This city knows how to eat. One wouldn’t go out of options regardless of the budget. In every housing estate or community, in almost every street corner, you will find hawker stalls. Singaporeans take great pride in them and are very much part of the local culture. They are deeply rooted in this country’s history.
You could almost certainly find a selection of Chinese, Malay and Indian fare as these are the major cultures that have shaped this country.
We tried eating at the local hawker area in the community where my friend lives. It has a food court-like setting with an open view of the street and is located in the ground level of one of the buildings of this residential block, which is a typical setting for this type of housing community. Other usual places are street corners, parks, even MRT stations.
I couldn’t help but notice how, even in the city, we don’t seem to be too far away from nature. I’ve noticed there are different types of trees lining the streets and some type of exotic birds finding home in them. There were a few I have seen who patiently waited for diners to finish eating so they could swoop down on the table and snatch some food. They don’t seem to me like the maya variety I often see in the Philippines. The ones here seem to don a different shade of color. It could possibly be the same specie under a different category or a different specie altogether, I’m not sure.
In Chinatown, there’s a lane aptly called Chinatown Food Street. It’s row full of restaurants and food stalls.
Chinatown is also a shopping mecca. Everything from souvenirs to electronics, apparel to jewelry, to all kinds of knick-knacks, you can find. And while you’re at it, you can enjoy Singaporean architecture like their traditional-style shophouses. To keep up with the theme of the place, local hybrid shophouses were also built.
The idea of trying new cuisine excited my taste buds. My mouth started watering. All these onslaught to the senses – the sight, the smell, not to mention the heat, made me feel a little heady. With so many choices, I had a hard time picking.
We ended up with Chinese. Because it’s Chinatown, after all.
That afternoon, we went to Sentosa – one of Singapore’s latest attractions. Well, “fairly” latest, I would say. The city seems to always have something new in the pipeline that the word “latest” tends to have a shorter lifespan here, with newer and newer attractions springing up (at least until recently) in a space of a few months.
I was surprised to see a huge Merlion standing tall in the park. I may not have seen the original one by the bay but this is the next best thing, for sure. I was happy to have found a Merlion, to say the least – and a huge one at that. Later on however, I learned that this Merlion was demolished in September 2019 to make way for a new project. It’s kind of sad learning about the news. Good thing I was able to take a photo of it, as keepsake (of sorts).
Did you know that this Merlion has an observation deck in its mouth? I didn’t.
Mandatory photo with Universal Studios’ iconic globe in the background. Because why not.
Oh, and there’s a beach called Palawan. I don’t feel so far away from the Philippines now 🙂
Given the heat however, this day has proven to be a little unbearable for outdoors, so we decided to cut our trip short and just went back to the VivoCity mall to cool down and prepared to go back to the hotel.
Before going to the hotel though, we decided to buy from the local Indian hawker stall just around the corner near where we were staying. We have been curious, or should I say ‘I’, have been curious to try Indian fare (for a change). I love the “carinderia” feel of the Indian stalls. They don’t scrimp on the servings too.
This has been an interesting experience, so far. I was having fun, for sure. But there are also some realizations. One is that everywhere you go (and I don’t mean just here in Singapore but anywhere in the world, I guess), people always seem to long for some Utopian pipe dream. The cab driver I talked to on the way to the airport on my flight back, opened up about certain issues they have with how things are being run in the country. He asked how I find Singapore. My answer was pretty standard: clean, modern, orderly. And then he started complaining about how they do nothing but work. Work, work, work all the time and not really enjoying other pleasures like vacations outside the country. He also mentioned about not enjoying the same level of health care on a par with other developed countries. And surprisingly, problem with the housing system.
Whoa?! For a moment there I felt I was thrown for a loop. Who would have thought, for example, that wealthy Singapore – known for its subsidies under HDB, have issues with housing? C’mon. I don’t have my own house myself, for crying out loud. How are you even complaining?? (just kidding). No, inequity and social inequality are real. I can totally relate. And the gap is only getting ever wider.
I mean, often when the media touches on these topics, it’s in a matter-of-factly (if not trivial) manner, usually in the context of economic health. Hearing it first-hand though from a local, gives the issue a face, laying bare the cost of progress in front of my eyes – a flipside to the coin not a lot of people know about. Ultimately, one has to question whether or not it’s worth the trade-offs. Only time will tell.
Not to take lightly of his predicament, I asked if he told the government his grievances. ‘Maybe there’s an amicable solution’, I said. Funny thing is that I couldn’t remember what his answer was now.
Speaking of funny, this guy (who is probably in his, I don’t know 50’s?) loves 80’s music and was fanboy-ing about Whitney Houston (yeah, you heard that right). He’s curious about the type of music the younger generation is listening to nowadays. I said: ‘I think it’s EDM. You know, DJs and stuff?’ (like I know, right?)
Thinking of my own personal grievances, my parting words to him were: “Well, other places are far worse, you know?”, thinking it might give him some consolation. I’m not very sure of that now, in hindsight.
Whew! Some story, huh? Anyways, prior to this I met up with a friend for dinner – a former colleague who is now based in SG. She introduced me to this famous hawker place called Newton Food Centre where some of the scenes in the movie Crazy, Rich Asians were shot.
We started off with some local beer, of course.
I tried Southeast Asian fare this time – Malay/Indo, and I loved it! I think because it’s closer to my Filipino palate, that’s why.
It’s an explosion of flavors – spicy, sweet, tangy. We had barbecued chicken wings, satay with peanut sauce, kangkong (I think it was, or maybe some other vegetable, I’m not sure), and oh, the stingray… it’s a revelation. Some sugarcane juice (which is big here) for refreshment.
And there it is. The final part to my Singapore adventure series. I couldn’t believe it took almost a year to finish (my goodness). Now I can delete some of the photos from my phone which has been clamoring for some space.
Here are the previous posts in this series you might find interesting:
Summit 2019 – Singapore
Singapore, Day 2 – Home Ideas & Swedish Meatballs
Singapore, Day 3 – Icons of the Little Red Dot
I don’t really travel much so this has been a welcome break from my usual routine. It was made even better, of course, by spending it with old friends. I am now feeling excited for Summit 2020.
2 thoughts on “Food, Glorious Food”
Hey Onin, thanks for sharing your SG story. My favourite part is the conversation with the cab driver. He’s from a developed country and we can consider him lucky (as we are from a “developing” country) yet he still thinks his country’s health care system is not that good. People will never be satisfied with what they have, and they will always compare as they feel (and the reality is) there will always be something better.
So true. It’s human nature, I guess. But I think it’s important to keep the conversation going and not to repress /suppress critical thinking because that moves us forward. It paves the way for innovation.