Tag Archives: Singapore

World Cooking – Singapore

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Singapore
Progress: 65/193

Well it’s been nearly three months since my last food country and what a three months they’ve been. I’ve been on the most amazing trips to South Korea, Hong Kong and Seville – plus we’ve had Christmas! Well, now is as good a time as any to get back into this, so why not with a country whose food I loved whilst I was there. Good old Singapore, I hope to get back there at some point.

Being a modern city state, Singapore doesn’t exactly have the longest history of cuisine. Especially since  it has now become such a melting point of nearby cultures having been kicked out of Malaysia back in the 1960s for being difficult. It’s astonishing, therefore, that Singapore was able to become the hugely successful nation that it is today.

The cuisine you get here can really depend on where you are, but the main groups of Chinese, Malay and Indian have all exploded into each other and are getting more and more peppered with Western influences. When I was out there, the best food that we had included dim sum, nasi lamak and the vast assortment of shaved ice desserts that we had. During our time there we didn’t actually have what is considered the national dish of Sinapore. With the help of a spice paste, I am fixing that error today.

Main: Hainanese Chicken Rice

It’s a bit weird for one country’s national dish to be named after a region in another country (in this case China) – but I guess this is what happens when you are a very new nation. Especially one where you have such a mix of ethnicities that you have most important signage in four languages. I ended up making this because I was collecting a Lego train set from a Waitrose that happened to have a Hainanese chicken rice spice paste in the reduced bin. I thought it was a beautiful sign of serendipity that this would be my next food country.

Now, when you look online, you will find so many different variations on how to make this dish. Each of them tend to agree on the specifics of poaching the chicken, using the resulting chicken water to cook the rice and then serving with cucumber. This varies from the recipe on the spice paste, so I found a way to reconcile the two by searing the skin of the chicken before the poaching.

I ate this pretty damned quickly. Having a dollop of sambal on the side as well as a sprinkling of peanuts really helped to keep some variation in this dish. Especially as there is an awful lot of rice in this dish. I expect that a Hainanese chicken rice from a Singaporean hawker centre might look and taste rather different to the one I made here, but I won’t know that until I make a return. One day in the not too distant future I hope.

Next time on the world cooking challenge I will be making something fairly big from the West coast of Africa as it will be New Years Day when I cook it. Last year, I made something from Poland for New Years and it was a huge success. I can only hope that it will be the same with my next dish.

Off To Singapore: Day 6 – Orchard Street and Chengi Airport

It’s that time again. That time where the holiday that I have been excited about for ages (like, really excited) is over in what feels like a very humid flash. Was there more I could have done? Sure. I could have done the Tree Top Walkway, the bird park or maybe popped over the border into Malaysia. Still, I can’t say that I didn’t pack this week in with as much as I could.

So let’s get started with the beginning of the day which was, because I am me, a last minute dart around the souvenir stalls of Chinatown in order to buy a small stuffed red dog. Why? Well, all the stores (and even the Temple of the Tooth) have these little New Years Dogs on display and I wanted one!

With that itch scratched it was breakfast time, and what could be better than dim sum for breakfast on your last day. The restaurant, called a Red Star, was in a bit of a weird place: the 7th floor of what looked like a bit of a neglected block building which has an entrance leading you though the kitchen.

Once we were in the main dining hall everything started to feel a little bit The Wedding Banquet, only with the waitresses carting trolleys piled high with steaming bamboo baskets full of dumplings. Truly this was some of the best dim sum that I have ever had and this now restaurant has properly ruined siu mei dumplings for me.

Now, the big thing left for me to see in Singapore is the shopping street of Orchard Road. Rather than just take the MRT there and just make things easy on our aching feet – we opted to walk there from Chinatown via Fort Canning Park… which is up a hill.

The walk up was, as with all the green spaces in Singapore, beautiful. One tree, a very old and large banyon tree caught my attention on the way up. Similar stories at the top of the hill with there being many interesting looking trees, a cacophony of insect noises and, thankfully, a vending machine full of cold drinks.

After a short rest and a welcome downhill stroll, we were on Orchard Road, which would be Singapore’s version of Oxford Street. Unlike Oxford Street, however, this is a place that I could see myself regularly visiting if I lived there. So many malls, each with their own character and array of shops. Truly, you must be able to buy pretty much anything that you could need here, and a lot of things you would never need.

As well as an extreme variety in the available goods, there is a variety of architecture to keep the eyes busy as you walk down the very wide streets. Some are modern looking with interesting window configurations or building quirks, whereas others look like very traditional builds – one even looked like an extremely large Chinese pavilion!

