Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts

14 October 2019

Hail a ride in Singapore

Grab is the local version of Uber. You download the app, add a credit card and you are good to go. But you have to be in Singapore to do it, can't activate it from abroad for some reason.

Uber was present in Singapore but sold its business to Grab in exchange for a 30% share in the company I was told. My driver tells me there are some 5,000 drivers as far as he knows, many like himself are part-time: have another full-time job and drive when they want to make an extra buck. Grab is top now, though an Indonesian company called Go-Jek provides competition. They are popular in Indonesia where they run lots of motorcycle taxis, but in Singapore, they are not allowed, only cars.

Fares are marginally cheaper than taxis but can't beat the convenience especially during rush hours or when it rains. Chinatown to the airport is SGD 26.

My driver is a typical Singaporean: half Chinese and half Malay on his father's side, half European and half Indian on his mother's side. Well maybe not so typical, most Singaporeans belong more clearly to one of the ethnicities which make up the cosmopolitan island. They keep to their food, their religions and their language, though of course everyone speaks English and feels equally Singaporean. He tells me mixed marriages are on the increase now.

Graffitis are mostly forbidden in Singapore. Quite a few people have been sentenced to flogging for vandalizing walls in public spaces, including many foreigners. However there are designated areas where street art is allowed, even encouraged.


12 October 2019

Tempio Sikh e ristorante italiano

Mi avvio a piedi verso un tempio Sikh, ma fa troppo caldo e mi piego alla forza maggiore ordinando un "Grab" la versione locale di Uber, solo più economica e rapidissima.

Arriviamo dopo pochi minuti, scendo e mi avvio all'interno. Da fuori non dice nulla, non ci sarei mai entrato se non me lo avesse consigliato un conoscente locale.

Al tempio vengo accolto un po' freddamente da un omone al botteghino, mi presta un fazzoletto per coprirmi la testa. C'è una piccola sala per pregare e una molto più grande sala per mangiare.

In una enorme cucina con pentoloni che sembrano piccole vasche da bagno sono al lavoro i cuochi. Uomini e donne al lavoro, gli uomini cucinano mentre le donne preparano l'impasto per somoza. Alcuni ragazzi sulla trentina, sorridenti e disinvolti, scaldano l'olio nei pentoloni mentre altri pre

Prima scaldano olio, ne versano forse 30 litri in una pentola, quando bolle ci versano impasto vegetariano. Intanto su una griglia grande come un tavolo da biliardo preparano le cialde rotonde e riso e quando sono pronti ne assaggio un piatto molto saporito.








La sera cambio radicalmente cucina!

vera caprese italiana

Carpaccio di ricciola
La sera cedo ad una tentazione come non faccio mai: vado ad un ristorante italiano all'estero. Non conviene quasi ma, quello buoni costano troppo e quelli economici fanno pena. Ha ragione mia moglie a dire che il rapporto qualità prezzo è molto meglio in quelli cinesi. Buon italiano estero diventa troppo spesso alta cucina. Ma non mangio italiano da oltre un mese e ne ho voglia.

Il ristorante italiano stasera si chiama "Otto", perché 8 è il numero fortunato dei cinesi e perché han cominciato nel 2008. Il patron Paolo è ligure con socio chef di Treviso, Sta da 11 anni a Singapore, propone un Fine Dining creativo. Scelgo un menù degustazione. Piatti caldi, buon segno.

Maialino da latte croccante



ravioli al brasato di vitello

L'olio d'oliva è servito in un padellino microscopico, devo sempre chiedere di rabboccare come fosse oro liquido ma sono molto gentili e generosi e me lo rabboccano un sacco di volte.

Il menù è di grande soddisfazione, sia di quantità che di qualità. L'ho recensito qui.

Accanto a me un tavolo di malesi, evidentemente danarosi, Paolo mi dice che sono clienti abituali. Partono di Solaia, resto colpito ma solo per poco per minuto dopo Paolo stappa un Sassicaia 2003! Costa 808 sing dollari, prezzi finiscono quasi sempre in 8, per invogliare i clienti cinesi.





