The Hostess With The Mostess -or- Eduardo Undone

Trip Start Oct 23, 2006
1
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Trip End May 08, 2007


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Flag of Singapore  ,
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I deboarded my plane at Singapore's Changi airport, breezed through
customs, and entered my first new country to travel completely by myself. About
thirty seconds later, I was with Sarah being clutched in a bear hug that someone as petite as her shouldn't be capable of.

For those of you who have real lives and don't obsess over every detail
of my entries, I'll remind you who Sarah is. Back in November, when Jon
and I were on the East coast of Taiwan in Hualien, we shared a dorm
room with Sarah. She came with us into Taroko Gorge. We reconnected
with her in Taipei and met her friend Christie as well. Is the haze
lifting? You remember her? Good.

Sarah met me just outside the baggage claim, and after her rib-crushing embrace we sat to wait for our ride.
She explained to me that our ride that evening would be with Desmond.
Desmond, her fiance. My jaw dropped. When I met Sarah a few months
before, she wasn't seeing anyone. And on top of that, she was (please
forgive the description, Sarah) practically a nun. Sweet and saintly...
I don't know. It just never occurred to me that she might get engaged,
especially not so soon after I met her. I forced my mouth closed and managed to blink again just in time
to see Desmond come up the escalator.

From
the instant he said hello, I could see that Desmond and Sarah fit. He's a happy, amiable, energetic guy. They're the
same in every way that makes a relationship work. Where they're
different, he's heavy into Star Wars, but we won't get into that now.

Who am I kidding, his Star Wars proclivities are unavoidable. We walked
out to his car, which was decked out to resemble some sort of
spacecraft from the Imperial army. I can't begin to describe the detail and overall bulk of
Star Wars modifications he's done to his hatchback. I was surprised to
find that I was impressed by it. It's a nice little vehicle and
obviously well loved.



**** WARNING****

At this point I just want to make readers aware that this entry will
most likely turn out to be long and full of descriptions about food and
eating. If you're one of those readers who's bored stiff by such
entries, just skip down to the next asterisked interruption. (Although,
to try to entice you to read the whole entry, there is a hugely important development for the course of my life as a result of the eating).

*******************


Before we went anywhere else, Desmond and Sarah took me to dinner. I
wasn't particularly hungry, but I soon learned that hunger has little
to do with eating while in Singapore. Singaporeans eat because they're
awake, not because they're hungry. In between rounds of binge
mastication, they go shopping among the 10.3 billion malls and shopping
centers that nearly choke the 270 square mile island nation. Any other
unaccounted-for time is spent working. Sleep seems to be an
afterthought.

I failed to mention one last thing about Singapore's eating habits: they enjoy the exotic.

My first meal with Sarah and Desmond on the night of my arrival
consisted of frog porridge, grilled stingray, large snails with dipping sauce, something
crispy with peanuts, and two desserts. They were all delicious. Thinking about it now, I'm sure there were more dishes than
that, but you get the idea. I was full and had to be rolled back to Desmond's Tai-fighter.

From here I'll mostly leave off from the chronological account. Too
much happened and too much was repeated. There was a lot of eating. A
lot. And for this reason, I consider my time in Singapore to be
Eduardo's undoing. (Eduardo, remember, is my 'tapeworm').  I've
tried starving him, scorching him with spicy
food, and drowning him in alcohol. Eduardo comes back valiantly after
every attempt. But Singapore provided a new type of challenge that
out of morbidity and frugality, I'd never before considered: gorge him to
death. So far it seems to have worked. (You're welcome, Deb).


It was only possible because of my friends in Singapore. There were
four main players: Sarah, Desmond, Christie, and Christie's boyfriend
Andre. This dream-team quartet refused to let me leave the table
without having eaten my weight in steamed or battered or Malay-inspired
or gelatinous delicacies. On top of that, they refused to let me pay. I
don't mean that they would politely decline my offer to pay my portion.
I mean that the one time I tried to sneak to the front to pay, Desmond
tackled me, shoved the cash I had in my hand into my mouth, and scolded
"No Mike! You're our guest. You don't pay!" and then he slapped me. The
whole restaurant stared. All I could do was shut my eyes and think of
England.
Wait, that's not quite how it went. But they certainly
wouldn't let me pay for anything. And I mean anything. After my frog
porridge dinner on my first night, Desmond and Sarah brought me to a
hostel where they'd already reserved and paid for a bed. Then Sarah
gave me a pre-paid card for the MRT to meet Christie the next day. I
managed to buy my own phone card to call home, but that was done
covertly. I hate to make it sound like any sort of problem. I've just
never seen such overwhelming and unsolicited generosity. It was an
adjustment.
I also had to adjust my waistband. I was only eating
two meals a day (a record low), but the portions of each were so
immense I was never hungry. On most days I'd wake up, shower, and stare
at the kitchen of the hostel in a puzzled manner. I had no desire to go
in there for my complementary breakfast. Then I'd take the MRT to meet
Christie and Andre for lunch. It was inevitably a delicious meal and
I'd finish every bite purely for the flavor. Not a stir from Eduardo.
Dinner varied from night to night as far as who I went with, but every
time it was delicious and paid for.