Lunch wasn’t at a fancy eatery, but at Mosburger – a Japanese burger chain that helped satisfy a late night hunger need when we were in Kyoto. Because of the extreme failure of the Grape Fanta last night, I played it a bit safe with my burger option – although I did get the Hokkaido hash brown thing. As always, Mosburger delivers on a really good fast food burger,

Having purchased some last minute souvenirs at an extremely low price (to the point that I am surprised at just how many Singaporean dollars we’re bringing back) we went back to an earlier favourite attraction because we had some unfinished business to attend to.

So once again we found ourselves at the Gardens by the Bay so that we could visit the  Cloud Forest. What makes this so special? For starters it contains the worlds tallest indoor waterfall, which is cascading down a tower covered in a vast array of flowering plants. There is a bit of a log jam when you first enter because of this initial photo opportunity.

After this initial impression, the Cloud Forest keeps delivering with beautifully laid out gardens with interesting sculptures (including some Lego ones at the top) mixed in. We weren’t there at the time where they release mist, but I can only imagine just how impressive that would look, not that this really needed that much help.

So that was it really, from here we meandered back to the hotel via the Merlion Park and stuck to the shadows as much as possible seeing that the sun appeared to have upped its intensity for our final day.

We also passed a temporary thing on the Marina Front called ‘Art Zoo’ that consisted of a large number of bouncy castles in the shapes of different animals. I would have stayed a bit longer to take photos of each one, but there was no shade and it really started to feel like parts of my flesh was getting cooked.

Now, usually this is where I would end things – the flight home etc being a bit of a non-event, but this isn’t just any airport, this is Chengi Airport.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 714/751Food item: Barramundi

So yes, it would appear that extracting meat from a whole fish has become a bit of a running theme for this holiday. I’m not sure at what point in my life I became okay with things like this, but I see no reason to question it. The barramundi itself was delicious as was the garlic sauce that was slathered all over it. The flesh that was not flooded with sauce tasted a bit meaty for a white fish and, in part, reminded me of sea bass. Needless to say, I stripped off as much meat as possible and my side plate was piled high with fins bones (not the skin though, that was delicious).

This wasn’t the last thing that Chengi had to offer. Within the four linked terminals you can find a free cinema showing very recent releases, a huge variety of shops and restaurants and, amazingly, all manner of small gardens.

In our brief time there we ended up visiting three of the many gardens. Firstly we traveled between terminals to get to the Butterfly Garden, which is exactly what it sounds like. Despite it being dark and all the butterflies having gone to sleep, we turned this visit into a fun little butterfly hunt. We probably looked a bit simple. But it was fun.

We also visited the Water Lillies garden, but the one we spent the most time in was the rooftop cactus garden. I think we were sat in a bench in there for over half an hour, just relaxing and taking in the surroundings. It sounds odd, seeing how the calm was intermittently interrupted with plane noises, but I sat there with a bottle of water, with some live guitar music playing behind us, and looked at the sky which only had one stat out. It’s one of those perfect moments that you can’t manufacture, and it’s a fitting end to this voyage to Singapore.

So that’s it. As I write this I am on the plane getting ready to watch How to Marry A Millionaire before trying to realign my body clock. I live in nope that the stranger next to me won’t slowly encroach on my personal space as the flight progresses. But time will tell.

Goodbye Singapore. Thanks for everything.

Off To Singapore: Day 5 – Little India and Southern Ridges

So this is it, the last full day in Singapore (not counting tomorrow where we will be flying out at 11pm) and I cannot believe:

a) that this trip, that I have been looking forward to for months, is pretty much over
b) how lucky we have been with the rain, I know we had a storm yesterday morning, but it didn’t effect us too badly.

With a lot left to do here in Singapore there’s nothing better to get you started than a breakfast of nasi lamak right as you get ready to explore. Today’s first destination was Little India, based on a lot of recommendations that I saw online. Most of these are centred on the major temples (one of which was sadly closed for reparations) and the Tekka wet market.

Aside from the temples themselves, it’s safe to say that Little India isn’t the best looking or the best maintained area of Singapore that I’ve been to. I guess I went into there expecting a cavalcade of colours and lots of nice smells (similar to walking through Chinatown), so I was probably always going to be a bit disappointed? However, this was worth the trip for some of the sights.

After breakfast, and a brief rain shower, our first stop was the Sakaya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple (or the Temple of 1000 Lights) – a Buddhist temple with some cool tigers on the outside and a 15 foot tall Buddha statue on the inside. It’s one of the smaller temples that I’ve visited, but I always appreciate a large Buddha statue. Maybe one day I’ll see the Spring Temple Buddha, but somehow I doubt I will.

