“Our passions here are food and shopping,” said my Singapore guide, Naseem. “I could eat all the time. We eat, eat, eat,” usually about five small meals a day, she said. I agreed to try.
We began a morning with Ya Kun Kaya Toast, a traditional breakfast of grilled brown bread with a slab of butter and swab of jam made from coconut milk, sugar, eggs and a fragrant tropical plant called pandan. It is served with soft boiled eggs. The eating process is dip and slurp.
I liked that morning wakeup so well that I went back for seconds two mornings later, though I did slide a bit of the jam, more intense than I prefer, off to the side.
For lunch we went a bit high-end, to No Signboard Seafood at Vivo City, where we found a dining room full of what appeared to be business people on expense accounts. The goal: White Pepper Crab, a first. The restaurant's specialty, stir fried with spring onions and garlic, was big, flaky, and peppery. Fellow traveler Fran Golden and I shared it at $72 Singapore (about $58 US), with various side dishes.
Several hours later we were eating again, at the very grand opening of Jiu Zhuang, an Asian fusion restaurant and pub described by one of its managers as a premium pour bar, my first to feature expensive spirits and dim sum. The pub, in the Dempsey neighborhood, is inspired by 1920s Shanghai and designed, say its owners, as a neo-Siheyuan style residence with an emphasis on Chinese heritage. We drank Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2005 and sake from Iwamura Brewery, the Onnajoshu “Lady of the Castle” Premium with real gold flakes. We tasted deep-fried fish skin, smoked taiwanese ika, baby abalone, and the house specialty of foie gras guo tie with minced pork filling.
I have no idea what the price of all this would have been on a real dining night, but surely more than I normally spend for food for a week or maybe a month. Put this on your Singapore splurge list, if you've got one.
I had no space for a fifth meal.
The Art of the Brick
The huge Marina Bay Sands complex, with casino and hotel, also houses the ArtScience Museum, which is showing (through May 26, 2013) the Art of the Brick, sculptures of LEGO bricks by Nathan Sawaya.
It is okay to chew gum
If you want to make a friend in Singapore, bring some chewing gum to give away, as none of that messy stuff is sold here in any store.
Don’t worry about chewing your own, as the days of caning gum-chomping miscreants has ended. Remember the Ohio boy caned in Singapore? I would be careful about disposal, however. Don’t plan to stick your chewed stuff under any seat in this city, which is known for tough policies on such unmannerly behavior as littering or contributing to grid lock at traffic intersections. Both carry heavy fines.
Wheeling about the Singapore skyline
We finished our food day on the Singapore Flyer, a giant wheel that reaches about 42 stories high with views as distant as Malaysia and Indonesia. The wheel (pictured below) moves slowly, taking 30 minutes for each of the 28-passenger capsules to make a full circle. ($33 adult, $24 for ages 60 and older, $21 for children 3-12)
Sleeping at the Fairmont
I stayed several nights at the comfy, well-staffed Fairmont Singapore, a convenient center city location close to shopping and easy for traveling by train around town and to the airport. Rates start at about $225 a night, reasonable when compared to some of the other fancy hotels I found when searching the Internet. One of the hotel managers told me that five-star properties in Singapore get a higher rate than Fairmont, which considers itself four-and-three-quarters.
David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends. His cruise trends column appears monthly in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com