24 August 2018

Flight to Indonesia

Morning packing and getting ready to fly to Indonesia for more diving.

Taxi to the airport just 17 Sgd, so cheap in the context of an expensive city. You can choose a normal taxi or a "deluxe" one, which is more expensive, but the normal one is deluxe enough for us: clean, spacious and the driver is professional and friendly.

The only problem with Singapore's taxis is that sometimes it is hard to find one. Now there is an app, called Grab, a sort of Uber for South East Asia, which I am told is super efficient and even cheaper than taxis. Next time I'll have to download it.

Changi Airport is amazing, so well organized and pleasant I am always sorry to leave it. I could spend days in here shopping, eating, getting massages, ... But I am not going to buy anything today, no point carrying stuff to Indonesia, I will load up on the way back. I know I want some TWG, the famed Singapore tea brand. They just opened a store in central London, but it is cheaper here. Still not cheap at all, but cheaper.

Our flight to Jakarta is delayed, we are using Batik Air. Hopefully, we'll make the connection to Papua. There are not so many flights to Manokwari, in fact, we only have one useful connection per day, and I didn't want to risk missing the departure of our cruise therefore I built a buffer day in our itinerary, if all goes ok we'll have a day to explore Manokwari.

23 August 2018

Singapore maiolicas and crabs

Sveglia tardi, forse ancora un po’ di jet lag. E poi siamo stati in piedi sempre fino a tardi in questi giorni, io a scrivere il mio libro sulla Polonia e Lifang a far post-produzione dei suoi video per il sito cinese. Coppia molto attiva.

Piscina e relax fino al primo pomeriggio, poi in visita al Thian Hock Keng Temple, uno dei più venerati a Singapore, dedicato alla dea del mare, Mazu. Simbolo della tradizione Hokkien tramandata qui dai tanti immigrati che sono venuti a cercare fortuna nel corso dei secoli.

Prima però un rapido pranzetto in un ristorante che ci era stato consigliato ieri dalla guida del museo delle music boxes, proprio davanti all'entrata del museo. Scegliamo una zuppa di pesce agrodolce e due enormi gamberoni leggermente piccanti. Le possibilità di ristorazione a Singapore si confermano infinite, si mangia quasi sempre benissimo e si spende quasi sempre poco.

Dopo la zuppa, mentre aspettiamo che siano pronti i gamberi, notiamo un piccolo museo della ceramica affianco al ristorante. Anzi, fa parte del ristorante, stessi proprietari. Strana combinazione, ma ci alziamo a dare un'occhiata. Ci sono maioliche antiche di molti paesi, specialmente giapponesi, belghe e inglesi. Stranamente mancano quelle italiane e olandesi.

Il proprietario dice che è il suo hobby, quando viaggia per il mondo compra maioliche e poi le rivende qui a Singapore dove sono una vera rarità. Ingegnoso.

Serata al MBS, vediamo lo spettacolo suoni e luci alle 8. C'è molta gente, peccato per un gruppo di russi maleducati che fanno chiasso, rovinano un po’ l'atmosfera. 

Cena per un tradizionalissimo "black crab" ad uno dei tanti ristoranti sul lungofiume a Clark Quay: 1,5 kg di crostaceo per 98 dollari. Un cartello avverte che non è educato chiedere il peso delle signore, ma è necessario chiedere il peso dei granchi quando si ordina, per evitare sorprese al momento del conto!

Buffo finale. È quasi mezzanotte, stanno per chiudere. Arriva una coppia asiatica, forse malese non sono sicuro, e chiedono di essere serviti nonostante l'ora tarda. Lui in T-shirt, quasi trasandato, lei con un grazioso vestitino rosso, chiaramente in ghingheri per la serata romantica, mentre lui quasi pare pronto per andare a giocare a pallone. La cameriera esita, hanno già cominciato a pulire i tavoli e ammucchiare le sedie. Poi parla con il capo e annuisce, gli porta due menù e gli lascia qualche minuto per decidere l'ordine. Quando torna il maschione della coppia (molto corpulento, mentre lei è una mingherlina quasi fragile) ordina due ciotole di riso. Ue ciotole di riso! E basta.