From here our next stop, after the closed temple, was the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. This is the oldest Hindu Temple in Singapore is definitely one of the most colourful temples that I have ever seen. I know nowhere near enough about the Hindu faith to understand a lot of the symbolism, but this temple was such a sensory clash as we walked around (some of the loud music might have been part of this). One day I would really love or go to a place like this and have someone explain what I’m seeing – maybe when I end up going to India in the future this is something to look into.

Near this temple was the Former House of Tan Teng Niah. People come here because it is touted as being the most colourful building in Singapore. I don’t think I could disagree here, based on the variety and the heavy use of colours on this house. It appears that this house, which is a former Chinese villa, is mostly used to store products for the stalls that now operate outside of it. A pity really as I’d be really interested to see what I might have been like inside.

The final stop in Little India was the Tekka wet market. I was going here to try and find some fruit for my food list (which didn’t work out, partially as no one labels anything) and just look around the stalls. I probably would have spent longer there if everything didn’t smell of raw lamb, but at least it was interesting to see what was on offer.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 713/751Food item: Bird’s Nest

Back in Chinatown again where I have finally found a place where I could try prepared birds nest without leaving a massive hole in my wallet. This portion of birds nest with rock sugar cost me $12, which is still a fair bit of money but a lot less than most other places. This is one of those food items that is on the 1001 list because of the texture as this really doesn’t taste of anything. What it does do, however, is give a dish a pleasing jelly-like texture. There is also a believe in Chinese medicine that birds nest is good for you, so maybe this has done me some good.

The rest of the day was spent with us doing the Southern Ridges nature trail. We decided against the treetop walk in the north of the island as this was easier to get to and, should a thunderstorm have hit, we would have the opportunity to bail out.

The walk itself is about 10 kilometres long and it took us about three and a half hours to complete. We actually did this in the reverse order of what is published on the website as we wanted to end our day at the harbour front rather than in the middle of some science park. Also, by doing this in reverse order, it feels like we spent most of the time going up – so I guess that’ll help balance out the late night fruit and Fanta Lychee.

It’s really cool how this trail joins together a lot of different green spaces and does so with a lot of different walk styles. There is a section where you go on a long canopy walk across a series of metal platforms, you cross some interesting and architecturally interesting bridges and, at the end for us, you find yourself at the top of Mount Faber where you can look back over the city or look over to Sentosa.

For me there were two highlights. The first was the Henderson Waves bridge. Not only is this wood-panelled bridge really interesting to look at architecturally but, because it is highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore, it also has the best views that you can get on this walk.

List item: See where bananas come from
Status: Completed

The other highlight was actually seeing banana trees! I can’t believe that yesterday I wrote about wanting to see this (having just seen pineapples) and here I am now seeing a banana tree. I know this is a silly goal, but seeing how they grow in real life just made me very happy (as you can see from the picture).

So, after 3 and a half hours of walking what do you think we did? Kept on walking for another kilometre across the boardwalk and into Sentosa. You know, it was there for the walking after all and I don’t think we were quite tired enough! It was a great opportunity to get some nice pictures from the boardwalk and truly got our appetites going for dinner.

For our final dinner (not including the airport tomorrow) we went to a hawker-style centre in the Vivo shopping centre and got a whole bunch of different things. What you are seeing here is a Korean barbecue beef set, char siu and duck noodles, two barbecue chicken buns, Fanta Grape (blech) and something called bo bo cha cha. The last one of these is an interesting desert containing coconut milk and pieces of sweet potato and yam. Apparently that’s a thing, and I liked it.

So tomorrow is the last day in Singapore. Going to try and mop up some loose ends whilst getting some much needed souvenir shopping done.

Off To Singapore: Day 4 – Botanical Gardens and Sentosa

The rains happened as the weatherman predicted. We woke up to some showers, which gave us pause as to what to do today. Then they appeared to have stopped, so it was back to the originally scheduled idea.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens are one of three gardens around the world to have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as being the sole World Heritage Site in Singapore. Oh, and they’re free to enter. This really means that there is no excuse to not see these whilst in the country – especially because they have their own subway station with an escalator leading right to one of the garden’s main entrances.

Unlike a lot of other major gardens that I’ve been to, the ones at Singapore are completely out in the open. I guess that, with Singapore being a tropical country, there is no need for hot houses whereas in countries like Denmark and the UK we have frosts that would kill off tropical plants.

