SINGAPORE: NEITHER HERE NOR THERE
Singapore is one of those places that few people aim to spend time in for its own attractions, which are, to be honest, pretty limited if the idea of a night safari does not grab you. More, it offers a pleasing place to pass a few days on the way to somewhere else, usually Australia or New Zealand.
For me, on this leg of EAT MY GLOBE, it provided exactly that opportunity as I headed South from Malaysia and waited to work my way back North to Vietnam.
The obvious attraction is the food. Singapore has an astonishing amount to offer with contributions from its Chinese, Malay and Indian communities combining to offer one of the very best eating experiences anywhere on the planet.
Nowhere is that see to better effect than in its hawkers markets where former street sellers are banded together to provide a one stop opportunity for gorging at little or no cost. There are tons of the things dotted all over the city from the food courts in the towering shopping malls to the famous markets of Newton and Maxwell Rd.
On my first full day, I was shaken awake by a 5am call to prayer from the Sultan Mosque close to my quirky little backpacker’s accommodation in Arab St so headed off on a long walk down to Chinatown and the nearby Maxwell St Food Market for an extended breakfast.
You really are spoiled for choice and I spent half an hour wandering around the stalls being barked at by the owners until I decided to try two local specialities. The first, a plate of black carrot cake made from turnip tossed with garlic and egg and the other, curry puffs, filled with sardine and egg and served piping hot from the oven
Washed down with a long glass of sour plum juice, these snacks just took the edge of my appetite enough to head over to an Indian stall for a full breakfast of fried chicken with dahl, rice and vegetables.
A lot of the local Chinese places were still closed for New Year, but many were beginning to reopen after the festivities and the roads were filled with flatbed trucks carrying bands of men with dragon costumes for hire to local businesses performing dances to bring them luck for the Year Of the Rat. Quite off putting when you are face down in a plate of Hokkien Mee.
However much I am enjoying the trip, which I am, a great deal, there are times when I need to avoid sitting on small plastic stools while slurping noodles or spooning rice into my mouth and head somewhere a little more salubrious in search of my other great love, a decent cocktail.
In truth, so far, the mixing has gone from barely adequate to actively disgusting and I was beginning to despair of ever getting a drink that was not one of the local strong but gassy beers. A bit of research however, found me at No1 Rochester Park, a collective of high end restaurants in an old colonial mansion a few stops away on the efficient MRT.
There, a bartender with the unlikely name of “Sugarman” made me a few very passable drinks and also offered up plate after plate of some of the best bar snacks I can recall. Dried, salty fish mixed with dried garlic and chilli is the way forward in the cocktail world, I think. Bar owners in London, take note.
Of course, if you want to have a drink in Singapore, the one place you have to head to is The Long Bar at Raffles. Of course, it’s horribly over priced and touristy and of course the famous Singapore Sling is a disgusting concoction suitable only for white mini-skirted girlies out on a Saturday night in Leeds city centre. But, for all that, sitting in the panelled room on wicker chairs while nonchalantly discarding the shells of roasted peanuts piled in bowls on each table is as agreeable a way to pass the last night in Singapore as any. Particularly in the company of my new chum, Ida who rather liked the drink. But, then she is a girly
Next stop Hanoi.