La cameriera è visibilmente delusa ma dopo un paio di minuti torna con le ciotole e le mette sul tavolo, e intanto allunga il conto all'imponente ragazzotto. Passano i minuti, noi abiamo finito il granchione nero e ce ne stiamo per andare, la cameriera torna per ricevere il pagamento dell'omone ma lui, con gran faccia tosta, chiede di poter restare ancora al tavolo! Ristorante chiuso, sei arrivato tardi, ordini una ciotola di riso in bianco e vuoi restare con la pupa a chiacchierare davanti alle luci si Singapore fino all'alba?!?

22 August 2018

Singapore music box museum and cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world

The highlight of the morning is the Singapore museum of music boxes. It is the property of a Japanese collector who somehow decided to open this exhibition to the public here in Singapore three years ago.

It contains about 45 pieces, mostly Swiss machines but also German and American ones.

Our guide is a part time employee, an elderly man, maybe about 70 years old, who gives a private tour for two of us. He loves the boxes, knows everything, and treats them, literally, with white gloves. He knows in great details the inner workings of each machine and his meticulousness and enthusiasm for this technology is apparent at every step of the presentation. He plays several of the instruments for us as well.

The ticket is 12 very well-spent dollars.

He also recommends a bigger museum that apparently the same Japanese collector opened in Shanghai. It does sound strange that a Japanese would open a museum in China and one in Singapore, instead of Japan, I will have to research this.




Dinner is with CK, my classmate at MIT. This time he takes us to Hawker Chan, the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world, 3.6 SGD for rice chicken, their signature dish, but more for veggies.

After we order and sit down they close the restaurant, it is not yet 9 in the evening but they said they ran out of food. Victims of their own success. I am very grateful to CK for having taken us there, of course, he is always generous when we meet in Singapore. 

He is a remarkable man. His grandparents immigrated from China, they were farmers. he studied hard, went to university and became a researcher in the engineering department. He then won a scholarship to get his master's degree at MIT, where we met, and returned to a brilliant career in Singapore, crowned with his appointment to head the engineering school at the National University.

But the rice chicken was good, not great, I am not sure it was worth a Michelin star. And I have eaten at quite a few multi-starred venues over the years.


As we walk back to our hotel after dinner we noticed lots of workers getting the lights and lanterns ready for the upcoming Chinese mid-Autumn festival. Lifang talks to some of them and we find out they are temporary workers, mostly from Sichuan province, who come for a few months to make some money and then go home.



Apparently many Chinese come here for work on a tourist visa, they do not have a work permit but the government leaves them alone as long as they don't stir up trouble.

21 August 2018

Japanese dinner


The most memorable thing from this easy day of work in my hotel (it was mostly raining) is dinner at YAKINIQUEST, a Japanese restaurant on Clarck's Quai that specializes in wagyu beef from Japan.

Two floors: upstairs it is totally empty today, for now at least. I choose to stay downstairs, with the fridge of beef in good view and I am the only patron anyway but at least there are staff to see and talk to.

We are welcomed by a sweet Philipino girl who speaks with a very low voice but works fast and efficiently to set up my table.

The boss tells me he receives about 400-500 kg of meat every month from southern Japan.

He nods repeatedly with conviction: it is true that some farmers massage and give beer to cows to make them relax and eat more and produce better beef.



The sequence went from raw to grilled to marinated and ended up with ice cream. Dessert was a Japanese curry, oddly enough if you are not Japanese.













20 August 2018

Ancora a Singapore

Rieccomi a Singapore. Non mi ricordo più quante volte ci sono venuto, ma son passati sette anni dalla prima volta, nel 2011. Non posso certo dire di sentirmi a casa, però mi sento decisamente a mio agio. Come non mi capita in tanti posti dove pure amo andare e passare del tempo. Sarà la pulizia, la sicurezza, la cucina. 

