Australia is great, but sometimes you just need to get outta dodge. Blow this popsicle stand. Make like a tree and…ok, I’ll stop. So, allow me to introduce a new segment, The Accidental Australian (On Holiday). A recent family event brought me back to the old country, and, facing a 24 hour plus flight to Italy, I decided to delve into the idea of a stopover. Singapore seemed of interest- manmade beaches, no chewing gum (they are big on public tidiness and order), and mandatory executions for drug smugglers- what’s not to like?
There’s a lot to talk about here- you could easily occupy a week with shopping, sightseeing, Sentosa Island, a day trip to Malaysia, but let’s concentrate on the important stuff-food.
(Side note– there are bars aplenty here, but booze is expensive, so I didn’t really venture down that road. If gin is your thing, the Singapore Sling was invented in the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel. It’s not cheap. As an alternative, walk around the grounds of the hotel and pretend you married into money. Or, check out the nearby Raffles Hotel Museum, free, with some neat stuff from the hotel’s colonial past.)
So, what to check out while you’re there?
1. Bubble tea in plastic bags– I saw so many locals drinking bubble teas and fruit juices, but with their cups wrapped in small plastic bags with handles. I thought to myself, what’s wrong with these people- the rest of us have all cut down on plastic bag consumption, and the Singaporeans are doing plastic drink cups wrapped in plastic bags! So, when consuming a tasty fruit juice from Bugis Market (of which basically all fruits are on offer, for about 1 Singapore dollar), I bucked conformity and went sans plastic. Within about 5 min the condensation from a cold juice cup, mixed with 100 degree humidity, had dripped all over my shirt, shorts, and hands. Ok, I get it now.
2. Hot dogs– Why the fascination with hot dogs? I’m not sure, but they were sold everywhere. Go figure.
3. Mooncakes– Ah, mooncakes. The name alone makes this one appealing. Mooncakes are a Chinese traditional bakery product, and they seem to have become pretty haute couture in Singapore. While browsing through a shopping centre, a Mooncake market was on, with the Ritz, Fairmount, and other top end hotels all selling boxes of 4 from their restaurants, none under about the 50 dollar mark. I’m sure cheaper versions can be found, but if you’re looking to impress, a box of 4 mooncakes should do the trick.
4. Ramen– Ramen is traditionally associated in the west with negative bank accounts, student housing, and hangovers. But in most Asian countries, “real” Ramen is a very popular food, and does not come in a pack of 10 for a buck. Curious to see what the real thing was like, I tried what was advertised as a vegetarian ramen, despite the presence of some sort of chopped up sea creature. It was basically a thin noodle in broth, but with all sorts of veggies, tofu, and sea creature divided neatly on top into sections. Spicy varieties and any sort of meat/veg combo were available-so think twice next time you diss Asia’s gift to college students.
5. Little India– The Little India district of Singapore is the place to be for cheap and delicious Indian food. I stopped at a rather seedy looking corner place where all the menus were in Indian (Note- unlike some other Asian countries, all market and hawker stalls are regulated by health and safety powers-that-be, so eat away), and asked for something not too hot. This led to one of the best curries I’ve ever had, with chickpeas, bread, and I’m not sure what else, for 2 Singapore dollars. There was no cutlery. But, I walked out of there with green-stained fingers and a smile on my face.
I was only there about 4 days and I didn’t get to try it all, so please let me know what tasty things I’ve missed!