Sunday, November 09, 2008

November 8, 2008 - Singapore

The contrast between Indonesia and Singapore is unbelievable. Compared to the litter strewn streets and waters of Indo, Singapore is sparkling clean. We've seen crews scrubbing down the roads and power washing the curbs. The subway cars sparkle - we've never seen anything quite like them. The streets of Bali were filled with packs of stray dogs in various states of starvation. The only dogs we see in Singapore are pampered pets. In Indonesia we saw several roads being built by hand. Here every construction project seems to have 15 tower cranes dedicated to it. We are most definitely back in the first world. But all this cleanliness and convenience has a price, and we're in a bit of sticker shock. Alcohol in particular is very expensive. After months of $2 beers in Indo, it was a bit tough to lay out $10US for that first pint of Tiger. It got easier after the third one. We saw our favorite tequila on a bar menu for $250US (it retails for approximately $40 at home). Luckily, the strengthening of the dollar is helping to make the higher prices more palatable.

Sten got a tandoori oven lesson at Usman

Our first two days here we were mostly just in recovery mode from passage. We made it as far afield as Little India, where we enjoyed the tastiest tikka masala of our lives and wonderful fresh naan at a corner shop called Usman. Singapore construction firms import workers from Indian, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to do the heavy lifting on the hundreds of job sites around the city. Little India is their home away from home. The Indian guys at the tables around us were pretty entertained by our attempts to use the naan as a utensil. After stuffing ourselves, we made our way to a chandlery recommended by Brian and Brenda on Galliano (with whom we'd done that radio interview back in Kupang). At the chandlery, we ran into some more cruising buddies, who had heard about another chandlery down the road. So off we all went to the next stop. There we ran into some more folks we know from the Sail Indonesia Rally. It is always a treat to see familiar faces in an unfamiliar location. Musketelle gave us the lowdown on the welcome dinner at Raffles Marina next week. We didn't stay with the rally long enough to actually attend any of the dinners, but we're thinking that a free meal is a good excuse to go check out another marina.

Thanks to an email introduction from a guy named Sid, whom we've never met, but who is a friend of our good friend Deb, we've spent the past two nights eating our way around Singapore in the company of some wonderful new friends. After a lazy day around the marina, during which we managed to get our laundry done and the shore power connection up and running between trips to the pool to cool down, on Friday night we went out with some of Sid's Aussie and Kiwi buddies. Our plan was to meet up at a bar on Boat Quay during happy hour, so Sten wore a tropical print shirt so that we'd be easily spotted among all the bankers, accountants and lawyers attired in business casual. It worked pretty well (we stuck out like sore thumbs) and soon we were learning all about life as an expat in Singapore.

From the bar we headed over to the East Coast Seafood Center. Our party was evenly split between the Jumbo Seafood camp and those who prefer Long Beach Seafood. Long Beach won and we were soon seated at an outdoor table along the coast, digging into plates full of chili crab, black pepper crab, steamed fish, fried chicken, drunken prawn soup, fried rice and a veg. The chili crab was the star of the show as one of Singapore's signature dishes (and it was delicious), but I think my favorite thing we had was the bread rolls. They were soft and tender inside like a Parker House Roll, but crust was crispy, almost like they had been fried. They were absolutely perfect for sopping up the delicious chili crab sauce. Russell and Liang did an awesome job ordering, and Alex and Vittoria did a good job of keeping them in check so that we all didn't gorge ourselves too badly. Sten and I both so loved the chili crab we ended up wearing it home.

Steamed Fish, Chili Crab and Black Pepper Crab at Long Beach

This afternoon Sid's friend Karen and her husband Glenn came down to the marina to join us for a drink on board Mata'irea before taking us to Brussels Sprouts, a very chic bar specializing in Belgian ales located on Robertson Quay overlooking the Singapore river. It is one of Karen and Glenn's favorite spots, in part because Glenn is from Belgium so he really enjoys their extensive beer list, but also because their two little dogs are welcome at the bar. After three months of drinking Bintang, Sten really enjoyed the draft Leffe Brune. Karen and Glenn have just taken up sailing and are considering buying a boat to do some cruising of their own. Singapore strikes us as a tough place to take up sailing, what with all the shipping traffic in the waters around here and very little wind. We were overwhelmed by the number of classes and tests that Karen and Glenn have to take just to operate a boat around Singapore.

A little languid from all the heat and the booze, we made our way down the street to Liang Kee, a Teochew restaurant. Karen, who was born in Malaysia, raised in Singapore, and is fluent in Mandarin, took matters into her own hands and did all the ordering. It was such a pleasure, for the second night in a row, to sit back and just let the food come. We felt so taken care of. Like Cantonese or Schezuan, Teochew is a regional Chinese cuisine. We enjoyed wonderful dishes of tofu with minced meat sauce, steamed fish, stir fried frogs legs with scallion (a first for us), stir fried veg, and ginger and scallion beef, washed down with hot tea. Karen also ordered a bottle of rice wine and some sweet and sour plums. She put a dried plum in each glass, and poured the hot wine over it. This was our first time trying Chinese wine and we really enjoyed it. Both nights were loads of fun but we can't go out with Sid's friends again unless they let us pick up the check on occasion.

1 comment:

wincent said...

Hey when you get the opportunity, you should also visit the other singapore tourist attractions . What you have visited might have been good, but there are still a couple more attractions you can visit. The zoo, birdpark etc..