Forse, semplicemente, vorrei sentirmi a casa qui, ci verrei a vivere domani se riuscissi ad organizzarmi la vita in quel senso. So che Lifang sarebbe d'accordo. Vicino alla famiglia in Cina, vicino a centomila posti dove andare a fare immersioni. Ottimi servizi, rispetto, educazione. Il clima perennemente caldo umido senza stagioni? Il paradiso non esiste, ma al clima mi abituo facilmente, ogni volta.

Oggi abbiamo un po’ di jet lag, ce la prendiamo comoda in piscina. La sera quattro passi a Chinatown, sempre piacevole soprattutto sul tardi quando sciamano i turisti. Che pure che male avranno mai fatto i turisti? I turisti in genere cercano di evitare i turisti. È così che li riconosci. Quando uno dice "io non sono un turista, sono un viaggiatore!", ecco avete trovato un turista. E io che sono? Un viaggiatore naturalmente, son qui sulla via dell'Indonesia e della Cina per andare a trovare la famiglia. Non sono un turista!

Lingue di anatra alla sichuanese










A cena in un ristorante di cucina Sichuan, piccante. Ordino lingue di anatra. Sono particolari perché hanno un osso all'interno! Il che facilita il compito dell'anatra quando deve acchiappare un pesce e trattenerlo nel becco fino ad ingoiarlo intero. Contorno di peperoni verdi e salsa piccante (naturalmente!) di peperoncino del Sichuan.

24 August 2017

Fullerton history and national gallery

Dopo un'altra sontuosa colazione di salmone e champagne al Fullerton Hotel, decidiamo di unirci ad un gruppetto per una visita guidata dell'hotel, che è uno dei 73 siti riconosciuti come monumento nazionale, di importanza storica oltre che architettonica.

Prende il nome da Robert Fullerton, uno scozzese che fu il primo governatore dell "Possedimento degli Stretti", come la Compagnia delle Indie di sua maestà britannica chiamò i possedimenti in sud-est asiatico di cui Singapore faceva parte.

Nel tempo è stato un ufficio postale, un club esclusivo, e poi, per nostra fortuna, un albergo di lusso. Non so quante volte ci alloggerò nella vita, ma ne vale la pena!




Pomeriggio alla National Gallery, una collezione di opere d'arte di artisti locali e internazionali. 





Colonna di libri, Museo Nazionale

Magic chair




23 August 2017

Singapore heritage and songs

Oggi visita al museo del "Retaggio di Chinatown" (Chinatown heritage) di Singapore, al centro di Chinatown. I cinesi sono circa tre quarti della popolazione, quindi il retaggio cinese della città-stato è di importanza fondamentale per capirne l'anima.

Si tratta di una vera casa in stile tradizionale, con il negozio a piano terra e le camere per dormire ai primo e secondo piano. Ci sono oggetti vecchi, se non proprio antichi, che ricostituiscono, tra gli altri mestieri, i locali di un sarto di un centinaio di anni fa. Mi fa piacere che anche allora erano apprezzati i prodotti italiani, in particolare cashmere.

sarto tradizionale cinese all'opera

Cena a Chinatown,  ristorantino di cucina hunanese (eh già siamo partiti da pochi giorni, già ci manca) con gamberi di fiume come piatto forte.

Finale di serata alla "Esplanade" per un concerto gratuito di due amici musicisti, Lim and Shak. Canzoni melanconiche, e più di tutte quella che racconta di una ragazza, con cui Lim aveva avuto una intensa relazione. Il problema è che Shak was in love with her too. Sfortunatamente un giorno la ragazza morì in circostanze tragiche, e l'evento funesto fece riavvicinare Lim e Shak che diventarono molto amici e colleghi sul palco.

22 August 2017

Asian Civilization Museum and Night Safari of Singapore



Today culture and nature. The Asian civilizations Museum of Singapore is a well-organized center of the celebration of art from the whole continent. Well-run guided tour with a volunteer guide.




Interesting fountain in Singapore

The day ends at the famous night safari, for which Singapore is famous. There is a long line, I think we waited almost an hour to get in, but it is worth the wait. After paying for the ticket you are driven on a small train to the zoo itself and start walking along the cages. All kinds of animals from around the world are shown here. It is my first (and probably last) time to see a leopard up close!

