Ok, you may or may not recall how in a recent post I said I disliked those ‘list-type’ travelogues? I still do. But I’m going to go ahead and do another one against my better judgement, ‘just because’ (read: Yes, I am in fact quite the rebel! The other day, I decided to take a different route to the grocery store — most thrilling living life on the edge!)
1 National Orchid Garden
Hosted within the Singapore Botanic Garden, the National Orchid Garden isn’t just for orchidologists (yes, that’s a real word, and no, I didn’t realize someone else had invented the term before I thought of it).
The National Orchid Garden (or the NOG* as I shall refer to it henceforth – in an effort to save time, and because, let’s face it, I’m too lazy to type out ‘National Orchid Garden’ every time I want to mention it), is home to a lot of orchids. And when I say a lot, I really mean a lot (close to 500 species and over 2,000 hybrids).
The 500 species are lovely to look at and all, but what you ought to really be interested in are the names given to hybrid varieties. For example, the Renaglottis Ricky Martin, was, quite surprisingly, named after Ricky Martin. Mind you, it’s not the prettiest of the lot – even the ‘Margret Thatcher’ (hybrid) was prettier.
Which leads me to a new personal goal – I should very much like to have an orchid named after me.
But I digress, long story short, if you like colours, or you like colourful flowering plants, or if you like taking photographs of / sketching said colourful flowering plants, or if you’re an orchidologist, a visit to ze NOG is highly recommended.
2 Newton Hawker’s Centre
If you like good food, and want to venture into the territory of ‘street food’ (as ‘street food-y’ as it gets in SG), the Newton Hawker Centre is the place to be (not that I think there’s anything wrong with the other hawker centres in Singapore, I’ve found a few nice places to eat in Tekka, too… but the Newton HC has, in my opinion, higher quality and more variety).
You can try everything from roti prata and bandung (not recommended for people like André 3000, who think ‘roses really smell like poo-oo-oo’) to stellar Indian food.
Note to germophobic foodies: Keep a look out for “A” rated stalls, these have the highest hygiene ratings, and there are only a handful in the vicinity.
Note to the everyday tourist: You’ll most probably notice that most stalls don’t have tissues beside their cutlery, and will come across people hawking packs of tissues, wet-ones, and the like. If you’re in need of any of the same, please consider buying them from these individuals, as it is their primary source of income.
3 Chinatown and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
You know how everyone says Singapore is ‘Asia for beginners’. Well, in all honesty, it is. More people speak English than you’d expect in mainland China, and as far as safety and cleanliness go, it’s pretty darn impressive.
So, to put it mildly, Chinatown is ‘Asia 101: Intro to Chinese Culture’ from a Singaporean perspective.
While you’re still exposed to all things Singaporean (ex. shop houses, durian flavoured ice-cream, and kopitiams), you can also get a fair taste of all things Chinese.
Chinatown has enough shops and stalls, complete with old-lady-stall-keepers-to-haggle-with; enough questionable (and often unidentifiable) smells; and lest I forget, a beautiful Buddhist temple with a sacred tooth relic.
The Kreta Ayer Square, behind the Tooth Relic Temple, is especially abuzz on Sundays, when the air is filled with chants from the temple, and noise from the square itself, originating from elderly men playing chess and arguing over whose move it should have been.
‘Kopitiams’ or coffee shops, in Singapore are a dime a dozen. So naturally, to anyone who isn’t used to such a density of cafés, this is somewhat daunting. Not daunting because these have signs outside them which read ‘Screw the French Press we’ve a the Sock’ (photographic evidence to be uploaded soon) but mainly because the menu is quite unlike most Parisienne cafés.
While I can dissect the menu quite aptly, I don’t want to seem like too much of a show-off. So, here’s what I’ll do instead, I’ll give you the 4/11 on kopitiammust-tries, and you can thank me later eating a kaya toast on my behalf. Or a sugar-butter toast, since I can’t eat those any more on account of my giving up sugar. And butter.
Try: kopi (coffee); kopi in a plastic bag (yes, that’s a ‘thing’); and if they have it, bubble or pearl tea.
Must try: anything that ends with ‘toast’ – kaya toast (a toast with coconut jam); sugar-butter toast (a toast with a slice of butter the thickness of a penny and enough sugar to take you back to your youth when you were blissfully unaware of how awful sugar really is for you).
Be warned though, Singaporeans like their food sweet, so everything comes with an extra gallon of sugar syrup (trust me, I lived there for a year). So if you want your bubble tea or lemonade sans sucre, repeat, repeat, repeat, and mentally prepare yourself for an overly sweetened drink regardless!
5 ‘Mint’ Museum of Toys
Really, who doesn’t like toys?
Granted, ‘toy museums’ are usually where they keep toys which you can’t play with (anymore), but toys are amazing nonetheless!
This museum has a fairly good spread of toys, even if there is little information accompanying them (why do ‘museums’ do this?) and you’ll see a lot more than just figurines and dolls from different parts of the world. Practically everything toy-themed has made it’s way onto a shelf here. Like this Popeye string-holder:
* The NOG or ze NOG: an abbreviation for “The National Orchid Garden” and an abbreviation for “The National Orchid Garden”, as said with a French accent. (I don’t know why, but it just sounds more natural saying ‘ze NOG’)
That’s all for now, stay tuned for Part Deux of this post (that’s ‘part two’ for those of you who don’t speak French).
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