Sunday, March 26, 2017

This is Home

Referring of course, to Singapore, my home turf. Each trip back to my birthplace is different because I've been visiting at 2-3 year intervals since we emigrated in 2003 and find I'm a slightly changed person each time I go back. This January I traveled to Singapore for 18 days with my sister and had a great time - shopped a little, ate some and spent a lot of time with beloved relatives by cramming so much into our days. Reconnecting with family is always the highlight (all of my extended family is still in Singapore) but this trip also had some quality attractions and memorable meals. Get a cup of tea, it's going to be a long scroll!

We went boating with our uncle's family to Pulau Hantu, which is an island off the southern coast. It's fairly small and we spent a few hours there swimming in the relatively polluted waters (I've never missed Australian beaches more!) and cracking open coconuts with our cousins.

Our uncle and his friends set up a rotisserie for a big French chicken and had a barbecue with chicken wings, lamb cutlets and sausages going.

Pulau Hantu translates to 'Ghost Island' - how eerie.

I was pleasantly surprised by the serenity found by escaping Singapore city and scouting random little islands. Life in Singapore comes with weekends full of tuition, swim classes, extra-curricular activities so seeing this boat life aspect was different,

We visited a few different hawker centres - this one is Newton Circus and attracts lots of tourists because of its proximity to Orchard Road. We had good prata at Upper Thomson, good popiah and kueh pie tee, Hokkien Mee and Oyster omelette at Old Airport Road and good fish ball soup at Hong Lim.

We tried gong gong for the first time! Interesting texture, and the flavour is similar to clam.

One of the easiest-to-eat crabs I've ever had!

I really enjoyed the building highlights tour of the National Gallery! It was so interesting learning about the two building's previous lives as City Hall and Supreme Court and how they transitioned into the National Gallery it is today.

The rooftop of the National Gallery has the most breathtaking view of Singapore's most iconic buildings. Highly recommend if you're visiting!

Stumbled upon Din Tai Fung when we were lost looking for Raffles City and got off the MRT at the wrong stop. We hadn't eaten there before and it was on our list of places to go so we tried their famous Xiao Long Bao for the first time! It was as good as expected.

Their Zhajiangmian is different to others I've tried before! I don't think I prefer it to New Shanghai's version though.

Jelly, Ice and Fruit Cocktail with lime juice at Food Junction in Bugis when we were tired.

Our trip began two and a half weeks before Chinese New Year, allowing us to witness the preparation for the festivities, which are more of an attraction than the festivities on the day itself. Our aunt took us to Chinatown to have a look around and it was hot, crowded and abashedly Chinese.

We sought refuge in a small but bustling Chinese dessert shop. I never knew mango pomelo sago was so good!

A newspaper clipping that a relative had sent to us about what was on at the time mentioned a flea market at Lepark, on the rooftop of People's Park Complex and we had a quick look at the wares the stalls were selling- the majority of goods for sale was moderately priced casual trendy clothing and jewellery. The view was pretty great though! It started pouring down shortly after left - Singapore weather is not conducive to outdoor events!

Pretty pastel shades and bum boats at Clarke Quay 

Dinner at Old Airport Road, which was so good! We weren't able to return for more meals there but we definitely will next time. This is satay, with peanut sauce and ketupat pressed rice.

Rojak which was good but not my favourite local dish because it is a bit too flavoursome and packs such a punch.

Crispy oyster omelette - the best we tried in our time there!

The best Hokkien Mee we had aside from our grand-aunt's homecooked version!

We went on an early morning walk to Henderson Waves with our grand-uncle and I racked up a lot of steps on my Fitbit.

Views out to Reflections on one side, and Sentosa on the other.

Henderson Waves walks in the morning. It gets very hot midday so the outdoor activities we planned had to be done from 7am to 11am.

Long queues for wonton mee at Tiong Bahru.

Stayed at our grand-uncle's house which is incredibly near to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, and thoroughly enjoyed a morning walk exploring the grounds.

Turtles swimming in the lakes.

Our art-loving aunt told us we couldn't miss the Singapore Biennale 2016 and it was indeed striking.

Desert Islands; Mirror tiles with islands of significance and their coordinates printed on them.

SONICreflection; An installation of light and sounds of the street.

Paracosmos; A beautiful curved wall with irregular egg-shaped mirrors on them.

Noah's Garden II; a mirrored installation with revolving elements in the Chapel

Locus Amoenus; Gorgeous paper foliage made out of maps in the Glass Porch

Walked through Haji Lane and Kampong Glam with our cousin and a friend. Pretty cute and the street art is a nice touch but considering it's a tourist street I was surprised to find it lined with bins.

Tried Tim Ho Wan for the first time - we visited the Plaza Singapura branch. We steered clear of our usual yumcha faves because we hadn't heard great things about those, but the items THW are known for (baked pork buns and radish cake) definitely lived up to expectations.

Visited Sun with Moon at Wheelock Place for dinner with Mum's friends and tried kamameshi for the first time! It's like a Japanese version of claypot rice with extra broth on the side.

Skincare loot - I love HadaLabo and it's so accessible! I wouldn't recommend the L'Oreal hair 'frizz eraser' though. The Biore sunscreen, HadaLabo cleanser, hydrating lotion, and water gel are all great.

While we packed a tonne into our itinerary and tried to spend as much time as we could with our family, I wish we could have done more! Possibly staying a bit longer, taking it a bit slower and relaxing more would have been a sweet ending to the trip. We crashed with family for most of it, and stayed in a hotel for a night as a treat and that was so much fun - I wish we had extended our hotel stay! I enjoyed this trip immensely and reconnecting with our extended family as young adults without our parents around was a new experience for me and my sister. Definitely one to remember and a holiday back home that is goes down as one of the best yet!

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