He is a Muslim, but that did not stop Mr Irfan Ali from accompanying two friends on a visit to a Chinese temple on Saturday night.
He was there to observe the birthday celebration of Taoist deity Jade Emperor at the Loyang Tua Pek Kong temple.
Mr Irfan, who can speak Mandarin, has been visiting temples since he was a teenager.
"I started visiting temples with my friends when I was 16 or 17 because a majority of them are Chinese, and I was curious to find out more about the culture," he told The New Paper.
His two friends are Mr Lee Jin Hui and Mr Chye. The trio are all aged 25.
Mr Lee said: "One is my secondary school friend (Mr Irfan) and the other, my NS mate (Mr Chye). Both of them have been friends for five years now, and we started visiting the temple together two years back."
The Jade Emperor's birthday was yesterday, the ninth day of the Chinese New Year, but the celebration to welcome the deity often starts the day before.
Mr Irfan felt that the celebration at the Loyang Tua Pek Kong temple was a little overwhelming.
"It is quite similar to the fasting month of Ramadan where there will be a lot of people visiting the mosque for the nightly prayer after they have completed their fasting for the day," he said.
Devotees arrived as early as 8.30pm on Saturday, with their names, home addresses and well wishes written on joss paper to be offered to the Jade Emperor.
Madam Jean Tan, 40, visited the temple with her husband and two girls for the first time.
She said: "We live in Bukit Batok, but we had dinner with my sister's family, who lives in Bedok, so we decided to come over and soak in the atmosphere."
Madam Tan said she left it to her husband to pray for the well-being of the family.
"It is usually the man in the family who prays," she said.
Offerings at the temple included a sumptuous spread of roast duck, fish, chicken, crab, fruits, cakes and red eggs, all laid out on a large stage.
The temple's event coordinator, Mr Jeffery Tan, 58, estimated that the temple would have seen about 6,000 devotees from Saturday night to 3pm yesterday, when the stacks of joss paper were burnt to mark the end of the celebration and send the Jade Emperor back to heaven.
This article was first published on February 6, 2017.
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