Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 3 in Singapore - Tuesday April 5, 2011

Woke up at 7am to go to work. How come I can never get to work by 9am when I'm at home??

Labmates seem to be warming up to me a little more, which I'm happy about. All of us went to lunch together today, but not at the hawker center. Today we went to the campus cafeteria, which looks just like a hawker center, but according to labmates is not quite as tasty. I went for noodles. Tom Yam Homemade Noodle Soup, to be exact. Big mistake. This noodle soup was literally the spiciest I have ever experienced in my life. No joke.

I've had spicy fish head hotpot in Sichuan, and I could handle that - the numbing effect of the peppercorns had something to do with it. 麻辣 is something I can do. But this - oh, this was pure BURNING. Now I really know the term "eating fire" (or really, drinking liquid fire in my case). The spiciness is distinctly different from that of a jalapeno pepper. I guess it's because of all the other spices they use, like lemongrass and all that good stuff. The noodles were indeed handmade, and had very good texture. But I just couldn't enjoy it because my mouth and stomach were both burning in the flames of hell about quarter of the way through. No way I could drink the soup.

Singaporean noodle, 1. Angela, 0. Epic KO.

And here's the culprit vendor of liquid fire - my labmate later told me it is also the spiciest place he knows of, and he cannot finish the soup either. Coming from a local, now I don't feel so wimpy.
(Ban Mian = Singapore speak for flat noodles. They also sell other kinds of noodles at that stall, though.)

Side-note: The cafeteria serves excellent iced coffee - tastes kind of Hello Boss, but even better. =D

Fast forward to late afternoon. Went and used the lab bathroom for the first time (no, the liquid fire isn't THAT fast acting...) and saw this interesting sign.

Note the "If you are unable to perform while remaining seated" part....

Today my jetlag was already much better, and I stayed in lab until 8pm, working hard! I guess this is what it's like to be single - you stay in lab much later because there's nothing to go home to. Dinner holds almost no appeal because it sucks to eat alone. Even if the food is good, people would look at you like a weirdo if you sat there eating with a goofy euphoric/orgasmic look on your face and exclaim "UMAMI!"

Finally get so hungry I head home. Originally, I had imagined that I would travel all over the island, visiting the food meccas of Singapore: Chili crab from Muthu's, Char Kway Teo from Smith Street, Pepper crab and Sambal Stingray from Jumbo, Satay from Lau Pa Sat, Bak kut teh that was so good they snubbed the Chief Executive of HK... experiencing the best of everything! But now I realize, that for the reasons I mentioned above, I have absolutely no motivation to make the pilgramage to these meccas. All I wanted to do was take my food, go home, and eat in front of the computer. Sad, I know.

Tried to make the best of the situation by at least trying new things that were on the way home from lab. Today I ended up getting Nasi Lemak, a very popular food eaten quite regularly by locals, even for breakfast. The name literally means "fatty rice", because the rice is cooked in coconut milk, Malay style. It is further 'fatty' by serving the rice with sides of fried chicken or pork cutlet, otak (singaporean fish cake), and a fried egg. All this fattiness made for a rich tasting, but not greasy feeling meal. I'm sure that the place I got it from, which was a small chain store beneath my hotel, is not the best, so I can only imagine how much better it COULD taste.
The photo doesn't really do it justice. The green stuff you see hiding under the fried pork cutlet is the coconut rice. Not sure why it's green, but it certainly tasted coconut-ey.

Aside from eating all this yummy and unique food, I've also been learning about Singaporean culture. And I realized, that Singaporean culture IS food. People here LOVE to eat. Maybe even more so than HKers! It is said that if you start a conversation with a Singaporean about food, you can continue it all afternoon. This is a testament to how diverse the food here is. Most of the best stuff is not very haute couture, and more often than not, it doesn't even look that delicious - hawker food usually just looks like a haphazardly thrown together melange of ingredients. But regardless of whether you like the exotic, spicy flavors, it is a unique blend of south-east asian, indian, and chinese cuisine that be found in few other places. Even your western fish and chips takes on a local twist here, often served with chili sauce on the side. I love the diversity, and now if only they would install some air-cons in the hawker centers......

Day 2 in Singapore - Monday April 4, 2011

Today was my first day at work! I took the MRT from my hotel to the lab. It took almost an hour because I'm sure I took a big detour walking from hotel to MRT... along the way I was tempted by various coffee shops, bakeries, and local eateries, but I already had the free breakfast at the hotel, what a shame. =(

Lab was quite uneventful. It was surprisingly an all male group, so I felt at times out of place. Not that they weren't friendly when I talked to them or anything - they just seemed to keep their distance and didn't really talk to me unless talked to.

