Travelling Leila

My impressions about the places I visit

Archive for the tag “Singapore”

Food in Singapore (bonus post)

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If you have read my previous posts about Singapore, you might remember that I was mentioning the idea to write a separate gastronomic one, where I would describe the stuff I’d been eating during the trip (and other stuff which I had only seen but not necessarily eaten). Those who enjoy food as much as I do will hopefully appreciate.

So, on our first day in Singapore we ended up at the Paragon shopping mall, which, as pretty much everywhere here, had an extensive food court. It seemed logical to actually start the acquaintance with the food in Singapore with a Singaporean cuisine restaurant. There was one here – the Grandma’s restaurant was proudly proclaiming its authenticity.

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The Singaporean cuisine is represented by a large variety of dishes of different origins, which is not a bit surprising given such a diverse ethnic composition of the population. The whole concept of the “Singaporean cuisine” is a kind of mix of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian cuisines, with influences from other Asian and even European cuisines.

The very first thing I ordered was fried red snapper, which I really like – and it was indeed delicious!

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But what I probably like the most was a Chinese (namely Hokkien and Teochew) fried snack called mini ngo hiang – that was spicy minced chicken meat wrapped in very thin beancurd skin.

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In the next photo there are two Malaysian dishes: nasi lemak on the left and curry laksa on the right. The former, consisting of coconut rice, chicken curry, anchovies sambal (a type of sauce), hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers and achar (pickled vegetables), was very nice. The latter – basically a curry noodle soup with prawns, chicken and tau pok (deep-fried tofu) – was pretty decent too, but started to cloy quite quickly.

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Another dish that was either Indonesian or Malay was beef rendang, made from meat chunks stewed in coconut milk and some spices.

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And here is a rather interesting drink called Grandson’s Favourite, made with almond soy milk, grass jelly and palm sugar.

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The next day, if you remember, we were exploring Chinatown; therefore, we had lunch right there, in a Chinese restaurant, of course. It wasn’t entirely clear how the restaurant was called, but Google now suggests that it’s Chinatown Shanghai Kitchen. We ordered a hell lot of food, and it was all excellent.

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Here is the good old sweet and sour pork, which is popular throughout the world and, by the way, as far as I know, belongs to Cantonese rather than Shanghainese cuisine:

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This is some quite ordinary roast duck, not the famous Peking one, and not even the slightly less well-known Cantonese one, but nevertheless very tender and tasty.

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And this one is sizzling beef with ginger and onion, also very tender and spicy:

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Chili crab is yet another must-try Singaporean dish, along with laksa and nasi lemak, that we had the day before. It tasted pretty good, although not particularly to die for, was moderately spicy, and very messy to eat: no matter how hard you try to keep it neat, you’ll still end up eating with your hands and getting yourself all dirty.

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In addition to all this meaty-fishy food, we also got a variety of side dishes, such as these noodles with vegetables and some spongy mushrooms, which looked more like pieces of bread:

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Or this asparagus with snow peas and bean sprouts:

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This is sautéed kai-lan, or Chinese broccoli, except that it doesn’t look much like the broccoli we’re used to. I’d never heard of this vegetable previously, but during this Asian trip it definitely became one of my favourite.

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And one more side dish – sautéed Chinese vegetables (pak choi and some mushrooms).

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Later the same day, we discovered the huge food court of the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall, where we were hiding from a heavy downpour. My companions decided to go for tea and cake only, while I, not being a big fan of the latter, opted for a proper meal. After a long indecisive walk along the various food booths, I stopped at the Korean one and got a BBQ set consisting of a seaweed soup, spicy BBQ chicken, rice, fried dried anchovies and cabbage kimchi (that is spicy pickled cabbage). Honestly, I wasn’t wild with delight – whether because I wasn’t too hungry or simply this combination of flavours was not my thing.

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Other booths, as I already mentioned in this post, offered a huge variety of cuisines, mainly Asian ones – this one had Singapore’s local delicacies:

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Yong Tau Foo is a Chinese Hakka dish, which originally used to be a soup with tofu stuffed with meat or fish (hence the name), and now can contain lots of various other stuff like meat or fish balls, seafood, vegetables, crab sticks, mushrooms, and in fact doesn’t even have to be a soup, it can be eaten as a dry dish as well.

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Bak kut teh is a Chinese soup made of pork ribs with various additional ingredients; the name literally means “meat bone tea”. Despite the fact that the dish is of Chinese origin, it is mostly common in Malaysia and Singapore, where it was brought in the 19th century by Chinese workers of Hokkien and Teochew origins.

