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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Uniquely Singapore

I've been wanting to do an "off the beaten track" Singapore version, but been waiting for some tourists to get here and do it together. I finally did! My guinea pigs have arrived from Italy and Holland.
Little India
is not a place a local (especially Chinese) visit regularly. It is an area where foreign Indian nationals hang out on the weekend sitting on random grass patches or a place where local Indians find special spices, clothing, food or jewelry.

I bought my Indian costume from Tekka Market for $50 (which to my friend, quite a steal) to attend an Indian wedding.
The myriad of colours,smell and bustling in Little India is something which locals wouldn't really explore but increasingly bespoke new bars opening up in Little India piques a local's interest. 

In particular, Barkode (my friend's bar) located along Dunlop Street where a cute Spanish whips you a concoction.

First stop for the guinea pigs is to get some Indian food.
Banana Leaf Apollo (about $25/ pax) is the default choice. 
                            
One unique thing to do in Little India other than the sights, tastes and smell is to take a photo in the way the Indians do.
Cheesy backgrounds at $6 each (1 photo). Check out the men who are good posing with imaginary lamp posts and stairs.

Get yourself along 102 Serangoon Road where the Jungle Tandoor Restaurant is. Across the road, you'll see the Indian temple. Get to that side, walk into the little alley where you see 7-11. Further up, you'll find this small shop publicizing $3 Passport Photo.

We meet the inventive Indian photographer who takes customers against badly photoshopped pictures. So cheesy that we as tourists have to do it.
The Uncle didn't allow us to choose from the backgrounds advertised though. It was either Pagoda, India or Singapore, we felt a little bit cheated. I believe the Indian nationals in the publicized light box took these pictures, all dressed up, to send back home for their families in backward countries. Especially if they don't own a camera, they can "show" their families they've been to "KL", "Venice" and such.

So if your tourist is strapped for time, or is only here for 1 night. The Singapore backdrop is the most fitting. It has everything in it. From the Merlion, to the Singapore Flyer, to Esplanade, SIA, Marina Bay Sands, the Art Science Museum and even the dolphins from Sentosa!
So we lined up in front, and got our portrait taken, albeit the Merlion's water going straight through Joost's head.
Your newborn needs a photo too?
Getting a picture like that at a theme park will set you back $20, here, $6.
Thereafter, we trooped over to Haji Lane where sisha is smoked and customized cocktails are made in Barstories ($20-$25).
Geylang Safari
The red light district of Singapore is not a publicized tourist spot but a much loved supper spot by Singaporeans. It is an area best experienced with a local, complete with running commentary. However, it is not difficult to explore on your own as it's just one long stretch of road.

I call it the Geylang Safari because there is many different "species", both in food and in women. Geylang food store owners are exceptionally friendly, so are the prostitutes.

Smelly toufu, a Taiwanese favourite snack. I LOVE toufu but can't stomach fermented toufu. The smell is so pungent that i can't quite taste anything. You usually find it fried in Singapore, although in Taiwan, it's mostly cooked in a spicy oily soup.
Geylang Lorong 41

Also originating from Taiwan, dipping dough sticks in soya milk ($3) is quite an oily breakfast treat. We Singaporeans either have it for breakfast or as a late night supper!
Geylang Lorong 27

Beef hor fun ($18 for 3 pax) is probably the least exotic, or rather most normal to foreigners. The beef is very tender, gravy so flavourful coupled with rice flat noodles (kway tiao).
Across the road, you cannot miss the frog porridge. It's actually quite expensive for small pieces of frog ($20 for 2 frogs) but its very yummy. You may sit at the beef hor fun store and order frog over, also vice versa.
For those who haven't tried frog porridge, here's a video that'll put your adventure streak off permanently.
Go to Geylang with an adventurous streak, you'll get the most out of this red light district.
Along Lorong 135, you'll find this soup place. Almost extinct, it's hard to find such soups in Singapore anymore due to dying demands.

Choose from turtle (builds stamina, that's where Tortoise and the Hare story came about right?), crocodile (gives robust lungs, cue smokers,and cures asthma) or black chicken (nourishes all organs). Westerners have never heard of black chickens. They find it unbelievable.
No photoshop
With natural black skin and bones.
For $11, you can have a large bowl of soup and rice to go as a meal. Black chicken is very tender and alot juicer than its white counterpart. To have juicy meat, you usually go for the thighs of the normal chicken, however, that's where most fat lay. The breast meat is usually super dry. The black chicken has hardly any fat and every part is wet and smooth.

