more for me I’d say.
Some features of this Monastery (based on the Website)
- The oldest Buddhist monastery in Singapore
- The only Buddhist monastery in Singapore with the status of a National Monument, due to both its historical and architectural value
- It is built in accordance to the traditional Chinese courtyard layout – the Heyuan concept
- It has a unique blend of architectural styles from Fuzhou, Quanzhou and Hangzhou Counties of Fujian province and Chaozhou County of Guangdong province in Southern China
From an historical point of view, it’s a wonderful place to see in Singapore and it’s currently going through a refurbishment, so you’ll see some stunning architecture and art – old and new. Additionally if you are interested in introducing all sorts of religious perspectives to your children, it’s a fascinating place to take them, and while my boys do not understand the significance yet, I am pleased places like this will be in their memories – it certainly wasn’t something I was able to see as a child. I just found it a stunning and beautiful place, and I am always completely blown away by the various temples and statues in the monasteries – magnificence abounds everywhere you look for sure.
The challenge for me on this day was CANDY! Every temple had a basket of candies front and center and that is the only thing the boys saw. Eventually one of the caretaker uncles gave them both a handful, which annoyed the hell out of me, but worse, for the next 30 minutes, while trying to enjoy the beauty of the place, I was nagged by two children to open the candies I didn’t want them have any way – thanks Uncle! It definitely put a bit of a sour edge on the experience for me, because I just don’t want my kids eating sugar when I can help it, but its accessibility was something I couldn’t get around. Red rag to a bull for sure.
So I’d say, definitely take your kids and enjoy it, but if your children are as obsessive as mine when it comes to candy, well at least you’ve been warned in advance. Also try and spend a little money in the gift shop or make a donation – this is definitely a place that needs to be treasured for the future and they need the money for the current restoration work.
After the temple, we walked back through the HDB complex, sitting down at one of the shaded tables for lunch. It was nice wandering around, and there’s a hawker strip and some local businesses as well if you want to offer a bit of local support. Everyone in this community was exceptionally friendly, with a little curiosity in the mix, so it was a lovely experience.
Once done, jump back on the PIE and head to Airport Road for the Republic Singapore Air Force Museum (RSAF) if you plan to do both parts of this adventure. Of course, both could be done separately, but the RSAF Museum isn’t very large, and it will take you a little over an hour to see it all, maybe more if your kids are into reading and understanding what they’re seeing. It’s free to get in, located at 400 Airport Road, Singapore 534234 and is open Tuesday to Sunday 8.30am to 5.00pm (closed Mondays and Public Holidays). You can also get bus SBS 90 and 94 (however SBS 94 is not available on a Sunday).
The RSAF is great if your kids are into planes and maybe a bit of history. It’s not big, but as soon as you drive up, you come face to face with some pretty cool aircraft. The boys instantly thought it was awesome seeing the planes hanging off the roof and on poles out front, so it was right for my lads. Once you have a look at the open air forecourt, which features some great aircraft, head into the exhibition areas split over two floors. I actually found the history pretty fascinating, because you forget that transition Singapore made from being a British protectorate to standing on its own two feet. What the Air Force has achieved is really quite amazing, and I enjoyed wandering through and reading how the Republic of Singapore Air Force evolved since independence.
For my boys, it was about touching the dials and gadgets on display – which they were welcome to do. There was enough to keep them entertained while I got to read, and while I tried to share some of the history with them, they weren’t really interested. One day I’m sure they will be. Right at the end we went into the cinema, where you get to watch a 10 minute history on the Singapore Air Force. We had the cinema all to ourselves and it was worth doing to finish off our exploration.
I’d suggest the RSAF is a perfect place to take your kids if they’re interested in planes, the Grandparents are in town, or if you are looking for an indoor option one rainy or blisteringly hot day. It’s not a place we’ll go back to again and again, but I am pleased we finally went to have a look.
For this adventure, take hats and lots of water. It was extremely hot at the Temple, although the design was open and let a lot of breeze through. Also come prepared for “Candy Battles” at the Temple – although I should’ve just given up. If you need to stop for lunch, I packed it and we had it in the HDB. There is a shop selling all sorts of plane memorabilia in the RSAF but I didn’t go inside and have no idea if there was water or anything else available. So best be prepared for this one.
Let me know what you think if you go? Or if you’ve already been, what you thought?