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As far as I understand, Chinatown Beef Noodle is a chain, serving, obviously, different sorts and varieties of beef noodles.

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One of the elements of Cantonese cuisine is the rotisserie style called siu mei, which includes different meats (pork, chicken, goose, duck) and is very popular in Hong Kong.

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Here you can get Singapore-style fried noodles with various ingredients.

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Nasi Padang is basically steamed rice served with all kinds of meat and vegetable dishes, comes from the city of Padang in Indonesia.

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Ajisen Ramen is a Japanese fast-food chain, serving, as the name implies, different kinds of ramen soup (wheat noodles in broth, with all sorts of toppings).

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Jia Xiang Sarawak Kuching Kolo Mee is yet another chain that specialises in Kolo Mee (a dish of egg noodles with pork, originating from the Sarawak state in Malaysia).

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Continuing the topic of noodle soups, another variation thereof is ban mian, a dish common in Hokkien- and Hakka-speaking areas (in particular, the Fujian province in China, Singapore and Malaysia).

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This looks like the Malay cuisine booth, although I wasn’t able to identify any of the dishes on the signboards.

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The Indian cuisine booth:

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I believe everyone is familiar with the concept of dim sum, as this invention of Cantonese cuisine is widespread worldwide. For those who are not – these are light snacks, served in small plates or bamboo steamers. There exists a great variety of dim sum choices: all sorts of dumplings you can even think of, buns with various fillings, fried chicken legs (the so-called “phoenix claws”), pork ribs, meatballs, even congee, and many, many more.

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Judging by the dishes represented here, this booth also serves dim sum, and not only shrimp dumplings, as the name suggests, but also other kinds of dumplings, as well as the aforementioned chicken legs, egg custard buns, etc.

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And here is Japanese food and, as seen in the picture, many of the dishes are served in traditional bento boxes with multiple compartments.

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More noodles – and they are prepared right here, before your very eyes.

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Philippine cuisine is the least known to me out of all the mentioned above, I would have loved to try it, but didn’t have the opportunity this time.

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The next day I felt the urgent desire to have some Chinese dumplings, so half of us headed to Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese chain restaurant specializing in xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings).

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As it is often the case in dim sum and dumpling restaurants, you are handed the menu with a pen, and you can mark off what you want and in what quantities.

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Tea and shredded ginger are served immediately and free of charge.

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We ordered vegetable and pork wonton soup (wontons are a variety of dumplings, wrapped in very thin dough), some rice and my favourite kai-lan, stir-fried Hong Kong-style, with special oyster sauce.

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And then came the dumplings. Minimum portion was 6 pieces, so even though we wanted to try as much as possible, due to the lack of spare stomachs, we had to limit ourselves to two types only. These are chicken dumplings:

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And these are shrimp and pork dumplings, called shao mai (or siu mai in Cantonese pronunciation – and that is how they are best known, due to the already mentioned worldwide popularity of dim sum).

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The next day, we found this eatery on the Sentosa Island:

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The place is pretty small, and the menu, although not extremely abundant, is somehow very diverse in terms of the number of cuisines represented.

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So our selection was quite diverse as well – we, already missing familiar food, started with a mushroom soup and a plain vegetable salad.

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Indian dum biryani is a dish of rice with meat (in this case – chicken) and/or vegetables and spices, a spicy one, as one would expect from Indian cuisine, though in moderation.

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Gong bao chicken is also spicy, and, as one would expect from Szechuan cuisine, not in moderation. Szechuan cuisine is generally characterised by extensive use of pepper – in particular, the combination of dried chili with Szechuan peppercorn (which in fact is not quite pepper, but rather husks of the zanthoxylum plant) creates that sensation of numbing heat, which is a distinguishing feature of this cuisine.

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Another meal we had on Sentosa Island was in Hollywood China Bistro in Universal Studios amusement park.

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This time we weren’t really up for new exotic dishes so we ordered the familiar stuff. For example, sweet corn soup with egg:

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Here is quite an ordinary dish with a not-so-ordinary name: braised ee fu noodles with mushrooms. Ee fu, also known as yi mein is a Cantonese egg noodles variety made from wheat flour.

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Lemon chicken is quite a famous dish, served more often in Chinese restaurants around the world, than in China itself.

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And this is Cantonese roast duck, with a fragrant sauce – one type of siu mei, which I mentioned above.

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All of this was accompanied by wonderful jasmine tea.

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If you remember, we were spending the first half of the next day at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, therefore, we had lunch right in the Ginger Garden, at the Halia restaurant, whose name actually means “ginger” in Malay. From noon to 2pm they serve a set menu of two or three courses to choose from. The portions are quite small, but delicious and generously seasoned with ginger, just as one might expect.

