Thursday, April 21, 2011

East meets West: Singaporean Traditional Breakfast

During my travels, I've encountered many instances where history and at times globalization have mixed eastern and western cultures together: Portuguese and Chinese street signs in Macau, British pubs in Hong Kong and 60 year old Caucasians men with 30 year old filipinas in Angeles City (heyo!). I was aware of this fusion throughout my travels and an example came to me while having breakfast in Singapore: the breakfast itself.

Western and Eastern at the same time

The breakfast consists of:
  • Toast with kaya spread and a healthy (in regards to portion size, not cardiovascular) slab of butter
  • Soft boiled eggs eaten with a pinch of salt and a dab of soy sauce
  • Strong coffee ("weak" coffee makes me palpitate)
The toast and the butter are western staples, while the super sweet kaya spread is made of eggs, sugar and coconut milk, which can be more associated as an eastern flavor.The soy sauce adds a bit of an eastern flavor to the soft boiled eggs and it goes surprisingly well together. I usually do not drink coffee but decided that it complete the experience and it certainly did. Very very strong coffee, wired for an hour. That sums up the Singaporean traditional breakfast as it was explained to me, and I now make softboiled eggs in the morning and add soy sauce.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Singapore Trip

As my time in the Philippines wound down, I had one last side-trip: Singapore. This time, my aunt and uncle came along with my cousin Bryan and myself. Although Singapore would be more expensive than Hong Kong, we had a place to stay: another cousin has lived there since 2006. We would depart from Diasdado Macapagal International Airport in what used to be Clark Air Force Base in Angeles rather than Manila. It was a nice change: two terminals, short lines and relatively no hassle and soon enough, our 3 hour flight to Singapore began. I read somewhere that Singapore is among the most crowded ports in the world and it was evident as we descended into Changi airport's budget terminal.

I'm a rogue airline passenger, snapping pics while prohibited
There isn't really a whole lot to write about my experiences in Singapore. It was far more laid back than the Hong Kong trip plus it rained the first two days there and the going was a bit slower with my aunt and uncle. I have nothing but admiration for the city itself - clean, beautiful, accessible to a highly efficient (and relatively cheap) public transport system. Singaporeans and tourists alike can complain about the numerous rules and fines that they maybe subjected to, but the results can speak for themselves. Turns out, my time in Singapore overlapped UNC Charlotte's Model UN club, with whom friend Katie Hadley is a member of. We talked about meeting up but it never happened as we could only communicate through facebook.

Found in the MRT (subway). The Durian ban actually makes a lot of sense
Since there isn't too much to write about the trip, I'll just post up a series of photos and summarize it at the end.

Rainy Chinatown

Monk at my first Buddhist temple visit (in Asia)
Unfortunately, no one was interested in visiting one of the Sinapore's mosques or venturing to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Singapore's financial district, sans the nation's icon, the Merlion (struck by lightning)

Spectacular mist and light show near Marina Bay sands
I caught the closing part of this light show with my Droid.

Marina Bay Sands Mall/Hotel/Casino at night. Will be revisited in another blog.

Found on Sentosa island, a reclaimed portion of Singapore with attractions. Even had pretty beach scenery save the aforementioned tankers seen from a distance.

The Lesser Merlion
Random facts and thoughts:
  • Alcohol is taxed heavily, getting a pint of beer cost $10 SD was considered reasonable
  • And no, $1 USD was only equivalent to roughly $1.12 SD
  • Cigarettes were also taxed heavily
  • Singapore has a chain of state-regulated grocery stores
  • Singapore has armed forces, ready to die for their 50 square miles (?)
  • Uncle said "wherever there are Indians, there will be filipinos" and it's true in Singapore. Lucky Plaza, a local shopping mall even smells like their counterparts in Manila
With cousins before Luge ride
I could see myself living in Singapore with its cleanliness and efficiency, and of course the food (loved the Bak kut teh). My cousin Bryan remained therewith my cousin Lisa for another month looking for a job (somewhat illegally) and we had to part ways. It was difficult because Bryan and I were constantly around each other for 6 weeks and I'm fairly close to Lisa (we skype periodically) and I truly loved the city and felt there was more to be seen. The farewells in Singapore was also the first of a series of goodbyes. Once we landed back at Clark in the Philippines late during the night, I only had 48 hours left of this wonderful trip. I'll surely be back and see all it has to offer and definitely take that hop, skip and jump to Kuala Lumpur.

In six weeks, I felt like I saw extreme beauty, poverty, perspectives and most importantly my extended family once again. I'm missing them as I type this and who knows when I'll get the chance to once again. My mother questioned the timing of my trip, but there could not have been a better timing: airfare was cheap, weather was not brutal, and some cousins were in between jobs and had time to spend time with me. In fact I saw every single one of my (legitimate) cousins and even met some (illegitimate) new ones. If I ever have children, I will want them to take a trip like mine and hopefully get as much out of it as I did.