By being completely open there is more a feeling of inclusivity and informality to the Singapore Botanic Gardens despite, in Singaporean style, there being a lot of signs displaying the rules, regulations and possible fines. However, this is still a set of proper gardens and so has a number of interesting sections including an ‘evolution walk’, where petrified wood is displayed, and a medicinal garden that contains plants that have been used for medical purposes.

List item: See where pineapples come from
Status: Completed

This is one of the weirder things from my list, and was added alongside wanting to see natural growing bananas. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of pineapples growing up from the ground like this and now I’ve seen it for myself. As well as a papaya tree.

Now, it was around this time that the rain started to spit, so we made a beeline for the nearest food place (as we hadn’t had breakfast) so we could try and ride out the rain. It felt like a mini-hawker place and so we were able to get brunch for a total of $11, which included the new love of my life: Fanta Lychee. Im not usually a bit Fanta fan, but I can make a huge exception for this.

Half and hour later and the rain wasn’t letting up. In fact it was now worse and we could hear thunder rolling in the distance. So we did what any smart person would do – walk around the gardens with out umbrellas up. I know this isn’t the best thing to do in a thunderstorm, but we couldn’t just stay inside for the rest of the morning!

So this was the rest of our morning in the gardens: walking quickly with the umbrellas up and admiring the scenery in the rain. Palm Valley, where they sometimes hold concerts, was especially beautiful – even in the rain.

No visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens is complete without a visit to the orchid gardens. It’s the only part of the gardens where you have to pay for admission ($5 each) and you get to see a fantastically well laid out area filed with all manner of different orchids.

This part of the garden also houses the ‘V.I.P. Orchids’ that have been named in honour of visiting dignitaries as part of Singapore’s ‘Orchid Diplomacy’. Some of these are more recent, like the orchid for Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and others, like the one for Margaret Thatcher, have been cultivated for decades. It’s really interesting to see how the names and the orchids match up.

Given that it was still raining, and time was getting on, I bought some refreshing melon milk from a vending machine and we made our way back to the subway to head for our next destination for day: Sentosa.

Sentosa is basically a resort island that contains a lot of hotels, a theme park and a whole lot of other touristy things. Honestly it’s not my sort of thing because it erases a lot of what makes visiting Singapore special, but I guess I can see the attraction of staying here and just doing things on the island (although you miss an awful lot by not venturing onto the mainland, which someone behind us in a queue was not going to do during a week long stay.)

Our visit to Sentosa got off to a rocky start as there was a problem with their machine redeeming our pre-bought tickets. Half an hour waiting at the counter to be told that we would have to pay again in cash and then wait on a refund to be done in the next five days. Hardly ideal, especially as there was no refund receipt that they were able to give out… so just a bit of a warning there.

Anyway, that unpleasantness aside, we were here for the oceanarium… which was closing an hour early some some unknown reason. Pushing forward though!

This oceanarium was excellent. I mean, I am a real sucker for a good aquarium but this is one that, until recently, boasted the largest viewing panel for a single tank in the world. More on that room later, because that really was special.

I also really appreciated that a lot of the glass on the front of the tanks appeared to be anti-reflective, which made it a lot easier to take pictures of the more interesting residents like the nautiluses, hammerhead sharks and sea dragons.

List Item: See a manta ray
Status: Completed

The real highlight, as I previously mentioned, was this big tank and the three manta rays that lived inside. Sure there were a myriad of other fish in there including unicorn fish, tuna and other rays, but I was here for the manta rays. If the aquarium had closed at its normal time I could have easily just sat there watching this tank for a solid hour. Still though, I had plenty of time with the rays and now I am left with whale sharks as the final ‘must see’ animal on my list.

Since we had some time before the water show (whose tickets gave us the problem earlier) we decided to explore the island of Sentosa for a bit – which lead us to an islet dubbed as the ‘southern most point in mainland Asia’. A cool moment for the hub as he could say, with some certainty, that this is the furthest south that he has ever been.

Dinner at this resort island of Sentosa ended up being ramen. It’s been so long since I’ve had a ramen this good (probably not since Japan) and, considering that we were in a touristy area, it was reasonably priced. For dessert, I had a very literal durian ice cream sandwich (yes, that is bread wrapped around a block of ice cream) which helped to change my mind on the taste of durian. As an ice cream it tasted like rum raisin, which just happens to be my favourite flavour.