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Here’s what their starters are like (out of those we tried): these are pieces of home-cured salmon, cucumber and kipfler potato with some rye croutons and English mustard:

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And this is a salad of heirloom tomato, watermelon and goat cheese with black olives and balsamic vinegar.

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The soup of the day was pumpkin soup:

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And then, the main courses arrived: grilled fillet of barramundi fish with local organic mushrooms and Chinese roast duck consommé. The waiter pours the consommé into the bowl from a small pitcher, right at the table.

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One more main – roasted corn fed chicken breast with carrot puree, potato mille-feuille and Brussels sprouts.

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Quite unexpectedly, I really loved the desserts, perhaps even more than the starters and mains. The ginger nougat parfait with caramelised pineapple and spiced pineapple sauce was simply amazing!

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And this is coconut panna cotta with mango, passion fruit, mint and lychee granita.

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But that wasn’t it for our gastronomic adventures that day. After lunch we headed to the Gardens by the Bay, where we stayed right until dinner. The dinner, which we had nearby, at the Majestic Bay seafood restaurant, turned out great. Right near the entrance there stood a few big tanks with live seafood.

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We went for the set menu consisting of small portions of several courses, so as to try more different food. The first thing to be served was the snack combo: soft shell crab with lemon buttermilk sauce, some kind of crisps and Japanese scallops with pickled cucumber, grapes and Kyoto dressing.

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The next course was chicken soup with cordyceps (at that time we had no idea what it was, thank goodness – but having googled it later I discovered that it was parasitic fungi!), con poy (dried scallops) and Chinese ham. The soup tasted quite unusually.

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Then came wok-fried pork ribs with espresso sauce – yummy!

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It was followed by stewed 10 heads abalone (familiar to us from our last Hong Kong trip), with tofu and my old friend kai-lan. Generally, abalone tastes quite nice, although I wouldn’t include it among my favourite food.

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Next we had some stewed Boston lobster with bee hoon (South-East Asian rice noodles). The lobster was very good, but for some reason I didn’t enjoy the noodles much.

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And last, but not least, we were served the dessert: essence of mango puree in a whole young coconut (i. e. with soft meat) and a glutinous rice dumpling with fresh cream stuffing. Both were delicious.

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And finally, we had our last meal in Singapore right at the airport, before the flight to Hong Kong, in the Peach Garden Noodle House.

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First of all, I ordered my long-time favourite Szechuan-style hot and sour soup.

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The main course was noodles with roast pork, and broth served separately. The broth had to be poured onto the noodles to turn them into a soup, which I didn’t do – that would be way too many soups for me.

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Hainanese chicken rice is one more dish, considered Singapore’s national (even though it derived, of course, from the cuisine of the Hainan island in China). This dish is served with chicken broth, pounded ginger, dark soy sauce and chili garlic sauce. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but a bit too greasy for my taste.

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Singapore – Day 7 / Hong Kong

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30 November 2013

The trip to the chic and luxury Singapore ended not very luxuriously in Little India. First, we were intending to have lunch right there too, in order to join the Indian spirit, just as we had been joining the Chinese spirit in Chinatown; however the spirit didn’t please us that much, for it was very smelly! We really had the impression that the city government of Singapore had just given up on this part of town and provided people the opportunity to live in a familiar environment: very colourful, moderately dirty and ragged.

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Besides, there was a lot of construction going on around; maybe in the near future Little India too would be transformed to match the other parts of the magnificent Singapore. Quite frankly, we didn’t have the desire to eat here, so we eventually decided to have lunch at Changi Airport.

Even though our flight was delayed by an hour, we made it safely to Hong Kong on a small JetStar plane. The air temperature here is far from tropical, yet, by our standards, if it can get up to 20°C (or even slightly above), you wouldn’t really wear a down parka. By Chinese standards, though, it’s exactly the right time for those – that is why Hong Kong is dressed very diversely: foreigners walk around in almost beach style clothing, and the locals wear warm winter jackets and boots.

While during our last visit we were staying on Hong Kong Island, this time we booked a hotel on the busy Nathan Road on the Kowloon Peninsula.

Singapore – Day 6

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29 November 2013

Today we switched from fauna to flora, starting the day with a visit to the Botanic Gardens. They are huge here in Singapore, splendid and fragrant – a real riot of tropical greenery. The reason why they are called “gardens” and not “garden” is that in fact there are several themed gardens gathered in one place: the Fragrant Garden, Healing Garden, Ginger Garden, a few others, and – the crown of all – the National Orchid Garden. The territory between those gardens is actually park as well, with ponds, swans, and so on.

