Exploring all the iconic attractions, delighting in the local cuisine and the rich culture was all part of Michael Townsend's first experience of Singapore. Here, he shares with us his insights and highlights of the city known as the gateway to the East.
When I first heard I was going to Singapore, I was excited. I was particularly keen on being exposed to new cultures and learning about Singapore first hand, and the specific cultural practice I was most interested in was eating.
Before we left I spent ages browsing the web looking up Singaporean restaurants and their specialties, sending my envious girlfriend links to everything I planned on eating. She eventually made me promise to send her a photo of each and every meal I ate while I was away so that she could enjoy the food vicariously through me.
On our first day we got up nice and early (which was easy to do – even for me – as we gained three hours when we arrived) and went to Killiney Kopitiam for a traditional Singaporean breakfast. We had Kaya toast (toast prepared with sugar, coconut milk, eggs and a plant called pandan), soft boiled eggs blended with soya sauce, coffee, and I had some chicken curry on the side to top it all off. The food was good, different and cheap with the coffee being the highlight as it was brewed with condensed milk making it very popular among my brother James and I (although my mum, being a coffee snob, was not such a fan).
After that we went to the Peranakan Museum. The first thing we learned was that ‘Peranakan’ generally refers to the Chinese settlers who married with the local Malays and their subsequent descendants and that it can also refer to smaller communities of Indian Hindu Peranakans, Indian Muslim Peranakans and Eurasian Peranakans. The museum itself curates a number of Peranakan cultural artefacts such as their traditional wedding dresses, costumes, and most impressive to me a handcrafted tablecloth made with over a million beads.
Another thing we checked out during the trip was the Merlion at Marina Bay. We decided to go full tourist with our sunglasses on and our phone cameras out and made sure we got a photo with the icon.
While we were there we also got a bumboat ride down the Singapore River to Clarke Quay where we got a great view of the city skyline as well as a history of how the city was built along the way. Other than my mum nearly dropping her phone in the water trying to take photos of us, I’d have called it a success.
Another thing we got to do was visit Little India and Chinatown. Both had a great array of markets to explore with food, gifts and clothes all over the place and each had their own Heritage Centre to checkout afterwards. While we were in Chinatown I stole my brother’s idea of buying his girlfriend a pair of chopsticks which went down very well, at least on my end.
Despite getting the gift in Chinatown, I do have to say Little India topped it for me. This was simply because Indian curry is by far my favourite food and we got to have a delicious meal of Palak Paneer, Chicken Korma, Garlic and Cheese Naan, Vegetable Curry, Dahl and Saffron rice all eaten off a banana leaf. The only downside was that because I was so eager to eat the food, I completely forgot to take a photo of it and only remembered as we were walking out!
Overall Singapore was a great place to visit as a family. My brother and I got to go off on our own to do some shopping or exploring while my mum could stay at the hotel for a massage without having to stress at all about our safety. Everyone spoke English, and transport wasn’t an issue at all, so it was very easy to get by. And none of that was at a price of a less interesting trip – there was really interesting blend of old and new cultures as well as incredibly diverse neighbourhoods to go to. It’s a perfect place for a stopover, but if you can it’s worth spending a week as there’s a lot to take in!
Explore Singapore Now: http://www.yoursingapore.com/en.html
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