Singapore’s Thieves Market

Towering malls in Orchard Road or Chinatown or Little India are not the only places for shopping in Singapore. If you like the adventure of hunting for something worth your money and for a cheaper price, the Thieves’ Market in Larut Road is the best place to visit. It is not a thieves’ rendezvous as you thought of as no thieves are there, but it is a place where vendors hawk their collections of used and old products. Although originally in 1930s, it was a meeting place for looters trading their wares believed to be stolen elsewhere in Singapore. Today, it becomes a new destination for those who want to have a different shopping experience and get a feel of Singapore’s other side.

The market occupies the whole stretch of  Larut Road along Jalan Besar at the side of Weld Road. It is a short walk from Sim Lim Tower or Little India train station. The market starts from 1:00 in the afternoon until 7:00 in the evening.

To get the best find, it is suggested to go the earliest as buyers flock the place and vendors start packing up after 5:00 in the afternoon. The place is disorganized but that what makes it more exciting. Vendors roll out their mats and spread their merchandise ranging from used clothes, shoes, watches, toys, magazines and books, decors, household items, kitchen wares, bags, even old camera lenses, souvenirs among others. Name it and probably they have all for you. Show your haggling skills and you would surely get the best deals.

An afternoon spent in the market got me excited to try out other places in Singapore less frequented by tourists. I did not imagine a Thieves’ Market thriving at the heart of the city.  Singapore indeed is a place that never stops its visitors get fascinated. For sure, there are more to discover in Singapore.

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Spicy Laksa in SG

Introduced to me by Mysh in Singapore a year ago, laksa is a popular noodle soup in Singapore and Malaysia. Laksa has many variants but what we had tried was curry laksa which has coconut milk. Ingredients  found in our laksa aside from noodles include tofu, fish sticks, slice eggs, beans among others.  It is then garnished with dried coriander and added with a spoonful of chili paste. Whew, really hot!

SG’s Best – Song Fa Bak Kut Teh

A must try when in Singapore is bak kut teh, a soup made from pork ribs sprinkled with a mix of spices and herbs simmered for hours until the pork becomes succulent and tender.

While lots of restos offer this Chinese soup, there is this one place along the Riverwalk at the corner of New Bridge Road and Upper Circular Road that drew my attention.  The resto is Song Fa. Its main menu is bak kut teh which undoubtedly is a thumbs up because of its peppery taste that excites my palate. An order was not enough pushing me to request for additional. Two bowls were definitely a good treat after my long stroll in SG’s thoroughfares.

For more info, you may visit Song Fa website: http://www.songfa.com.sg.

Singapore Trip – Day 2

The second day was indeed fun as expected especially because of new friends met. From my place at G4 Station I walked the street of Rochor to reach Bugis Junction where I would be meeting Mysh and his officemate,  Atan- a Chinese who found Singapore her new abode. Upon meeting at MRT station in Bugis, we immediately took a train ride hopping from one station to another to reach our destination. After less than an hour or so, we finally arrived at Chinese Garden- one of the beautiful gardens (the other is the Japanese Garden) situated in Jurong lake adjacent to Jurong Bird Park. Chinese as it is, its concept is naturally chinese with  designs reflecting chinese tradition of abundance and prosperity. It is said that its landscape and architecture manifest northern Chinese imperial style. I should have asked Atan about this. What I know is that Chinese gardens are artworks demonstrating Chinese beliefs in 3 thoughts: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

Instead of taking the main gate, we entered through the east entrance near the MRT station trekking along a narrow road then passing over a small red colored bridge (red is a chinese color for luck) where we found across us a squirrel jumping from one corner to another (the squirrel seems so glad seeing us). Entrance to the garden is free of charge, no entrance fee except at the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum and Garden of Abundance. Welcoming us on our way inside is the 7-storey Pagoda standing proud at the hill, seemingly the tallest structure in the garden. We circled the Pagoda and then moved downward for some photo shoots at the big boulders beside it.

We followed the trail going west and found the sculptures of 12 Zodiac animal signs. We checked our own signs and took photos for souvenirs. Moving further, we got across some pavilions that are usual scenes in Chinese gardens. After a short stop, we followed the pathways pausing for a while for shots at some trees, probably decades old. Looking a bit tired, we decided to take a break in those benches approaching the arch bridge. There are several bridges in this garden and they said that these denote periods in Chinese civilizations.

While sitting in the bench, Mysh captured some of my moments.

Reenergized, we again walked to see ourselves the famous, Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum- home of the rarest and expensive turtles and tortoises in the world with over than 1000 collections of different species under their care. A bridge made of rocks arranged side by side connects the museum to the main place.