We were the last ones out, the guards politely waited for us and escorted us to see the last exhibits on the way to the exit.

11 August 2013

Cooking class in Singapore at Palate Sensations

As a foodie I love trying most of the food I run into when I travel around the world. The only local delicacy I can remember ever running away from is skewered cockroaches in northern Laos. And even that, should I ever go back, is something I'd be curious to try. Anyway they say insects are the source of proteins for the future.

No such dilemmas in Singapore though. Lots of great food for any taste. This time Luca and I decided to go one step further and actually learn how to cook some local dishes. Not that we are likely to ever try and replicate them at home, though you never know. But cooking something helps you understand better what you are eating. A bit like learning to play an instrument, even at a very basic level, helps you better understand music.

Among the many options available in Singapore I chose to go for Palate Sensations, and was not disappointed. The kitchen was spotless clean (like everything in Singapore) and super equipped with the best of kitchen tools.

Even though there were only three of us they agreed to hold the class and we had lots of fun preparing savoury and sweet dishes. I personally prefer the stir-fried gastronomy in the wok to Asian sweets. We had a perfectly balanced mix of noodles, meats and seafood. At the end of it all, we ate the fruit of our hard labor in the terrace and went back to town for shopping very full and satisfied.

You can see more pictures from this trip to Singapore on my Flickr pages.




















here is a video from our great cooking teacher Shih Erh

04 August 2013

Book review: Ah ku and Karayuki San: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870-1940 (1993), by James Francis Warren, *****


Synopsis

Among the many groups of foreign workers whose labor built Singapore in the 20th century, there may be none as marginalized in memory as the women who travelled from China and Japan to work in Singapore as prostitutes.

This definitive study sketches in the trade in women and children in Asia, and -- making innovative use of Coroner's Inquests and other records -- hones in on the details of the prostitutes' lives in the colonial city: the daily brothel routine, crises and violence, social relations, leisure, social mobility for the luckier ones, disease and death.

The result is a powerful historical account of human nature, of human relationships, of pride, prejudice, struggle and spirit. Ordinary people tumble from the pages of the records: they talk about choice of partners, love and betrayal, desperation and alienation, drawing us into their lives.

This social history is a powerful corrective to the romantic image of colonial Singapore as a city of excitement, sophistication, exotic charm and easy sex.

In the years since its original publication in 1992, this book, and its companion Rickshaw Coolie, have become an inspiration to those seeking to come to grips with Singapore's past.

19 January 2013

Book review: Complete Notes from Singapore (2010) by Neil Humphreys, ***

Singapore skyline and the Merlion
Sinopsys

In 1996, Neil Humphreys decided to travel the world. He ended up in Singapore.

His first book, "Notes from an even Smaller Island", became an immediate best-seller in 2001. Humphreys' travelling companion, Scott, said it was a load of bollocks.

In 2003, his second book, "Scribbles from the Same Island", a compilation of his popular humour columns in WEEKEND TODAY, was launched in Singapore and Malaysia and also became an immediate best-seller.

In 2006, he published "Final Notes from a Great Island: A Farewell Tour of Singapore" completed the trilogy. The book went straight to No.1 and decided to stay there for a few months. Having run out of ways to squeeze island into a book title, Humphreys moved to Geelong, Australia. He now writes for several magazines and newspapers in Singapore and Australia and spends his weekends happily looking for echidnas and platypuses. But he still really misses roti prata.


02 September 2012

Singapore: Gardens by the Bay and Japanese food



Started off after breakfast from my hotel and decided to visit the new Gardens by the Bay. Like almost everything in Singapore, it is an artificial wonder.

Entirely built over reclaimed land, it is a technological wonder, allowing Singaporeans to walk into controlled climate greenhouses to see the flora of other latitudes.

Highly educational. Mostly families today, it's a Sunday. I can't help but feel a bit out of place as a single man in my early fifties, but I enjoy it all nonetheless.