My guinea pigs were surprised with the crocodile soup! It was pretty tasty and the chunks of white crocodile meat tasted like fish except tougher but still moist!

Geylang also houses affordable tasty dim sum. You can find Wen Dao Shi at 126 Sims Avenue (also along Geylang), otherwise Mong Kok Dim Sum is also good at 214 Geylang Road.

For the local experience, i'd go for Wen Dao Shi though. Because you get to sit on the side walk, a real Asian experience!

All along Geylang Road, you'll find brightly lit fruit stalls. Crack open a durian or two and savour the pungent meat with friends along the street side with drinking water provided and wash basins available.
There's an unverified claim that in Geylang, food is found on the odd Lorong numbers while brothels are found on the even Lorong numbers.

Indeed, i find them on 16 and 18. Lit with fluorescent pink or red lights, the brothels are in business. Some have sedan cars parked in the garage, available to whisk girls to VIPs. Inside, girls sit with number tags inside a glass room, aka fish tank.

Around Geylang, you'll find street walkers. They are mostly scantily clad. Last Thursday, we were sitting down at one of the tables by the street having food and observing Geylang behaviour. The girls were standing by the streets flirting with men who walk by, tugging at their sleeves. We sent an Asian man in our group to go find out her price and then we send an Ang Moh in our group to verify. She quoted the Asian $60 but refused to do business with the Ang Moh.

When the undercover cops came, the girls dispersed and went to sit down randomly at strangers' tables, pretending to be their friends. It was quite a sight. No one was arrested.

Later we went into the brothel to also compare prices. The Asian was quoted $80 while the Ang Moh was quoted $150. Both was for 45 minutes.

As the night gets later, the safari gets more boisterous. Men with no respect eyeball women up and down, so avoid Geylang if you're uncomfortable with that. The alleys in between Lorong 16 and 18 are filled with illegal street walkers. As i mentioned "species", you'll find that the area is segmented by nationalities. One corner you'll find Indians in saris, another you'll find the Thais, then another Vietnamese etc. It's like a theme park!

As much as food is found all over Geylang Road, Karaoke pubs too.
This table is interesting. The sign says (only in Mandarin) to provide your ID, license, work permit for entry. And you can reserve your favourite girls.
We were parched from all that walking so we desperately wanted to look for a bar to chill out. I took the lead and randomly walked into one of these KTVs. Walking up the extremely dodgy poorly lit stairs, my friends behind me candidly exclaimed, "no matter what you do,don't touch the walls!"

We entered a dimly lit bar, sparsely decorated with rattan interiors. It looked like a budget motel, i felt like i was transported to somewhere else.

An oversize middle aged man immediately started rattling "50 jugs, 50 jugs!" I didn't quite understand him but politely asked if we could have a drink here. However, i did notice that no bar counter was in sight. To my left was a narrow corridor of enclosed rooms and to my right, it looked like it was somewhat a registration/ check-in counter like a motel. Chinese girls who aren't young nor nubile, in mini shorts but dimpled thighs loitered around.

"50 jugs, 50 jugs!"

I turned and asked my friends, "can you guys finish 50 jugs?"

Before we could answer, the oversize man started shooing us out, shouting "room package only, room package only."

As i descended the stairs without touching the walls, it then dawned upon me 50 jugs + room package means mass orgy in the karaoke rooms! No wonder they shooed us out, not wanting our business.
BINGO!
P.S Water bottle can be bought along Geylang Road for $5.
It's really a safari there in Geylang. It's not just the food, personalities but also the surrounding! Where else can you find hair dye as cheap as $30?!?
and jeans at $15! Logo looks suspiciously like Levis.
Oh, and check out the nasty toilet door? Yes, i was peeing AND taking a photo at the same time. Do you know that our mobile phones holds the MOST germs?
A very very old school provision shop complete with a pulley tin can where the Auntie stores her change. One of my guinea pigs asked, "what, you mean she thinks we can't reach the money this way?" Yes, the provision shop is in Asia and Asians are short.
Try out the Geylang safari, you either love it or hate it.

Here we are sitting by the road, knocking back Tiger beer $6 a bottle with discounts thrown in. There in the background, you see BudgetOne hotel where men and their hookers go to sleep.
Go on, call me an SPG.

For more late night eats, see here.

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