More posts about Singapore soon. This country though small offers a lot of choices to its visitors.

Singapore Trip – Day 1

Let it begin…

I will start with my trip to Singapore last December 2009.

Travelling almost 7 hours on board Singapore Airlines, I finally arrived to this cultural Mecca and food haven in Southeast Asia – Singapore – the Lion City. At last, it is a dream come true.

After meeting all the airport requirements, I went straight ahead to currency exchange counter located right at the exit at the arrival area to get some Singapore dollars. Then I took a cab to get to my destination at G4 Station at Mckenzie Road. Without wasting little time I have, I left my bags at the hotel and headed to a nearby restaurant to satisfy my craving for a sumptuous complete meal. I found this Irrawady Restaurant inside a mall and ordered the first in my list- a pork menu (sweet and sour). I would just reserve the lechon when I set foot back to Manila. Why pork?  ‘coz I was deprived of it for a year.

My feet then brought me to the busy streets of Singapore. I strolled into one of the places frequented by Pinoy workers, the Lucky Plaza. It is indeed full of our kababayans who usually gather every Sunday taking their weekly work-break. Moving around, I found stalls selling Pinoy products, Pinoy food, Pinoy sim cards, almost everything pinoy for Pinoys. Ari na di tanan, others even call this place, Quiapao in Singapore.  Daw sa Pinas ka lang, kung ari ka di. Pinoy banks like PNB are also within reach but flooded by our kababayans who were in long queue to send money at home (expected as it’s Christmas time).  And since it was holiday season, shops were on sale bringing down half of their prices or even offering up to 70% off. After meeting my Aunt, I asked her to join me for a shopping craze with other Pinoys. And so we were hopping from one store to another looking for a buy worth our penny.  We eventually ended up getting a good deal for 3 shirts at Crocodile.

Since it was already past 3 pm, we headed to Singapore Botanics Garden – home to thousands of botanical plants of various species and whose beautiful gardens with wide collections are stunning especially the Orchid Garden. Amazing as it is, we were delighted when we saw right in our front magnificent orchids with colors pleasant to the eyes. Some of these are even the rarest (sorry I forgot what those were). Enough of feasting beautiful orchids, we transferred to the adjacent Cool House. As its name suggests, it’s like a ref where collections of plants thriving only in cold places can be seen here like the epiphytes- group of plants that includes ferns and bromeliads? usually growing in mountain forests.

As it was getting dark, we opted to go back to the hotel to recharge and prepare for another walkabout around the city. This time, I would now truly experience Singapore’s night life. Before I would only see those in pictures, but now I would be taking the photos myself. Together with Mysh-  my kasimanwa who’s now base in this country, we wandered in Singapore’s most photographed landmarks: the Esplanade and Merlion. Esplanade is famous for its durian shape architecture, and Merlion (half mermaid-half lion) is Singapore’s symbolic icon.   Then, we walked a bit further towards the downtown area and took some snapshots of Singapore’s skyline- a vivid picture of the country’s economic development.

Next in our list was Clarke Quay (pronounced as Key) in the downtown central area, a walking distance from Merlion. While on the way, we passed by the astonishing Fullerton Hotel, a former post office building refurbished into a 5 star hotel, probably one of the best in town. The hotel is a head turner since its stunning architecture illuminated by those brights lights captures every passerby.  I even saw our Philippine flag along with four others hoisted in its facade.

The location of Clarke Quay opposite the hotel along the mouth of Singapore River makes it fascinating with the lights from its kaleidoscope of chic bars and restaurants reflecting in the serene river (we missed the river cruise).  The place is a melting pot for food and music lovers and for those party owls who want to enjoy a night dose of fun with friends and families. While looking for a place to hang out, we passed by some unique bars like the Clinic – yes a bar that resembles a medical clinic with wheel chairs around, syringes, and perhaps other medical stuffs in place. Mysh as seems used to this place dragged me to her favorite bar, the Pump- a trendy place with brewery (brewing their own array of beers) and bistro that would excite your senses and make partying really enjoyable. Sitting in one of its comfort corners, we ordered some food and got a mug of beer to pump out the thirst. The music from the live band was inviting that even while sitting it would sway you to stomp your feet.

Feeling a bit tired (perhaps due to jetlag), I called it a night thinking that tomorrow will be a long day. And so we slowly walked going out to the outskirt, passed by the bungee jumping station, took some photos of the streets, and got a cab to our way home. The next day would surely be fun, and in our list was Sentosa. //end