Oh the British weatherSaturday, 18 December 2010
For the last 3 or 4 weeks i have been dreaming of waking up to that beautiful white blanket outside my window to sing to me that schools out and i don't have to go into work. Not once did that happen. Every now and then we were teased with the odd sprinkle of dandruff but nothing nearly enough for the desprately needed snow day. Today however was a special day. Special for two reason; 1) its the first day that snow has absolutely no effect of school closures because they broke up for christmas yesterday, and 2) i had a plane to catch.
A short history of ceilings in airports
Monday, 20 December 2010
I have spent just over 50 hours in Heathrow Airport with well over 50% of that time lying on my back. This has resulted in a bruised coccyx and a sound knowledge of Heathrows ceiling. There were no tiles as such but if there were i am sure that i could give you an exact number. My perculiar interest in airport ceilings only really came apparant to me when the first thing i noticed on arrival to Beijing Airport was that their ceiling was very different. They have long white strips, that make some kind of pattern, which one could count if they had the time. I am very pleased to say that this time i dont have such time.
Our first night at Heathrow was on pretty much where the first photo was taken (above). We were given silver insulation sheets for blankets (which were surprisingly very warm but made you feel like a christmas turkey ready for the oven) and we used the Heathrow newspapers for mattress's. Being the gentleman that i am i shared my turkey foil with the old man (in the pic above) as he didnt have anything. So yer my first night in the airport was on a hard cold floor sleeping alongside an old man and my new stranded friends. About 3 hours worth of sleep was had before i had to peel myself off the newspaper lined floor and shake some joints back into a working condition. On realising that our plane was not flying out the next day either, we decided that it was worth staying in the airport as now people weren't even allowed to enter.
So Air China managed to get a plane to us in Heathrow and take us out on a non-scheduled flight. The next worry was sorting out my transfer once i got to Beijing. I arrived at 10am local time and they have sorted me out with a flight to Singapore for 3pm. Its kind of funny walking around and call it paranoia but i swear people looked at me (or smelt me...) and knew i had spent the last few days in an airport. I don't care, this time tomorrow...
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Ladies and gentlemen i have reached Singapore. Well i landed on tuesday night and feel like i have not stopped since. On touch down the first thing i needed to do was contact Ed to let her know that i have arrived and make plans on getting to her place. For this i needed change for the pay phone and all i had were 50 dollar bills. Burger King seemed like a good way of breaking up that 50. This was a bit of a dilema as i didn't want to fill my belly and miss out on my first Singaporean meal but i figured as it was nearing 11pm it would be unlikely that id arrive and Ed would want to go out to eat. Added to this was the fact that i had just eaten dinner on the plane (i dont know why but i really do love all plane food!). After picking a meal that would give me substantial change in coins i rang Ed and sorted out a taxi to her place. Arriving at around midnight Ed's first words to me were "lets go out to eat". Sigh...
After quickly washing away 4 days travel we drove to a local hawker centre where Ed ordered the most amazing food in vast quantities. The hawker centre is made up of about 20 plus food stalls. Each stall specialises in their own thing and you go and order from various stalls and they bring it to your table. I was full already but i couldn't help but eat. We had oyster omelette, grilled sting ray, chicken wings, carrot cake (not as we know it), mee goreng (fried noodles) and gong gong (some kind of sea snails). Most dishes came with tiny little limes that are squeezed over just before serving and each had their own dipping sauces. Carrot cake is a type of radish fried with egg and what tastes like ketap mani (Indonesian thick soy sauce). This was all washed down with fresh juices of coconut, sugar cane and soursop . I'm realising that if i were to describe every meal in much detail then this blog could go on forever so i will stick to the significant and unusual (unfortunately most Spore foods seem to fit into one of these two categories!). In one sitting it felt that i'd demolished a large chunk of the singaporean food checklist. I soon learnt that it had barely been dented.
Wednesday was Zoo day. Before leaving, Eds mum made fish maw soup (which is fish swim bladder - i did say i'd stick to the unusual) for breakfast. We got to the zoo using a combination of a bus, underground and walking. So Singapore is quite well known for being very clean, safe and generally just running very well. Travelling to the zoo i couldn't quite believe the extent at which this really is true. Me and JJ played a bet for the first person to spot any graffiti. Nobody won. You could almost play the same bet for spotting litter! I had never realised how much nicer a place could look when it is clean. And its not just the streets; every car is super shiny clean (above). It sounds like i am exaggerating but even the taxis and trucks all look brand spanking new. The Zoo was very impressive and possibly the best one i have visited. The animals all look really happy which sounds silly but i usually tend to feel sorry for animals in zoos. We spent a good 5 hours following the feeding times around the park and trying to see all there was to see. A definite recommendation.
