Day 2 Singapore Oct 2016 (Little India)

After a much better sleep I was up early and raring to go this morning. Today was to be a day of reminiscing and visiting old favourites, along with a bit of research into potential areas to stay for my next extended visit in Winter 2017.

I’d picked up some keuh made from sweet potato at Tiong Bahru Market yesterday – steamed purple, orange and white fleshed tubers mixed with sugar and possibly rice flour, then coated in fresh shredded coconut. I’m not going to be here enough days to try all that’s on offer from the Harrianns Delights stall but my first dabble was delicious.

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My regular Sunday brunches in June were at the Chinatown station complex – a simple little place serving noodles, fried eggs and a couple of other dishes including steamed cabbage and an awesome mild chilli sambal. That and an Eis-Kopi-O (black iced coffee) gave me strength for a train trip to Newton and a long walk around to Novena station then Farrar Park at the top end of Little India.

Google maps feature the Newton Food Centre so I crossed the highway for a look – a bit disappointing. Not many stalls were open at 10.30 am but I wasn’t there to eat; more to check out the general vibe of the area should I choose to stay around there. The many bus parking bays in the carpark were a dead giveaway. This place must be on the tourist trail and there was plenty of seating available to cater for large groups. I bet the prices are inflated as well – but only guessing.

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The walk from Newton to Novena was filled with architectural wonder. If anyone is interested in modern high density living, Singapore is definitely the place to come. Every area and district is a little different and there are some superb structures, many with little flourishes to cap off the sameness of a multitude of tower blocks. I find myself gazing upwards, admiring gardens at 30 stories high, photographing turrets and water features, and tripping over the footpath not looking where I’m going. Even the Methodist Church was not to be outdone by its towering neighbours. Seriously – get on a train one day and pick a station at random and check out the neighbourhood. Marina Sands Bay Hotel although spectacular, is photographed far too often when there are others almost as stunning everywhere you look.

Arriving at Novena town centre, a very modern and clean looking suburb full of expats and their dogs doing brunch, I decided to continue walking towards Farrar Park as there are a few Airbnb Flats around there for rent that might suit my needs for next winter. As nice as the Novena area was, I don’t think it’s for me. It could easily be a suburb of Melbourne or Sydney and that’s not the experience I want.

The MRT stations and bus stops very conveniently have local area maps to navigate by. I completely forgot to pack or pick up a Singapore street map this time so am trusting my senses, which occasionally go haywire and lead me in the wrong direction. Or I get side tracked by a sign that says “Market” and take off down a side street, forgetting which way I’d come from. I found myself in the lovely low rise area of Cambridge Estate on such a detour this afternoon, although never did find the Pek Kio Market and Food Centre that had first attracted my attention. That can wait for another time I thought, as I admired the pot plant gardens on the street, white washed houses and street names like Dorset, Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford.  

Anyway, back on the main road again and following the bus route through to Farrer Park I arrived into the craziness of Little India on a Sunday, during Deepawali Festival. This area is always lively on a Sunday when all the workers from the Sub-continent have their day off from work to relax and socialize. Throw in a major festival as well and you can just imagine how crowded the streets, shops, restaurants and temples were. But I planned my visit to take in this spectacle and wasn’t disappointed. Don’t think I’m game enough to throw myself into the crowd when the light displays and fireworks crank up this evening though!

So, I’ve decided if I can’t get a flat in my preferred area of Chinatown, Farrer Park could be a good option, particularly food wise! It has plenty of local charm and just a little bit set back from some of the slight sleaziness and grime of Little India central.  I slowly pushed my way down Serangoon Rd along with thousands of others, all dressed up in their finery – brightly coloured sarongs and scarves for the women, yellow or orange dhotis for the men, admiring the overhead street decorations the full length of the street.

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On a mission to get fried Indian snacks – bajhis, pakoras, vadai, etc. I squeezed into the overflowing Tekka centre at the bottom end of Little India. I frequent this place often for its’ vast array of food stalls, fresh fruit and veg market and the aisles of ready-made Indian clothing upstairs.  Tekka has all the usual Chinese/Singaporean offerings of Chinatown but also plenty of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Indonesian and Malay. I don’t think anywhere else really comes close to the variety of cuisines available here. Plus, there’s the usual beer, coffee, cendol stalls amongst it all.

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It was too hot and crowded today to stay for a meal, so after procuring several bags of snacks I hopped back on the train to Chinatown with Tiger beer and popiah on my mind. Time to take a seat in my favourite drinking den, upstairs at the Chinatown Food Complex overlooking the Buddhist Tooth Relic Temple and observe the antics of the older Chinese gentlemen as they slowly get sloshed for the afternoon. Me – I just had one long-neck of Tiger and promised I’d return the empty bottle back to the stall holder!

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A light shower of afternoon rain had started as I tumbled back out on to the street to head homewards at 3pm. A few cups of peppermint tea, a little nibble on some Indian snacks, catch up on some writing and then I reckon it’ll be off to another favourite spot for dinner – The Mt Faber Nasi Lemak Muslim café at the top end of Chinatown for three veg dishes and coconut rice.

The nostalgic visits of the weekend are over. Tomorrow is the start of some new destinations, new MRT stations and hopefully many surprises.

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