Little India Singapore

Today I am exploring other parts of Singapore, especially because most things in Chinatown are closed due to Lunar New Year. Planning this trip was sort of another travel blunder. When I saw it was Lunar new year I thought it would be a fantastic time to visit with all the celebrations. While that is true, also is true is that lots of Singapore is shutdown through Tuesday due to 76% of the population being Chinese and this is a major family holiday for them. So today I head over to little India and nearby areas.

The subway drops me off at Tekka Centre which is a large hawker market of mostly Indian food. You can basically find any kind of flair of Indian food. I am on a mission to try Murtabak which is basically like a meat pancake. And of course some prata: who can resist thing tasty bread with dipping sauce? I also order mango lassi at a juice stall because mango lassi is amazing.

I am quite disappointed with the murtabak. I don’t like the flavor and the chicken inside are all the bony and cartilage parts, basically inedible. I eat my prata which is very good and but lose my appetite after. I will have to try this again to see if this is an anomaly or I am just not a fan.

I start walking around little India. It is busy. There are lots of stands of food, clothing, and other items. I can smell the spices and all the smells remind me of my visit to India around ten years ago. I hear the sounds of music playing. It is a very lively part of town.

At some point I end up in an area that resembles another china town. I want to visit this up and coming part of town called the Lavender district that is supposed to contain hip places. Most of the businesses in the Lavender district must be Chinese owned because every place I want to visit is closed.

Nearby is a two story building of beautiful terrace houses on Petain Road. Some look like private residences but some house businesses. The building is very nice to look at.

I walk over to Kampong Glam and Haji Lane in the Muslim quarter of Singapore. There are many cafes and restaurants near the large mosque. Many of the restaurants are Turkish as well. I also pop over to Haji lane to look at all the street art.

Since it is once again hot I call sightseeing quits early and start heading back to my hotel. A swim in that fancy pool sounds really nice right now. However it starts raining while I am walking back. But not sprinkles but heavy Florida-like summer rain. I have my rain jacket with me but it doesn’t stop from most of my body, including another pair of shoes, from getting wet.

I’ve been in communication with one of my new friends. She is getting some Singapore slings at the famous Long Bar which just happens to be on my way back. I stop and say hi but don’t get a drink because I am pretty sure I have heat exhaustion at this point; even with the rain cool off. I say hi and head back to my hotel.

Old police building. Instagram famous.

I go back to the hotel to clean up and rest and decide to get a western style dinner at a local Italian place. It stops raining but due to the puddles I completely soak another pair of shoes. They too smell awesome the next day (sarcasm).

Tomorrow I am going to visit the cloud forest,

Happy Lunar New Year

After visiting the Singapore Botanical Garden this morning I decide to go back to the hotel to rest and cool down. It is really hot today. You think I would be used to it by now since I grew up in Florida but I never do. I shower and I nap. I nap so well that I am tempted to not wake up (jet lag). I force myself to wake up and start getting ready. I am meeting some of my new friends for a late dinner and a walk around the Chinese New Year celebration.

But first some of the lunar new year photos from during the day.

We start at one of the hawker centers hoping some of the stalls will be open. We find one that looks suitable. It has a dish that I have already tried yesterday so I want to try something different but it must have noodles because that is all I am craving lately. I order some noodle chicken dish and it isn’t that good. I should have stuck to what I know.

We walk around and see the large displays. Everything is so beautiful in the dark.

We head to a major shopping area and the crowds thicken. It has been a few years since people felt comfortable enough celebrating the new year in public so it seems everyone is out tonight.

The crowds get even busier.

We are outside the Buddha tooth temple. There is a queue set up for those to go in a pray after midnight. We can’t get anywhere near the stage but we can see and hear it from a distance. We wait in this area for a while.

As suspected I can’t make it until midnight. It is 11 pm and I don’t think I can stay up another minute. I say goodbye to my friends and walk back to the hotel I might have picked up some new year’s trinkets on the way out. Even with the crowds I feel lucky I am here to celebrate during this time of year.

Do you like flowers? Singapore Edition.

Today is my first full day in Singapore. There are so many choices of things to but I decide to take the subway across town to the Singapore Botanic Gardens but first I want to see if any food stalls are open. I stop by the Maxwell center and there are few open. I order a dumpling ramen. It isn’t as good as the food I had yesterday but it will have to do as breakfast.

I forget to mention it is British rules of traffic here and nearby countries. All traffic should be on the left, walking and driving. It’s hard to remember when I am so programmed to stay to the right. Not sure locals or tourists care much though. No one seemed to give me attitude about being on the wrong side of things all the time.

The subway system is quite good. It is very clean and comfortable and you can use your credit card to tap on and off if it is a new type card; although at some point my main credit card stopped working there and I had to used my back up card.