That evening Eds parents took us out to eat at a Hokkien restaurant called Beng Hiang. Whats great about being with a family is that they know all the great places to go and the best things to order. This places speciality was steamed buns with braised pork. Just looking at the sticky, sweet, fatty pork meat you could tell it was a heart attack on a plate (above) but quite easily the best tasting heart attack ever. We also had a duck and sea cucumber soup which also went down well. Sea cucumber has a jelly texture and doesn't taste of much other than the sauce it was in. I am not the biggest fan of tea but chinese tea is ok and comes with every meal no matter what time of day. After dinner we went home and got ready to go out clubbing.
Zouk is one of the more popular clubs in Sing and apparantly the place to be on a wednesday night. We went with Ed and some of her friends and they managed to get us in for free and access to the VIP area. Initial impressions we couldn't help but notice how beautifully slender singaporean girls are. The population of Singapore is largely made up of people from Malaysia, Indonesia, China and the odd ex-pat and this club had the whole mix. We drank various shots, jugs of cocktails and a flaming lamborghini (a drink that is set on fire and you have to finish it with a straw before it melts - left). We had to save the Singaporean Sling cocktail for Raffles which is apparantly the birth place of this local tippel. We had a great night with a mixture of feeling rich/important in the VIP area and feeling like a student again dancing squished on the dance floor. Every song (typical western club songs) seemed to have a particular dance routine which every one on the dance floor knew. Everyone bar me and JJ that is. If the tune was relatively new and people didn't know the dance then everyone on mass would take out their Blackberry phones. Every Singaporean i think has one. So people were either drinking, synchronise dancing or playing on their Blackberry. Before heading home we stopped off for "supper", at a place called Spice, to eat various pratas that come with a small dish of veg curry to dunk it in (below). I had a lamb muturbak which is a prata stuffed with spiced lamb meat. They're very good and sure beat Englands 3am after club meal of kebabs and fried chicken.
Damn Shiok Lah!Christmas Eve, 24 December 2010
Boxing day, 26 December 2010
Its getting rediculous now the amount of food that is passing my lips. I think my body is struggling to process it in time as i am pretty sure that most of it is being stored. I spoke to my mum on skype yesterday and she commented pretty quickly that i have put on weight! Thing is, Singapore is all about food. A large part of christmas is also about food. So Christmas in Singapore... well you get my point. We actually had a traditional turkey dinner with a roast ham and all the trimmings on christmas eve and then headed to Santosa island to lie on the beach, drink Grey Goose (at $275 a bottle!?) and countdown Christmas.
Food quantity (and quality ofcourse!) on Christmas day was verging on madness. I woke up to a breakfast buffet which Eds mum had bought in, went out for dim sum in china town for lunch and then ate at The Pines with Eds family for dinner. Mo had some relatives from Romania arrive in Singapore yesterday so we spent the afternoon with them. We ate such a variety of dim sum before roaming the china town market and buying christmas presents to take back home. After we visited a very impressive Buddhist temple (below) and then had christmas drinks (my first Singapore Sling cocktail) at the Fullerton Hotel. All very posh.
We got a Bentley Taxi home to soon head back out to eat our proper family christmas dinner at that country club we've been going to. Only members and their guests were allowed in so i knew we should be in for something special. First they brought a whole Peking duck to the table (right) and took off the skin too make little mini wraps with it and hoisin before taking the duck back to prepare something for later. This possibly tasted even better than the heart attack pork and probably just as bad for you. Everytime I thought we were finished food just kept on coming. So much of it! Infact the best way for me to show the sheer, crazy amount of food i ate on christmas day i will just list it all along side the photos. As you can tell, although this is a food blog, i am getting a little bored of writing about food. I didn't anticipate such an amount of unique dishes, that i have never had before, from one place.
Christmas colon clogger list: Curry puffs, pigs ears, pigs head, stewed beancurd, stewed egg, dried mee siam (spicy rice noodles), roti prata, yam cake, kueh lapis (9 layer cake), youtiao (fried dough fritters), goreng pisang (fried banana), ang ku kueh (some sweet black jelly thing), ham jim pang (fried dough stuffed with a black paste), ju kueh (rice cake with radish), Chicken feet, Cantonese style carrot cake, chong fun (steamed pork roll), stuffed glutuinous rice cakes, pork ribs and yam, yam puffs, cha sui shou (bbq pork pastries), cha sui pau (bbq pork buns), xiao long pao (steamed dumplings with pork soup inside), 4 other types of steamed dumplings, Beijing duck pancakes, clam pickle, claypot fish, claypot rice with chinese sausage, pork liver sausage, spinach, rice porridge, minced duck lettuce wraps, fried icecream, mango pudding and herbal jelly...
