Kicking the bucket list

Trip Start Dec 27, 2012
Trip End Jan 07, 2013

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Flag of Singapore  ,
Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Rufio had a short day at work for the holiday, so after a late breakfast together he departed for work and I headed to Little Arabia near the Bugis shopping district. I thoroughly hoped this day's travel would far surpass the previous, and I was not disappointed. Arriving on the MRT, I wasted no time finding the neighborhood.

Little Arabia comprises only a few small blocks, but is beaming with character. I fast approached the Sultan Mosque, the largest Muslim mosque in Singapore. I took a turn down the adjacent shopping street, and wandered aimlessly through the shops for some time. I found a great deal on a few silk pashminas, so took the opportunity to make my first souvenir purchases. I stumbled upon the Malay Heritage Center, where two unassuming men asked if I cared to enter. Intrigued, I asked the cost - so long as you agree to leave your shoes in their possession, entry is free. I obliged, and spent a few minutes learning about the rich Malay-Singaporean history of the area. After the museum I headed back toward Arab street where I knew a vendor was selling coconuts. After a refreshing drink in the hot sun, I walked down Haji Lane admiring the architecture and boutiques before making my way back to Bugis.

I was to meet Rufio at the hotel in one hour. Transit back would take about 30 minutes, so with a smirk to myself I set my sights to a corner stand I previously noticed on the Bugis Street Market to try my first taste of durian. This was the opportune moment to take advantage of a must-do item on my food bucket list. After some haggling, I convinced the vendor to sell me a freshly opened piece. I crossed the street to an empty bench where I could film my reaction in relative privacy. With the hyped impressions of Andrew Zimmern and Rufio on my mind, I took a bite. My impression: custardy-fetid-mango. Really not all that bad. I finished my piece then went back to the hotel.

Since Rufio had a few precious extra hours this day, I left the afternoon's endeavor to his choice. He enthusiastically chose the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which has become a standard on our trips. Like the zoo, the botanic gardens was one of the more impressive either of us had ever visited. The massive grounds felt like they were simply carved into the natural rainforest that once enveloped this piece of land. We spent several hours wandering through the National Orchid Garden, wetlands walk, rainforest walk and the enclosed Southeast Asian mountain garden. We were lucky to catch a highlight of the garden, the flowering talipot palm. The palm, which has finally flowered after 80 years, will bear its fruit and soon perish. The grounds were wonderfully manicured and crawling with patrons on a hot, humid winter day. Days of walking city streets were beginning to take a toll on my calves, so after a few hours we headed back to the hotel lounge for cocktails.

For some time we had discussed seeking out the famed Southeastern Asian delicacies of crispy crawly critters. Rufio asked around and found a restaurant in VivoCity, the sprawling mall at the access point to Sentosa Island. We found Imperial Herbal Garden restaurant on an upper level and took a seat on quirky neon hand shaped chairs. We knew in advance our foods of interest were not listed on the menu, so did not hesitate to ask the server about availability as soon as she approached. She said there were a few orders of scorpion and ant remaining, so we ordered two right away. Looking over the drink menu, I chuckled at the varieties of "deer penis" wine available. Rufio suggested we top off our eccentric meal with an eccentric drink, so we asked for a glass and two Tigers to cleanse our palates. The dishes and wine quickly arrived. We first tried the scorpion, and were surprised to taste black licorice. We tried the ants first individually, which tasted simply like the char on a steak, then with the spongy cake on which they were served. Next we tried the wine, although we quickly wished we hadn't. It tasted somewhat like Patron Cafe, but more putrid. The photo montage of Rufio's tasting really paints the picture.

Exhausted from the late night prior and completely overwhelmed by the taste sensations we had just endured, we called it an early night and headed back to Orchard Road for the evening.   

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