For lunch they took me to a local hawker center - kinda like a Dai Pai Dong in Hong Kong. I had what was supposedly the best HK style roast meats there. It was very tasty, almost as good as the stuff you get in HK. Forgot to take photos since I ate it so fast... =D

Started to feel sleepy at around 4pm, and non-stop yawning... especially when the labmate switched off the lights to do a photosensitive assay. =P

The boss of this lab is very nice. He saw me yawning and said I should just take off early to recover. I left at 5pm, and found the public transportation (MRT) to be super jam-packed, but still highly efficient. Although, with all the people waiting to get through the gates, it was highly embarrassing when my MRT card (kinda like octopus in Hong Kong) just wouldn't read!!! You know that feeling you get when you're holding everyone up - you start to sweat, and feel flustered, and feel as though everyone's eyes are boring into your back? Yah... in the Singapore heat, the sweating part of that reaction really doesn't help.

I got back to my room and put my heavy-ass mac down, and with my bag much lighter, I figured I should really force myself to go out so that I don't fall asleep early again. While wandering around the massive catacomb-like labyrinth of interconnected malls, I passed by this Hershey's SUPER FAN STORE:

I don't know about you, but Hershey's chocolate to me tastes like it's been eaten and then pooped out by a skunk. I hate it. To think that anyone could worship this brand of confections is ridiculous. And here I am, faced with a massive store (think SF Disney store sized) full of Hershey's candies, t-shirts, GIANT (like, industrial grade ethanol jug-sized) bottles of hershey's chocolate syrup, and other nauseating products. I took my photo of this monstrocity and quickly moved on.

More pleasingly I later happened upon a pet store. They didn't have puppies for sale (which I guess is sort of a good thing - there are too many abandoned dogs we should adopt before buying, but that's another conversation for another day), but they did have many varieties of hamsters and wabbits. One of them looked suspiciously like a nude guinea pig - you know, like the nude mice they use for lab experiments, but a guinea pig. I felt sad for the poor guy, naked and all, and to save his dignity, I refrained from photographing him. Here are some baby hamsters though!


Now to find some food. I went to a food court in a mall (Food Republic) and wandered around wondering what I should eat. Saw a sign for Oyster Omelette. That sounds good. Wonder how it's different from the Taiwanese version?

I have to admit that I like this version more than the taiwanese one, simply because this version has a lot more wok-breath flavour, and more crunchy bits. mmm... The oysters in this particular one was a bit fishy tasting, but I could see the potential of this dish. The soy milk sweetened the meal. I also had this red bean filled donut thing, which wasn't really a Ma Tuan (麻团), but wasn't quite like a red bean bun, either. It was good though. I could have eaten five more of those.

The decor of the food court was also very interesting (I guess these are the kinds of things you tend to notice when you're eating alone. There's nothing else to do but gawk at every minute detail in your surroundings). It was fashioned like a library, with book wall paper and brassy lamp fixtures:

After my lonesome, thought yummy meal, I made my way to Carrefour to buy some vegetables. The local cuisine sorely lacks greens. Then when I got to the store, I learned why. They cost an arm and a leg! Two stalks of celery was S$3 (~USD2.50); a bag of baby carrots S$2; bananas were S$0.50 EACH; and milk S$5 for a litre. Insane. They also don't take credit card unless you spend more than S$20. =(

I wearily ended the day by walking back to my room. It was barely 10pm, but I could not keep my eyes open any longer!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 1 in Singapore - Sunday April 3, 2011

Arrived in Singapore today. Mostly well but my feet and legs are super bloated from the flight. I feel fat enough without the bloating, thanks.

Tried to get some food at 3pm but everything is so expensive! Same price as US or more because of the terrible exchange rate.
Ended up getting take out at a place called mr curry. Curry seemed like a safe choice and their mascot was cute. Huge cuddly one out front! Taking forever though, which is why I'm typing this. Man if I don't get some food in me soon I'm going to collapse.
After getting food I went back to my room to eat. Somehow I just really hate eating out alone.

With food in my stomach it was just impossible to fight the sleepiness. It was only 5:30 in the afternoon! But I thought maybe if I just sleep until 5 am I would be at least okay for the next day.

How wrong I was. Don't get me wrong. The nap was pure bliss. Just the dose of rest my body needed after that long plane ride. But when I woke up and could not sleep anymore, I found that it was only 1:30am. =(

Chatting online and consuming more kdrama took me to about 5 am. Hungry again. :(

All of a sudden there is extremely loud rolling thunder and blinding flashes of lightning outside! Haven't seen lightning like this for years. Funnily it isn't raining. Maybe it's regional and limited to certain area codes only? Went out to the balcony to take some photos. Tried to catch the lightning but you can't really tell from the photo.

Still can't sleep. Maybe I will see the sun rise above the Sands hotel and get some nice photos in the morning. Still hungry too. Must make a note to visit 7-eleven tomorrow and stock up on snacks.