If I had to sum up Singapore in a few words I think that "tastes good, yummy yummy!" would say it all. These are the words we heard as we visited our first hawker stand (street food) yesterday afternoon. Singapore is a city whose citizens don't eat to live...they live to eat...my kind of people! A melting pot of cultures and cuisines, Singapore is a gastronomical delight and Joe and I were determined to make every minute count.
We arrived around lunch time but weren't able to make it to our hotel until about 2pm. The Pan Pacific Singapore is a gorgeous hotel located right in the center of everything. We were met by out personal concierge and brought to our room where a beautiful bouquet of red roses and purple hydrangeas was waiting. Apparently Joe had called ahead and booked a couple of surprises for me which were very much appreciated. We were upgraded to a deluxe balcony room with a breathtaking view of the city, flowers and a special anniversary cake. Joe is definitely a keeper!
After freshening up we left the hotel and made our way to the Esplanade and the Mankasutra hawker stand. There we tried Char key Teow a spicy Chinese noodle dish and rojak- a doughy concoction of breaded potato and egg mixed into a sort of salad. We topped these off with fresh squeezed lime juice and sugarcane juice with lemon. Delicious! From there we walked down the Esplanade and past the famous Merlion Park. The merlion is an iconic figure in Singapore and consists of a mermaid with a lion's head spouting water. These statues can be seen in several locations around the city.
From there we went to La Pa Sat another famous hawker stand. This place was a veritable emporium of smells and tastes. Each stall served up sumptuous dishes from all over Asia. We chose roti prata a famous dish that is sort of like a pancake filled with spicy chicken with chile sauce on the side. After that we were exhausted and found our way back to the hotel where took in the night view of the city and then used our remote control to lower the blinds before falling into dreamland.
This morning we woke up and watched the news (yes Bangkok is flooding..but we think we will still be OK to get out to Cambodia on the 3rd...we'll see. Otherwise we'll just do something else!) and prepared for the day. We booked a hop on/hop off sightseeing bus and made our way to Chinatown which proved to offer up an incredible travel experience.
Upon arriving to Chinatown we made our way to the Maxwell Center (another treasure trove of street food). As we were taking pictures outside a man came up to us and said "you have to try the chicken rice." We said "we know Tian Tian right...it's supposed to be amazing." Well we got to talking for a couple of minutes and he said "follow me, I'll show you my favorites." From there he told us his name was Eric and became our personal culinary tour guide. We learned that he used to study in Oregon and when I told him I worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium his eyes lit up and he said he had been there three times! He then took us to Tian Tian's chicken rice (a place I had read about in two books and seen on Anthony Bourdain) and helped us order chicken rice, half a chicken and upon his insistence bean sprouts with cuttlefish. (Yes Aquarium coworkers...I did eat a cuttlefish...and it was tasty). While we ordered he told us how to eat our food and bought us lime juice and coconut juice, served in the coconut. Joe was a little wary because he was spending so much time with us but I had read that Singaporeans were very friendly and loved to share their food.
After about an hour of eating and chatting he said, wait you have to try this and then bought us Tanglin curry puffs, one chicken and one sardine. I said "well I'm not sure about the sardines...I feed them to the penguins..." He said "trust me...this is not penguin food." He was right...it was one of the best things I have ever tasted. We offered to repay him but he wouldn't hear of it!
After filling our bellies he asked us how much time we had. We told him we were pretty open and he took us to the Buddha tooth relic temple across the street. He walked around with us through all five floors and explained a lot of what we were seeing. After that he offered to take us to the National Museum but we declined as we wanted to move on. I gave him my work info and said if he was ever in Monterey again I would be happy to show him around and after the personal tour he gave us, I hope he takes me up on the offer. Meeting him and getting that personal touch, just because he felt like sharing was one of the best travel experiences I have ever had and will always have a place in my heart.
After that we went to the Sri Mariaman Hindu temple to take some stunning pictures and then made our way back to Maxwell Center and had a famous banana fritter before moving on to Little India. At that point we were drenched in monsoonal downpours so we went to the Banana Leaf Apollo to do what else.....eat of course! We had a delicious dinner of chicken kurma, samosas and lime and watermelon juices before making it back to the hotel.
That's all for now. We have to run...I hear the animals calling and it's almost time to pick up our bus for the Night Safari tour!