Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23, 2017. Sailing on the Singapore River

LOCATION:  Housesitting in Singapore

WEATHER:  Same ole,same ole....Hot and humid


In the morning, we played with Sita the cat, so happy that she is back home.  She is skittish; something traumatic must have happened to her on her adventure away.    

Today's destination was the Singapore River, which runs through the city.  We took the bus and light rail to Clark Quay.  There is a row of restaurants along the river in restored warehouses.  Our homeowners had recommended Brewerkz brewpub where we had  Singapore's best beer.   We had lunch and enjoyed an IPA.  



Then we hopped on a replica of a bumboat, the boat that traders used in yesteryear, for a cruise on the river.
The views of the city were beautiful from the boat.

We had a very friendly "captain" on the boat who liked taking pictures of everyone and gave a running commentary of sites we were seeing.

We sailed by the high-rise hotel with the swimming pool on top connecting the 3 towers, where we visited a few evenings ago.  I just can't believe the architecture, and to think it is all built on reclaimed land.  The white building on the left is the Singapore Art Museum, all very modern. 


These buildings are theatres.  Locals call them "The Durians" as they look like the famous/infamous stinky durian fruit.  

Speaking of durians, we spotted these signs on the transportation systems outlawing carrying durian.  In the bus today...

And on the light rail...

Singapore is known for its cleanliness.  Garbage is picked up daily, even today Sunday.  The homeowners said that it is because Singaporeans eat a lot of seafood and it gets smelly sitting out in hot garbage cans.  Also, we have seen trucks with bug sprayers spraying periodically.  It is amazing that there aren't mosquitos here.  People keep their windows and doors open most of the time to catch a breeze, all without screens.


The government is very strong here.  It has done a tremendous amount of work to modernize the city.  It has built public housing all over the city, high-rise apartments in which about 80% of all 6 million Singaporeans live.  They look like this...

After a period of trying to keep the population under control (like China's one baby rule), they realized that they now need more population, as young couples are not having babies.  There is a baby "campaign" now with signs like this in the light rail stations...


They are also trying to green up the city.  There are lots of avenues full of beautiful trees.  This condo has a beautiful decor...

We stopped at the grocery store again for ingredients for our dinner tomorrow night that I'm making for the returning homeowners.  Crowded again.    

Back home, we showered (again) and relaxed.  Then we walked to a neighborhood restaurant, run by some Italians from Tuscany for a delicious pizza.   

Saturday, July 22, 2017

July 22, 2017. Beautiful architecture in Singapore

LOCATION:  Housesitting in Singapore

WEATHER:  Never changing:  Hot as blazes and dripping humidity


Trauma today.  Last evening, we fed our cat Sita, and then she went outside, which is her normal routine.

BUT -- she didn't come back!  I stayed up until midnight waiting for her to return but finally had to go to bed.  I was hoping/expecting to see her this morning on the doorstep, but she was not there.  I worried about her all day.  The homeowners told us that she roams around, but always comes home to eat.  Today she did not.  I was about to give up when she waltzed in the front door this evening.  Whew!  She seems a little stressed.  There is a tomcat nearby that might have held her hostage.  I'm going to keep her inside until the homeowners return, just in case.


Since we couldn't do anything about her disappearance during the day, we decided to keep with our schedule.  We took the bus and light rail to another section of town to look at the historic houses.  This area had been settled by the Peranakans, wealthy merchants who were the go-betweens between the Chinese and British.  These are called shophouses.  The first floors were shops; the second floors were the shopkeepers' homes.  The top floor has an extended balcony which gives the first floor a covered walkway,  to keep out the sun and rain.  This is an example....


Now, most of the shops have been converted to residences.  Many were being refurbished while we were visiting.  This area is called Emerald Hill, presumably because of its greenery, and quite a juxtaposition compared to its skyscraper neighbors....


Many of them have beautifully carved front doors.  
Some of them have been converted to restaurants and bars.  
Many of them have beautiful tiles, too.

We had lunch in one of the Indonesian restaurants along the street.   We learned that this used to be a nutmeg plantation until the crops failed for several years.  It is near Orchard Street, the busy shopping district where we were yesterday, which used to be full of apple orchards.  

We stopped in the visitors' center.  They invited us for a demonstration of a Singaporean snack.  We sat next to a couple from Australia and the Netherlands.  We tasted muah chee, a sweet glutinous rice ball.  When the lady pronounced it, I realized it is just like Japanese mochi, the same sticky sweet rice balls that the Japanese love.  I wonder which came first - muah chee or mochi?  Interesting.  

We stopped at the grocery store in the light rail station hub on our way home.  Saturday must be market day as it was packed.  We lugged the food home, and then relaxed with airconditioning.  DINNER:  I made stir-fried udon noodles with veg and shrimp.    

Friday, July 21, 2017

July 21, 2017. Another fun day in Singapore

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Singapore

WEATHER:  Seems even hotter today.  Humid of course


After some chores around the house, we took off for downtown to try one of the famous "hawker food centers".  These are really popular outdoor street food vendors clustered around a common area for seating.  Locals flock to these, especially for lunch.  

We chose one called Maxwell Road.  It is huge with many different kinds of cuisine - Chinese, Malay, Japanese, European, and others.  We had heard that this one is one of the best.  It had a long line, if that is indicative of its popularity and quality.


