“TOUR A please”

In my previous post, our last stop after a day of sight seeing was in Marina Bay to meet our cousin whom I haven’t seen in years, along with a couple of my brother’s friends. After a whole day of walking, it was surely time for dinner.

Marina Bay is basically a highly developed area in downtown Singapore close to the Central Business District. It has everything you want from shopping, recreation, dining to luxury accommodations.

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It is an example of government spending millions to make a waterfront look pretty for investors and tourists. It truly looks and feels like you are in a First World country down here.

This waterfront landmark boasts, among others, of a unique pedestrian only bridge called The Helix, which was inspired by the form of the curved DNA structure. At night, different lighting effects provide visual entertainment to visitors.

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It has viewing platforms giving you a stunning view of the bay and the Singapore skyline.

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There are also a couple of shiny shopping malls surrounding Marina Bay, the LV store standing out prominently with its own separate futuristic looking glass building by the water.

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I also enjoyed looking at the ArtScience Museum, a huge concrete lotus-like structure, with a lily pond below it and a reflecting mirror on the other side. There’s a whole lot of explanation involved with its architecture but I ain’t a techie person and I’m leaving it at that. I haven’t seen anything quite like it though. Too bad we didn’t have enough time to go inside and check out the exhibits.

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But it was just so beautiful I had to kiss it!

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Along the many other interesting looking buildings in the area, Marina Bay Sands stands out.  It is a newish luxury resort hotel that juts out of the Singapore skyline. Its unique architectural design, which to me looks like a “surfboard” atop three tall buildings makes it the world’s most expensive. It has a casino and a wicked infinity pool at the very top. Checking in anyone?

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As we were walking leisurely down the waterfront promenade, it somehow reminded me of Manila Bay in the Philippines although they are as different as night and day. Here people look relaxed and happy, quite a far cry from the stern business-like approach the Singaporeans have on their faces most of the time. Maybe because most of the people I have seen walking here are tourists? I don’t know. But I see lots of people running/walking. They looked like locals. They looked free and less stiff. I think its the air by the bay. And the sunset too, that helps…

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We ended up eventually at Makansutra Gluttons Bay, a hawker center, of course, eating chili crabs and chicken rice and lots more.

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with my long lost cousin

I still do not know where that darn merlion is at!

Oh well, maybe this will do?

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I Went To Singapore and Haven’t Seen the Merlion!!!

Singapore is a tiny island nation off the tip of the Malay Peninsula. It is so small that you can’t even barely see it on the map! But as small as it is geographically, it is one of the progressive highly developed countries in Southeast Asia.

I came to Singapore to see my brother and his wife for a couple of days while my husband stayed behind in the Philippines with his family. It was seven fun days of brother-sister bonding.

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on arrival at Changi International Airport

So, aside from the extensive food tripping that I have done (and boy, I would come back here for the food!), I also managed to sneak in a somewhat unusual not-so-touristy city tour with my brother.

He asked me what I wanted to do in Singapore. I don’t want to go see anymore buildings. No more gardens, theme parks nor zoos either. I also wasn’t interested in shopping in any of Singapore’s numerous malls and luxury boutique shops. What are we going to do then?

From my online research, my brother and I have developed our very own “Tour Z”. Tour what? Let me go back… My brother has had several friends and family visit him over the years. He has played tour guide countless times and has brought them to the popular sights and places that Singapore is famous for. So I jokingly told him that that was Tour A. I, along with those who wish to go off the beaten path take Tour Z.

I was really interested in the old Singapore, how locals lived, how they go about their day to day activities, check out the different communities that make Singapore the multi cultural city that it is now.

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subway to the MRT

You really can’t explore a city by riding the bus or a taxi. So we walked, mostly. People here love to walk, from the children to the elderly. And they can walk pretty fast too! Kinda like New Yorkers. So to get around, we walked and then took the train (MRT: Mass Rapid Transit) and then walked some more. And walked some more… which to me was good exercise because of all the food that I had devoured while on this trip!

First stop. Ang Mo Kio neighborhood. This is where my brother and his wife live. It’s always good to be familiar with the area where you are temporarily staying at.

