Sunday, February 15, 2009

January Travel Journal (4 of 4): Singapore

(Destination: Singapore?)

City of Nights: Singapore comes alive at night. The temperatures drop to mild upper 70s after days of 90...many days...everyday in fact. Singapore sits right on the equator just at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula, so the days are warm and consistent all year round. The Harbor plays a huge role, when just around dusk locals and tourists both descend on the the downtown area, apparently with one thing on the mind---FOOD!

Two of my favorite experiences were had in each of Chinatown's two hawker centers. The hawker stands are like street food, but nationalized, celebrated, cheap, and made nearly perfect by government health regulations. In fact, there so good that going to a fancy restaurant really is just a luxury of ambiance. The first stop was at the Maxwell food center, a spur of the moment craving to sample the famed Chicken Rice of Singapore. Delicious. $2.50 for almost half a chicken and a mounded plate of perfect chicken-infused rice. It turns out that I happened to stumble upon the same Chicken Rice stand that Anthony Bourdain went to for his show on Singapore food (fun to watch and down-loadable on itunes.)

The second (above) was on the first night of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. It was like a Chinese, foodie Mardi Gras! The place was packed, and the Fried Oyster and Eggs we devoured alongside a couple giant Tiger beers set us straight. More below.

We spent a lot of our time near the Quay, which was once a rambling and rambunctious fishing and trade port part of town, and was founded by the British for that. Since the 1950s or so, the shipping and fishing has left the heart of town, and a very young, and quite westernized CBD has risen up in its stead. But even there, and even in the heart of the very young convention center near the harbor, there always seems to be a delicious hawker center right around the corner!

(From left: break-time near Clark Quay, a party scene, a little like Bourbon Street, only more welcome--though I am sad to say that there is a Hooters; middle, cool nook of a hawker center near the convention center; right: Boat Quay and the central business district. Below, local skaters.)

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