Fish and special raw beef
Early evening dinner in an unpretentious but excellent Japanese restaurant in the Orchard Road MRT station. Very informal but not at all inexpensive! After waiting in line for some ten minutes (this place is popular even though I can't find it on Tripadvisor!) I am greeted as per Japanese tradition with いらっしゃいませ (irasshaimase) which just means welcome.

I always sit down at the sushi bar and enjoy looking at the chefs preparing the orders which are handed down to them by a team of ladies constantly scudding around with their notepad. I sip some Japanese beer while my food is readied and then handed down directly to me over the counter.

Excellent sushi, great fat tuna "toro" to start with. Then also raw "Kobe beef". Not cheap but highly gratifying especially as you are eating this treat in a subway station, or right next to it anyway! I will leave a good portion of my food budget here in the course of this trip as well as other visits to Singapore.
Toro

01 September 2012

Party at Sentosa, Singapore

Today I am invited to join a party on one of the beaches of Sentosa, an island just off Singapore's south-western coast. Getting to the island is easy with S'pore famous MRT. Once there, I asked the info office how to reach the beach where my friends were waiting for me and was told there is Yellow bus: "go right, then into a cave, then two flights down, turn right. It's free. Get off at the second stop." The bus should take me to Tanjong Beach Club. All stops are indicated on a map, but no Tanjong Club. I ask the driver, he says get off at the third stop, not at the second stop. At the first stop I see almost everyone getting off and ask driver, is this the stop for Tanjong Club? Yes yes. OK, whatever.

At the entrance to the beach there is a long line to leave bags, they are not allowed to the beach area. People are swimming, which is to be expected at a beach party, but only in a small swimming pool. No one is swimming in the sea, because it's rather brownigs and uninviting but also because you can't reach the sea at all. Long blue net screens close off access to the water. some say bc ppl try to get into the party without paying the entry fee (which entry fee?? I will find out later) some say because during these parties people get drunk and drown.

I get to meet an interesting crowd: Singaporeans of course, but also lots of expats. A Philipino lady is here to study architecture. Two Turkish engineers work for ashipping company. An Italian architect in his late twenties is very happy: could not find a good job as an architect in Italy but here he got an exciting position and though he works really long hours he makes good money and his work is appreciated. Soon he will get a permament residence permit, which will allow him to switch jobs more easily and even stay on in Singapore indefinitely, even if he should be without a job for a time.

Most ladies wear stylish black dresses, others just a swim suit. We sit down with my friends and start gulping beer and sandwiches. After a while, two big security guards appear and start pacing up and down the length of the beach At about 11pm, after we've been at the party for almost 7 hours, the two guards come to our table and ask me and Peiwen for our bracelet. What bracelet? Well apparently there is a bracelet you get when you pay your entry fee to the beach. None of us was aware of this. I am actually ready to apologize and pay but my local friends are quite upset and start arguing with the guards until they give up! So we get our bracelets for free...

By 1:00am it's time for me to go even if the party is still in full swing. The organization of the party provides for valet drivers for car owners who drink: you can drive to the beach, drink you brains out and someone will drive you home in your own car! Smart.


31 August 2012

Emily of Emerald Hill and the Peranakan Museum, Singapore

Peranakan Museum in Singapore
Today I visited this unique museum in Singapore, dedicated to the Peranakan, or Chinese from the Malay peninsula. A unique contribution to Singapore's multicultural identity, where each component cultural heritage (Chinese, malay and Tamil) and its language is protected, while English is the cement common to all.










In the museum I could see an exhibition of Emily of Emerald Hill, a short play by Singaporean playright Stella Kon.


As she tells us in her blog, Emily of Emerald Hill is a one-woman play about a Nonya matriarch who dominates her family, yet in the end finds that she loses what she loves most. The play won the First Prize in the National Play-Writing Competition 1983. Since then it has been presented more than a hundred times, by eight different performers, in Singapore, Malaysia, Hawaii and Edinburgh. It has been translated into Chinese and Japanese and broadcast over Radio Iceland. A film version is under negotiation.

