Singapore - February 2008

We have been looking forward to visiting Singapore for a long time, but recently our desire was heightened even more by watching an episode of No Reservations on the Travel Channel. For those who don't know, Anthony Bourdain, the host, visits different places in the world highlighting the food. Singapore was recently featured and it confirmed what we already knew. That Singapore was a food lovers paradise.

Singapore is a city state that has a diversity in it's population that is reflected in it's food. Mostly the people are of Chinese descent but there are also a significant population of Malay and Indian people.

Much like our experience in Amsterdam, the Singapore airport is really a shopping plaza disguised at an airport. Since it was later in the day we, were in no rush to get to our hotel. As we strolled around the airport, we stumbled upon the foot massage station which Elliot took full advantage of. On our return through the airport he specifically asked if we could find it again.
Singapore is a very affluent city state that has more high end eating establishments that anyone could ever want, but the best food in our opinion, is located in hawker centers which are open markets of independent food vendors. These centers are spread throughout the city and can contain more than a hundred independent vendors. They are typically "mom & pop" operations that focus on one specialty item or a variety of similar foods. You might think that they would be dirty or unsanitary places, but the hawker centers in Singapore are all highly regulated by the government and they are likely cleaner and more hygienic than any home town eatery.


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Fortunately for us our hotel was only a 5 minute walk from one of these centers. We took a short-cut through the metro station and we surprised that at night it became a break dance practice area because of the wide open space and smooth marble floors. Elliot was inspired by these excellent dancers and tried to bust out a few moves of his own, with little success.
The Makansutra Gluttons Bay is a small, relatively new food center that features about a dozen stalls that were specifically selected by the Makansutra food guide, the Michelin Guide of hawken food. Like kids in a candy store, we were overwhelmed and wanted to try everything. That was not possible, but we did try a wide variety of yummy foods. One of our favorite dishes that night was Mee goreng. Mee goreng is a local Indian dish made from Fried noodles, chili paste, mutton, peas, tomatoes with an egg and chicken wing thrown in as a bonus. If anyone knows were to find this dish in the NY metro area, please contact us immediately!!!

The satay was the best we have ever had. Those white chunks are made from rice flour and taste like big noodle chunks.

Everyone was happy at Gluttons Bay that night. One unique thing about all Singapore food centers is that they do not provide napkins. You either have to bring your own or buy them from separate vendors. These satay were easy to eat and helped to keep Elliot clean.


It is hard to explain how good the food was but if that first meal was the only one we had in Singapore we would have still been happy. Fortunately we had 3 more days.

We started off the next day at the Singapore Zoo which has a reputation of being one of the best zoos in the world. After visiting we would have to agree. There is a lot more that makes a good zoo than just animals.

This Siamang was literally over our head. In other parts of the zoo, Orangutans were similarly right over you and actually appear that they are free roaming.

Elliot tried to escape to Australia!
The Asian elephant demonstration was respectful of the animals and showcased their skills and how they were once used in the logging industry. It was also hilarious. The host that had us laughing the entire time. Fortunately we avoided getting the full blast of the water during this part of the show.

After the zoo we headed out to Chinatown where we looked for some more yummy treats.

We were entertained by dragons on the last day of Chinese New Year. It is obvious that dragons like the same foods we do.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is only a few years old but it was built to resemble the architecture of the Tang Dynasty. The Buddha Tooth Relic is said to be an actual tooth of the Buddha. After Buddha was cremated, his four canine teeth were taken from the ashes. Today these teeth are regarded as the holiest relics of Buddhism. The original is said to be in Sri Lanka and some people are skeptical that the one in Singapore is genuine.

Inside the museum is a 11 foot high gold stupa that contains the tooth relic. The Stupa is made from 600 pounds of solid gold that was donated by individuals in the community.

If Singapore has a national dish it is the chili crab (in the background) which is made from Sri Lankan hard shell crabs served in a thick chili gravy. The one above is the black pepper crab which is the same crab with a peppery coating. They are both delicious but very messy to eat.

Above is an ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) program which charges drivers when they go into the central business zone during certain times. Each car, truck, bus or motorcycle must have a reader in it and is automatically billed if it crosses that line during certain times. This is very similar to a program that is currently proposed to manage traffic here in New York.

This Singapore edition of Shape Magazine is almost identical to the version sold in the US but this edition has an article on 'smart hawker food' instead of the 'smart fast food' in the US edition.

We spent our last full day in Singapore attending the Singapore Air Show which is the largest air show in Asia. We weren't sure what to expect since most of the information available is for the aerospace industry. The only thing we knew for sure was that there would be an aerobatic show in the afternoon.

The first outside exhibit was a showcase of some Singapore military equipment and we needed to head indoors quickly to escape the brutal heat.

The air show is mostly a trade show for anyone involved in purchasing equipment or supplies related to aeronautics. Airbus was there hoping to generate interest for its A380 Super Jumbo, as well as their other products.

ST Engineering was there highlighting its Terrex AV81 armoured fighting vehicle as well as a full range of other weapons and vehicles.

Elliot seemed to be a little claustrophobic in the personal carrier.

Rocket launchers for helicopters were also available.

You've tried the rest, now try the best. Supersonic cruise missile that is.

There was a C130 flight simulator which we were able to fly for a few minutes. We could have flown longer but we had an "incident." Good thing it was only a simulator.

The Airbus A380 Super Jumbo was one of the main attractions at the show. This plane is so big that it makes a 747 look like Barbie's Dream Jet. Unfortunately we didn't have any connections to get an inside tour.

Elliot got to meet some of the pilots at the show.

This photo highlights one of the biggest mistakes of our trip. You may notice Elliot looking happy and cool under this USAF fighter. You may also notice a large puddle that he is sitting in. This turned out to be some type of fuel or fluid that turned Elliot's hands, shoes and pants black like the inside of a charcoal grill. We cleaned him up the best we could but for the rest of the day he was a mess.

As promised, the Black Knights, F-16 pilots from the Singapore Air Force put on quite an impressive aerobatic display for the crowd in the afternoon.

After the air show we headed out to the Maxwell Food Center in search of Hainanese Chicken Rice, specifically from this vendor. This is one of the most famous food stalls in all of Singapore and there are lines here all day. For decades all they have been selling is boiled chicken and rice. It sounds plain but trust us, it is delicious.

There is nothing fancy or magical about this dish. There are no special sauces, just simple preparation that lets the natural taste of the food shine through.

Back to the Zoo that evening for the famous Singapore Night Safari. At night the zoo is completely transformed to showcase the activities of nocturnal animals.

You could walk through the dark trails but most people just take the trams. Everything is kept dark and the trams move slowly through the night. We were able to see many animals active at night which are usually sleeping during the day.

We had a great time in Singapore, but Elliot is worn out from all of the action and the food. Time to head for Phuket, Thailand for some relaxation on the beach.

Jumpa lagi
Corinne, Keith & Elliot

3 comments:

Laura said...

You have an adorable little boy!! I think it is so cool that you are able to take your kid on all these travels. He will grow up a well rounded child because of it, and hopefully much more caring and knowledgable about world events as he gets older. I am a total stranger but love reading your blog. You look like a happy family and parents that love your child like nobodies business. Keep up the good work! I look forward to reading about the next trip.

passer by in singapore said...

hey! you visited Singapore! :D
there's definitely more to look out for in Singapore if you spend a few days longer! ;)
but i believe you've enjoyed ;)

anyway, keep the trip going round the world!

cheers!

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