Monday, 27 December 2010
I decided to venture out on my own to visit Little India. It just happened to be a sunday which is suppose to be the best/worst day to go as it is its busiest day. This place is distincty Indian. The second i got off the bus at Little India Station there was that instant wiff of Indian corner shop along with typical bollywood music booming out the shop windows. Unlike China Town with chinese people, Little India is full of Indian people that live and work there. Bright colorful sarees, hindu sculptures, busy streets, dirtier roads and the odd bit of litter is a long stretch away from Singapore making you feel that you actually are walking the back streets of India. You may even see the odd dirty truck if your lucky. It's only the very English sounding road names (Hampshire rd, Clive st, Dickson rd) that bring you back to Singapore showing that this place clearly wasn't always Little India. I can only guess that i must look like a local in this area because people kept speaking to me in their language and on two seperate occasions i was asked for directions by tourists?! Cheeky shits. I ate Tulang which is a bright red lamb bone curry served with a straw to eat the marrow. I love bone marrow and there was loads of it! The food court here opened my eyes to a whole new list of foods that no way i would be able to complete before i go. I think i will just have to wave my little white flag and admit defeat for now. This job requires a year or two to really tackle the whole of Singapore and appreciate it all. And thats the thing, y'know how food tastes soo much better when you're a little hungry? Well i feel i might not be doing the food justice here as i have not once felt hungry since i arrived. My belly has always been half full before i start eating! My constant eating is out of curiosity and i'm missing eating out of hunger.
A fine city
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
Singapore is owned largely by the government with little private owned properties and land. This is partly why Singapore is run so well. Also you can be fined a lot of money for a lot of things from jaywalking through to not flushing a public toilet. Alcoholic drinks have a mass of tax on it making it very costly to be drunk and dissorderly, smoking, though not illegal, is kinda taboo and not allowed in all public places (including many outdoor areas) and the death sentence applies for all drug trafficking. But it very evidently works. The locals tend to call all seniors aunty/uncle here which i am not a complete stranger to. This includes taxi drivers who just happen to be the loveliest people on this planet. They can talk the whole journey without pausing for a breath with an ocean of stories that i actually want to listen to. A lot has been learnt about Singapore and its culture purely from sitting in taxis.
|Fish spa at night safari|
Yesterday we went to eat "the best pork mince noodles" in singapore which like all "the best in Singapore" food it was in a bog standard looking cafe jam packed with locals and a queue and a half to order (with neighbouring cafes being close to empty). It was the first pork mince noodles i had eaten so i couldn't possibly say whether they were the best in Singapore but they were so damn good. Just watching the chef at work was inspiring as there were so many ingredients to go in with so many slighty altered recipes dependent on customer preference. Luckily for him pretty much the whole queue were only there for the one famous dish of pork mince noodles.
Dinner was at Tawandand Microbrewery, a Thai place that brews its own beer and plays live music. Food is quite pricey but very good quality. We had a large number of us and so got through a lot of food and beer. Beer is bought by the tube and the band sings on request in all local languages.
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
I had so much fun yesterday! We all went "prawning" which i had never heard of before. Turns out that you can fish for prawns in a normal fishing rod and hook way (Right). I am a fast learner, i learnt very quickly that these prawns have sharp pinchers which they will use when you try and take the hook out of their mouth. Everyone around found it hilarious whilst i tried to prise this prawn off of my finger without drawing blood. With not a single tourist in site, some people had clearly come straight from the office still sporting their work suits and others were prawning professionals using their own prawning rods and catching 5 in the space that i catch 1. Obviously it became a competition within our group on who could catch the most and ofcourse i won. Whats great is that just on the side of the prawn ponds are barbeques to grill your catch! The place provides you with all the equipment but you do have to skewer the prawns yourself. Not something i am overly fond of as im a bit gay and feel sorry for the prawns. They were still moving on the grill! :o(. i suppose you cant get fresher than that...
For dinner we went to a place called Coca to have steam boat (hot pot/chinese fondue) where the table is designed to heat a large bowl of stock and they bring plates of raw food for you to cook. I had jelly fish for the first time which you would never have guessed has a rubbery jelly like texture. No real significant taste however other than the chicken stock it was in. Straight from dinner onto karaoke, today was a busy day. Karaoke here is a night out with drinks and food brought to your room. You get a small room just for your group with a screen and a computer to select songs. We sang a mixture of english, chinese and korean songs (i say we, i stuck to the chinese songs ofcourse). Korean pop is quite popular here and annoyingly catchy. Ed and her friends don't read/speak Korean but could happily sing along to the songs with the aid of the lyrics looked up on a blackberry. We karaokied (it's a word!) until 3am and people were still going strong in other rooms!
