Go for the food
My friend Mark
posted to Singapore for his Job. Mark spent a year in Japan when
he was in univeristy and I always felt bad that I didn't go
visit. This time around we really couldn't be excused for not
visiting - we were already going to Hong
and Singapore isn't that far away. Singapore isn't that
big of a country so we only booked a few days for our visit. It
was time well spent.
Singapore sits at the confluence of several
cultures - there are strong
Chinese, Indian and Malay influences and many smaller touches from
British and Japanese culture. Markets are a great way to see and
undestand those influences. Like most Asian cities I have
visited, there are western familiar super markets, but there are also
produce and wet markets often with a cultural speciality.
Singapore has a bit of reputation for
Durian grows well in
this kind of climate but most of the durian you will see comes from
Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Durian is for sale all over the
city - from
tiny parking lot stands to dedicated produce stores that are
overwhelmed by durian displays. Most places will sell more than
one variety and then more than one grade within some varieties.
The reputation part comes from Durian's
Some people find it pleasent, many people don't. Some people
compare the smell od durian to that of urine. Either way, the
smell can be
strong and it gets out - we had a very well wrapped (in celophane)
container of durian and within minutes you could smell it inside our
taxi. Needless to say, you can't buy raw durian in shopping malls
or hotels - it would probably drive away too many people.
There is an amazing degree of stratification of
Singapore. Perhaps the cheapest way to eat (and often great
tasting too) is to visit a Hawker Center. These open air markets
are filled with self contained stands that each sell a specialty.
is generally run by a family or as a small business and the prices are
very reasonable - $5 can get you a decent lunch.
Some stands take their food to nearly high art
specializing in just a single dish. The classic example is
"Chicken Rice" - most markets will have a stall that sells it but there
seems to be a consistent debate about where in the city sells the best
chicken rice. Stalls recognized as the "best" will have
consistently long line ups of waiting customers even when a neighboring
stalls have no customers at all.
Being such a mix of cultures, there are foods
find in Singapore that are hard to find anywhere else. One of the
most common foods I found in Singapore I hadn't seen anywhere else was
"Roti Prata" - a strechy flat bread (often stuffed) that served with a
curry sauce. You can find "Roti" in a number of places in
Vancouver, but it's no where as good as the "Roti Prata" I found in a
singapore. Another new to me dish was Popiah - presented like a
sushi roll, crunchy and soft with lots of taste, it was definitly a
favorite of mine.
Singapore is a hot country. Many people
(especially foreigners) would be content to go from air conditioned
hotel room to air conditioned taxi to air conditioned mall and spend a
minimum amount of time feeling the outdoors. Some restaurants
(especially in tourist zones) have nearly empty patio seating and a
full, very air conditioned indoor seating area. Outdoor
restaraunts (often spilling onto the sidewalks) aren't air conditioned
but that doesn't mean the food isn't premium. We decided to try
Sin Huat Eating House (yes - that one you saw on TV). It's famous
for it's Crab Beehoon but makes a number of excelent seafood and Asian
I'm vegetarian so there was very little for me to eat here. I
wound up going to a vegetarian exclusive place across the street and
spent 1/100th the bill at Sin Huat Eating House and got a very nice
Singapore has a lot of shopping. A
More than you would think would be reasonable for such a small
city. Vancouver has two Starbucks split by an intersection on
Robson Street, in Singapore we saw the same luxury brand store on two
sides of the Orchard Road.
We were quite surprised to see a street
on Orchard Road. He was selling traditional ice cream sandwiches
(ice cream on real bread) and he had a lineup. Like all good
street vendors, he was highly portable - his cart was on wheels and it
would take only a moment before he could move on. Of course we
If it was possible, we probably just would
all day every day. Sadly, that isn't possible. Singapore
does have some cultural attractions (read temples) so we decided to do
some walking around. Helen being 6 months pregnant and swelling
up in the ankles, we couldn't walk very far.
We call Hong Kong home base so I didn't
expectations about a chinese temples in Singapore. We wandered
into Thian Hock Keng Temple - it was small (and almost deserted) by
Hong Kong standards but the Singapore style of
everything looks new and clean made this a sharp looking temple.
While wandering around Little India we stumbled into Sri
Veeramakaliamman Temple. This temple was busy - lots of people
were coming in to take advantage of the services. People were
very friendly to foreigners just wander around taking pictures of stuff.
Jurong Bird Park
I am a sucker for anything with an admission
fee. In my mind you haven't really experienced a place until you
have been scalped by the local tourist attraction. That said, I'm
generally not a big fan of zoo's or aquariums. I've never been to
a bird park so I thought I would give the Jurong Bird Park a try.
I don't consider myself a birder. Sure, I keep a list of birds I've seen
I'm not birder. In my "I'm not birder" experience, birds are
generally small, brown and far away just before they fly even farther
away. I was trying to figure out how Jurong Bird Park could make
a show out of birds. Short answer - editing - they only show big
and mostly tropical birds.
One of the exhibits I really liked was the
Descendents". These are the largest flightless birds in the bird
world. These are birds that could do some serious damage if they
decided they didn't like you. Each species has it's own holding
area but you can get a real eye to eye sense of the bird.
I was also impressed by the Lori Loft - an 8 story cage you can walk
into. There are many birds insider and if you are lucky they will
come by the human areas to grab a snack. These are the kinds of
birds you can find in pet stores but seeing them in a social
environment (and obviously healthy) doesn't make me feel so bad.
There are a few problems with the bird park. The owl exhibit is a
depressing. Singapore is hot - durring they day you expect
33°+ all day. There are a few exhibits close to the entrance
(and cooled) that are very popular but much of the park is accessed by
walking and not cooled and given the lack of people, tourists just
don't make it. Oh, and don't look at the big predators - seeing a
Bald Eagle in a cage made me really sad.
Always the sucker for the ticket booth, we had
to do a boat ride out
into the harbour and back.
The boats leave from Clarke Quay - kind of a
tourist/expat special economic fleecing zone - and they navigate
through the Central Business District and then out into the bay past
the iconic "Merlion".
It's great to get outside and see the city
difference perspective. It's kind of taster plate for some of the
areas in downtown. One of the shores is lined with small outdoor
restaurants that I wished we had the time to walk through. The
large offshore casino project was nearing completion and I wonder how
it will change Singapore.
We didn't stay in a Singapore for long and I'm
there was a ton of great food we missed. Singapore is great
iconic city to visit and I'm glad we did. Thanks Mark for hosting!
Tags: food porn(11), market(6), produce(4), fruit(3), durian(3), fire(2)
People: Mark(1), John(1), Helen(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > Singapore
Last Modified Sunday, September 26th, 2010 at 08:04:32 Edit
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