National Orchid Garden

National Orchid Garden

National Orchid Garden

National Orchid Garden

National Orchid Garden

National Orchid Garden

We started off very briskly, stopping next to each plant, but then our fervour and enthusiasm somehow began to diminish. The sun was beating down, even though there was a black cloud looming in the sky and mercifully hiding the sun behind it from time to time. For some reason, in the Healing Garden we were attacked and cruelly stung by all sorts of insects – seemed like they had been healed there and were now full of energy.

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Once again, for the umpteenth time in Singapore, it started raining just as we entered a restaurant to have lunch, as if the rain had been waiting for us to take shelter under the roof. The restaurant, which was obviously right inside the Gardens, was called Halia, meaning “ginger” in Malay, so, as one may guess, this spice was present in abundance in all the meals. The portions were strikingly small, but delicious. On leaving the restaurant, which we did after it stopped raining, we were provided with free raincoats, which we didn’t have the chance to make use of.

Having taken a liking to plants, we left the natural gardens just to head to artificial ones – the famous gardens at Marina Bay, with large conservatories. We feared that we would have an overdose of the monotonous tropical flora, but these gardens had a very different spirit. The conservatories, which could be accessed via a quite peculiar viaduct, were very interesting in design, looking like giant blooming bouquets or trees.

Gardens at Marina Bay

Gardens at Marina Bay

Gardens at Marina Bay

Gardens at Marina Bay

We visited only two of the conservatories: the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest (a term for a very humid tropical montane forest). The first one contained a variety of roses, geraniums and other flowers and, for whatever reason, vegetables of giant sizes, such as aubergines, peppers, cabbage and tomatoes.

At the Flower Dome

At the Flower Dome

At the Flower Dome

At the Flower Dome

At the Flower Dome

At the Flower Dome

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

The second one was designed as basically a mountain, with diverse vegetation on its slopes, and it was so moist there that the air was filled with drizzle. Atop the mountain there was a little garden called the Lost World, which could be accessed by lift, and there was a circular path descending to different levels from that garden. The last thing to see before exiting was a video with gloomy forecasts that by 2100 the temperature on Earth would rise by an average of 5 degrees, which would result in all sorts of disasters, such as the extinction of many species of animals and plants, reduction of the amount of drinking water, spread of diseases – although it ended with a reassurance that all this could be avoided.

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

Cloud Forest

What’s not a problem in Singapore (well, not that anything at all is a problem here!) is that everything is constructed and designed very conveniently and user-friendly. Places to eat can be found literally everywhere. Wherever you go, whether it’s a garden, a mall, a museum or a theatre, you can be sure that you won’t stay hungry. So, quite naturally, we found where to have dinner just as we exited the Gardens and turner around the corner. It was a Chinese restaurant, mainly seafood oriented, and, to spare ourselves from difficult choices, we decided to go for a set meal, where we were continuously served small portions of different dishes to sample, which seemed to be the right decision, as everything was delicious.

Singapore Flyer - view from Gardens on the Bay

Singapore Flyer - view from Gardens on the Bay

Since it was our last full day in Singapore, we definitely felt the urge to go see the famous Raffles hotel and taste its signature cocktail, the Singapore Sling. The colonial style hotel, of course, claims to be chic. It’s a white-stone building, with a courtyard and a shopping arcade full of fashion boutiques. The hotel is certainly impressive, but not drop dead impressive. A small detail: in the glamorous Long Bar, where most of the guests buy this very cocktail, on each table there is a basket filled with unshelled peanuts. Guests throw the shells right on the floor, and if they leave them on their tables by mistake, the waiters whisk them to the floor when clearing the table after them. As a result, the entire floor is littered with those shells.

Raffles Hotel

Raffles HotelSingapore Sling

Singapore – Day 5

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28 November 2013

The day turned out very diverse in content which ranged quite impressively from the Universal Studios amusement park to a classical concert. But – one thing at a time.

Since the day before we had spent very limited time on Sentosa, we decided to repeat the visit right in the morning, and started again from the beach, and from the same one. We had kind of got used to it somehow, but the beach attendant must have been having a senior moment: he asked us literally all the same set of questions as yesterday: where we were from, whether we spoke Russian, what kind of country Azerbaijan was and whether it was close to Kazakhstan.

