Thursday, July 21, 2011

Weekend in Singapore!

Breakfast Friday morning was a ripe dragon fruit given to us by Jenny and Milton. I’ve never eaten this before coming to Taiwan, but it is my new favourite thing. It’s a food that seems like it shouldn’t exist outside the pages of a Sci-fi novel. It’s something they’d serve on Star Trek. I love it. See photo below.

Dragon fruit

Friday was spent almost entirely in transit between Kaohsiung and Singapore. First, we took Taiwan High Speed Rail to Taoyuan, just south of Taipei. The tickets are a bit expensive at about NT $1300, but the experience is so efficient and comfortable. From the Taoyuan THSR station it’s just a quick shuttle bus to the Taoyuan Airport. Our flight was delayed by two hours and the line for a cab at Changi Airport was nearly an hour long, so by the time we arrived at our hotel in Singapore it was about 3 in the morning. Oie.

We crawled out of bed Saturday morning in time to have lunch with Brett’s Singaporean former colleague, Wai Shun, along with his wife, Mei, and their tiny adorable daughter. They drove us to a Singapore-style food court. These are roofed, permanent structures covering rows of stalls and tables. The stalls all have big signs advertising their specialties: drinks, rice, noodles, seafood, vegetarian dishes, fried snacks, or sweets. The blend of European, Malay, Indian, and Chinese influences in Singapore’s local cuisine means there’s a lot of variety and a lot of spice! We tried Hainanese chicken rice (a local specialty), along with stir-fried dishes involving “carrot cake” (a glutinous food made from radishes), noodles, rice, veggies, and delicious sauce. We also tried yu tiao (sticks of fried dough) as well as some tasty pancakes filled with red bean paste and peanut butter. SO GOOD. Brett didn’t photograph this meal as I was in way too much of a hurry to shovel it all into my face.

After lunch Wai Shun and Mei took us to Chinatown to wander around. It’s a very busy area crammed full of stalls trying to take a slice of the tourist pie. Before we parted ways for the afternoon, Wai Shun and Mei pointed out a booth selling durian, the tropical fruit famous for its unappetizing odour. Durian is banned from Singapore’s MRT stations because the smell is so pungent and clings to the air for hours... So obviously we had to try it.

Brett & Amanda in Chinatown
Brett & Wai Shun

I thought the durian’s flesh itself actually looked a lot like raw chicken or something. The fruit contains multiple large seeds, about the size of a large peach pit. Once you’ve put on your disposable plastic glove - I’m not kidding - you grab a segment of the durian surrounding one seed and just pop it into your mouth. My first thought was “How will I swallow this?” and I have to admit I panicked a little while my mouth was completely full of durian with Wai Shun and Mei looking eagerly on to see what I thought. Over the summer, Brett and I have tried some very unusual foods, but I’m having a hard time describing what that durian was like. The flesh felt like extremely ripe, stringy mango that had what almost felt like a fine skin holding it all together. Once you scrape the flesh off the pip and spit it out, the taste of the durian remains in your mouth for hours! Wai Shun and Mei provided us with coconut juice which we gratefully chugged to (unsuccessfully) wash away the taste. I would try durian again, but perhaps next time with my nose plugged. I think the smell overwhelmed my senses so I couldn’t enjoy the taste of the fruit on its own. Brett thinks durian blended with milk would be a nice drink, but that remains to be seen.

Forbidden on the Singapore MRT!!!
The place you get the plastic gloves from is the same place you get the durian!!!

Wai Shun and Mei left to go run some errands, and we walked around Chinatown for a while longer. We saw a beautiful Hindu temple unlike anything I've seen before. We also found a store devoted entirely to Tin Tin merchandise! B was so excited! It was also hilarious and exciting to be harassed by Chinatown tailors as we walked back through on our way to catch a train: "Hey where you from? You come here I make you a fine suit!"

Hindu temple in Singapore

After that, Brett and I caught the MRT to Orchard Road, a bustling street famous for its enormous malls. After an afternoon of walking through huge crowds of shoppers and tourists we headed to the Singapore Zoo for their famous Night Safari! This was truly a highlight of the trip. For $64, the two of us got tickets for entry and the tram. Before heading into the park we got to take in a fire-breathing show and wander through some beautiful shops and restaurants. The line for the tram was quite long, but once you’re on it’s a pleasant 40-minute ride around spotlit animal exhibits. There aren’t any fences or barriers between the tram and the animals. The closest thing to a boundary are moats protecting onlookers from big cats or a hedge keeping us out of the way of a rhino. The tram often passed within inches of grazing herds of animals. So cool! I also found it impressive that there were animals visible in every exhibit. There was none of that annoying craning and hoping to see something that was too shy to come out. All the animals were relaxing and hanging out in full view of the path. There were also walking paths where you could go to get a closer look. My favourite of the night was a beautiful pregnant leopard! I highly recommend this experience.

Lion on the night safari at the Singapore Zoo

After the Night Safari we got some extremely overpriced Singapore Slings and chicken skewers and called it a day! Gin is usually counted as one of the many things that make me throw up almost immediately, but it went down rather smoothly. The fact that it was mixed with Cherry Heering, Benedictine, and fresh pineapple juice probably didn’t hurt! We would soon learn that drinks are pricey almost everywhere in Singapore due to high taxes on alcohol.

Amanda with a Singapore Sling
Brett with a Singapore Sling & Satay Chicken

On Sunday morning we walked to a food court near our hotel for more delicious and affordable local fare. While the place was as busy and hectic as a Taiwanese night market, we had the advantage of being able to read what everything was on the English signage!

There was a huge variety of foods available at the outside food courts.

After brunch, we took the MRT to the Harbour Front where we caught the Singapore Cable Car to Sentosa Island. Sentosa is a recently developed resort area with beautiful man-made beaches, hotels, games, and attractions. We sat and sipped cool drinks (our favourite Singapore pastime), went up a rotating sky tower for beautiful panoramic views, ate ice cream (my second favourite Singapore pastime), and generally wandered around. I also posed for a photo while holding a beautiful but terrifying python at the behest of my loving partner who insisted “it will be way more impressive if you do it than if I do”... Thanks, honey!

Sentosa Island is undergoing a great deal of development. It hosts a casino, man made beaches, Universal Studios, roller coasters and more.
Brett & Amanda on the Sentosa Tiger Tower
The Sentosa Merlion replica
Happy or having a heart attack?

After Sentosa, we took a look around a huge mall called VivoCity and we met up with our landlord who is living with his Taiwanese wife and two sons in Singapore. He took us to their house where we were served an amazing home cooked meal along with fresh-squeeze lemon juice. It was great to sit around the table and talk about life in Taiwan, Scotland, Singapore, and Canada with such interesting and friendly people. We received lots of advice about life in Taiwan! Dinner with our landlords was a very special experience that helped make Singapore a trip to remember!

It’s hard to sum up my half of the Singapore trip and I’m sorry this post was so long. I fear that Brett’s may be even longer... you know how verbose he can be. He should have his post about Monday/Tuesday in Singapore up in the next couple of days. Until then, he and I will be doing tons of laundry and nursing our peeling sunburns.

No comments:

Post a Comment