A Singapore river cruise and more food

Last day and I managed to get a late 2pm checkout, so almost another full day of exploration.

Did the tourist thing. A river cruise on one of the many “electric” Bumboats. Not what you think, but an Anglicised version of the dutch word Boom for tree plus english Boat. So the word tree boat that was canoe now became a small boat or ferry. But the once diesel powered motors are now mostly replaced by nice quiet electric ones.

Then onto more important matters. Food. Real food. At a non tourist hawker center tucked away next to shiny hotels and busy roads. How something the size of a small 2 story shopping center can be just tucked away and hidden is a good question. But I found it. A few Michelin Bibs in there and I managed to get the best Chicken potato curry puff with the crispiest pastry (no pictures, I ate it) and the best wobbly with crunchy crust egg custard tart I’ve ever sunk my teeth into. No air conditioning here.

Back to the hotel to dry and cool off before getting a taxi back to the airport. Singapore, an eclectic mix of the old and the new, the east and the west.

Singapore Bunkers and Slings

Last full day in Singapore.

First thing after breakfast time to join a guided tour of the bunker that was the Malaya High Command Center of the Allied Forces, and where the decision to surrender Singapore was made 15 February 1942 to the Japanese forces after their 70 day storm down the Malay peninsula.

This brought over 3 years of hardship to the 80,000 soldiers captured and many more civilians in occupied Singapore until the end of the war brought on  by the dropping of the Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Anyway, enough of death and statistics. The parklands and the ex military command center are a green oasis in the City. And hopefully history will not repeat.

On to the Colonial past and pleasures. The Singapore sling is a concoction of gin, curacao, grenadine, pineapple juice, cherry liquor and so on. Best consumed where it was supposed to have been  invented, the Long Bar at the historic Raffles Hotel. Probably much better on a hot day than an air conditioned bar with peanut shells all over the floor. Yes, that’s right, peanut shells.

Apparently the custom is to throw the shells from the peanuts supplied in small hessian bags on the ground. If you are so inconsiderate as to pile the shells in a neat pile on the bar, the staff will clean up after you once you leave by brushing them unceremoniously to the ground. Anyway, it had to be done. The Sling that is, not the nuts.

On the way back to the hotel I passed preparations for the bicentennial of modern Singapore. This was founded in 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, even though he was not the first to civilise the island. Nor did he build the hotel or parks or streets that are named after him.

Singapore temples and more hawker food

A slightly more casual start today as it was going to be an easier day, with only 2 sights to be seen. The Buddha Tooth Temple and the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice hawker stand in the Maxwell food center.

Both of these are on the edge of Chinatown. Also within blocks of the Buddhist temple are a mosque and a Hindu temple I discovered, but my interests lay with the Buddhist temple and museum full of artifacts spread over its 5 levels, the most significant being the Buddha Tooth fragment discovered in a collapsed Stupa in Myanmar in 1980.

The construction started in 2005 and the temple opened in 2007. Most of it is accessible to the public, but due deference and respect needs to be paid with headwear to be removed in the entire building. In the section where the Buddha Tooth is displayed shoes also need to be removed. I spend a good hour or so wandering the floors

Across the road in the Hawker center it is a different story, although queues were orderly when there were queues. Staff at the 2 Michelin star Waku Ghin had recommended this venue as number 1 to sample the Singapore national dish of Hainanese Chicken Rice. It turns out that Anthony Bourdain had spouted superlatives about Tian Tian also. And Mr. Bourdain was right. The rice was flavourful and fragrant enough to be eaten by itself.

To explain the rice is cooked a bit like an Italian Risotto using chicken stock, and I am sure 11 other secret herbs and spices. And the Chili sauce accompanying the meal was tangy as well as spicy. My only point of difference to the majority of consumers is, I prefered the roasted chicken to the standard steamed chicken. It was worth the walk. And the wait in the Queue. And I hate queuing.

On the way back zig zagging through Chinatown I finally got caught in a tropical Singapore downpour, which trapped me in one of the shops. And yes, I bought something. I needed that little extra horse statue anyway.

Singapore Gardens and Food

French Toast. They had French Toast. One of my favourite breakfast foods was right there at the hotel buffet. You can pretend it is healthy with fruit and yoghurt on it.

Gardens by the Bay next to the Marina Bay Sands hotel planned for today. So another pleasant 2 or 3km walk through the steamy Singapore morning to get bayside. When you get there and all  the architecture comes into view you can see some of the attraction it holds to tourists.

The 3 towers of the hotel look like they have a luxury ocean liner parked on top of them. Then you have the futuristic mushroom supertrees that act as vents and power sources for the Cloud Forest and Flower Domes. The Cloud Forest I found well worth a visit with its layered plant exhibits and a 35 meter indoor waterfall. Quite humid but at least cool inside this huge structure. Outside it gets so hot at times that the cactus display has it’s own shade and cooling fans.

I gave all this a good looking over after a light lunch of real satay and beer from one of Singapore’s famous hawker style food outlets. After a few hours I retreated to the shopping mall next to the Marina Bay Sands hotel. No Kmarts or Walmarts here. And in contrast to the hotel it wa build into the ground by 3 levels. I needed to cool off prior to my special meal I had booked at the 2 Michelin Star Waku Ghin. It seemed I was the only guest for the early sitting. The Wagyu beef with yuzu soy and fresh wasabi was the winner for me.

During desert I got to watch the Marina Bay light show. Then to Supertree light show was a short walk away. It looked like an immobile fireworks on the 25 to 50 meter tall structures, a fitting finale prior to getting a taxi back to my temporary home..

To Singapore

6am alarm goes off. At least it’s an hour after my normal “go to work” alarm. Frantic coffee, piece of toast, get the indoor pot plants indoors after their outdoors holiday during summer.

Autumn is drawing to a close and the maximum temperature over the next week is forecast to be 15 Celsius, don’t ask about the minimum. The Audi Q7 with it’s chauffeur arrives just after 7. Glynis Google says turn right and we head towards the airport via Yarra Glen and Christmas Hills. Scenic, And apparently quicker than the Monash Car Park.

Check in via Qantas First (amazing what can happen with points and upgrades). Quick and easy. Through the passport and security check to Duty Free (I’ll pick up those two bottles on my return) and on to the Qantas first lounge. Luxury – hard to pronounce that with a Monty Python accent in writing.

After some pampering and a tasty breakfast it was on to the point end of the Qantas A380 and towards Singapore. Smooth, hardly felt the takeoff.

I could describe all the Neil Perry menu items in detail, but I’ll stop at the entree of Ocean trout Tataki with Soy, Jalapeno. Cucumber and Finger lime caviar. Umami mouth filling softness with a crunch of cucumber and Jalapeno adding slight bitter all balanced with the sweet saltiness of the soy and sour of the finger lime.

Between the food, the drinks, watching 3 movies in comfort and some reading the hours just flew. Customs and baggage pick up a breeze, and the taxi whisked me towards my hotel in no time.