Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sights and Eats: Singapore Day 1

Feeling rejuvenated after a relaxing 5 days in Bintan Indonesia, FF and I headed to another unfamiliar ground. We went to Singapore! We arrived at the  Ferry Terminal at 11 in the morning. Gained an hour back since Indonesia is one hour ahead of Singapore.It's like turning back time. Yay! Since we don't know the ways of public transportation yet, FF and I decided to take a taxi to the city. Travel was a brisk and we were delivered fast at our hotel's doorstep 30 mins later and 40 bucks poorer. It's quite expensive since we discovered later how cheap public transportation in Singapore is.

We stayed at Pan Pacific Hotel .  Like most hotels in Singapore, it is modern, contemporary  and impeccably clean.  People at the hotel are polite and efficient but impersonal. We somehow missed the engaging smiles and familiar warmth of the people in Bintan. We have to constantly remind ourselves that we are now in a city with city folks. That tropical island suddenly feels so near yet so far. After a quick refreshing shower, we slip into our most comfortable clothes and with water bottle at the left hand  and  a map on the other,(we could not get more touristy than that!)  we headed out  to discover the place.

The good thing about Pan Pacific is, it is connected to different malls , the Marina Square and Suntec City and to three other hotels. It is a labyrinth of aircontioned marbled  path with shops and restaurants for a wall. It was heaven! No wonder Singaporeans have beautiful clear skins. They don't have to cross the streets to go somewhere! I bet that even the Cullen family could  float their way around at broad daylight without fear of sun exposure.  Ok I'm drifting off.

We were famished so we simply  stopped at the first Thai restaurant  we  saw . We had lemon chicken and beef strips in pepper sauce with  rice and soda. Lunch was good and cheap.God I love Singapore! After lunch, we simply explored the place and found a MRT station located just 15 minutes walk from our hotel. We stopped for a couple of minutes at the counter to observe what the locals do . Few mintues later, FF and I had an EZ- link card which could be used on trains and buses. Ok we had a little help from a kind Singaporean lady who perhaps took pity on our bewildered and looking-a-little-lost-facial-expressions. After a brief instructions with a  lot of hand signals, we were ready to go. And so away we went. First stop- Little India.

After stepping into the streets of little India, I felt like I am transcended into a totally different world. The district is filled with lanes and lanes of  colorful shophouses painted in deep color, each wall contrasting yet complimenting  the next. With Hindu music echoing loudly in every corner and Indian men and women dressed in their traditional garbs pouring the streets, I felt like I am in a Bollywood film . If somebody in  the crowd would suddenly start dancing and tilt their heads from side to side like in the movies, I would gladly join them! Anyway, tourist and locals are up and about doing some sightseeing and shopping. Golds and jewelries, silk and traditional sari, flowers and garlands are a common sight.   Sacks and open containers  of curry and other colourful and  aromatic spices well as smell of the tobacco   lingered in  the air. If not for the high-rise building that dominates the background which  constantly reminds us that we  are in a growing metropolis, it is easy to get swifted by the charm of the place .


We went to  Little India with only one goal. Well, originally two. The first was, to eat the famous fish head curry which is quite renowned in this district. Unfortunately, FF could not  bare to eat anything with eyes looking back at him so we skipped that. So we then fullfill the other goal:To see the famous Hindu Temples. And so we've braved the scorching  heat  in search for the temples. With their intricate details, they are a sight to behold

The Veeramakaliamman Temple, one of the oldest Hindu temple in Little India.

The Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

Singapore is a multi-ethnic society . Although the majority of the populace has Chinese roots, the land is shared by Malay and Indian race as well as other smaller group of immigrants. Each major  race group  is well represented in terms of infrastructure, religion, tradition and feast as well as gourments. Despite of the cultural differences, I sense no barrier among the group. Torelance and  respect for each culture is evident. Each of these major ethic group has an acknowledged  contribution to   Singapore's rich and diversed culture. Here is a proof to that.

