The check-in area is not a natural place to have food in the airport; so much better to go past immigration and security. But fate willed otherwise since the check-in was delayed for some reason. Demolished another crab, presumably from somewhere in the south china sea. Fate.
Over the last few visits to Singapore I trained my sights on ‘alternative’ food destinations away from Orchard Road, Chinatown and the such. And found Geylang Serai Market and Arab Street.
The Geylang Serai area is culturally Malay. Arab Street is , as the name suggests, Muslim and so intersects with Malay culture in addition to Middle Eastern & North African.
Hogged on the briyanis, kebabs, hummus et al. Next time in Singapore, you must absolutely check out these places.
The Chinese overlay the concept of yin & yang on a lot of things and Food is one of them. So all foods are divided into ‘heaty’ foods and ‘cooling’ foods. Fried Food, for example, is considered ‘heaty’ which means it gets your body all excited and sweaty. According to Chinese grandmothers (who like all other grandmothers have a direct line to secret-stuff), to make things stable, you have to have some ‘cooling’ food along with the ‘heaty’ ones.
Interestingly, this concept is not particularly alien to me since it appears in many local Indian cultures too. The Konkan coast (ie. most of India’s western coast) for example uses Sol Kadi, a drink made from Kokum, to cool down the body after ingesting huge amounts of ‘heaty’ seafood, particularly shrimp (to experience what I am talking about, try one of the famous seafood restaurants of Mumbai such as Mahesh or Saiba). Ayurveda too makes a lot of this concept and recommends eating both hot & cold foods to balance one’s ‘kapha dosha’.
The most interesting aspect of all of this is, how two of Asia’s earliest cultures (and two of the world’s most ancient systems of health-care) both recognise the primacy of ‘balance’ in well-being.
Travelocity is coming through (and not just by buying up Indian companies) – looks like they have some of the better flight deals in the region. I recently found a Bangalore – Singapore return (economy of course) on Singapore Airlines for Rs 11,200. And a Bangkok return for 13,600. Both of which are better than the normal fares offered by m0st travel Agents.
So, if you have the time (or the necessity!) to do research f0r good flight deals, I suggest Travelocity India.
I am sure the seventeen men that controlled the Dutch East India company (the Herren XVII of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, to show you that I know this sort of stuff well) knew about it before me, but I felt no less an explorer when I landed on Bintan island. After all, it is not everyday that you get a chance to reach an outlying island among the group of almost 20,000 islands that make up one of the world’s most populous and to me one of its more likable countries.
These days, it is just a 45 minute fast-ferry ride from Singapore to the Bintan island in Indonesia, but in the old days, this island was an incidental part of the great southern arc that stretched from Malabar (Kerala) in India to the outer reaches of the south-eastern islands of today’s Indonesia, creeping almost up to modern Papua New Guinea – the production epicentre of the ancient world’s great spice route. One of the great spice islands it certainly was not and so was probably ignored in the maritime rivalries of Spain, Portugal and England. And left to curious travellers of the early 21st century to find some of the more beautiful beaches on earth.
An Indian Beach bum looking for the fastest way to get to a world-class beach? Rush to Bintan.
Visas for Indians are on arrival (for most westerners, visa is exempt) and for a stay upto 7 days, you need to pony up USD 10 per person. The catch is, being a government requirement, you need to have the exact 10 USD. So, ensure you carry the exact cash with you.
Of course, the mystery of why A R Rahman has replaced Celine Dion as the default muzak in ferries, restaurants & the such (although, thank god for that I say) in this region has not been fully cracked. Obviously, the return of India’s ancient cultural colonisation springs to mind. But there might be more to it…
This question has been disturbing me for some time now. And since Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai et al have, in their inimitable breathlessness told us that Obama has won & created history, I thought I too must seize the moment and address another one of the burning questions of our times.
The answer, as so often it is, is – yes & no.
Most of Singapore is tarted up to attract the group tourist from across Asia. So, as I wandered across Sentosa, the Zoo and the such, I came across wandering groups of Filipinos, Indonesians, Vietnamese, Chinese and of course, desis. Filipinos, gay and musical. Indonesians mostly led by young mothers with babies. Vietnamese with carefully controlled countenances of less than full comprehension. Indians loud and jumping the queue.
But, surprisingly enough there is another side to this city. Try the Singapore Botanical Gardens for starters. It is 52 hectares of supreme indulgence in the midst of true, tropical gardens. And most certainly check out the Orchid Garden inside it. And for a real Singapore moment, bend down to sniff a rare set of fragrant orchids.
Or of course, try the chilli crab, which I continue to rate as among the top 3 dishes for me & which is really made this well only in Singapore. A new restaurant I discovered this time was ‘Jumbo’ within the 20 kilometers of the massive East Coast Park. incidentally, the East Coast Park is a great place to hire roller-blades or cycles and really get about (or even do a bit of water sports). Which we did, like a lot of the locals over one weekend.
Or just stick your head out of the window for that unique experience you can never get in India – a lungful of clean, city air.
Next time you have a long weekend, try Singapore. Just avoid Sentosa like the plague.
(Chinchalok egg, a Peranakan/Nyonya dish – photo from Singapuradailyphoto)
The raging question of our times is obviously : Is Singapore or Hong Kong better for street food? Standing on various corners of Causeway Bay in Hong Kong earlier today, I can see the battle to be pretty close. On the whole, my guess is Singapore is a length ahead for two reasons. The first is the fact that Singapore street food offers 4 distinct cuisines (Chinese, Malay, Indian & Peranakan/Nyonya) whereas Hong Kong has mostly chinese (although Cantonese + all other great chinese cuisines are on offer). The other is the wide range of food courts that Singapore offers for hungry travellers. These food courts combine the visual variety of many different cuisines with the legendary squeaky-clean environs of that city state. Yup, one length ahead.
Incidentally, there is a rumour that Michelin Guide is on its way to Asia.