Category Archives: Singapore

Singapore’s Delicious Melting Pot

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Among the perfection this city offers, there are of course, other “less groomed” places. Arab street, Chinatown, and Little India are all more gritty, less planned, and have a brighter cultural atmosphere.

Arab street

Arab street is the muslim part of town. Due to a very friendly invitation to stay with my father’s family, we were allowed 2 more days in Singapore and so we ventured out here. We walked around the Sultan’s mosque and got stuck in a funeral…Death is a big part of the Islam, and so hundreds of people flooded out of the mosque. The van with the casket was being filled by the family out on the sidewalk, and at this very moment we had decided to walk that sidewalk, so it was a bit chaotic; everyone was hugging and climbing in and talking loud and fast, all of a sudden the people coming out of the mosque had nowhere to go, so it turned out to be a big crowd of people wondering why no one was moving! I felt especially funny without a headscarf, being a girl (most of the family was male) and in regular clothing (everyone was in their traditional white robes). I was a colorful little fleck on a white canvas.

We wandered the streets, admiring the spices and discovering fabrics we’d never seen. The carpets are gorgeous! A nice man decided to show us some of his, from India and Iran, knotted of silk or wool. The more knots per square inch (we saw 850!), the more expensive and more work. Years and years of work at our feet… There were so many different designs. He continued to unroll different ones, showing us where they’re from and how many knots (I see them as pixels in a picture), prices and designs. We thought of how long it would take him to roll all the carpets up again, so tried to politely make him stop; we would have to think about buying something anyway, but he kept unfurling more and more, and as we also kept asking questions about them and how much shipping would cost, it was pretty ineffective. Before we got completely intoxicated by the possibilities, we left.

Little India

We explored Little India in the afternoon, walking through the market (by now fish guts spilling all over the place do not faze us, nor does anything else meat-related really). We explored bazaars, stores full of what I can only describe as stuff. To eat, we visited a “hawker center”, food stalls organized in rows (this is Singapore after all), had some fresh Indian food, and quickly looked at a ton of glittery saris. We walked out of the hawker center and had a view of what was happening below us: it was dark, quiet, and a Sunday. And yes, the day of the week did have something to do with the atmosphere. Sunday is the only night off for the young Indian men working here, sending their money home to Bangladesh or South India. The atmosphere was eerie; there was a huge crowd of hundreds of men out on the sidewalk, but it was completely quiet, as if there was a muffler over all sound. Everyone was either trading, conversing quietly, standing around, or waiting in line to use the ATM. It was very strange…

Hawker center

Waiting in line for the ATM. Unfortunately, it can't wait until tomorrow

Chinatown

Once again, we quickly checked off what we’d wanted to see: the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. The walls are lined with 100 Buddhas, all carved differently, and upstairs there was a tooth from Buddha, which I did not see because I wasn’t upstairs. There was something special going on (it seems as though we always stumble into these special ceremonies), and many people were praying.

Afterwards, and as usual, we wandered around, admiring the great selection amount which Chinese seem to cherish in everything, and here, in chopsticks.

Din Tai Fung

The best dumplings of my life – writing about them makes me hungry already! Among dumplings filled with shrimp and red bean paste, steamed pork buns, and really unique peanut noodles, there was the star dumpling! A small, floppy, lazy looking one, filled with delicious, sweet soup and a little tasty pork meatball… And it truly has to be tried to be believed. When my parents came into our apartment in Kuala Lumpur and told us a Din Tai Fung opened up in a nearby mall, I nearly fell out of my chair with glee and Josephine was begging, “Din Tai Fuuuung! Bitte bitte bitte! Please please please!” So yes, it’s amazingly good, actually rated one of the 10 best restaurants in the world, by New York Times.

Josephine can't believe it!

Steamed buns, shrimp dumplings, vegetables, and an empty steamer where the pork/soup dumplings used to be.

Like everything in Singapore, they make these dumplings very precisely, weighing every ball of dough (5 grams) and and sticking an exact amount of meat inside (16 grams), as well as having precisely 18 folds. Through Din Tai Fung we learned what perfection and precision tasted like – typically Singapore.

I enjoyed Singapore and was sad to leave; my sisters were as well, but probably more so because of the 2 cute dogs we stayed with. However, we departed after 5 adventurous days in Singapore, and arrived in our 11th country, Malaysia!

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The Switzerland of South-East Asia

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Singapore is a city filled with expensive cars, a ludicrous amount of shopping malls, tall building complexes complete with pools, grounds, and fountains, futuristic architecture, and the latest fashion. Singapore was definitely a culture shock for us! We no long had to watch out for holes in the streets or motorbikes hitting us as we attempted to cross the street, nor did we have to buy bottled water or watch what we ate. It’s truly an amazing city, amazing in the way you wonder how on earth they managed this… a little dot in the middle of Malaysia, surrounded by all sides, with such wealth and cleanliness.

I accomplished all this!

Hobbies among Singaporeans: shopping, shopping, and shopping. Singapore would compete with New York, LA, Paris, etc. as a large, fashion-filled city! Every brand or clothing imaginable is here, from Gucci and Prada to local designers and clothes made of bamboo fibers. The main street, Orchard Road is not just a “road” of shiny, architecturally interesting shops and massive shopping centers, it’s also the road to an empty bank account.

However, I think that at one point it was a little too much; with so much selection and choices and sheer amount of stuff, you have no idea what to buy or where to go, and then end up buying nothing at all. When you have the choice, as the automated voice on the hop-on-hop-off bus has said, to go to shopping center this, that, or the other, filled with hundreds of different stores, how are you supposed to choose?

When you see the speckless sidewalks, free of trash, and impeccable streets and waterfronts, you ask yourself how? Fines. There is literally a fine for everything that could in any way, shape, or form disrupt or dirty the perfection. Instead of “No Smoking Please”, it’s a “No Smoking. By Law. Fine of $1000”. Which I have no problem with whatsoever.

No Pests. By Law.

Something we noticed right away in Singapore was this: there are no mosquitos! We attended a family barbecue, many of my father’s family is also here; it was near the water front, warm, and dusk came around… and there were no mosquitos. The answer to this riddling question is: not only do mosquitoes annoy people with their itchy stings, but they also transfer blood from one person to another. This makes disease more probable and since we don’t want any of that in our little perfect bubble, something is done about it. The government sprays everything regularly with mosquito killer. Everyone is required, by law of course, to treat their pools and any standing water with a special chemical as well. Government officials randomly come, have permission to enter your home, and test the water. If, by any chance, you have not treated your water, then there is, of course, a fine. This makes the atmosphere much more enjoyable in the evening – until there is that knock on your

Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens in Singapore are truly beautiful – we visited twice! The grounds are well laid out, allowing for leisurely walks or runs, tai chi or pilates classes, rest and relaxation. There are mini-lakes, fountains, and ponds. There was a ginger garden, herb garden, healing garden, bonsai garden (mini-trees) and more. It was, of course, perfectly organized. The Children’s Garden was fun, complete with mazes, tree houses, splash-pads and more. The National Orchid garden was gorgeous! We saw just about every orchid type and we even saw carnivorous plants in the cooling house (for plants that need less than 80+ degrees).

We truly enjoyed a taste of the Switzerland of Asia. We even contemplated the idea of living here for a year or two – there’s a large financial district complete with the stock market broadcasted across the side of a building, an English-based society, the chance to learn Mandarin (it seems as though the children here are being trained for careers in business), and more. That is, until we saw the price of real estate here.

There is much more to come – Arab street, Little India, Chinatown, hawker centers (food stall centers), the best dumpling of my life, and more!

Public art or subconscious influence to do a little shopping?