The subway drops me off at one end of the park. The Botanic Gardens are quite large and it takes much time to get from one end to the other. At first I just wander and enjoy nature. It is free to the public (except the orchid garden) so locals use it for jogging and I suppose a respite from the busy city. I hear sounds of crickets and birds but also the sounds of cars in the background because Iam still really close to the road. I travel deeper in the park.

I come to the National Orchid Garden and decide to wait in the long hot line. I wonder if it is worth it and it is. The orchid garden is quite impressive. So many beautiful and different types of orchids.

It is time for a siesta of sorts. It has rained this morning and while it helped cool things down briefly it is still so hot when the sun is out that it drains me. I head back to my hotel to rest up for my evening plans. I am meeting up with some women I met yesterday to check out the Lunar New Year’s festivities tonight.

Chinatown Singapore

I am starting my first day in Singapore and I do what I am supposed to do, force myself to stay awake to get on the current time zone. Luckily I have a food tour booked so I have a reason to force myself out of the room.

I love taking food tours and cooking classes when I travel. I love food and I love discovering new food loves. Singapore is very big on Hawker culture (there are so many Hawker complexes). I know me though and I get nervous and intimidated initially in ordering foods in some foreign countries. This tour, that concentrates on popular and Michelin rated/documented hawkers, is the perfect introduction to the hawker culture.

I’ve done some reading ahead so I know a couple things: like using a tissue pack to save a seat/table (called chope) and I have a list of foods I really want to try. But my guide fills in all the gaps. He tells us great stalls to try, history of things, and even great parts of town to visit. I also meet three lovely ladies on my tour, two of which I hang out with the next day for Chinese New Year. I love when my shy anxious self finds an easy way to meet new people!

We start the tour immediately visting the hawker building Hong Lim. Our guide tells us how hawker culture began. There used to be street carts like you would see in other parts of South East Asia, serving food and whatnot. At some point the city decided to take these into covered areas to make the foods safer, provide facilities for cooking with running water with tables for people to use to eat. Now you have what are present day hawker centers. There are numerous in the city and while a large number of them are Chinese, you can also find various other food types: Malay, Indonesia, Thai, Indian or those with a flair of many different cultures in one.

We start at Jiji Noodles House and he brings us a bowl of Signature char siew wanton noodle (pork). It comes with a side of a soup with goji berries that you can eat alone or dump into your noodles if they are not wet enough. This meal is fantastic. I craved it later. I wanted it the next morning but I assumed it would be closed (note: a girl on the tour told me the next morning that it was in fact open the next morning. I missed out on a second serving.). This is one of the places in the Michelin guide because it is so good.

Next I try a tea that is quite good – Ice Lemon Tea that I will try once more another day.

Then we head to try a curry puff. The guide calls it curry in a hurry. But you cannot eat it too fast because it is served piping hot.

We walk through a market where we look at the fruits. Of course durian is brought up. Durian is quite popular but it has an interesting taste and texture. You either like it or you don’t. I am still in the don’t like it category. I’ve tried it twice: once in a fresh fruit format and once as a cracker (accidentally). Both times it took me quite a while to get that distinct taste out of my mouth, in fact when I smell it, it comes back to me. Most hotels ban you bringing it in because it will “stink” up the place and its hard to remove.

We next stop to get a pandan cake but due to the Lunar new year they seem to be sold out so we try an orange chiffon cake instead and it is quite good. I’ve had pandan before a few times and I love it so I vow to come back to this store another time to try the cake.

Next we try the Chinese version of the Portuguese egg tart. It is not as sweet as the Portuguese version.

We then go to the Maxwell complex to visit the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. If you have watched any show on Singapore hawker culture this dish is featured; Anthony Bordain loved it. The chicken, served room temperature is good, but the special is the rice. It is very good. Some eat it as breakfast. It is considered a national dish.

Time to try some juice. We order soursop, a not so sweet fruit drink. I like how this vendor does no added sugar. It is quite refreshing.

We stop and visit the Buddha’s tooth relic temple. Yes you saw that correctly. There is supposed to be an actual Buddha’s tooth upstairs but we didn’t go up to see it. But the temple is quite beautiful and iconic in Chinatown.

We visit one last complex called Chinatown complex. We are very full already so we split a spring roll and enjoy Singapore Iced Coffee. The coffee is good and strong but being sweetened it would be an occasional treat for me.

I love the knowledge we received from our tour guide. I need to remember to do at least one tour such as this in each major city. It really cuts through the anxiety I have with being somewhere vastly unfamiliar.

Since I thoroughly enjoyed time with those in my tour and we are all mostly solo travelers we make plans to meet up tomorrow to see some of the Lunar New Year celebration. I am pleased to have met people so easily.

My first thoughts on Singapore is that it is a clean, safe and friendly country. While it is generally more expensive than most of South East Asia, it is a fantastic starter city for the region. Most people speak English here and things are more accessible to foreigners because you can stay in a hotel in a format that people are accustomed to with all the comforts of home. And the food, well Singapore is a full of many different cultures so the food choices are endless.

