Durians downtown; fruits at the People’s Park Complex
Singapore was clean, but a little sterile in the repetition of shopping complexes. We found the Chinatown area to be pretty disappointing (expensive and touristy), but that didn’t matter too much since Singapore is kind of a China Town anyways with ¾ of the population being of Chinese descent. Consequently, the food is great, and to Singapore’s credit, the food was really as good as everyone says. One of the more lively food courts we enjoyed was at the People’s Park complex, across from Chinatown. On the ground floor there is an open area where fruit stalls intermingle with stands selling everything from red pork, tapioca pancakes, steamed buns, and desserts…and I think I remember a few confused stalls selling socks and face masks mixed in there too. Once you’ve made it past these stands, a huge food court awaits your decision of what will you eat?! Choices are seemingly endless, as long as you’re not craving a club sandwich.
My favorite food court, however, was the Lau Pat Sat Food Center on Boon Tat Street, across the street from SGX, the Singapore Stock Exchange. In contrast from the pretzels and hotdogs found around Wall Street, and the chaats served on old stock prospectuses in Bombay, the Lau Pat Sat offers a splendid variety of quick eats.
Laid out along wheel-like spokes under an octagonal rooftop, the food stalls specialized in different varieties of gastronomic delights ranging from claypot, seafood, many styles of noodles, fried chicken, burgers, pork-belly soup (maybe not your thing?), BBQ pork, halal, and dishes from various cuisines—Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian (North and South), etc., and of course there are several outlets to buy drinks, ice cream, and the very important shaved ice desserts. I settled on a bowl of bim bim bap from the Korean stall, and Matt went for his usual BBQ pork and rice. We shared an iced dessert, my favorite so far (red rubies, sago, and coconut milk).
One afternoon we stopped by the Singapore Art Museum where the few memorable highlights were a printed vinyl cut on a wall in an elevator lobby and a small Chihuly exhibit. More memorable was the day we spent at Singapore’s National Botanic Garden. The sprawling lawns and wide tree-lined paths reminded me a bit of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. My main motive for going was to see the orchid garden, but I was excited to pass through the little bonsai garden on our way there. Most of the bonsai I’ve seen are those little ones they sell at the mall during Christmas. But those at the garden were bigger and more developed, you know, like slightly karate kid. My favorites were the miniature trees affected by the parasitic Banyan roots, also pint-sized.
As for the orchid garden, it boasts an impressive selection of orchid, including numerous hybrids that have been bred on site. Many of the new varieties are named for visiting dignitaries and are on display in the VIP Garden where you can see the vibrant blooms of Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela, among others. Another fun section of the orchid garden is the Cool House, which, in addition to providing relief from the outside temperature, displayed plants form higher, cooler climates in SE Asia. I was excited to see pitcher plants up close (instead of on a postcard), as well as other interesting looking flora with out having to have gone on a leech infested hike to see them. All in all, I probably took way too many pictures at the garden in a feeble attempt to capture my amazement at a type of flower (orchids) so varied in size, shape, and color. Some were the size of my thumbnail, others as big as my face. My favorites, including those mentioned in this post, are in the Flower Album. So take a look if you’re interested!