Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Singapore's Chinatown and Clark Quay

This is my concluding post on my Singapore trip. For my earlier posts, go here, here, here, and here.

I was fortunate that the hotel I stayed in, The Scarlet, was located strategically in Chinatown. From the hotel lobby, turn right and as you descend Ann Siang Hill, you would see the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, a popular tourist attraction.

If you want to sample hawker-style Singaporean food, Maxwell Food Center is just down another corner form the hotel. This is where I tasted what to me is the best Hainanese Chicken, the Tian Tian Chicken Rice, which I featured earlier.

Pictured below is the Red Dot Design Museum. I wasn't able to visit the building. Perhaps next time. 

I love how they reused old buildings, maintaining the facade, and painting them in brilliant hues. Above is the Red Dot Museum, which exhibits the latest trends in the international design scene. I made a mental note to drop by here on my next visit.

Below is the Jinrikisha Station in Tanjong Pagar, the first area targeted for conservation by the city-state in the 80s. This used to issue licenses for rickshaws, but now houses cafes, bars, and restaurants. 

old buildings repurposed for modern use at amoy street

On my last day day, a Sunday, another Singapore-based friend treated me to lunch at bak kut teh institution Song Fa located near Clark Quay. This branch has been around for ages, and was packed with the Sunday lunch crowd. For more, click here

More pictures below of Clark Quay, a historic riverside wharf named after Singapore's second governor. The quay is located upstream from the mouth of the Singapore river, and  was the center of trade during the city-state's colonial period. The area has been transformed into a commercial, residential, and entertainment precinct. 

This is where my friend's office is located. Imagine walking to this building everyday.

View of the river and surrounding environs from the office.

The Central Mall just across Clark Quay 

This concludes the series of posts on my trip to Singapore. My take-away from the experience: say yes to possibilities. I'll be back in Singapore for more adventures. "Til then.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Singapore Quick City Tour

Earlier in my series of post on Singapore, I wrote about a sexy boutique hotel where I stayed, a quirky gift shop and cafe, and what made me go to Singapore in the first place. I originally intended to go exploring on my own, but when friends learned that I was in the city-state, a couple were kind enough to offer to show me around. One of them was a former foreign language classmate who is now based in Singapore.

I soon discovered that one can cover Singapore in a day, thanks in large part to its very efficient MRT system. I must admit I found traveling by train intimidating, and so it was a blessing to have my classmate guide me along. By the way, this post is full of pictures of me. You've been warned. :-)

Since I was in Chinatown, we first made a pit-stop at the stall-lined streets and the nearby Sri Mariamman  temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, pictured below.

Next stop was Sentosa Island, where Resorts World's Universal Studios theme park is located. Frankly, Western theme parks transported in Asia don't appeal to me. I rather spend my pesos on local cuisine and taxi (smile). I posed for the obligatory souvenir shots and bought some candies from Reese's and that's it. We went  there by train, and my friend oriented me on the rules for surviving daily life in the city, i.e. keeping to your left.

From Sentosa, we explored Orchard Road, described as the retail and entertainment hub of Singapore. On weekdays there is not much people, but since it was a Saturday the streets were crawling with tourists and weekenders. We passed by Lucky Plaza shopping center, where many Pinoys congregate. Stopping by for a light in front of the building, we were soon joined by compatriots. It suddenly felt like home. I also heard some squawking overhead. Looking up we noticed crows crowding the trees that lined the streets.

We went inside the boutiques of Abercrombie and Fitch and H&M. I particularly requested for the latter, since the first H&M branch I visited was in Toronto, where I had fond memories.

The city was bright with holiday lights, but no one beats Pinoys when celebrating Christmas.

We boarded the train again and after alighting, we walked towards the Central Business District. It was practically deserted.

We then parked ourselves at one of the outdoor tables at Starbucks One Fullerton to get a ringside view of  Marina Bay Sands' Wonder Full light and water show, which was on nightly. We were about an hour early, so we killed time exploring the nearby Merlion Park and the exhibits at the Esplanade. Quick note: Singapore was originally a fishing village and its original name, Singapura, means lion city, thus the merlion symbol is apt. 

Singapore skyline pictured above. I wonder how it feels like working here. I won't mind doing so.

Starbucks was full when we returned, but we still got a good spot along the water banks. Check the schedule before heading to the area. And come in early to get a good spot. 

My friend and I returned to my hotel on foot. Needless to say it's safe to walk around Singapore at night. I'm grateful for my friend for giving me a quick tour of the city, otherwise I wouldn't have covered half as much as we did. 

Next post: historic Clarke Quay and the rest of Chinatown

Monday, May 6, 2013

Eating My Way Through Singapore

I'm not kidding when I said I went to Singapore to eat. While many take the three-hour flight for theme parks and to go shopping, I have set my eyes on sampling  authentic Haiananese Chicken from ground zero. The city-state is a veritable foodie paradise, and as you can see from this post, I left with a happy tummy.

1. Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken
This is what I went to Singapore for--the Hainanese Chicken. This is not just your ordinary chicken, as this was approved by Tony Bourdain no less. I lucked on my hotel, which is just a skip and a hop away from the Maxwell Hawker Center. My heart skipped  a beat when I saw the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall, which proudly bannered Bourdain's likeness. For a little over P100 (sd 2.50), I was in heaven. The chicken was so soft,  flavorful, delicious, unforgettable. The chicken was so good on own its own you can do without the sauces. The rice was infused with so much flavor. The accompanying soup reminded me of good tinola.

Tip: when in doubt, pick the stall in the hawker center with the longest line. That's a good sign it serves good food.

Maxwell Food Center
1 Kadayanullar Street

2. Song Fa Bak Kut Teh
pork ribs
chicken feet
fried dough strips
I didn't mind going solo in my first leisure out-of-the-country trip, but with a sizable Filipino population, I got quite a number of invitations to meet up. One was from a Singapore based advertising executive friend who, knowing my passion for good food, promised me good ole bah kut teh. Bak kut teh, Chinese for meat bone tea, is a soup made from simmering pork ribs for hours in herbs and spices. Song Fa Bak Kut Teh is a dining institution in Singapore. Their bak kuh teh is of the Teochew variant, which is light in color and uses more pepper and garlic. And how did I find it--the bak kut teh was flavorful and well-balanced. I love the pork and ribs and the fish bak kut teh

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh
11 New Bridge Road

3. Hokkien Hae Mee (Hokkien Stir-Fried Prawn Noodles) 

Hokkien Mee is a fried noodle dish cooked in the Hokkien/Fujian style. Eating this took a little effort--I was still mastering using chopsticks, and this involved also the use of  Chinese soup spoon. But I enjoyed it-- a well-balanced, flavorful squid and shrimp noodle dish, both salty and spicy. Another friend introduced me to this dish, which we bought in a food court in Sentosa. 

4. Iced Jelly with Aloe Vera

Who knew aloe vera could be a very refreshing iced dessert, perfect for Singapore's warm weather? Scored this at Kopitiam food court at Clark Quay.

5. Le Chocolat Cafe's Layered Chocolate Cake
Just the right sweetness, and topped with gooseberry, my first taste of this exotic fruit--sweet and mildly tart. Crunchy sweeter base provided textural interest. Perfect with tea. Very pretty cake, as you can see. For one more pretty cake, go here

Le Chocolat Cafe
28 Ann Sinag Hill