In 2009 I was a neophyte, travelling on a shoestring when I met a backpacker in Singapore, who said it was the best jump-off point to see South East Asia. He went from the tiny lion city, upwards to the Malaysian peninsula, going to Hatyai, Thailand and then started exploring the mainland of South East Asia. I was not a backpacker when I came to know Singapore. I worked and lived there for 7 years. Travelling around the region, when you aptly start from this pretty island-state, is as easy as tying your shoe strings!
Whether you are a first-timer or not, you have to remember two things that this little red dot is very famous for: food and shopping. As a food tripper, I loved Singapore. It is the only place I know where there is food literally everywhere, anywhere! Every turn, every corner, every station, every block. You will never go hungry here.! And it does not matter if you are travelling on both loose and tight budgets, your Singapore dollars will get you decent food. And the food that Singapore offers is not limited to Chinese, you won’t need too much money to give you ample tastes of other cuisines famous in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Hongkong and even the Middle East.
So let’s go to Chinatown first, whose streets are known for their best restaurants and a fiery night market, flooded with red lanterns that have many secrets to tell. Notice the busy pedestrian malls, art houses, museums, street artists, thirst-quenching local and imported beverages, souvenir items at really good bargain deals or a foot and body massage offered in old Chinese, shop houses. Oh yes, welcome to Chinatown!
Smith Street is known for a string of hawkers, crowding in the middle of the street which caters to an outdoor eating area. As soon as dusk falls, this part of the street, perfect with high ceilings and tall, posh side posts, becomes a venue for the noisy and boisterous laughing and no-secrets talk while eating with your friends. Regular servers go on side to side, end to end, to offer you loads of beer and other drinks. Here, you have a wide choice of southeast Asian meals on the table–satay (grilled meat cubes on stick ranging from chicken, mutton, beef), noodles of many kinds, cooked with fish heads or with seafood and bear in mind that the delectable Kway Teow and Ho Kien Mee are officially in the must-try list. Singaporeans love fried rice of various mixtures, from meat, seafood and vegetables. Of course, you must not miss the sting-ray that will burn your nose and red-hot chill or pepper crabs to break your no-calories rule!
Trengganu Street pays tribute to a sultanate or state of Malaysia. It is very prominent as a pedestrian mall, catering to a flock of bargain sellers of local products and street arts. You will find the famous Da Dong Restaurant, loved for the savoury flavour of Peking duck. Try the famous duck dish from Beijing and enjoy the thin, crisp skin of ducks seasoned for at least two months before being roasted in a closed oven.
At Pagoda Street, you find your eyes wandering at a stretch of another pedestrian mall, beaming with retail shops, massage parlours and of course, restaurants. Pagoda Street, although not notable for any Chinese pagodas, was named as such, because of the pagoda-looking monumental towers of the Sri Mariaman Temple, standing proud of their deities at the end of the street. Here, you will find the Chinatown Heritage Center recording the history and heritage of early Chinese settlers. I am sure your heart will melt at the story of the Samsui women, more than a hundred thousand of them, from Guangdong Province in China who came to Singapore between 1934 and 1938 as cheap labourers in the construction industries that squeezed out hard labour.
So I hope you got a quick glimpse on what this roaring lion city has to offer when you come to this part of the world. Streets in Chinatown will give your food craving a really crazy feast. This is a hearty pleasure beyond heaven ,when you are yearning to enjoy a soulful and colourful journey, Chinatown is yet to fulfill a promise to experience its multi-cultural and multi-religious harmony when you come to Mosque Street (the Green Mosque), Temple Street (Hindu Temple) and Banda Street (where the Buddha Tooth-relic Temple is erected). You will need a day or two to finish what you want to know about the streets in Chinatown.