Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Second Day in Singapore - Little India and China Town

After browsing through the net prior to our visit, I was really interested in seeing both Little India and China Town.

After hubby left for work (he's on business and moi on holiday, he he he!), I eagerly got ready. To play it safe, my game plan was to take a cab to the "nearest" MRT station which is Clarke Quay (pronounced as kee). The cab driver refused to take me since according to him, it is very near our hotel. "Very" being the operative term here. Ok, I'll give it another try. The driver told me to just cross the river and I'll find it. The very near turned out to be a 20-minute hike along the river bank. I got lost a few times but I managed to find the damn station. It's still quite a walk from the hotel but the view is spectacular, river boats quietly pass though, several parks and high end condominiums and hotels and a sprinkling of lovely malls. My walk wasn't too bad and the weather was a bit cloudy this morning, perfect walking weather.

Little India

My first stop is Little India. I wasn't sure how the MRT works so I ask a customer representative for directions. It was very easy. The ticketing system is computerized and easy enough to follow. Using a touch-screen, simply pick your destination, put your money on the slot and get your ticket and change (if any). Easy as pie. Fare is SGD2 from Clarke Quay to Little India. The ticket is like a proximity card that you place on top the scanning machine and the turnstile will open. Upon reaching your destination, return the ticket by inserting it on the ticketing slot and SGD1 will be refunded to you. It's sort of a deposit on the proximity card.

As I make my way towards the exit, this Indian guy approached me and hit on me and wanted to "get to know me". Sorry pal, already married. May asim pa ang lola n'yo :-)

As soon as you alight from the MRT, you will immediately be assailed by the smells of curry and spices. You have arrived in Little India.

Little India is a collection of quaint little shops hawking brass ware, gold, handmade jewelry, sari fabrics, perfumed oils, fruits, garlands, and Indian food food and desserts.

The place certainly is colorful and interesting. You'll find a lot of lovely sari fabrics here. I was very tempted to buy some but I still have 4 yards of unused sari in my closet (a purchase from my Indonesian trip). I did manage to buy 200 grams of fresh plump cherries for just SGD2.40. Much cheaper here than in Manila. I might go back again another day to purchase more. Too bad we can't bring some home.

My trip to Little India wouldn't be complete without eating some Indian food. It was quite early when I arrived and I wasn't hungry so I just opted for some puri bread with egg. It's a cross between a tortilla and an omelet. It's always served with home made curry sauce. I love Indian food and this one is really good. It's light and not too spicy and for just SGD1, it's a great deal. Of course I had to wash down the puri bread with the quintessential Indian beverage, Teh Tarik, or Indian tea with goat's milk and some condensed milk as a sweetener. It also costs SGD1. The tea "barrista" cools down your tea by "stretching" the hot liquid onto another cup. The Teh Tarik is traditionally served hot. Now, you can have it cold and since it was a hot day, I opted for the latter. This is the first time that I've had this beverage and I love it. I hope I can come back another day to try out other dishes and have some more Teh Tarik.

Puri Bread with Curry Sauce

Teh Tarik Barrista

Iced Teh Tarik

Just a word of caution, make sure that what you are eating or drinking is served piping hot to assure cleanliness. My Tek Tarik was piping hot and was poured over a cup of ice. Indians do handle their food with their hands, so be choosy.

From Little India, I take the MRT again to China Town. Fare is the same SGD2.

China Town

Between the two ethnic communities, I was very eager to see this quaint little town. I've certainly seen a lot of pictures and have read quite a bit about it. Some of the most memorable Singaporean images were from China Town. It's historic shop houses are carefully preserved and is very pretty, painted with bright colors. They are called shop houses because the building is a place of business at the ground floor and a family home on the second floor.

It's quite easy to find. Take the MRT and alight at Chinatown, Pagoda Street exit. As soon as you exit the MRT station, you will be assailed by the scents of incense burning, colorful Chinese lanterns and tiangge-style stalls waiting for you to browse it's hallways. Pagoda street is closed to vehicular traffic. It certainly is very lovely but a bit "Disneyfied" due to the bright colors of the shop houses. Locals who have been to Manila say that our Chinatown is more authentic. But I kinda like Singapore's version too. You can safely walk the streets while happily bumping into expats and tourists all over the world. It's interesting and fun.

The goods are quite similar to what we have at home. I did manage to buy my a souvenir from this trip, a Chinese box, with a compass inside. I know it's not a real antique but who cares. I like it. I bought it for SGD25. This is my one indulgence for the house (Yeah, right).

I did find an apothecary store there complete with weighing scales and traditional Chinese herbs and medicines.

What Chinatown is famous for is the food. Oh my golly, I too bad wasn't hungry when I got there so I just went to this hole in the wall vegetarian stall. I ordered sauteed spinach, rice with curry sauce and a tofu ball. The food wasn't particularly good. I won't show a picture because it looked awful too. I want my SGD2 back! After eating a few bites of my tasteless meal, I roam the streets and found more interesting food stalls where most menus were in Chinese, sayang. I'll go back another time and try out other dishes from other stalls.

I'll go where the expats and the locals dine, fore sure the food will be good. There's a food stall there that sells nothing but dim sum! Hubby would love it.

I figured since I'll be walking back to the hotel from Clarke Quay, I'd better buy some food to eat in my room. I saw some expats and locals dining in this particular kiosk called Flavours Food and ordered Fried Oyster Omelet (SGD4), take away (as opposed to the Western "to go", or Manila's "take out"). There was a lot of choices but I happen to like oyster omelet so I ordered that. After my disastrous vegetarian venture earlier, I was more inclined to eat dishes that I've tasted and liked.

Singapore is also famous for orchid pins. These are real orchids preserved in a mantle of 24K gold. Very pretty. I remember my grandmother had one as a gift from my aunt many years ago.

After leaving Chinatown, I headed back to Clarke Quay and walked back to the hotel. Learning from my directional mistakes this morning, I took the most scenic route, I followed the river under the fierce heat of the sun. Thankfully, I brought a small foldable umbrella with me and provided a bit of comfort from the heat. The route that I picked, turned out to be scenic as well as the easiest route. Why didn't anyone tell me this earlier? Sheesh! I took some pictures along the way, you like?

After burning off probably 500 calories from the walking under the sweltering heat, I finally reach our hotel. Haaay, air-coned bliss.

After resting and freshening up a bit, I eat my Oyster Omelet in the comfort of my hotel room. The omelet was absolutely divine. Perfectly cooked, the oyster was still juicy, the egg was light, some vegetables were fried with the omelet and a generous sprinkling of cilantro is perfect foil for the egg. I didn't take any pictures because it wasn't pretty when I opened the box. What it lacked in looks, it made up for in taste a hundred fold. It was the best SGD4 that I've ever spent!

Fully sated, I go down to the hotel lobby and write this blog :-)


ericbau said...

The compass looked very nice, even if not a genuine antique. Now the only problem is where to put in the house...

The two towers in the right side background of the last picture in this post is the Reverse Bungee ride. When we saw it, only a few brave American souls were lining up for the ride. Curiously, all of them were clutching beer bottles or mugs like there was no tomorrow...

ericbau said...

Its sad that I was not able to see a live Teh Tarik Barrista this trip. Maybe next time...