Siloso Beach

Sentosa

Even though the attendant caused a puzzled laughter with his repetition, the sunny weather which also replicated that of the previous day, was accepted with joy. The water was unpleasantly different though: tons of algae had been brought by the wind, and there was also something stinging in the water.

Sentosa

We hesitated a lot whether to visit the Universal Studios after all, or not. Having googled it thoroughly, we found out that it was basically nothing more than just an amusement park, and I personally am not a big fan of those. Nevertheless, we still decided to go and take a look – a very expensive look, I have to say.

Universal Studios

As a result, we, limited in time (due to the concert in the evening!) visited only three of the attractions. The first one was a complacent and almost childlike Sesame Street ride. The second one could have been the Transformers, but we noticed just in time that the ride included rotation and tipping upside down, which I absolutely can’t tolerate – and escaped.

Universal Studios

Universal Studios

The one we found tempting was the attraction themed on the ‘Mummy’ and ancient Egypt. And that’s where our adventure began! First of all, it turned out that we were not allowed to take anything inside – so everything, including bags, had to be locked in a locker. We accidentally shut the first one, even before we had time to read how to set a passcode for it, and had to call the attendant and ask him to open the locker, promising to show our passports as soon as the bags containing them would be removed from there. We then put our belongings in another locker, properly following the guidance. There was a sign saying that the first 45 minutes were free of charge, and we recklessly trusted the digital clock showing 15 minutes waiting time in the queue – so we didn’t take any money with us, especially that we didn’t even have pockets to put it in. And there we went, right into this hallway, imitating an Egyptian temple, where we got stuck in an endless queue in a totally dark corridor, which took nearly an hour. The ride itself was very short. We expected something absolutely scary, but it was rather fun, despite the dizzying turns forward, backward, up and down, as well as the roars and spits of fire of the Egyptian priests. When we finally got to our locker, we couldn’t open it again – the free time had expired, and all our money was locked inside – so we had to call the attendant for help once more.

Universal Studios

And the third attraction was simply a little 4D cartoon about Shrek with shaking, water splashing and some hairy stuff, supposed to represent spiders, touching our legs.

Of course, we were ‘felled’ by the Egyptian attraction – if it hadn’t been for the hour-long standing, we could have caught another attraction. And all we had time for was having lunch at a Chinese bistro on Hollywood street right at the Universal Studios. At least we were precisely on schedule.

Universal Studios

Universal Studios

Universal Studios

And finally the long-awaited concert! It opened with Lyadov’s ‘Enchanted Lake’, but the word “enchanted” can be also applied to our overall impressions of the concert. It was truly an awesome event! Actually, it was a concert of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, considered the best in Asia, directed by Lan Shui. And Lang Lang – a phenomenal, brilliant pianist – was taking part in it, playing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. It’s difficult to find words to describe the amazing impressions that his performance left on us. I was literally taken away, even being aware that if a piece of music as difficult to grasp as this one, had been played by someone else, it could have just seemed to me a set of random sounds and nothing special. Lang Lang’s virtuosity, power and dexterity are striking, and you just can’t imagine how anyone possibly can perform this piece at all. We were seated so that his face could be seen, so we had the opportunity to observe the infinite palette of his emotions.

Taking pictures and videos was prohibited (that’s how the lockers theme was continued – we had to lock our cameras in one before the concert), but when Lang Lang gave an encore, I, like some others, contrived to take a few pictures with my phone. Talking about the encore – the public went so wild that, despite all his efforts to simply take a bow and leave, he had to stay and play an intermezzo by Manuel Ponce and a waltz by Chopin.

Lang Lang

At first I thought that Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, which was to be played in the second part, was just an unnecessary appendage to the great genius Lang Lang. But in this case there was another genius – actually Tchaikovsky himself, with a very good performance of the orchestra and Lan Shui’s conducting.

Overall, I enjoyed the concert so much that even having to wait an hour for a taxi, which wasn’t extremely pleasant, didn’t spoil the great mood.

Singapore – Day 4

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27 November 2013

This morning, right after breakfast, we went up to the concierge in order to find out whether there was anything interesting going on in town. Instead of an answer, he handed us a brochure, where we read that tomorrow there was going to be a performance of Lang Lang – the Chinese pianist that we had seen in a TV-programme quite some time ago in London, got very impressed and had been dreaming to hear live since then. And now we were lucky: he was here!

We immediately changed the plans for tomorrow: the concert in the evening would make it impossible to spend a whole day on Sentosa island. So we decided to book our concert tickets and then go to Sentosa right today. These plans were overset by the rather useless concierge: in response to our request to book tickets for us, he muttered with a strong Indian accent that he couldn’t do this, basically telling us to go book ourselves. We asked him to clarify whether we needed to go directly to the concert hall and got an affirmative answer. We found this pretty strange, as almost anywhere, we thought, there at least existed box offices around the city, if hotels didn’t provide such services.

