It took me a long time to come back. 14 years ago I first visited Singapore. A lot has happened in the city-state since then. Which is not surprising. Pint-sized Singapore is huge when it comes to developing things. There's always something being built. Including expanding the country's diminutive shoreline.
But more than what's visible in the skyline, Singapore is a threat to the waistline. There's food, lots of cheap good food. The Singaporean passion for food is so ingrained that it comes naturally as part of a greeting. Instead of "how are you?", Singaporeans ask "have you eaten yet?". Even immigration counters at Changi Airport have boxes of free candies for anyone with a sweet tooth.
|Let the eating begin|
As I made it out of Terminal 2 and into the MRT train that will bring me to city center, I was duly impressed. Clearing immigration was no fuss. Baggage appeared promptly. Arrivals area was so calm. Exactly the same observations I had 14 years ago.
If only all "arrivals" everywhere in the world is like this.
Getting into town even at the 5 PM rush hour was bearable. Trains were packed but no one was cursing. At City Hall, I had to transfer to another train, just a short hop to Orchard Station where I was stopping. Literally above on street level is the Singapore Marriott where I was staying free for 2 nights. How convenient for moving around. The 30-storey hotel is shaped like a pagoda thus earning for itself a landmark status.
Knowing how expensive accommodation in Singapore is, I was glad I didn't have to pay for the room (which would have cost a total of USD 900!). After checking-in, I went up to my room on the 21st floor. All the usual amenities in a Premiere Deluxe Guest Room were there but what I do love the most was the featherbed, just as comfortable as the pillowtop beds in Manila Marriott. The view from my perch was pretty much all about other tall buildings in the area.
As a Marriott Rewards Silver Elite, some perks were in order (besides a room upgrade). High-speed Internet was free. On the table was a complimentary bowl of apples. When I return later that evening, there were Venchi chocolates on my bed as part of its turndown service. The next day, shortbreads were delivered to my room as well as the day's copy of the International Herald.
|View from my room - where Orchard and Scotts Road intersect|
A cousin who works/lives in Singapore was meeting me. When I told her I wanted to eat food at a hawker stall, she brought me to the Makansutra Gluttons Bay for dinner. While the 'glutton' part of the hawker center's name was mildly shocking, it was great location-wise right on Marina Bay with a view of the towering Marina Bay Sands and its kaleidoscopic light show.
It was a busy evening which is typical of hawker stalls. The food is really cheap, served fast and utterly delicious. Among the many items on display, I ordered Nasi Lemak, a Malay meal consisting of fried chicken, fried anchovies, fried eggs, peanuts, steamed rice and best of all sambal which gave everything on my plate a good kick. By the time I was done eating, I was sweating with glee.
Gluttony is truly at home in Singapore.
|Makansutra Gluttons Bay|
|Reminds me of Davao|
That first dinner got me going. The next two days would find me visiting two more hawker stalls in Chinatown: People's Park Hawker Centre and Maxwell Road Hawker Centre. It was hot and humid as I went about trying dishes recommended to me.
At People's Park, I had Hookien Char Mee, a Fujian-style fried yellow noodles teeming with fish cake, pork and squid. It was definitely comfort food. The next day, curiosity led me to try Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken over at Maxwell. I made it there well before lunch time so there was no queue. What seem like a simple dish of boiled chicken was pleasantly fragrant and flavourful.
|Hookien Char Mee|
|Tastes just like Puto & Kutsinta|
|Pinoys flock to something more familiar|
There's so much more to eat in Singapore it warrants another visit. Hopefully not in another 14 years. Eating greatly and cheaply for meals less than $5 is an absolute joy and an absolute bargain. I could only wish I had more than 3 days there. Never mind if my waistline gets an extra 3 inches.