Sunday, 22 April 2007

Let's hear it for St Luke

I was not aware until coming to live in Singapore that the apostle was also the patron saint of prickly heat. At least I suspect this is the case, as his name adorns a well known brand of powder designed to combat the sweatiness of the tropics.

The title also suggests a British pedigree but this powder which was formulated sixty years ago is actually produced in Thailand. It is marketed in other parts of the world under the Snake brand.

St Lukes Prickly Heat powder has one disturbing problem - it is mentholated. An overly liberal application to the nether regions can leave the unfortunate crying out to their maker. Perhaps this is where the true religious association comes from?

Which brings me none to subtly to the point that we have been living in Singapore for more than six months and our bodies are acclimatising. Two weeks ago we stopped using the airconditioning throughout the night in our bedroom and now sleep with a fan in perpetual motion instead.

This is not to say that either of us actually enjoy the very draining effect of the humidity, especially from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

However a quick glance at the minimum temperatures on the internet remind me of just how miserably cold a New Zealand winter can be, so I am not complaining too much.

A case in point. Today we took buses to the Singapore Botanical Gardens leaving as the sun reached its zenith. There was not a breath of wind when we got there and apart for one or two of the lunatic fringe who were out jogging ( yes, jogging!) in the noon day sun, everyone else was seeking the shade. The shade seekers included clusters of Filipinas who, released from their maids' duties on a Sunday afternoon, congregate for picnics in the Gardens.

It was Sir Stamford Raffles who established the first Botanical Gardens in Singapore in 1822. His interest was largely economic as he wanted to establish the viability of crops such as cocoa and nutmeg. The existing gardens were established on their current site a little later, in 1859.

I vividly recall my first visit to the Singapore Botanic gardens in the early 1980's as I was cornered by a troupe of monkeys, baring their teeth and demanding to be fed.
These Macaques became such a problem that they were removed (exterminated?) and no longer harass visitors. They remain a problem in other parts of Singapore, especially where housing estates border wildlife reserves.

The highlight of our trip today was the National Orchid Garden, a feature in its own right within the boundaries of the Botanic Gardens. A $5 entry fee gets you into this garden. The orchid is the national flower of Singapore and it is easy to see why.

There are some examples at the bottom of this page.

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