(I wrote this post in three parts, updating each time I came back to my room after venturing out into this totally awesome city... Since this is sort of a record of the trip for my own benefit as much as anything, I wanted to make sure I remembered everything...)
My first impression of Singapore now that I'm awake (after "Dear god, it's humid here!") was to realize that I would probably need at least a month here if I wanted to leave without feeling like I'd missed out on a lot of great food... My first 5 minutes of exploration on my way to breakfast turned up about 10 places that made me say "Ooh! I should try that place before I go!" Unfortunately, I've only got 2 full days here, so I'll just have to make the most of it and vow to return...
I was trying to track down this place that's supposed to have the best Chinese-style Laksa in Singapore, but I missed them and ended up going to People's Prawn Noodle (pictured above) and having a really delicious bowl of prawn noodles for breakfast instead. (Those of you who know me know that a bowl of noodles in spicy yummy broth is totally my kind of breakfast...) This wasn't actually what I'd ordered (I was going for the one that was a mix of prawn and pork ribs) even though I pointed at the picture on the board and the guy repeated my order back to me correctly... It was weird, though, because he said it like "Wait, you want me to MIX the prawn and the pork rib?!?" even though there's a big picture of just that on the menu over the words "Prawn and Pork Rib Noodles"... Maybe he decided I would like just the prawn better...
I also had a seriously delicious iced coffee at this place... A local saw me pondering the best way to attack my soup (there were 2 large prawns, split lengthwise still in the shell with head on... very yummy, though it wasn't intuitively obvious how to eat it in public in a dignified manner with chopsticks...) and came over to give unsolicited (and much-appreciated) advice by miming the best eating method... I think he took pity on me after watching my struggle to order the coffee... ;-)
For lunch I took the MRT (subway) down to check out the Maxwell Road Food Centre. The subway system here (Boon Keng station interior shown above) is ridiculously clean and efficient. When I "alighted" (as they say) at Tanjong Pagar station near Maxwell Road I found myself in one of the most lovely downtown areas I've ever seen: extremely clean and very green, featuring several gardens and parks. But, of course, I didn't come to Maxwell Road to look at the shrubbery...
The Maxwell Road Food Centre (exterior pictured above, one of four interior aisles below) is seriously awesome. So many food stalls were offering extremely delicious-looking food, but I had come on a mission: to eat at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (blurry picture below).
I think the line was about an equal mix of locals and tourists. I drew this conclusion from the fact that about half of the people in the very long line (myself included) went and took a picture of their food when they sat down to eat. Those pictures look something like this:
As Anthony Bourdain noted when he ate this dish (from this food stall) on the Singapore episode of No Reservations, it doesn't look like much more than boiled chicken on white rice... but looks can be deceiving. The rice is so flavorful and the chicken is moist, tender, and delicious. The chili mixture, dark soy, and ginger that accompany the Chicken Rice are a nice twist, but it's honestly almost more amazing on its own due to the way it defies expectations.
Standing in line waiting to order my Chicken Rice was the first time on this trip where I paused to think to myself "Dude, I'm so glad I came here!" This city even smells great. I can't tell you how many times today I was just wandering down the street, unaware that there were restaurants nearby, when all of a sudden the strong aroma of something spicy and delicious came wafting by... I guess it depends what kind of food you like, but for a kid like me this place is pretty darn awesome. I'm even starting to get acclimated to the humidity already. So far I would say that I totally love this place...
My goal for the evening was to hit the Makansutra Glutton's Bay. I had a vague idea of where this was (which subway exit to alight at, at least), but the directions were a bit fuzzy... It started raining just before I left, which complicated things a bit. Anyway, it turns out that when you get off the subway you then follow a winding maze of art exhibits, escalators, and malls until you arrive at a concert hall. Then, if you're like me, you go ask the guy at the information desk how to get to Glutton's Bay and he directs you through one more mall and a few more escalators, around a winding covered path (assuming you don't want to walk in the rain) until you see the awnings poking out behind some trees (pictured below).
Forgetting for a moment about the starving orphans in Africa, I went ahead and ordered more than I could eat just so I could try two things - a fried oyster in egg thingy (left) and char kway teow (right) - for a grand total of US$6. Both were really good. The char kway teow is like something I used to order from the trashy noodle shop down the street from me in Brunswick, except that it was made with much nicer ingredients and tasted far more complex and delicious.
As I was finishing dinner these loud drums started pounding. The food center was behind a stage, and when I wandered around to the front there was this amazing group of drummers putting on a show. I sat in the rain for about 20 minutes watching them do their thing, and it was seriously pimp. This goes a long way towards supporting my theory that if you go where the best food is, you're bound to stumble upon interesting cultural experiences and get a good feel for the city you're in...
I said it after lunch and I'll say it again: I totally love this place.
Dude. That's awesome.
i like all the pictures
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