The weekend of Kyle's actual birthday (we are all out of order here these days!) was Chingay @ Heartlands in Singapore. We had no idea what that was, but Amanda and Reuben (of the underwater camera) assured us that it was happening in our neighborhood, and we might as well check it out since we didn't have far to go.

Turns out, Chingay is a uniquely Singaporean cultural festival/parade with some amazing floats and cultural presentations. The word Chingay is from the Hokkien (Chinese) dialect, of which the Mandarin equivalent is Zhuang Yi (妆艺), meaning "the art of masquerade".

The festival began as a neighborhood parade with only Chinese elements in 1973, but now all (most?) of Singpore's cultural groups are represented. The weekend before was a two-day event in the central business district, but on the 20th three smaller parades happened in "Heartlands" neighborhoods, one of which was ours.

We didn't follow the parade down the road, but instead scored a bird's eye view of the plaza in front of the library where the finale was happening. All evening there were musical performances at the amphitheater. The emcee was speaking in Mandarin, so I have no idea what was going on, but the music/dance all sounded like Korean pop.

We did have a nice view of the lion dance troupes hanging out until it was their turn.

There was a dragon dance, which was my first. It involved quite a surprising amount of fire, though it was really cool to see how they made the dragon weave and dance.

Then there was another kind of dragon dance which involved more fire and firecrackers which I thought were pretty loud. No pictures of that one, because I was too busy holding my ears. (Do you know my family? Yeah, I try to be careful with my hearing!)

Finally, they parted the crowds for the actual parade and floats to roll in, complete with politicians on a tour bus and ticker tape. Yay ticker tape.

I don't have great shots of the floats because they all lit up and it was dark, but they were extremely elaborate.

This one involves a cactus mariachi band in the front wearing sombreros. I am not so sure about this as I have not found Mexican culture widely represented here... 

Anyway, my favorite ones were the Indian float that featured a huge peacock and dancing elephants around a lotus bloom:

The fire-breathing dragon with the Singapore Flyer in the back:

And the zoo/night safari float with an elephant, hippo, monkeys, crocs, and other creatures. The hippo sprayed water. Fancy.