It was the start of my second Azamara voyage when the ship set sail from Singapore. Chinese New Year happened to fall during my four-day stay. Being native Vietnamese and growing up in the United States, it was very touching to mark Chinese New Year in Singapore – days of celebrating, so colorful, so lively, so many traditional foods. Yum!
Did you know this year is the year of the Rooster? Cock-a-doodle-do! And year 4715, here’s to eating noodles for longevity!
Here’s my advice if you are able to extend your stay in port or lengthen any trip: Immerse yourself in the local scene to get the genuine flavor of your host country.
One cannot write about Singapore without including the national obsession for food, as evidenced by the humble hawker centers all over. In the United States, we might equate a hawker center with a food court, but that doesn’t really cover it. Singapore's hawker centers are like huge covered patios filled with individual food stalls serving all types of food. Singaporean food is largely influenced by Chinese cuisine with scoops of Indian, Arabian, and British flavors blended into the pot.
Hawker prices are very low but that didn’t prevent two of these tiny kitchens from achieving Michelin Stars last year. Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodles in the Chinatown Food Complex has dishes starting at $2 Singapore (about $1.50 U.S.) and received one star. Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle on Crawford Lane, whose signature dish is Bak chor Mee (minced pork noodles), also received a star and has dishes starting at $5 Singapore (about $3.50 U.S.).
When eating at a hawker center, do as the locals do and save a table by leaving a packet of tissue, then go order your food. Remember, this also means that if you see a fresh packet of tissue on a table you should not sit there.
When I visited the Capella Singapore, I had a somewhat fancier version of hawker fare at Bob’s Bar. The Malay satay and Hainanese chicken rice were delicious. By the way, Hainanese chicken rice is considered one of Singapore’s national dishes.
Here are some other fun facts about Singapore:
- Singaporeans tend to greet taxi drivers and hawker vendors as “Uncle” or “Aunty.” It is a combination of an honorific and familiarity. Typically, Uncle or Aunty is used for those who are middle-aged and older.
- Most Singaporeans speak both English and the mother tongue of their home, such as Mandarin, Bahasa, or Tamil. They also share a common language, Singlish. This is a special mix of English, Mandarin, Chinese dialects, and Bahasa often strung together in one sentence. Singlish is so unique it how Singaporeans can detect each other when out of the country.
- Want to know why Singapore is such a popular port of call or layover choice? Because it is small. It only takes 30 minutes to travel from one coast to another. And there’s a lot to see in between (and to eat!). What a great place to spend the time before your next embarkation.
- Bet you didn’t know about Singapore’s thriving art scene. There’s something for everyone from the well-known masterpiece museum pieces to the avant-garde. The former British military camp Gillman Barracks is packed with contemporary art, and the National Gallery Singapore is housed in the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings. Art events include Art After Dark and the Affordable Art Fair.
Azamara has many upcoming voyages calling on Singapore. Browse them here.
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