Mt Elizabeth Hospital

Quite obviously, we didn’t know the exact location of the hall, so we had to stray a bit – but no rest for the wicked, so we strayed, searched and found. The receptionist at the concert hall – a nice Chinese young lady – seemed way more helpful than our concierge: she told us that the ticket office actually opened an hour later, but there were options to either book tickets online (and she gave us the link) or else to buy them from SISTIC Outlets – a ticketing service with outlets all around Singapore (which actually did exist after all!); she then asked us where we were going from there (to the Harbour Front station, in order to head to Sentosa from there, as you remember), and advised where the nearest outlet was. Surely there must have been at least one around Orchard Road as well, and if the concierge had told us about them, he would have saved us at least an hour, or even an hour and a half.

Esplanade MRT Station

Esplanade

Outram Park MRT Station

Anyway, we found a SISTIC Outlet in the Vivocity mall, which could be accessed directly from the tube, bought our tickets and, totally relieved, albeit later than originally planned, got on the Sentosa Monorail right from the mall. By the way, the train fare can be paid with EZ-Link cards, which are also valid for other types of public transport, and can even be used even in some stores.

Waterfront Station

Once on the island, we decided to limit ourselves to the beach and the Aquarium only, and then come again another time to visit the Universal Studios separately. It was lunch time and we sat down in an Asian eatery, where, as we had already seen in many places, the complete diversity of the south-east Asian cuisine was represented by countries: China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia – but also some western food, like spaghetti or Fish’n’Chips, for those tired of Asian food. Generally, what I like in Singapore, is this spirit of pan-Asianism – although it would be weird to expect anything else from a city-state with such a colourful ethnic composition: the backbone of the population is formed by Chinese, Malays and Tamils.

Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island

The weather was exceptionally suitable for the beach: as a special gift, the sun was shining all the time, without a single drop of rain (all the previous days had been cloudy). Arriving at the Beach station, we realised that there were beaches both to the left and to the right, and, after hanging about near the signs announcing this, like Buridan’s donkeys, we eventually chose the one to the right – Siloso beach. We had never seen such white fine soft sand before. The beach was quite uncrowded. Among the few other visitors there were a group of teen school students (maybe even skipping classes) who were swimming right in their clothes – both boys and girls.

Siloso Beach

Siloso Beach

Siloso Beach

Siloso Beach

Siloso Beach

After swimming to our heart’s content we headed to the Aquarium – the largest one in the world. It’s simply gorgeous, especially its huge glass arches, where fish glide both along the walls, and above one’s head – a very strong impression. We took tons of pictures and videos of various fish: the “smiling” rays resembling Astrid Lindgren’s Karlsson, disguised as a ghost, the sharks with their concentrated yet dazed snouts, and the moray eels. I loved the large amphitheatre, where the whole wall was made of glass, and it felt as though there was a whole ocean behind it. There we just sat on the floor and stared at the fish scurrying to and fro, among which rays stood out again, but this time giant ones.

Little Ray

Some Crustacean

Nautilus

Some Jellyfish

Some Jellyfish

Ray and some other fish

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Shark

Shark

Moray Eels

Lionfish

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Next to the dolphin displays, we were warned not to attract the dolphins’ attention, or beckon them, because they might decide what we offered them food, get discouraged and never come again when beckoned. It is understandable, as dolphins are highly intelligent beings, unlike, for example, some big fish, which had been staring at us for quite a long time with the stupidest expression (and painfully resembling someone I know, just couldn’t remember who exactly it was) – whether you beckon it or not.

Stupid Fish

Dolphin

We had dinner right on Sentosa, and oddly enough, at a Mexican, not Asian restaurant.

Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island

Singapore – Day 3

РУССКОЯЗЫЧНАЯ ВЕРСИЯ ПО ЭТОЙ ССЫЛКЕ. CLICK HERE FOR RUSSIAN VERSION.

26 November 2013

If you feel the urge to move somewhere, do yourself a favour and move to Asia. Here is where one understands that Europe has totally outlived itself, as Asia has already left it a hundred paces behind and keeps developing by leaps and bounds, while Europe is busy with stuff like gay marriage. Having breakfast in Asia is also much better – any croissant would pale in comparison with hot noodles and dim sum early in the morning!