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view from my brother’s flat on the 25th floor!
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one of the many shops along the area
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orchids, Singapore’s national flower

Then we proceeded to check out their local wet market, which was adjacent to the hawker stalls where my brother introduced me to a kaya breakfast. (Read Singapore: My Food Journal for a more detailed food post) IMG_1927 IMG_1931 Singapore is a very clean and green city. At first, I thought it was just going to be a concrete jungle. I wasn’t expecting to see beautifully trimmed trees and manicured lawns all over. I also wasn’t expecting to see clothes hanging out to dry (which is quite a contrast to how neat and organized this country is). But because this country’s land size is so small, most of it’s residents dwell in high rise buildings in small flats where the only space to do laundry is by the balconies, if you had one, or simply just hang wet clothes out your windows to dry. IMG_1943 Most of these communities are self sufficient in the sense that they do not need to go to the “city” to buy things. They have their own wet market, hawker stalls/food courts, shopping malls, library, and a kids’ and adults’ playground too. IMG_1945 IMG_1946 Next, we went to visit Little India. What better way to observe locals than to go to their wet market. IMG_1974Tekka wet market is the largest in Singapore. It has fresh produce, seafood, dry goods and a food court. I noticed their wet markets are also neatly organized and clean, much like the rest of the country itself. IMG_1989 IMG_1994 IMG_2007 IMG_2011 IMG_2014 IMG_2016 While the first floor had the food, the second floor was selling clothing and textiles. I went crazy over the beautiful saris! Colorful and detailed, I just loved it! There were saris for women, men and children, in varying sizes, shapes and patterns. IMG_2020 IMG_2021 20141008_115441 After being overwhelmed by all the color in the sari shops, we walked around the streets of Little India and noticed that most of the buildings are also very colorful and looked British colonial. Despite it being an overcast and humid day, the bright colors made up for it.

Singapore was once a British settlement. These reminded me of the colorful buildings in Nassau, Bahamas. IMG_2030

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Deepavali, the Indian festival of lights was happening at this time, hence, the street decorations

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I even got a quick 5 minute henna tattoo on the sidewalk!
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Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, we just happened to happily stumble upon

After our tour of Little India, we stopped at one of the malls for a quick break from the hot Singapore weather.

Even this modern structure still had some British influence to it. IMG_2050 IMG_2057 Arab Street was our next walking destination. Actually, it was Haji Lane to be precise. This neighborhood is located in the Muslim quarter of Singapore.

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Happy with all the colors!

It is full of quaint colorful shops and restaurants. VERY ME… Appeals to my bohemian-laid back-chick side. I love this place! I almost forgot I was in Singapore. IMG_2073 IMG_2091 We found this mosque just around the corner amidst all the middle eastern shops and eateries.

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Masjid Sultan mosque

20141008_160426 All that walking made me hungry and as our afternoon was drawing to a close, we ended up at Singapore’s most popular tourist spot, Marina Bay. This is where Tour A supposedly starts for my brother and his guests. But this is where we end Tour Z.

Where’s the merlion???

Hawking in Singapore

Fotor1103232047Hawker centers are all over Singapore. They are lively, colorful food courts selling a variety of cheap food, from local to exotic dishes with various Asian and Western influences. It is because there are so many of them that most locals prefer to eat out than cook at home. These places are clean, food is good and inexpensive with lots of choices and it is hassle free!

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Indian Hawker Center at Tekka Market
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Indian Hawker Center at Tekka Market
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Makansutra Gluttons Bay hawker center at the Esplanade waterfront
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Makansutra Gluttons Bay hawker center at the Esplanade waterfront
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Ang Mo Kio Central Market and Food Center
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Ang Mo Kio Central Market and Food Center

Don’t forget the Philippines!

Filipino cuisine is also slowly finding its way here. I have seen at least 4 or 5 hawker stalls  (Jollibee not included) in the areas where I’ve eaten. It’s not surprising with a population of approximately 170,000 Filipinos living and working in Singapore, Filipino food is something a Pinoy would surely miss!

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The ubiquitous Gerry’s Grill
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Found this at Lau Pa Sat hawker center in the Central Business District
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Lau Pa Sat hawker center

Now if the food choices are too many, don’t even get confused with the drinks. They come in buckets of choices!

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See what I mean?

Happy eating (and drinking)!!!

Singapore: My Food Journal

I came to Singapore to visit my brother and his wife as a side trip from our Philippine holiday. He couldn’t take time off work to see me so I came to him. Actually, any excuse to travel will do! But never have I dreamed of going to Singapore and never was this on my bucket list either. It was one of those countries that seemed generic to me. Of course, I’ve heard about it from my parents and friends that we should go visit Singapore because it is one of the cleanest cities in the world and that it is so beautiful and the shopping to die for!

So I made my own research (being the anal person that I am) for my itinerary and I found out that there are a few things that I wanted to check out after all.

