Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Singapore . . . Let's Do and Let's Don't!
What country is that? I don't know! Let's drink!
The Singapore Sling is perhaps one of the most famous cocktails of our times. I can just imagine wealthy British pseudo-explorers sitting at the Raffles Hotel, sipping the drink and devising new and innovative ways to exploit South East Asia.
I'll settle for a shitty airline version for now. The real thing awaits . . . in Singapore!
I spent a few nights in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur during March. I had a checklist. Now I have advice. Time for some Dos and Don'ts!
Do - Stay at the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Let's face it, 90% of people going to Singapore these days just want to take a facebook or instagram photo from that crazy infinity pool at the top of this new mega billion dollar hotel. Well, you can't, unless you stay there.
I didn't stay here.
But for about $20 (Singapore dollars are roughly American dollars . . . roughly) you can go up to the top and see the view. Be sure you book a spot on the "tour", as they will take you in to see the pool. When they take you in, they literally put a temporary fence around you so as you can't go in the water and disturb all the fat people who paid the price to stay. What? They were all overweight.
Do - Go to this spot, The Garden by the Bay.
I sound like a damn TED talk, but this is a very rad public space project. The domes cost money, but the rest is free to walk around. Tons of info for kids, but unless you are a botanist, you probably don't know anything about plants. So learn something!
The cloud forest dome is air conditioned. March is ass-hot. That's another Do.
Let's talk about food. Do go to the hawker stalls. Don't get screwed.
Sometime back in the 1960s, Singapore had a problem with unlicensed street food. Instead of shutting them all down, they designated certain parts of town as mega street food centers. I think there are about a dozen (maybe many more) of these spots in Singapore. Cheap street food!
The first one I went to was the Newton Hawker Center. Arrived at about 3pm. The only shop open was a Chinese looking place. $30 for some sweet and sour chicken and fried greens.
$20 for a beer.
Ok, so I didn't really do my research. Most hawker stalls are closed from about 2:30pm until the evening. The ones that stay open, for some reason, suck. And are overpriced. And have scummy dudes straight pimping the food. Further research indicated that Newton is not only considered by locals to have sub par food, but they have a checkered past. Some tourists got a bill of almost $500 a few years ago, without realizing it. Our semi-scammed meal, $50 for some shit Chinese and a beer, pales in comparison.
Don't go to Newton and Don't go between 2pm and 7pm.
Do drink along the river. It's like 3km of non-stop bars. Micro brews are about the same price as America or Japan. Some kick ass looking restaurants as well. Jumbo looked rad (though I didn't go).
More hawker stalls? Do go to the Zion Food Center.
This is what a hawker stall looks like for lunch. Tons of options, and every dish is like $3.
Booth #18. Mr. Ho is mega famous for this one dish. All he does, day in and day out, is fry noodles in lard and sauce. You can get small, medium, or large. It is called char kway teo, and the chef has been making it since he was 10 years old.
Bring a checklist of local foods you want to try. This is a kind of fried carrot cake. The chef here, Mr. Goh, is partially deaf and lip-reads his customer's orders. How awesome is that!
Grub. Seriously, if you go to a good hawker stall area (I can only recommend Zion, as it is the only one I went to that didn't suck) you can get like 3 or 4 dishes, some fresh juice, a beer (don't get imported) and end up spending like $8 a person.
Some other food that can be enjoyed at hawker stalls are: bak kut teh, char siew rice, oyster omlet, laksa, nasi lemak, and fish head curry. Google it if ya don't know!
Ahhhh, The Long Bar. Inventor of the previously mentioned Singapore Sling. I've wanted to come here since I took a bar tending course back in 2001.
$26?!?!?!?! That is a lot for a drink. Plus 10% service charge?!?!?!
I was considering it, just to try it once in my life, when I noticed the plastic cocktail shakers outside the bar. Are you kidding me? You pride yourself on tradition and a nostalgic sense of cocktail history . . . and you have some Las Vegas style souvenir shakers? Made out of plastic?
I peaced out asap.
Don't go to The Long Bar at Raffles.
After helping with the Tokyo version of this article back in 2010, I've made it a point to try the recommended shops when I travel in Asia. The aforementioned noodle dude at the hawker stalls was one winner. Tom's Palette was another.
Hey! Kuala Lumpur!
First of all, we took the train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. It is 6 hours, and we thought it would be a beautiful way to see the countryside. It isn't. I think the train company also owns a sizable crop of palm trees, because the ENTIRE train route is just a thick forest of palm trees. It is all you see. For 6 hours.
Not like, vast forests of palm trees. More like, palm tree in your face with no view.
Don't take the train.
KL, as people say, is a cool place. I only had 1 night, so I planned on a quick nap before hitting the Sky Bar to hang out and see the night views. Then I woke up the next morning. So . . . ummm . . . I don't have much to say about KL.
Oh, Do take the monorail from the main station into town. The view is nice and it costs like 30 cents.
Next stop! Amazing Thailand Amazes You!