Two temples of different beliefs and background coexisting harmoniously side by side. The only barrier is a thin wall that devides yet connects them.

We gave the temples a last lingering look. Still amazed by its beauty, we manage to get inside to  some of them. Since few  believers are actually inside doing their prayers and rituals, we payed our respect by not taking any pictures of the interiors. I'm not too keen to get reprimaded by Hindu gurus or Chinese monks anyway. Note: Few of these temples require visitors to have their shoes taken off.

After few hours on the street under the scorching Sun, we called it a day. The heat is getting too uncomfortable for our liking and  even FF's limbs are turning lobster red. Before developing some serious sunburn, we headed back to the comfort of our artificially ventilated yet cool hotel room.

The Spoon and the Fork came to Singapore in search of good food and we did not come unprepared. Between the pages of that  tourist guide book we carry around is a piece of paper, a list and a long one at that. On it, are   gourments and dishes that made Singapore famous. Most of these are dishes   are  available at different hawker centers. Fortunately, we could have all these deliciuos food under one roof and enjoy it within a  comfortable setting. After watching Anthony Bordain's: No Reservation Singapore, I noticed  how much  he raved and praised the restaurant, Straits Kitchen, marveling at its comprehensive offer of Singapore's finiest  foods. He was pretty convicing so I worked my charm ( uhurm!) and tried to convice FF. He is not a big fan of buffet after all.  I know he doesn't like rubbing  elbows with strangers and looking at somebody's plates while  searching for  food BUT  he hates to  hear me breath under his neck until I get the answer I want  more. Two hours of constant babbling, rants and raves and he gave in. Damn! I'm almost as convincing as good ol' Tony! And so, on our first night in Singapore we headed to this renowned restaurant  for dinner. Armed with  loose clothes and empty stomachs we march into the wide opened door with great expectation.

Salivating on this picture so I have to hide the  face!

It was exactly as I imagined. Huge and  spacious open-kitchen  restuarant with few  stations featuring Singapore's three major ethnic groups. The Malay , Indian  and of course Chinese . Each gourmet group has a live station with  their own local chefs representing thier race's food fare with undeniable pride. It's like having the entire Singapore under one roof!  Aside from that, there's also an extra dessert station ( hurrah!) featuring local sweets and delicacies as well as another station that prepares local appetizer and drinks.  All you have to do is go around with a tray and fill small plates and containers of the dishes that caught your fancy you. Ok, enough babbling, let's see some food shall we?!

photos courtery of

Just a tiny peek of the Chinese  Cuisine Station with chinese barbecued meats  and Hiananese chicken.


Just few samples of  Chinese Cuisine fare:
 top left: Roasted chicken and duck, top right:Laksa and chicken soup,
below left: steamed fish, below right: chili crab

A peek of the Malay cuisine station.

Malay Station and their spread.
Top left: Satay of chicken,beef and mutton with peanut sauce and condiments,
top right: Ayam Percik, below left: Sambal Prawn, below right: Sambal fish .


A part of Indian cuisine station.

Fare from the Indian station.
 Top left: Curry fish head minus eyeball , top right: Na'an bread,
below left: Tandoori chicken, below right: Tandoori prawn.


Some of the desserts Strait Kitchen offered. Plates filled with Kuehs ( reminds me  Filipino's kakanin) and sweets

It was a very satisfying meal .The food spread is very extensive  its almost  overwhelming. I tried  give some  unfamilair dishes a bite or two but there's simply too much food!The spoon met her match and she surrendered,gladly. The place is halal .Despite of the Ramadan season ( the place is packed!) the  service crew was able to attend to their guests' need  with astonishing efficiency. Most of the guest that night were Malays who have their first meal of the day later that evening.   We had a good time despite of the heavy crowd. Even FF didn't mind rubbing shoulders and elbows with the crowd for once. The only regret I had was...

not being able to convince this guy to visit Germany! I would loooove to see him or at least his satays on our Weihnachtsmarkt !

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