We finished the night with the Wings of Time water and lights show. It was technically impressive with flamethrowers and fireworks alongside the projected images on water. However, this was very much aimed to be family friendly and I found myself rolling my eyes when two of the characters in the show began to sing a song about achieving dreams (because I’m dead inside). It had a lot to live up to after the more abstract water show that I caught two days previously, and I think that it lacked some of the heart and the authenticity that the other show had. Still, it was entertaining.

So this leaves tomorrow as the last full day. The weather is set to rain all day, but weather reports here change on a dime, so I guess it’s a game of wait and see.

Off To Singapore: Day 3 – Singapore’s Many Zoos!

Today begins and pretty much ends at Mandai. An area in the north of Singapore that is home to:

 List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 75/100Sight: Singapore Zoo
Location: Singapore
Position: #236

That’s right. As the title of this post suggested, today was a zoo day where we spent time in, and got to know the residents of, three different zoos in Singapore. The Lonely Planet only mentions the first main zoo as part of the countdown, but since they’re all right next door to each other… why not just buy a multi-park pass and see them all in one day? I mean, that’s what we did and I think we made excellent use of those 11 hours.

Still, you don’t start an all day zoofest without breakfast, so we tried some kaya toast. Seems like one of those regional things and is, essentially, toast with salted butter and some sort of coconut jam. It’s nice, although this could have had more kaya on it for my liking.

Anyway, time to enter the first zoo of the day: Singapore Zoo. Before going in I did have a flash of worry about what if it was more like Himeji that San Diego. This worry quickly melted away when I saw the first animal – a monkey that had been taught to stay in certain clusters of trees, but otherwise had free reign.

This became a common thread throughout the zoos with many of the primates being able to freely move in areas outside of their main enclosures. Quite amazingly, this same freedom was given to their group of orangutans who, whilst having a central island enclosure, also had many ropes to clamber about the place. Thanks to this we were able to watch a mother teaching her baby to climb, as we stood underneath looking up. Sure, we had to jump out of the way when the baby went to the bathroom, but it was still cool.

It’s also fair to say that even the animals without such free rein as the primates are still incredibly well treated and have enclosures that make great use of the beautiful jungle setting of Mandai. The elephants are especially well treated and we were lucky enough to catch the keepers interacting with them after the daily feeding show.

Other highlights of this first zoo included some time with the baby Pygmy hippo and a fantastic walk through called Fragile Rainforest where you were immersed in an enclosure with toucans (and other birds), some flying foxes, some local rodents and a rather photogenic sloth.

So this was a great start to the day and it was time for a late lunch at one of the places just outside the zoo. As I wanted to remain of the area (i.e. no hot dogs) we had some fried noodles and…

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 712/751Food item: Honey Jack

Yup, I found a fruit from my list! This might be the only one I end up getting as I’m not having much luck in finding unusual fruit of this region like salak, but still this is still a win and provided a delicious accent to this chenol that we shared for desert. I’m not entirely sure if I get the inclusion of kidney beans in a frozen dessert, but I sure do love the syrups that they added.

After this it was time for the River Safari. Whilst not as large as Singapore Zoo, because of the river focus, it still has some real big ticket animals on display.

Me being me, the real highlight of this visit was the manatee tank at the end. I have a minor obsession with manatees, which meant that I spent about half an hour sitting at the tank and just watching them gracefully swim around. Also, there was a baby manatee there which we saw interacting with their mum. Seriously cute!

Also on display are Singapore’s two pandas (which means that between this, Tokyo and Vienna, I have now seen six pandas) in a special enclosure next to the red panda (who I swear was on cocaine). I do love pandas, even if they are a ridiculous animal.

There was also an immersive exhibit containing spider monkeys and mara. I’m loving that this zoo sets up opportunities to get this close to the monkeys. Also the mara, who I want to adopt immediately as they are like a small capybara mixed with a rabbit.

Finally, we did one of the River Safari boat rides, which allowed you to pass by a number of different animals from the comfort of a boat on a track. Honestly, we weren’t going to do it because it could have been a little bit lame, but it was well worth the time.

By the time we left the River Safari it was only an hour before the Night Safari opened, so we bought our souvenirs and got in line for the tram ride… after the downpour stopped. I know that it is meant to rain hard in Singapore, but wow that was a lot of water.

As the name suggests, the Night Safari is a zoo that only contains animals that are active after the sun goes down and is only open between 7pm and midnight. This means that my photo taking was pretty much reduced to a minimum, but we make do.

The first thing we did, which is the same as nearly everyone, was take a ride on the park tram. It’s a cool way to showcase as many animals as possible, keeping in mind that the lighting is limited to what what would be expected during a full moon. Some animals (such as the tapirs) could only be seen via the tram ride, so this really is an essential part of any visit.