But before all the usual city tours and stuff, first and most importantly, lets talk about the food. Oh my God! THE FOOD!!! There are just too many food choices out there yet not enough time for me to sample them all! Because of its multicultural diversity, Singapore is a foodie’s heaven. In fact, it may have turned me into one overnight! It’s major influence is Malay, then Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Thai, Japanese and Western as well. Snapping photo after photo of every single food plate or drink that comes my way, I have become dangerously obsessed with this trend of taking food pics. But who wouldn’t? When the food in front of you is so colorfully exotic it entices your eyes with such visual impact that even before you eat it, you can already tell it is delicious. With different aromas wafting around every corner, every hawker stall, every street food stand, food just demands to be tasted here.

I will probably mess up the name of a particular dish or forget them totally. If you notice my error, please do let me know. All I remember is that they all tasted so good!

Let this post be a feast for your eyes! As it was for mine, I would totally go back to Singapore for the food.

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Minced meat noodle soup, Changi airport food court

After my 3 hr plane ride, I landed at Singapore’s Changi airport. My brother and his wife were waiting for me there while I complained that I was hungry. So my brother took me to the nearest food available, and that was the airport food court. This was my first introduction to authentic Singapore cuisine. Ordering food correctly is a whole different story all together, which needs practice speaking Singaporean English.

You don’t mix the soup with the noodles, take note on this one.

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Kaya butter bun and kaya butter toast with soft boiled eggs

Traditional Singaporean snack or considered a breakfast staple by many. This was what we had for my first breakfast in Singapore. I liked the kaya thing but I couldn’t deal with the soft boiled eggs mixed with soy sauce and black pepper.

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Samosas at Tandoori Restaurant, Mustafa Shopping Center
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Chicken Tandoori
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Garlic naan

Indian food goodness!

I used to not like hot and spicy food at all. I guess as you grow older your taste buds evolve and you start to explore new food. For lunch here, the samosas smelled so good we each took a bite already out of our pieces before I remembered to take a picture of them! The chicken tandoori, a first for my brother, gave him a lasting impression with the orange stuff sticking to his fingers. They were finger licking good! All cultures have bread in whatever form, taste or shape. India has naan. The chicken biryani that we both had was super hot, even for my brother who is used to eating such food, but it was delicious at the same time. How do you know the food is good? When all its customers are locals. Indians, in this case.

Dinner on my first night at Makansutra by the bay was amazing! I finally got to taste the famous chilli crabs, Singapore’s de facto national dish, among so many yummy others. I had chicken rice too but because I was too food-overwhelmed, I forgot to take a photo. Bah!

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Chili crabs, at last!!!
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Stir fried baby kailan. I thought they were baby bok choy.
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Fried sting ray
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Even their own version of yellow fried rice tasted good!

Did I tell you that I fell in love with Singapore’s ice lemon tea homemade? Ahhh, so refreshingly good!!!

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A soft moist cheesecake like dessert whose exact name I failed to recall! This was at Lau Pa Sat, a hawker center near the Singapore Central Business District
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Noodles, cooked any which way you like for breakfast. Eggs, veggies and spam

My brother took me to breakfast the next day at Lau Pa Sat, his usual hawker spot at the Central Business District where he works at. That chocolate drink on the left? Milo! They have different versions of this favorite childhood staple.

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Bak kut teh pork ribs soup, at some restaurant by Orchard Road
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Mango ice cream sandwich

Lunch was another Singaporean local favorite, bak kut teh, a popular Chinese soup. It’s pork broth with herbs and spices and usually served with rice or noodles with fried dough for dipping into the soup and chopped chilli with garlic as condiments. But what I couldn’t wait for was dessert. The local street food version of ice cream sandwich! You have different flavors to choose from, mango, ube, chocolate, coffee, durian, among others. You also get to choose what kind of sandwich you want, wafer or bread or you can even just eat the ice cream bars straight from a plastic disposable cup. I could eat this everyday!

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Hokkien mee

I love noodles but this one, I just can’t stop raving about. It has egg and rice noodles, fried egg, shrimp, pork, chicken, vegetables and a dash of lime add to its exotic flavor!

Singapore also has a variety of bread and pastries that could rival your very own local bakery. It is all up to you which one is your favorite.

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Cake offerings for the deceased

They even have very colorful food for the dead!

For my last night in Singapore, we ate at a Hongkong restaurant.

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Chicken curry, indian version
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Mango snow ice. Too huge for the three of us!
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Ice lemon tea!

Did I say that I just love their Ice lemon tea homemade???