We stood in line and ordered Hiananese chicken rice, what this booth is known for.  It has dead chickens hanging to display what they sell.
It is a tiny place, but extremely efficient, selling chicken to hundreds of people daily.  We shared a dish for about $3.

We took the light rail to the shopping district of Singapore.  It is called Orchard Road.  It is just incredible.  Within one block, I spotted not one but two Cartier shops, two Louis Vuitton shops, and two Chanel shops.  Who buys all this stuff?

We stopped at this fabulous building called the Ion.  The first 4 floors plus 2 basements are full of high-end shops.  The 55th and 56th floor are a restaurant and bar.  So we zoomed up there to check it out.  George had a mojito.  We were fascinated by the slice of black lemon in it.  We learned that you can do this by drying a lemon slice, then baking it.  
The sky was clear and you can supposedly see Indonesia from here.

This is the view of the bar/restaurant tower we went to the other day, with the swimming pool, bar and restaurant stretched across the hotel's 3 towers....

We had the place almost to ourselves.  Really nice!

This is what it looks like at street level.

From there, we strolled down the street, marvelling at the high-end shops.
Some high school kids approached us, doing a survey about how much tourists were spending on Orchard Road.  I'm sure we fell short of the average!
We stopped at a sidewalk vendor selling ice cream.  We had heard that a popular treat here is a slice of bread folded around an ice cream slice. We selected mango.  The bread was a bit strange, but it makes a good holder.

Back home, we cooled down and played with our cat.  Then, for dinner we walked to a nearby street that has several restaurants.  We selected a Japanese one. We shared a sushi roll, an onigiri (honorable rice ball) and donburi.  Good and not very expensive.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017. More exploration of Singapore

LOCATION:  House-sitting in Singapore

WEATHER:  A broken record  - scorching hot with sauna-like humidity


Our housesitting assignment is near the Little Peirce Reservoir, the source of drinking water for the city and a natural "jungle".  We took a walk there in the morning before it got unbearably hot. There are a lot of monkeys hopping around the tree tops.  This "beggar" welcomed us to the area, looking for a handout

While we were having breakfast, our cat Sita was spying birds out the back kitchen door...

Today's destination was Chinatown, another part of town the Captain Ruffles created to separate the various ethnic traders back in the day.  We took the bus and light rail again.  This is the view coming up out of the light rail....

As in other parts of town, the architecture is beautiful with typical Singaporean "shophouses".  

There are many many restaurants in the area.  Alas, none seemed to have air-conditioning.  We found one with a nice ceiling fan and craft beer.  Almost as good. :).    We had potstickers to start that were yummy...
Then we shared Singapore Char Kway Teow (on the bottom of the menu)....
It was tasty, too, especially after we requested some chili sauce..
We learned that our restaurant is located on what used to be called Japanese Street.  Japanese prostitutes sold their "wares" here during the war, to do their part to raise money for the war effort.  Then, we walked down Food Street, a long covered street chock full of restaurants.
On our way home, we stopped at our light rail hub which is also a huge shopping mall.  Outside, they were having a durian (the world's stiinkiest fruit) festival.  As we approached, the smell almost overwhelmed us.  I can't think how to describe it....something like a very very smelly French cheese combined with something else.
They were also selling this popular fruit - purple mangosteens.
Back home, we showered to cool off.  George napped.  The heat and humidity really wear you down.    

DINNER:  Chicken, eggplant and corn on the cob on the grill.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017. Big day in Singapore

LOCATION:  Housesitting in Singapore

WEATHER:  Ditto from the last 2 weeks (hot and humid)


Since we will be here only a week, I planned out our daily activities for every remaining day.  Lots to do!

After Sita the cat duties (mostly petting), we caught a different neighborhood bus and rode it for 26 stops to Little India.  I wasn't sure which stop to get off at, so we just followed some Indian ladies in saris.  That did the trick!


Colonel Raffles, from the British Navy, settled the Indian traders in their separate section of the city.  It still looks and feels like India.

Beautiful architecture.  
Feeling peckish, we stopped at one of the many Indian restaurants in the area.  My only criteria was that it had to have air conditioning.  We found this one. It seeemed very authentic as we were the only non-Indians eating here.  We had Hyderabadi biryani and naan.  And, a Kingfisher Strong beer.  All very tasty.  

Then, we walked around the neighborhood.  It really does look like a street in India, with lots of gold shops, flower shops, and fruit/veg stands all with Indian ladies shopping.


I don't know what a lot of the fruits and vegetables are.    

Here's George looking goofy with "our" sign....

On our way home, we did some grocery shopping in the basement of the light rail hub.  Being an island, everything is imported..  I saw fruits from Chile, meats and dairy from Australia, Florida orange juice, etc.  Nothing is grown here.  Everything is quite expensive.  

Back home, we showered (again) and relaxed with Sita.  After her afternoon "tea" of fresh prawns, we took off again, this time to the marina area of the city.  


We went to this high-end hotel.  It has 3 towers, all connected on the 57th floor with this platform of bars, restaurants and a swimming pool.  View from the bottom....

This is a photo from the internet...

And these are views of the city from the 57th floor..




And a photo of the hotel guests swimming up on the 57th floor...

We took the light rail and bus back home.  People must work late, as at 8:00, it was the busiest we have seen.  


DINNER:  Japanese udon noodle soup with vegetables.