Even if you don’t do the tram ride you still have the chance to see about 70% of the animals in this zoo. Since it is dark, everything is done along a designated path and your ability to see a number of the animals comes down to a bit of luck. Sadly this meant that I was unable to see the tarsiers or the flying squirrels, but we managed to get good views of the hyenas, babirusas, servals and other nocturnal creatures.

Of all the animals in the Night Safari the highlight for me was the wallabies. Mainly because we were there at the same time that the keeper was doing some training with them and we got to know more about the individuals in the enclosure, plus we also has pointed out to us a wallaby who was expecting!

So by the time we left the Night Safari it was super late and, rather than take the long way home via public transport we took a taxi, where we paid both with money and with awkward laughter to some awful dad jokes.

Still this was an absolutely excellent day. It’s a lot of zoo-hopping, true, but that’s never a bad thing if they’re so close together. More rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I guess we’ll see what we end up doing.

Off To Singapore: Day 2 – Chinatown and Gardens By The Bay

The jetlag almost got me! I was awake at 4:30 this morning and it took me an hour to go back to sleep again. Take that jet lag… please don’t get me tonight.

So, today was the first full day in Singapore and it feels like we got an awful lot done, which I’m very pleased about because it’s very hard to do anything when it is 32 degrees and the air feels so thick that you might be able to bite a chunk out of it. Still, this is a holiday and this beats the -2 degree weather that we were having in the UK as as left.

To start off we took a walk up to Clarke Quay to try and find something for breakfast. Sadly most of the things were closed, but we still had a nice walk around the closed up shops and used this as a reminder that Singapore is a city state that draws its life from the water. A lot of the restaurants looked pretty touristy anyway, so it was probably for the best that we bought some pastries in a nearby shopping mall.

The first main thing on the itinerary was to finish off our exploration of Singapore’s Chinatown. This possibly the nicest of all the Chinatowns that I have seen (thus taking the title from Toronto) because of how well maintained it is. I mean, the New Years decorations help, but the Food Street and the main market street are so well done that, for the first time, I really enjoyed having a peruse through some of the stalls.

Chinatown is also home to two impressive temples – the first being the Sri Mariamman Temple. This is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore and the first Hindu temple that I have been into, which means:

List Item: Enter a house of worship for the main world religions
Status: Complete

I hadn’t even thought about this goal for ages! Nice to know that some of these can occur without me even really thinking about it. Anyway, this temple had a lot of beautifully painted carvings of Hindu deities. You can tell that this was recently renovated as the colours are still incredibly vibrant.

After this we walked down the street to visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Just by stepping into the courtyard everything felt just that bit cooler than the outside world (this felt like some kind of miracle), and then we entered the hall of the 100 Buddhas.

The amount of gold and statues on display was astounding. Also, since we are in Singapore and this temple is only 11 years old, they are a lot more free with people taking pictures. It’s not a huge temple (you can see more floors if you’re on a pre-booked tour), but the ornamentation really does pack a punch.

From here it was onto a small bit for brunch (we had a lot of small shared meals today) at a nearby hawker centre (a different one from the day before). Why? Because I have been researching places where I could find foods from the 1001 list and I found a place that did this rather unfortunately named crustacean.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 710/751Food item: Moreton Bay Bug

So this name is the Australian name, but this is also known as slipper lobster or (in Singapore) crayfish. Looking at the shells on the crayfish, I am satisfied that this is the correct seafood for the list. It helps that this ‘crayfish’ tasted great, with meat so tender that I could just whip it out of the shell using chopsticks. It tasted like sweet lobster tail meat and this went very well with the peppery sauce. Considering the price, this is something that I would seek out if it was available in the UK.

From here we began our walk to the Gardens by the Bay. In total it is only about 40-45 minutes to walk there from Chinatown. It would be faster to use the subway, but where’s the fun in that? By doing this walk we started to get to know the Marina Bay region with fantastic view of the Singapore skyline plus a first sight of the weird and iconic Marina Bay Sands building. It was on this walk where I really began to think that Singapore could be an ideal place to live – if it was an average of 5 degrees cooler that is.

 List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 74/100Sight: Gardens By The Bay
Location: Singapore
Position: #187

This is the first of two Lonely Planet places in Singapore and it is the one that I have been looking forward to the most. I do love gardens and areas of green within a city, but I don’t think there is any in the world quite like that Gardens By The Bay. The first things that demand your attention are the Supertrees. They are of varying size, but are all very tall and covered in climbing bromeliads.