After my tour I wander around a bit. I do go back to my hotel to rest but I force myself to go back out with the lure of the visiting the birthplace of the original Singapore Sling at the Long Bar at Raffles hotel. It is a popular spot on the tourist trail so there is usually a wait but luckily I don’t have to wait long. They have a machine that shakes the cocktails. They mostly shake them by hand these days but I do get to see the machine in action briefly. This is also the only place in Singapore where it is lawful to litter: you can throw your peanut shells on the ground.

After I decide to walk the water to get a view of Marina Bay Sands and other things in the area. I return in a couple days to see more. Being exhausted i find a place for a quick but not great dinner and then head to bed early.

First day = success.

Long travel days….arrived in Singapore

The thing is that you never really know things will go until you are filling in the details when it comes to travel. I did not know it would take me multiple days to get to some of my “next” locations. These long travel times take a toll. I understand last time I took a travel sabbatical I took the correct approach with moving around the world in a step approach instead of the all of once (with the exception of starting in Seattle versus the East Coast).

I wake up early to finish packing my backpack. I hope everything fits as intended and it does. I get an email that my flight is delayed. The departure time has not changed. I look into it a little further and discover the arrival time is almost an hour and a half later than scheduled. They must have changed the flight plan to avoid something. This shortens my Seoul layover to about 40 minutes. This seems pretty risky. They give me the option to change my second flight to a later time. It is a long layover of like 5 hours but there is no stress anymore about making my connection. Only bad thing is I no longer have a seat assigned. I can assume I’ll probably be stuck in the middle somewhere of this not so short flight from South Korea to Singapore. I also arrive at 5 AM and I have a food tour scheduled at 9:00 AM. Will I force myself to go or skip the morning tour to rest??

I guess I’ll find out later.

Fancy menu card on the flight

The Terrorist Toddler

My flight from Seattle to Seoul is pretty much uneventful except with the flight extension. People around me all have tight connections that they worry about making. I feel good about being proactive about changing my next flight. However when we arrive in Seoul it appears that they are actually holding those connections; so I probably would have made that early flight if I walked really fast. Being that my flight wasn’t for 5 hours I took my time walking toward the gates. I finally get a seat assignment for my next flight and it is a middle seat in the second to the last row. Those are the seats I call toilet seats because you deal with people hanging around waiting for the toilets the whole flight. I decide that when the gate opens, I’ll go try to change my seat, preferably to another aisle seat. I head to the lounge.

There is a line at the lounge but I decide to wait in it because I am not thrilled with the airport food choices and I like to get my money’s worth out of that pass when I can. I find that lounges will not accept my pass at a growing number of airports.

I catch up on correspondence at the lounge and get some food to eat. I start heading down to the gate area since it’s a long walk and I would like to see if I could change my seat. Luckily or as I think is luck I am able to get an aisle seat and it’s not in the back of the plane. I am seated and it appears that there are two empty seats in my four across row which would be nice but I can’t be that lucky.

A woman boards late with an adorable toddler. They sit next to me. She suddenly becomes not so adorable.

She pretty much held my whole section hostage during most of our flight. And she was right next to me, screaming at decibels that probably have caused at least temporary hearing damage. It’s not really her fault, nor her mother’s. They both had a really long travel day already, if I’m not mistaken the same route I took, delay and all. It is much to ask of a 1-2 year old. Despite that it was a very unpleasant ride for me. My plan to sleep through the flight was reduced to maybe a combined total of 2 hours of sleep, if I was lucky. While we are landing every person around me is holding their ears. One person looks at me with pain and pity. I smile and point to my noise canceling ear plugs. They don’t totally kill the noise but they reduce it to non painful levels. Again I can’t get mad at the mom because there is literally nothing she can do.

I checked a bag from Seattle to Singapore. Before I get a lecture about carry-ons let me just say that I used to travel that way in the before times, when I was younger and needed less things to keep me alive (or at least keep me in a good mood while I travel). It is not feasible to carry on everything I need, especially for a 2 month trip where I am visiting various countries with different weather and different culture norms. Both my AirTag and Delta luggage tracking never updated my bag leaving Seattle. While in my layover in Seoul it became apparent that I might be arriving with no luggage.

Oh look my bag is NOT in Seattle

After all that worrying about my vaccine card I was never asked to show it. I guess all they wanted was for me to attest that I had the vaccinations. As a USA citizen I could use the automated entry system. Which means no human touched my passport. I realize that also means I have no entry stamp for this country. How can I prove I am actually here? I guess the technology is so good that stamps are useless. It kind of stinks for memory purposes that I have no stamp though.

Now I am finally in Singapore and my hotel is nice. Even though I arrive at 7 am my room is ready because I proactively booked the night before….I am learning something in my old age. I am very happy to check into my room.

No time to rest though since I am heading out on a food tour at 9:30 AM.