So the fried chicken and fries (complete with wasabi mayonnaise…mmmm) were delicious, but we could not deny ourselves the quintessential Singapore experience—the hawker stalls.
After a wonderful day at the zoo, we proceeded to the Maxwell Food Centre. These food centers (also called hawker stalls, sometimes food lofts…they have lots of different names) feature a vast array of different street foods at very reasonable prices. They are basically food courts on steroids. There is no master plan to these facilities, fruit smoothies can be found next to pork dishes, desserts next to noodles.
We overordered as usual: Hainanese Chicken Rice, Singapore’s signature dish and enjoyed it with a variety of lovely condiments. We had other singapore must-haves (glutinous fried carrot cake, char kway teow noodles with cockles) and followed that up with a dessert featuring deep fried bananas (yum), deep fried jackfruit (meh), and an iced dessert of grass jelly (bleh), longan and the infamous durian. For those who don’t know durian, it is commonly summed up in one phrase – “Tastes like heaven, smells like hell.” Truthfully, we found neither to be quite the case. Durian does smell slightly like aging onions, but it is not hell exactly. It is considerably better than how it is usually described, that is, as smelling like stinky socks. And the taste…well, it’s pretty good. But heaven? Perhaps not. It is, however, texturally very unique for a fruit—durian is custardy and quite smooth. It’s almost alien; one might expect to find the odd durian in the center of a crop circle or on the roof of a tract home in the Midwest.
The next day we visited the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Like the zoo, Singapore should be very proud of this—it was easily the most spectacular thing we saw in Singapore, food or no food.
Because of the walking involved, we opted for a wheelchair for Bel, and David I burned off our durian dessert pushing her around the many winding trails.
(Remember the 90° heat and the 80% humidity?)
So basically we’re courting heatstroke.
But back to the gardens:
There are waterfalls, man-made lakes, vast rain forest sections, vast bamboo forests, vast mangrove swamp sections, whole sections devoted to bromeliads, whole sections devoted to heliconia…
You get the idea, I think.
The indisputable highlight of the Botanic Gardens is the National Orchid Garden.
It features over 30 million species of orchids.
Okay maybe that’s an exaggeration. Would you believe 3 million?
Still a little high, perhaps. I think the number is closer to 60,000 species of orchids. It was a bit overwhelming, but lovely.
There were white ones and pink ones and white and pink ones and hybrids and orchids named after celebrities.
Had there been an Eva Gabor orchid, it might have found its way into my pocket by accident. There were also these fabulous orchid archways that made you feel like the most blushing bride on her big day.
Bel, a longtime orchid fan, was in heaven. We even made a little squirrel friend who was kind enough to pose for some photos. And a little birdie. Oh, and some bugs agreed to a face off on camera.
After such an exhaustive horticultural morning (remember what Dorothy Parker said: “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”), it was time for a lovely, refreshing lunch. Happily, there just happens to be an excellent French restaurant in the middle of the gardens. Chilled Jerusalem artichoke soup with avruga herring caviar?
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