Of course we had to walk along the Supertree Grove walkway. It helped give a better view of the surroundings and allowed a closer look at some of the orchids that were flowering near the top. It’s a little bit steep at $8 a ticket, but the majority of the garden is free, so I really cannot complain.

Due to the long walk and the increasing temperature we were in need of refreshment, so we shared this pile of flavoured ice (called ice kacang) as a small lunch. This pretty much solved my dehydration problem whilst also being really delicious. The fact that, beneath the multicoloured flavoured ice, there were sweet beans, grass jelly cubes and other things just added to the enjoyment.

With enough water to keep me going for a while, we went to the Flower Dome. Sadly the Cloud Garden was closed for maintenance, but there was more than enough to see in the Flower Dome to keep us happy. The temperature in the dome is set to be an eternal Mediterranean spring day, which means that it was ideal.

This enclosed garden houses plants from a number of different regions of the world that exhibit a Mediterranean climate. Amongst the plants were carvings and some sculptures (including an incredibly impressive wooden dragon) which helped to add to the flavour of the garden. We were technically there at a time where thy were dismantling a flower exhibition on dahlias to make way for a future exhibition, but most of it was thankfully left in tact.

It was with much reluctance that we left the cool temperature of the Flower Dome, but we took this as the opportunity to go to the hawker style area called Satay by the Bay to eat, well, satay.

10 sticks of assorted satay for $7 – and people were telling me about how expensive Singapore is. I guess it’s a perspective thing, also knowing where to get the cheap eats.

We wandered around the garden a bit more after this, making visits to the Indian Garden, the Chinese Garden and the Web of Life (which contains topiaries of a number of local species including the orangutan and the fig wasp). We spent a good 4 hours in the gardens and it was time to visit the building that towers over them: Marina Bay Sands.

With Singapore’s big Ferris wheel out of commission the best place to get an aerial view of the island is from the Marina Bay Sands Skypark on its 56th floor. It’s priced a bit steeply at $23 each, but this is a once in a lifetime thing and it really paid off once we were up there.

This must be one of the few viewing platforms in the world where you can see three different countries – in this instance: Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. The views that you can get of the surrounding are are excellent, plus there is plenty of room on the deck to sit in the shade and just admire the view. Something we did for quite a while.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 711/751Food item: Silver Pomfret

For our final stop, we walked to the nearby Marina Link Mall where I had this beauty for dinner at a restaurant called Pappamia. Past me would have been initiated by the presentation of an entire fried fish, but now I’m in there scooping out flesh with the best of them. In terms of taste… I always have trouble differentiating fish. From eating it you can tell that this whitefish is an ocean fish because of the slightly mineral taste in the flesh. It’s also worth noting that this fish didn’t really have a fishy tast.

Could I identify this in a blind taste test? No, but that doesn’t stop it from being delicious.

Now, this this was to going to be the end of the day whereby we would walk back to the hotel and admire the city as it was all lit up (which, as you can see from the pictures, is beautiful) but luck had a different plan for us.

We were walking by the Event Plaza of Marina Bay and we saw a huge crowd gathering. Turns out it was for the nightly water and lights show (called Spectra) and we were bang on time. Over the next 15 minutes I was completely taken in by the synchronised fountains, lasers, music and superimposed images of mandalas, animals and other cultural icons. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit this, but this show managed to move me to tears in its third act. Amazing considering that this was free!

So yea, for a day that was going to be a bit of a slight lean into Singapore in order to get over the jet lag, this became a bit of a mega day. We got lucky that we had no rainfall, but I don’t think we’ll be as lucky tomorrow as we visit Singapore’s many zoos.

Off To Singapore: Day 1 – Excited on Arrival!

I don’t think that I’ve been this excited for a holiday since my honeymoon. We pretty much booked this on a whim because of an excellent deal, which means I have had nearly 5 months of build up in order to plan and to get more and more jazzed. The night before I was just jumping up and down as we finished our packing… you’d think I was a kid going to Disneyland or something.

What’s helped even more with this build up is that I recently got accepted for a new job (finally!) and this holiday is a way for me to escape the negative degree weather caused by ‘The Beast from the East’. Going from below zero to ~30 degrees has already been a bit of a shock to the system.

