Day 3 was our “cultural” tour of Singapore. We started in “Ox Cart Water”, the funny-named Chinatown. Early immigrants from China settled here and were surrounded by Muslim Malays and British colonists. But now it’s just weird to think that a country with 74% ethnic Chinese still has a Chinatown.
At Tanjong Pagar, we picked up some yummy breakfast foods.
Mr. Bean red bean cakes. Xuan Xuan was looking innocent in this picture but she actually ate most of our share.
After some nice strolls through the quieter part of town, we found ourselves at the Maxwell Food Centre. It wasn’t on our itinerary to stop here. But we woke up early in the jet-lagged hours and watched a Korean drama that made a big deal of eating breakfasts, so we declared a change in plans and stepped in for breakfast #2.
Maxwell had a very different layout from Newton, packing five rows of hawker stalls under a fairly small roof. Even though I love street food, places like this made me cringe a little as potentially unsanitary. Turned out that I worried for nothing – this place was cleaner than the average food court in an American mall. Even the bathroom was staffed with an attendant that constantly serviced it.
Not many stalls were open at 9am, but there were enough local staples for us to sample: Malaysian curry puff, bak kut teh (port in tea-based soup), and teh tarik.
Malaysian cuff puff is pretty different in looks and taste from the Chinese variety.
Wouldn’t mind having this for breakfast more often.
The tea was pretty nice, but the cup holder was even more cool.
Next up were Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (Buddhist), Sri Mariamman Temple (Hindu), and Masjid Jamae (Muslim), lined up next to one another on the same road. Seemed to me that this coexistence was as peaceful as peace could get (for those curious, Christian churches could be found nearby as well). All three of them were open to tourists, although they had different requirements for modesty (i.e. no shorts, which could be challenging for tourists not used to the tropics).
Full of action in front of the Buddha Tooth.
Just chilling in the Sri Mariamman
Chinatown with its obsession about the Year of the Horse.
Doesn’t matter where you go in the tropics, make sure you stay hydrated.
Behind these places of worship were the souvenir shops that carried more or less the same stuff that can be found in Chinatowns around the world, and an MRT station that took us to Little India.
Oh yeah, we did find another Ya Kun on the way and got iced coffees. It completed our Ya Kun experience.
Getting to Little India around noon was probably the best way to make sure that the weather resembled the real India experience. We walked aimlessly to find cold drinks, only to end up at a restaurant that had no AC or iced water. It did serve curry and rice on a real banana leaf, though, which was my most treasured memory from the first Singapore trip. But then again, curry while scorching hot? Man it was painful pleasure.
Here it is. Note that the bucket of silverware was provided only to the touristy-looking people who were probably clueless about how to eat with their hands.
Damn should’ve come here for lunch instead. Crack and cheese???
The most noteworthy place in Little India was perhaps the Mustafa Centre, an Indian-operated Walmart Supercenter on steroids. An average Walmart Supercenter in the U.S. carried 142,000 items, and this (also) 24-hour establishment reportedly sold over 300,000 things in this single building. I would tell you more about it, but its super narrow aisles made it a bit difficult to navigate for parents with a stroller, so our experience was limited to just a few hundred varieties of tampons, vitamins, and Tiger Balm products near one of the entrances.
If you zoom in sufficiently you can probably see 200 different products sold at this mega store.
Dinner of the day was at Lau Pa Sat, the hawker center for satay. As the day came to the end and the working class left downtown in their Maserati’s, hawkers blocked off this street, laid out tables and chairs on the road, and started their charcoal grills. This time around, we had no stall recommendations and simply asked for a set meal from the first guy that approached us. Additionally, we got some veggies, a teh tarik, and a teh cino from two other vendors.
Badass Italian car: $150 trillion in Singapore
Being stuck in rush hour traffic: priceless
I was not big on satay, and never ordered it at Singaporean/Malay/Thai restaurants. However, this stuff here was the shit and I loved it.
Eating street food in the actual street.
Teh cino supposedly is the tea version of cappuccino
The white stuff was not good.
It was also a good call to have ordered the kangkung belachan (water spinach with this awesome Malay shrimp paste), not only because we needed some vegetables in the diet, but also because it was the best kangkung belachan ever.
Since Lau Pa Sat was right by the Marina Bay (Singapore wasn’t very big after all), we took a comfortable evening walk to the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Recall what I said about it yesterday? The Fendi and Cartier and Shanghai Tang were getting kind of obnoxious. How much money did people around here make? Hong made a random comment about how Liu Li Gong Fang would’ve had a store here if it existed in Singapore. We looked it up in the directory and yes, she was right.