Sumopore Sojourn: Bedded down in Balestier

Day 2: April 13th, 2015

Durian! Who needs Dorian Grey?

Durian! Who needs Dorian Grey?

In the early hours we hear the other residents of the complex preparing for their day. Our host lives in a typical, old, narrow terrace house but each floor has been divided into a series of funky one bedroom apartments, complete with tiny kitchen area and an all opaque glass cubicle wet area. A late morning for us, it isn’t long before we tip toe out of the apartment, checking for the anti-CS landlord that polices the area.

So here we are again in Singapore…

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The country’s territory consists of the diamond-shaped main island, commonly referred to as Singapore Island in English and Pulau Ujong in Malay, and more than 60 significantly smaller islets. Singapore is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to the north, and from Singapore Strait to the south. The islands were settled in the second century and subsequently belonged to a series of local empires.

Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company with permission from the Johor Sultanate. The British obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824, and Singapore became one of the British Straits Settlements in 1826. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963 and united with other former British territories to form Malaysia, from which it was expelled two years later through a unanimous act of parliament.

Singapore has since developed rapidly, earning recognition as one of the Four Asian Tigers. There are four official languages—English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil—and the country promotes multiculturalism through a range of official policies.

Wikipedia

First stop is breakfast and we couldn’t be luckier to have two local hawker markets directly opposite our accommodation. We are in the Balestier area of central Singapore. It is a local area and there is not a tourist in sight.

We sit the boys down and go take our pick. I stand in the long queue for the famous prawn noodles. Whist in line, I chat to a local who explains that the next hawker complex is best in the evening for braised duck or the stall over there, does a great fish head soup.

We both return with extra bowls and share our first Sumo-pore family breakfast with the chatter, sights and smells of Singapore.

We start walking in the sticky heat and decide to head to our old haunt, the Singapore Science Centre. This will allow air-coned comfort for awhile and is a favourite of our boys. We bought a two year membership in preparation for the Sabretoothed Chickens Tour (a bonus that it also entitles us to free entry at Scitech, in Perth), so we flash our card for free admission and target some new exhibits.

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We are soon involved in some science experiments. The activity is conducted by several young students to illustrate the scientific method. Our boys, question, hypothesis, test and conclude through several different scenarios. Then an explore before re-visiting the Van de graff show. They love watching those sparks fly!

The cloud making exhibit was also a favourite. We all had a go. Here’s Felix in action!

We pause to consider a stop at MacDonalds but on finding they have run out of ice cream, hop in a cab and are soon whizzing through the streets towards Chinatown.

Sitting in the food hall under the People’s Park Centre, we enjoy yet another hawker meal and wonder at the countless retail outlets. Prunella, Lucas and Felix relax in a tea shop, whilst Graham and Reuben explore the streets, wandering a couple of blocks to Clarke Quay.

While Prunella entertains the boys with several origami projects, she people watches. A group of senior men meet, probably everyday, just to swap news. Girlfriends out shopping. Business people stopping for a quick bite. No children.

We meet our host Jake at the Chinatown MRT station and he leads us to a locally known Hawker centre, tucked up a floor just around the corner from the overpriced tourist restaurants of the Chinatown food street. He orders many famous dishes and we try new tastes over good conversation and a few beers. We like his description that although Singapore is promoted as a melting pot of cultures, the reality is that “it is more like a salad bowl”.

The warm air is filled with chatter. Red Chinese lanterns hang over the contrast of old Chinatown terraces and the distant modern skyscrapers.We say our goodbyes to Jake, as we head homeward, only stopping for toilet paper.

A full, satisfying, tasty and tiring day on the streets of Singapore…

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Singapore’s Chinatown

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