Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Study in Contrasts: Tiong Bahru and the Raffles Hotel

After the Fort Canning Hill tour, we struck out for one of the neighborhoods west of town. One of my friends had been taken their by one of her Singaporean friends. We got off at Tiong Bahru, and thought that we were following the signs to the local food center. But we couldn't find it...

It turns out that the food center is right in the middle of the BAO Crescent housing complex, and being just a little wary, I kept on leading us around the edge of it! Anyway, we made the food complex at 1pm, which was sub-optimal as a number of the stalls had closed. But enough were open for us to make some choices. We each picked a different noodle stall, and paid a combined S$5 (US $3.20) for our lunch! To put that in perspective, the four train rides (two there, two back), cost S$3.50... Lunch was excellent, although the portions were small by US standards. I had some noodles with pork with a side of wonton soup, and Cousin Nick had some other noodle dish.

After that, we headed back to the city. Cousin Nick went straight to the Raffles Hotel to rest his knee and get out of the heat, and I went to Chinatown. I was in search of a particular store, but the address system confused me a bit, the heat got to me, and after about 20 minutes of searching, I just didn't care enough! Instead, I walked to the Raffles from the Chinatown area. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the heat and humidity had kicked in, and I was dead by the time I got to the Long Bar.

The Long Bar is very nice, and given the atmosphere and history, reasonably priced. The beer was expensive, but all liquor in Singapore is heavily taxed. But they had free peanuts (well, not for me as I'm allergic), and we ordered some bacon rolls for a snack. Well, they brought out nine huge stuffed rolls! We gorged on our first and only western-style food in three days, and then walked to the mall across the street and took a taxi to the hotel. The taxi was a bit of an issue: there are over 40,000 taxis in Singapore, and they could probably use another 50,000. The line (about fifteen people in front of us) took twenty-five minutes.

The amazing thing to me was the contrast: In Tiong Bahru, we might have been the only Americans to have been there all year. From there cut to the Raffles, where the only locals were the ones serving us. People who visit who just stick to the comfortably safety of the 5* hotels and the massive shopping centers and the half-day bus tour... they're losing out.

We cleaned up and took a nap, and then met my friend Mark for dinner. Mark is an American who is going to graduate business school at INSEAD, split between Singapore and Fountainblue, France. We took a taxi (which was much easier to get from the hotel) for Indian food at Tandoor, in the Holiday Inn Parkview. We had a great meal and a great conversation. Afterward, taxis were too difficult to find, so we walked back to the nearest MRT stop and took the ten-minute trip back to the hotel. Our wakeup calls were for 4am, as we had a 6:45am flight to Hong Kong.


Blogger twinkie said...

I'm glad you made it to Tiong Bahru! Hope you're enjoying HK now! BTW, did you get to sample the durian while you were in SIN?

3:24 PM  

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