My plane landed early last night at 8.45pm and by 9.15 I was on a train into town, ecstatic that the credit of $15.67 was still on my NETS card from June and ready for use at the ticket gate. I only had my little carry-on suitcase so it was an easy stroll from Outram Park station in the cool of the evening up to my flat at 55 Tiong Bahru Road.
After the initial hassle of the security code not working and a hurried phone call to my lease holder I was in, bag dumped, and back on the street down to Chinatown to stretch my legs and see if I could procure cakes for breakfast. No such luck – it was a bit late and my regular shops were closed for the night. Oh well, I’ll just have to hope the bakery downstairs from my flat opens early!
I didn’t sleep too well during the night so had a bit of a sleep in, listening to the sounds around my dwelling and out on the street. I heard the shutters go up on the bakery at 7am but was wasn’t quite ready to face the world, so had a cuppa, the left-over snacks from my Qantas meals; unpacked my suitcase and had a good scrub up testing the bathroom facilities. This flat doesn’t have the views and charisma of the iconic Pearl Bank Apartments, but it’s heaps better and a tad cheaper than the tiny hotel rooms in Chinatown.
I ducked downstairs at 9am to see what the bakery had ready, but unfortunately they weren’t quite open for business. The roller doors I’d heard earlier must have been the workers/bakers turning up to start their shifts. The flat is only a short block from the Tiong Bahru Market and I knew there were keuh (sweet) stalls there so wandered up the road to see if they were open yet.
Saturday morning, the place was bustling with people and traffic jams around the entrance as taxi’s dropped off shoppers. This looked promising for breakfast ingredient gathering. Five minutes later I had pre-peeled paw-paw and pineapple and a small selection of sticky rice cakes to sustain me for the first few hours of the day. Time to head back to the flat and put the kettle on. In the meantime, my local bakery had opened and were busy bagging up a variety of cakes, tarts and breads for customers, so I topped up my purchases with some pandan pancakes filled with coconut and jaggery.
A bit of a slow start today but by 10.30 I was ready for exploring and possibly another meal. It was straight back to the Tiong Bahru Market for the famous Fried Fish soup. Last time I was there a huge queue snaked back through the venue so best to get in early before the lunchtime rush I thought. Good planning – no queue and they gave me the most generous of servings, even better than I’d remembered. A light broth with rice noodles, fried fish pieces, fried egg the consistency of bean curd skin, lettuce, crispy salty fish skin and loads of fresh coriander. A perfect meal for $5. No wonder people line up for this one.
After my 2nd breakfast I did the rounds of the other food stalls to plan some future meals and was tempted to join a couple of old fellows in a beer and a sing-a-long to the music blaring from their cassette player on the table. A bit early to start drinking I thought, but obviously not for them, and it was Saturday. Ice Kopi-O (black ice coffee) in hand I noted down a tasty looking Indonesian stall to visit later, and bought some sticky rice and taro cakes for tomorrow’s first breakfast.
Time then to walk off some of this food and explore the streets of Tiong Bahru. I finally worked out how to get to the MRT station after getting lost earlier in the year, and snapped a few photos of the different types of medium density living quarters typical of this neighbourhood. It’s nice to see that hanging washing off the balconies and out through windows on poles hasn’t been banned here yet. With todays’ fluoro clothing fashion trend, it was quite a colourful sight!
Still feeling a little weakened by the flight and lack of sleep I retired to my flat for a quick break and recoup before heading down to Chinatown for some shopping for a few necessities. Singapore is often on par with Oz for most grocery items but when you can get Sensodyne toothpaste for $2.50 and my Oil of Ulan anti-aging cream (as if it really works) for half price I stock up while here. And I desperately needed some soya milk for my tea. One of the drawbacks of staying Airbnb – no tea/coffee/milk provided! Last stop was the newspaper stand for the weekend Straits Times – how nice they remembered me from my month here in June. It’s good to revisit some of these old acquaintances and keep the relationships going.
My backpack was getting heavy so time to take the several kilos of newsprint and milk home before deciding on the next sojourn.
I hadn’t had lunch yet and it was nearing 3pm so though I’d try my luck back at Tiong Bahru market for some Tahu Goreng (fried tofu with satay sauce). Too late. The Indo stall was closed for the day so I’ll have to settle for an early dinner instead. There was a possible dinner date with some friends in the offering but still no firm arrangements so I managed with an afternoon cuppa, the remains of sticky rice cakes from breakfast and a quick read of the lifestyle segment of the weekend paper.
Word came through from expat friend Susan living in Singapore, whom I met at the Oz Embassy during the Federal election campaign, that dinner was on at a Thai restaurant along the riverside. You bewdy! I get to catch with them over a few beers and finally meet the elusive husband Brian I felt I know so well from fb posts but not met in person. It was lovely to chew over the state of politics in Australia, the results of the various elections campaigns (Federal, NT and ACT) and how our lives were progressing since we’d last seen each other in June.
So, after a tasty, proper restaurant dinner instead of my usual roadside cafe, I’ve wandered home in the dark along some new streets and managed not to get lost – looking forward to an early Saturday night before a big day tomorrow. Susan laughed when I said I had a spreadsheet drawn up for these 4 days! So much to do and so little time. Apparently, it is Diwali time in Singapore and I’m heading to Little India tomorrow, amongst other things. Wish me luck making it through the craziness of Serangoon Rd on a Sunday.