However, to get to Singapore there is still a 13 hour flight to deal with and an 8 hour time difference to overcome. The flight itself went well as, amazingly, there was no one sitting behind me; therefore I felt entitled to tilt my seat back as far as possible and ended up getting about 5-6 hours of broken sleep. Before this, I managed to do something I didn’t expect.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 673/1007
Title: Whisky Galore!
Directors: Alexander Mackendrick
Year: 1949
Country: UK

They actually had a movie from the 1001 list that I had not seen as part of the in-flight entertainment. Not just any film either, a particular odd one when you consider it was one of four classics alongside two Marilyn Monroe films and the weird Frank Capra comedy Arsenic and Old Lace.

I enjoyed this odd film about an isolated Scottish island community and their love/obsession towards whisky. Weirdly enough this was probably a perfect airplane movie as you could just enjoy the farcical nature of it as the trolleys go by offering drinks. I have never seen a film quite like this, which may go a long way to explain this film’s inclusion on the list.

So here we are in Singapore. By the time we got the the hotel it was 7pm on a Sunday which meant we only did a cursory explore and found something for dinner.

One thing that really cemented that this is, in fact, Singapore is their love-hate relationship with durians. On the one hand it is hard to walk far it hour seeing somewhere selling durian sweets, juices, shakes or whole durians. On the other hand… they are banned on the subway and the hotel I’m staying in has a $300 fine in place for people who bring durian into their rooms.

This durian-based duality aside, I’m already loving my limited exposure to Singapore. Our hotel it just north of Chinatown, so it only made sense to head south. I mean with these awesome light-up fruit and dog decorations still on display for Chinese New Year, how could someone not be attracted to walk this way?

On our travels we randomly came across one of Singapore’s many hawker centres. Considering the day and time it was mostly shut, but enough was open to give me serious troubles in deciding what to eat. We must have walked around three times before I finally settled on a booth to buy from.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 709/751Food item: Laksa Noodle

For $12 we got a bowl of laksa soup, a bowl of mixed meat noodles (I am not even going to think about what was meant by ‘mixed meat’ for these noodles) and two cups of Bandung (think evaporated milk mixed with rose syrup plus plenty of ice). With this I have finally crossed off the last noodle from the food list and got to enjoy these bouncy noodles in their natural habitat.

As nice as the laksa soup was, the real MVP of this meal was the Bandung. Both the soup and the mixed meat bowl were spicy, which meant that this milky rose drink was exactly what we needed to stop the food burn. Something tells me that I’m going to leave Singapore with an even higher spice tolerance than I already have…

And that was pretty much it for our first night. We bought some pastries from a Japanese bakery and watched some Chinese people practice their square dancing before heading back to the hotel. I am acutely aware that, because of all the travel and the time difference, sleep might be a bit weird tonight – so we’ll have to see how it goes.

Around The World In 100 Films – Singapore

List Item: Watch films from 100 different nations
Progress: 45/100

Title: Tatsumi
Director: Eric Khoo
Year: 2011
Country: Singapore

I’m going to Singapore in a few months! I haven’t been this excited about a holiday destination since booking my honeymoon to Japan. We got a great deal on flights and a hotel, so we figured why not just go for it. As part of my preparations for this (and to keep some of this excitement in check because the trip isn’t for another 3 months) I thought it would be a good idea to become better acquainted with Singaporean culture.

Tatsumi came up as a film to watch because it’s one of Singapore’s submissions to the Foreign Language film section of the Academy Awards. I’ve only just come to realise that these submission lists are a fantastic resource to help me find films for this challenge… so watch out Tajikistan because you’ve made the list.

However, with Tatsumi I managed to find a Singaporean film that is in Japanese, set in Japan and about a Japanese man. It’s also another animated film. Still, the remit of this it to see films from 100 different countries so Tatsumi is a very welcome addition to the list.

So, who is the titular Tatsumi? Well (and I would have been able to answer this myself if I had gotten further with the comics list) he is major name in the manga scene and is credited with starting the more adult gekiga genre of manga (of which Lady Snowblood would be an example). The film itself takes on two roles, a brief autobiography of Tatsumi and a cinematic interpretation of five stories written by Tatsumi.

It is these stories that make up the bulk of the film and, ultimately contain the bulk of the emotional impact (other the sadness that Tatsumi died 4 years after making this film and he was still so full of ideas for the future). All the adapted stories are pretty much disturbing with endings that would make writers for The Twilight Zone proud. I’m not entirely sure what was worse – the ending of ‘Beloved Monkey’ or the ending of ‘Good-bye’. It’s a close run thing and I don’t want to dwell on it too much.

Tatsumi is an excellent exploration of an alternative creative mind. It’s not got the weirdness factor of Crumb. No, this film has heart and it cannot help but help you to appreciate people who are so driven by their creativity that they are able to make something different out of it that has made a lasting legacy.