Hawker Centres... we love u!!!

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Flag of Singapore  ,
Thursday, January 6, 2011

We woke up today feeling really excited to get out and explore the city, so after a quick breakfast at the hostel we had our guidebooks out and made a plan of what we wanted to do. To help get our bearings we decided to go down to the water-front first of all and see all the big skyscrapers and famous buildings. As we were going down in the lift from our hostel we were preparing ourselves to get hit by a wall of heat and humidity as soon as the doors openned; there is nothing worse than being in an air-conditioned building all night and then going outside into the stifling heat. However, when the doors opened we were met with a lovely cool breeze and and a nice warm temperature... result!! The hostel we are staying in is on the third floor of a building right in the middle of China Town and situated on a road which gets shut every day between noon and midnight and gets turned into a long street of food vendors. There is also a Dim Sum restaurant on the ground floor of our building. So the second we walked out of our hostel we were confronted with tons of food and a mind-boggling aray of smells. We quickly headed to the MRT station before we got too distracted by all the food and we arrived at the Singapore water-front a few minutes later. 

There is a big river that runs through the middle of the Singapore business district and this is where all the big skyscrapers and water-front esplanade is and where we decided to head to first. After we managed to get well and truly lost among the buildings we finally arrived at the esplanade and went for a wanders. There are some really interesting buildings and sights down there, including a theatre that is shaped like a giant hedgehog, a merlion statue (you know a merlion... everyone knows what a merlion is... well actually Singapore made up the Merlion animal for a tourism advert and then built a statue of it), the world's only curved double-helix bridge (huh!?), the world's biggest ferris wheel and the world's biggest infinity swimming pool on top of a hotel, which looks like a squashed boat which is just dangling in space. After spending a few hours wandering around and taking it all in it started to pour with rain and we got soaked to the skin. We lost our umbrella somewhere in Australia and kept forgetting to get a new one so we ended up cowering under a bridge until the worst of the rain eased off. However, even once the rain had finished I was slipping everywhere like an old drunkard because I was wearing the world's worst flip-flops which I picked up in an Aussie supermarket and couldn't even walk from one end of the street to the other without nearly falling flat on my face; at one point Tom even said to me "I've got a good mind to send you back to the hostel to put some proper shoes on". Surfice to say I laughed my head off when he said that to me and then nearly fell over from laughing too hard. So once I had managed to get steady on my feet we decided that the best thing to do was to go and get some food!

So we headed over to the food court at the local mall and had our first taste of Singapore. We had read plenty of times in our guidebooks and on the internet that Singapore is the food capital of South East Asia because it offers such a huge variety of food from all across Asia, so we had pretty high expectations of our first meal here. Whilst we are in Singapore we will mostly be eating at these food-court type of places, which you get in a lot of shopping malls but also in purpose built marquees or just lining the streets. They are made up of about 20 different food vendors all specialising in different types of food and there will be a couple of drinks and desert vendors too. All you do is go for a wander around the different stalls, order what ever you want (which normally means a couple of dishes from different vendors) and then you find yourself a seat at the picnic tables and chairs (or crates in the really cheap places) and tuck in. These type of places are called Hawker Centres and are where the locals come to get cheap, good food and some of them are open 24 hours; you don't tend to get many tourists at these hawkers because they aren't as nice or flashy as a proper restaurant, but they are where you can get some of the best food made by people who have been cooking for their entire lives. So we headed into our first hawker, which was based in one of the shopping malls and quite similar to the food-courts back in the UK, and went for a wander around the different vendors. Because we are obviously tourists we started getting called to straight away: "You want cheap noodle? Chicken or beef? Baked beans and chicken nuggets?". After a little wander we decided to share a bowl of Tom Yam fried rice, so Tom went to get us a seat while I ordered our food. A few minutes later we were tucking into a delicious (and massive) bowl of fried rice. It was so yummy and spicy; we were really happy that we had gone for this dish and polished it off pretty quickly! It reminded us of how great the food had been in Hong Kong and how much we both enjoy eating with chop-sticks as you end up eating a lot slower and you really savour your food because you are taking your time to taste it properly. 

After our lunch we ended up getting lost in the underground maze of shopping malls that connect the MRT stops. We must have spent about 2 hours just wandering around looking at things and then saying: "Haven't we already been here once?". Once we finally figured out where we were, we headed up to ground-level and went to visit the famous Raffles Hotel. I don't know much about this hotel other than the fact that the Singapore Sling drink was invented here and that there is a strict dress-code. Considering that I was wearing flip-flops and Tom was wearing his scruffy old hiking boots, and we were both soaked to the skin, we decided not to even bother trying to go inside so instead we just went for wander around the outside of the building to take some photos. It was quite funny as we walked around because the security guards were looking at us as if to say: "Go on, I dare u to try and get in here". But we just smiled sweetly and kept walking. 

We were getting pretty worn out by this point; this is the most activity we have done in ages! So we headed back to China Town and after going for a little walk around the streets nearby, we went back to the hostel for a well earned rest. Later that evening we went to another hawker around the corner from our hostel and got some tea; Pad Thai noodles for Tom and vermicelli noodles for me. It was really yummy, especially the Pad Thai, and we went back to hostel feeling very full, very happy and very tired.  
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