Being in Singapore and missing the opportunity to visit the zoo would be a big sin. The zoo is huge here, and the animals are kept almost in freedom. We rejected the suggestion to go on a 3.5 hour zoo tour with a transfer from the hotel, as we wanted to neither have any time limit nor to overpay, and so we went there all on our own – first by tube and then by bus. We do sometimes end up in silly situations here, underestimating how everything here is made for the convenience of people, so coming out of the tube at the Ang Mo Kio station, we walked out into the street in search of a bus stop. We shouldn’t have walked out at all, though! It turned out that the tube station was directly linked with the bus depot.

The bus ride was long but seamless. We purchased regular zoo tickets only and not those for various safaris, as we were told that not all animals would be represented there till the end of the year.

Notice

Giraffes

Zebras

Cheetah

Kangaroo

Tiger

Hippo

Butterflies

LionessHippo

Even though we knew that the animals were more or less free here, it was still unexpected when we saw monkeys friskily jumping on the tree branches. As usual, most of the zoo looked more like the Land of Nod, though, for example the leopard cat did not even bother to come out of its shelter.

Proboscis Monkey

White-Faced Saki

Finger Monkey

Chimpanzee

We literally had lunch with orangutans – we were sitting in the open cafeteria (the usual zoo type, with the only difference that it served Chinese, Malay and Indian dishes as well as western fast food) and they were swinging on ropes above our heads, landing on some kind of hammocks stretched between the branches, and eating leaves.

Zoo Cafeteria

Orangutans

The zoo offered a chance to ride on elephants. We had a thought about it, which, however, somehow never materialised. Generally there was a huge variety of animals: there were lemurs, and babirusas, and porcupines, and tapirs, etc.

Lemur

Porcupines

Babirusa

Elephant

Painted by an Elephant!

I am traditionally fond of reptiles, especially snakes – certainly not enough, however, to welcome their behaviour, as during Harry Potter’s London Zoo visit.

Crocodile

Komodo Dragon

Rhino Iguana

Kingsnake

Reticulated Python

Oriental Whip Snake

Some Green Snake

Generally, all animals were grouped according to different parts of the world and climatic zones, even the cold tundra was represented here, particularly, there was a dirty polar bear swimming in circles in a huge pool, following exactly the same trajectory, even poking its head to breathe strictly in the same place, and the large glass allowed to see it under the water as well, like in an aquarium.

Polar Bear

We were lucky with the rain – again! – it started pouring when we were drinking tea under the roof of the cafeteria, just before leaving.

In the evening we decided to explore Singapore’s nightlife, and following all the tips we had read on the Internet, headed to Clarke Quay, where all the entertainment seemed to be focused. Apparently, there’s not much happening there on weekdays – for instance, none of the places supposed to be night clubs was functioning as one; instead they only served as a shelter for those few visitors wishing to have a drink or two. Most of the people were concentrated in the waterfront restaurants and were eating, eating, eating (and still, there weren’t too many, indeed, Singapore somehow looks surprisingly uncrowded – I wonder whether this is a seasonal phenomenon, or something permanent), but even those left at around 11pm.

Singapore – Day 2

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25 November 2013

One gets used to everything very quickly: while yesterday the York Hotel hurt the eye by its huge empty halls, today it feels like that’s exactly how it should be.

As always, our formal introduction to the city started with a hop on-hop off bus tour. As one may guess, there are not (and can’t be) many old historical attractions, perhaps only a few Victorian-style buildings. Modern architecture looks interesting: the skyscrapers are not merely concrete towers, but something of fancy and whimsical shapes, and rather than standing each by itself, they form groups, located accorded to feng shui.

Singapore Buildings

Singapore Buildings

Mandarin Oriental

Singapore Business Centre

Singapore

Singapore

Again as always, we started with a full circle on the bus, just staring around, and then made our first hop off in Chinatown, for a detailed acquaintance. We were immediately lured into a street market with all kinds of souvenirs and various Chinese goods. Apart from the usual vendors, there were also stalls touting Chinese calligraphy and offering to write our names in Chinese. These calligraphy scrolls looked so exquisitely pretty that I got tempted.

Chinatown

Chinatown

Chinatown

Chinatown

Chinatown

My Name in Chinese

Then it suddenly started raining heavily, and we hurried to take refuge in the nearest Chinese restaurant. It was completely empty when we just arrived, which seemed suspicious, but eventually everything turned out delicious (more details to follow in the “gastronomic” post), and the place got quite busy too.