Emily is a short and passionate play that takes the reader inside the heart of a Peranakan family of the 1950s. Traditional Chinese values are intertwined with English habits that were common in the richer class of Singapore. The matriarch defers to her husband, but in the end it is she who calls the shots in the house. She is loving but also possessive. Servants are treated with dignity but firmness, children (especially sons) are spoiled and daughters-in-law are expected to be submissive. Wives are expected to tolerate their husbands' cheating. It is a materially comfortable life but also a straightjacket for the younger generation that wants to try it out on its own.




You can buy the book and other works by contacting Stella Kon at stelkon@singnet.com.sg


You can watch a trailer of the play here.

And another here.


30 August 2012

Dim Sum in Singapore

Marina Bay Sands, Din Tai Fung restaurant, probably among the best dim sum in the world.































































27 August 2012

Books and films on Singapore

work in progress



Rickshaw Coolie: A People's History of Singapore (2003), by James Warren, ***** A people's history of Singapore between 1880 and 1940. Highly readable.

Ah ku and Karayuki San: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870-1940 (1993), by James Francis Warren, ***** Fascinating social history through the eyes of Chinese and Japanese prostitutes iwho came to Singapore in search of fortune. Few found it.

07 August 2012

Singapore city tour: Chinatown, Maxwell food center.

We wake up at dawn because of our jet lag, and out of our hotel window we can admire the silhouette of the iconic Marina bay Sands (MBS). After a sumptuous breakfast, we proceed to a full day tour of Singapore with Luca and our local guide.

Merlion
Singapore welcomes us with a sunny and hot day. I never have enough of this wonderful city state, a mixture of tradition and modernity that blends many cultures into a proud and vibrant society. The Chinese majority (about three quarters of the population) coexists with the Indian (Tamil) and Malay minorities and the many Western expats.

About two hundred Jewish families are known to live here, but I am told they mostly keep to themselves. It is possible to visit mosques, churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples, but our guide says it is not easy to visit the two synagogues for non Jews.

Streets are calm and clean, public transport works well and everything seems to be user friendly. The country is not really a full democracy, and limited dissent is tolerated, just, alive, especially online. Economically, the former British colony began to develop as a freeport, taking advantage of its strategic position. It then diversified into manufacturing, oil refining, finance and more recently into tourism. Tourists are also attracted by the possibility of gambling.

Politically, Singapore is tightly connected with the West and especially with the US, which keeps a discrete military presence on the island. Military cooperation with Israel is quite developed as well.


The Chinatown underground market is pulsating with trade and (for me) unusual foods, like fish bellies and pork stomach. There is ample opportunity to taste different delicacies as we work our way along the neon lit alleys of the market.. A friendly seller of more familiar bananas poses for me without a problem. In one cafè I try a drink of chestnut juice, barley and lime.




Live frogs are for sale along with many different kinds of meat and fish.


At the Maxwell food court Chinese, Indian and Malay food offer an endless wource of enjoyment for the adventurous. Here you sit casually at big round tables that you share with whoever happens to be there. You buy your food and drinks and eat at your pace. Many ladies scurry around cleaning up after you are done, and other ladies patrol the alleys selling paper tissue.

Actually you don't really have to be so adventurous. Just curious. Unlike a group of Italians whom I met. The two guys were looking around and ready to plunge into some chicken masala or pork liver, but the two ladies looked horrified and asked their men to leave and go look for some more readily recognizable food. Oh well, their choice. And their loss. We stayed and tried different stuff, including "century old egg", a darkened hard boiled egg that is kept underground for some months before being offered for consumption. Different from what we are used to, but good.
A very special egg

Of course, western symbols like McDonald's are everywhere to testify the cosmopolitan nature of this country.

Dinner at an Indian restaurant in the Esplanade. Wendy, a Chinese friend from Hong Kong, tells me how she is really worried about how the central government is slowly eroding HK's unique nature to make it conform with the mainland. In theory HK is autonomous until 2047 (fifty years after the end of British rule) but in practice she fears it might be amalgamated into the Communist system before that. On the other hand, China is changing fast as well, and it might well be that in 2047 the mainland will look more like HK today