Archive for Singapore

Singapore v1.0 remnants

So, it’s been a couple of days, but I’ve been on an island without phone service or electricity let alone internet, which seems understandable, if I say so myself. Now I’m in Kuala Lumpur, but I’ve decided to backtrack to the first leg of my trip and finish posting some pictures from Singapore. I’ll be back there either tomorrow or the next day, so more will follow, but for now here’s one from the MRT (the subway system), that verifies something I heard from someone, though sadly I don’t remember whom. The durian is a large, smelly fruit popular throughout southeast Asia for its delectable flesh, but despised for its notorious stench. Hence the notice on the wall of the subway car.

The juxtaposition in this next picture of two vending machines and the statues on top of a Hindu temple in Chinatown struck me as particularly amusing, so of course I stopped to snap a photo of it (even though the lighting was less than ideal) on my way to dinner at the Hawker Centre.

The final photo is of the gay club to which we headed after dinner in order to chill and transfer files from my still nonfunctioning PowerBook to A.F.’s adorable iBook. It was called, cutely, Happy. From this experience, and from hanging out the night before at a beautiful Arabic teahouse called Samar, which served delicious iced mint tea, and an outdoor lounge done up to suit its name, Little Bali, it seems Singaporean nightlife has quite a bit more kick to it than its reputation would allow.

Posted by on October 5th, 2005

Little India

Yesterday afternoon, A.F. went off to run some errands, and I headed out on my own to explore Little India. He’d been an incredible guide, knowledgeable about the answers to all my questions, explaining Singaporean history, culture, sociology, education, and filling my head with data like the fact that 85% of Singapore’s residents live in public housing, which is actually really nice, and that six years ago, when the government implemented the famous electronic road pricing system, all the cars in the country were assigned an exact date and time to have the necessary device installed. Still, I figured I knew by now how to wander a foreign neighborhood and navigate a new subway system, especially in a country where English is the official language, despite the fact that most people speak Chinese, Malay, or Hindi at home as well. So I hopped on the MRT at Orchard Road, where we had been browsing at the Apple Store and at Border’s (I read the The New Yorker and Harper’s, but didn’t buy them because they cost about $15 each after all the shipping charges had been incorporated.), and got off three stops and a line-change later at Little India. There, I walked the streets, explored a little market that had been set up to sell special goods for Deepavali (aka Diwali, the Hindu version of Hanukah that lasts a month around the same time as Ramadan), ate, as I’ve already written, a paratha and drank some heavenly mango lassi, and checked out the famous 24-hour electronics department store, the Mustafa Centre.

Posted by on October 3rd, 2005

Food in Singapore

If I had to describe Singapore in one word, it would not be “clean,” “sterile,” or “strict,” but “yum!” The diversity of cultures and the way its inhabitants prize good cuisine is striking, and it means that there are tons of unique and delicious foods to try. Last night, my friend A.F., who grew up there and now works for the government, and his girlfriend C., originally from San Francisco but now a writer for The Straits Times, took me to Maxwell Food Centre, a hawker center in Chinatown, where we ordered an array of native foodstuffs and incredible tropical juices (soursop, star fruit, sugar cane, and watermelon). I took some photos, but it was dark out so they didn’t come out too well. Still, the first one is of what the locals call Carrot Cake, which is the result of someone’s bright idea to dice up the traditional dimsum treat of turnip cake (my boyfriend P.’s favorite thing to order) and fry it with an egg and chiles. The second is Hokkien prawn noodles, which is a dish beloved of the straits Chinese (Nyonya), who originally left Fujian Province (where Xiamen and Fuzhou are, and where the unusual dialect of Hokkien, different from both Mandarin and Cantonese, is spoken) to settle throughout southeast Asia in the late 19th century.

Earlier yesterday, I grabbed a snack in Little India, at a little vegetarian restaurant called Komala. I couldn’t help but order the traditional roti paratha, which in Malaysia is known as roti canai (and which I’d had at the restaurant Penang in New York a number of times as a kid). It was both doughy and flaky, steaming hot off the griddle, and served with a small cup of delightfully spicy curry. I also(had the joyful opportunity to drink what was in my experience (limited as it is by not having yet made it to India) the best mango lassi in the world.

For breakfast, A.F. met me at my hip and clean hostel, where the in-house restaurant, Wild Rocket has been making a buzz among Singaporean foodies. We ordered mojitos (crisp and well-mixed) and pancakes with strawberry compote and fresh cream (buttery and brown outside and nice and soft within). Since the food took a while to come, the chef, Willin Low, sent out complimentary grapefruit and basil granitas (herby and refreshing). I had actually grabbed dinner there the night before, when I arrived, since it was 10:30pm and I was worried that by the time I found my way to a restaurant outside the hostel anything I found might be closed. Then, I tried a lychee martini and crabmeat linguini in a lightly piquant tomato cream sauce, both of which were spectacular as well. If only Beijing had food like this–and at such affordable prices!

Oh, and at some point, I popped into one of the 25 or so 7-11s I saw around town to check out potato chip flavors and other assorted local snacks. The best one on the shelves was this bag of “Ethnic Flavor” chips.

Posted by on October 3rd, 2005