Once we treated ourselves to some physical food, we turned to spiritual one and visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It left a very enlightened and peaceful sensation, probably because Buddhism is one of the religions that focus on the person itself, its development and enhancement. The walls of the temple are adorned with statues of the Buddha, each having the same enigmatic half-smile, but with a different hand gesture, each of which apparently has its own meaning.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Another temple located in Chinatown, oddly enough, is the Sri Mariamman Hindu temple. While the Chinese temple had the shape of a pagoda, of course, the dome roof of this one represented a truncated pyramid, dotted with a motley crowd of multi-coloured statues of various deities. We did not go inside, as we would have had to take our shoes off, which would leave us completely barefoot.

Sri Mariamman Temple

Sri Mariamman Temple

Sri Mariamman Temple

The next thing we wanted to visit was Little India, but somehow we ended up going to the Marina Bay waterfront promenade instead. This is the area where Singapore’s financial centre is located, and it’s these skyscrapers that have the most intricate shape. The granite-paved promenade itself is surprisingly unfrequented (compared, for example, with Hong Kong’s waterfront, where we saw crowds of people).

Marina Bay Sands

Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer

Singapore

Singapore - Bras Basah

Orchard Road

Singapore Business Centre

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (The "Durians")

Merlion

Singapore Business Centre

Singapore

Singapore - Christmas Decorations

Singapore

Our main goal of getting off the bus at this particular stop was visiting the observation deck at Marina Bay Sands, and enjoy the night view of the city – we were already all in anticipation of how awesome the illuminated Singapore would look. In order to pass the time while waiting for nightfall, we took a river cruise on a very slow boat, enjoying the view of low colonial-style buildings along the banks of the Singapore River.

Singapore River

Singapore Business Centre

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands

Before it even started getting dark, we got caught in a terrible tropical thundershower, and luckily enough, it started when we were about to disembark the boat, so we could quickly take shelter under the roof of The Shoppes mall at Marina Bay, from the windows of which we could observe a dense wall of water, pouring from the sky.

The Shoppes at Marina Bay

The decision was made instantly, and we headed to the food court to have dinner while waiting for the shower to be over! I really loved the whole idea of this food court, with pretty much all Asian (and not only Asian) cuisine represented here: Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Malaysian, Hakka, Hong Kong, Singaporean, Indian, Teochew, etc., as well as Italian and Mexican.

While we were queuing for the observation deck tickets, the staff honestly warned us: it was an open deck, the rain could resume any moment and we wouldn’t get our money back in that case. But we took the risk (and the lift to the 56th floor!) and stepped onto the wet, slippery observation deck with an absolutely magical view! Needless to say, right at the entrance we were literally forced to be photographed against a green background just to be subsequently photoshopped onto the view of the city. They then tried to foist the resulting photo on us for 50 singadollars, but we stubbornly refused to fork out and instead took tons of pictures ourselves.

Finally it started raining again, although not very heavily, and we got all wet, but really, this sight together with the laser and fountain show were well worth it!

Singapore at Night

Singapore at Night

Singapore at Night

Singapore at Night

Singapore at Night

Singapore at Night

Singapore – Day 1

РУССКОЯЗЫЧНАЯ ВЕРСИЯ ПО ЭТОЙ ССЫЛКЕ. CLICK HERE FOR RUSSIAN VERSION.

24 November 2013

Before our trip, we were a bit worried because of the very short connection between the Baku-Doha and Doha-Singapore flights. But everything went like clockwork – we made it on time, and so did our luggage. Needless to say, the flight felt really long and tiring, but what can I do, if Europe, which is much closer, is of less interest to me than Southeast Asia?

We arrived in Singapore on Sunday, and the myth of there being no traffic jams there was immediately dispelled – we were stuck for quite a while, not unlike in Baku. Perhaps, if our hotel hadn’t been so close to Orchard road – the main shopping street – or if it had been a working day, we would have had more luck, but it was what it was. After we got settled in the hotel, we still had time to walk on the Orchard Road and enjoy the sight of Christmas illuminations and decorations, which in the 30-degree heat looked rather surreal. Besides, the whole street was filled with a funny jingle, sounding either like bird tweeting, or some mechanical tinkling.

Well, no matter how nice the decorations are, you can see them pretty much anywhere, as well as all kinds of street performance – what’s really interesting is the local flavour: for example, on our way to Orchard Road, around Lucky Plaza, we saw hordes of women sitting on mats right on the sidewalk and having a picnic. It first looked to us like a bunch of homeless people, but they seemed too happy and well-dressed for that. It turned out that these were local Filipino maids, who love to spend their Sundays like this.

We marked our very first evening in Singapore with Singaporean food – but the gastronomic aspect of our trip will (hopefully!) be covered in a separate post.

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