Between dinner and lunch,
I had Japanese several times. Once was a sushi lunch with Desmond and
Sarah. Another was a hidden spot Andre took me to. But the coup de grace
of my Japanese dining in Singapore was an evening where Desmond took me
to All-You-Can-Eat Japanese. After two and a half hours I threw in the
towel. There was still delicious food waiting to be brought back to our
table, but I couldn't eat anymore. I was very confused. But soon that
was the norm.
Other eating highlights (which are hard to choose because it was all seriously that good) were the Chocolate Buffet and our group Durian Feast.
Singapore
has a six star hotel called The Fullerton (if I remember correctly)
where they have an elegant all you can eat buffet where everything is
made of or covered in chocolate. The Chocolate Buffet is supposed to be
an elegant dessert stop, but Sarah and I made it dinner. Even the
drinks are all chocolate. Insane.

The Durian Feast was the complete opposite. The main 5 of us sat on a
dirty street corner on tiny plastic stools. We sat around a rickety
table in a part of town where the durian is known to be fantastic even
late in the season (like it was for us). For some reason, this durian
district is also the red light district for Singapore. And I know, I
know. Some of you are asking what the hell a durian is.

A durian is a fruit. It is larger than a cantaloupe or honeydew but not
quite so large as watermelons ten to be. But I may be misleading you
because durian is by no means a melon. Its outer surface is covered in
extremely hard and sharp spikes. (In fact, I think I heard somewhere
that the word 'durian' means 'thorn') The outer flesh of the durian is
hacked into with a very sharp knife by whomever sells it. Inside are
hard pits much like avacado pits and are surrounded by gooey flesh. You
eat the flesh.

Before I'd ever tried durian I received a little history and some
warnings. Durian is legally not allowed on any public transport or in
most hotels. This is because durian is absurdly pungent and most people
find its odor unbearable. I've heard people describe its smell to be
similar to 'week old wet garbage'. Lovely thought. Basically it's one
of those foods where you love it or hate it. The people who love it say
that the taste makes up for the smell. They describe the texture as
being similar to runny French cheese with a taste not too dissimilar.
On the contrary, I heard one man describe the flavor as akin to sour
onions.

Despite the hype and uncertain looks of my dining companions, I dug in.
Durian is fantastic. I can't even describe it. None of the above does
it justice. Onions? Not so much. Although the texture is a lot like
brie when it's hot and melting. Though the durian is quite cool. As a
group, we powered through about 4 full durians (they're quite filling)
before hitting a snag on our 5th. I look over at one point and Sarah is
gagging over a trash bin, poor girl. I guess even locals who love the
fruit can get bitten by it. Luckily this is Singapore, so we were able
to return the foul fruit for a full refund.

Perhaps my best meal of Singapore was the one prepared by Sarah's mom.
Andre and I took the train over to Sarah's parents apartment and
arrived only a minute before Sarah. Her mom knew I had an affinity for
stomach (in case I haven't mentioned this, I've discovered that fish
stomach and pig stomach are surprisingly delicious with chicken stomach
pulling in a respectable third place), so she prepared an entire huge
pot of curried fish stomach



Somewhere along the way, Eduardo went from comatose to deceased.