This morning Ed and Eddy wanted to show us old style Singapore and took us to one of the last rural areas in S'pore called Pulau Ubin. This is a small island with no more than a couple of 100 actual residents and you can see that it has only recently started to attract tourists. The most popular way to see the island was by hiring a bike, prices ranging from $2 to $10 for the whole day. You pay for what you get, and from experience i know it is worth the extra few bob for some gears and a more comfortable seat. Ed and Eddy used to come here when they were younger and were keen to bump into a "friendly old man" that lived on the island and sold drinks in his little shack. He was there smiling and ready to sell us drinks, happy to share his stories (right). We spent most the day on the island taking in the gorgeous views of hindu temples and coastal scenes before catching the bumboat back.
101 ways to kill a prawn
Friday, 31 December 2010
After our bike ride we went out for drinks at a place called number 5 on Emerald Hill. This area was beautiful with smart bars and some amazing houses. If I were to live in Singapore, and I were a millionaire, I’d live here. We spent the whole night drinking lychee/sour plum martinis and eating prawn paste chicken wings at this one bar. With a lychee martini in one hand and a chicken wing in the other, it was one of those moments where you sit back and think this is a good life. A plate of chicken wings and several martinis later this life was damn shiok!
So you’re wondering about the title of this entry… well after the murderous prawning incident I discovered a whole new level of prawn torture at dinner last night. The dish was called drunken prawns where the waiter brought out a bowl of live prawns and poured in a cup of Chinese rice wine. The prawns were left for about 10 minutes to drink and get merry before the waiter set fire to them and stirred them until they were cooked (video above). As a way to go, out of being skewered stone sober or set on fire whilst blind drunk I think I’d go for the latter. We also shared half a roast suckling pig and couldn’t resist having the Beijing duck once more. Yer the rule of only having each meal once went out the window a while back.
Today me and Mo decided to visit raffles hotel as it was one of the last things left for me to do in Singapore. I visited the Asian Civilisation Museum yesterday and we had planned to go to universal studios but it was fully booked well into the new year. The infinity pool was annoyingly only available for residents of the hotel which we checked was also fully booked. Raffles hotel is luxurious and grand appealing to the wealthy foreigner. It is supposedly where the Singapore Sling was invented and thus the best place to drink it. The doorman for the hotel is locally famous somehow and allegedly “the most photographed man in Singapore”. How such fame came about I have no clue.
Dinner tonight will be a super special New Year ’s Eve dinner pre booked at a famous Chefs restaurant. Eds parents own a company that supply restaurants largely with shark fin, birds nest and abalone (aswell as other stuff) and so many restaurant owners know them very well. The restaurant is called Club Chinois and is a fusion of French and Chinese cuisine. I thought i was sick of food by now but I really am looking forward to this. Apologies in advance, the next entry im sure is going to be all food.
Meal of the Gods... or the devil?
Saturday, 1 January 2011
The last supper
Sunday, 2 January 2011
Meal of the Gods... or the devil?
Saturday, 1 January 2011
|Our best attempt with sparklers and a slow shutter speed|
The last supper
Sunday, 2 January 2011
I cant finish without quickly mentioning the pure superiosity of Singapore airport among all other airports in the world. I've never seen anything like it. It provides free internet, free phone charging docks, free wifi, free drinking water, free phone calls and free foot massage machines. They also have super comfy recliners with a runway view and dont get me started on their toilets! Why couldn't i have been stuck here for 3 days!? UK airports are bad enough to warrant whole tv programs being made documenting their failures in practice. Making a program on Changi airport would have a pretty dull and boring outcome. There's nothing interesting with everything running smoothly like clockwork. And i think this must be where the renowned perception of Singapore being boring comes from. But I like feeling safe, i like not having to worry about late transport and a like having a clean environment! who wouldn't? I don't think for a second that it makes it boring, more that it makes it easier to enjoy life how it should be. As close to care free as possible. Out of all places i have visited, Singapore has been the only one i can happily see myself living in. One day... :o)
Top 3 meals:
- Mince Pork Noodles in Tai Hwa Eating House
- Braised pork and steamed buns in Beng Hiang
- Fish Noodle Soup in Swee-kee Fish Head Noodle House.