******************

End of Food Section

******************

But it wasn't all eating. My first night with Christie and Andre (where I actually met Andre for the first time) was dinner followed by a walk to see Singapore's mascot: the Merlion. There is a legend that the first man to discover Singapore hundreds (thousands?) of years ago saw a creature that was half lion and half fish. Literally a merlion in the way that Ariel is a mermaid. Lion on top; fish on the bottom. There is Merlion merchandise freakin everywhere. We went to the Merlion statue on the harbor which gushes a stream of water like an open fire hydrant. (For this reason, puking from from thereon referred to as "merlioning").
Across the way is a large building which resembles a durian. (If you don't know what a durian is, you should have read the food section. Serves you right for skipping). The durian-esque monstrosity is the Esplanade. It a theater and performing arts hall. Knowing Singapore it probably also has some shopping tucked in there somewhere. I found it to be a beautiful building, but I'm told most Singaporeans find it an eyesore.
A few days later, Christie and
Andre had a day free from work, so we went to the island of Sentosa.
Just across a canal from mainland Singapore, Sentosa is a touristy
little collection of beaches and resorts. They also have an aquarium,
dolphin shows, and a nighttime outdoor theater performance. Christie,
Andre, and I stuck to getting some sun on the beach.... mostly. After
some lounging, snacking, and swimming, we headed over to the Luge. Not
quite like the luge in the Olympics, being that Singapore's a bit too
warm for ice. Each person rides on a little car down with handlebars.
Pulling back on the handlebars engages the brakes, while pushing
forward on them releases your wheels and speeds you down the winding,
hillside concrete path. We rode to the top of the hill on a ski lift,
and before we could hop into our little cars, the sky opened its
floodgates. We found shelter under an umbrella. Sudden downpours
are common so close to the equator. It relented for a few moments. Long
enough for us to get on our vehicles and push off. The freshly-wet
concrete track was then a little too much like ice. We sped into corners
and slip slided our way through. I was pleasantly surprised at how
thrilling it was. The same sort of Luge idea was offered in Queenstown,
New Zealand on a much longer and steeper track. I now wish Jon, Buddy,
and I had done it. Oh well. Next time.
From there we checked out Sentosa's own Merlion statue. It was way bigger. A stairway inside leads to a viewing area looking out from the Merlion's eyes and another platform on top of his head. It cost money; we didn't bother.
That was pretty much it for Sentosa that day (other than eating, which
I won't go into in this section). A couple days later I came back with
Sarah. We started by going to the lagoon to see the pink dolphins. And
by pink dolphins, I mean the Fugly
pink dolphins. These sad creatures were hideous, but entertaining
nonetheless. And the narrator for the whole show was an
(unintentionally) hilarious Chinese girl. I felt really bad constantly
cracking up at her, but I'd look over and Sarah was laughing too.

We then walked across Sentosa to the aquarium which is called
Underwater World. Sarah had been here before and said it was kind of
lame and would only take 5 minutes. The day was scorching and the
aquarium was air-conditioned, which made it a welcome refuge. I
suggested we stay at least 10 minutes. But besides the A/C, I was
thrilled to be there because I out and out love aquariums. Sarah didn't
know what she was in for. The first area to greet us past the entrance
turnstiles was the "Touch Pond". I was giddy as a 5 year old hopped up
on pixie sticks. The touch pond had sharks, sting rays, and various
colorful fish. From there was some standard fare: large fish, sea
horses, more sting rays, etc., but I loved them all despite their
predictable aquarium appearance. Then I discovered my favorite new sea
creature: Sea Angels. I don't even know what they are. They're tiny,
translucent creatures whose organs light up. They casually drift around
in freezing arctic waters. I was mesmerized for at least half an hour
just watching them slowly flap their.... arms? Fins? I'll post pictures
as soon as I can.

From there we saw a bunch of crabs. Some were practically bigger than
me. Delicious! From there we headed to the tubes where you pass under
large tanks and can see various sharks et al. But before we entered, we
noticed the time. Shit. Our 10 minutes in Underwater World had turned
into over an hour. We had to get halfway back across the island in less
than 15 minutes to make it to the show we'd bought tickets for. We
sprinted through the tunnels, gaping at the sharks. Check. Then we
hustled to the outdoor theater and made it just in time.

The show was called Songs of the Sea. It was decidedly geared towards young kids, but I was thoroughly impressed by the water, light, and pyrotechnic displays. And some of the singing was alright. I'll post pictures and video a.s.a.p.
The last thing I'll mention, because this entry has become massive enough, is the night safari. The zoo stays open late and has an entire area of nocturnal animals. Sarah, Desmond, and I took a guided tram around. We spent most of the time mocking our tour guide's voice. She sounded like Cruella DeVille with a stuffy nose trying to make up for it by over-enunciating every word. When the tram finished, we walked along the paths to see more closely. Highlights were: the lions' pathetic roaring sounding like the world's mightiest hairball; the fruitbats exhibit which we walked inside; and the tigers which were sponsored by Tigerbalm (a product of Singapore). I desperately wanted a picture of the "Tigers, sponsored by Tigerbalm" sign, but my camera was too slow and the tram passed it. I wasn't allowed back to that sign on foot. Oh regrets....
And with that, I'll finally close this entry. Sorry it was so long, but there was much to tell and even more i didn't get to. Expect to hear about my time in Singapore a lot once I'm home. It was fantastic, and I'm certain to go back.
Thanks for everything to Sarah, Christie, Andre, and my partner in gluttony, Desmond. Keep gaining, you'll get to 60 soon.
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Comments

stephkowalick
stephkowalick on

The entries are back!
Is it wrong that when I go to aquariums I usually want seafood for dinner or lunch the same day?

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