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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

24 January 2011

Journal entry 20/01/2011

20th January 2011

We keep a daily journal of notes, both to cover all the details we might forget and which don’t make it into blogs, and also to remind me of details if it’s a couple of days before I actually put a blog entry together. This is pretty much today’s journal entry (with footnotes)…

Down in time for meh breakfast, the room thronged with nervous gangly American kids. Maureen stays a-bed so I bring cheese on toast offering. Short walk out to Little India where we find Thaipusan procession under way, watching Hindu gentlemen with big beards and bellies (probably prosperous businessmen and fathers) with various piercings by spear or hook attaching them to various huge head-dresses or shrine-wagons to tow. Some have shoes full of nails pointing into their feet. Some have dozens of hooks in their backs and chests with limes or bells hanging from them. There is exactly one female with piercings. The combo of lips and sticking-out tongue piercing look particularly uncomfortable. I think they are all hurting and aching on the 4km walk more than their questing eyes and dogged expressions let on. Hare krishnas joined in without piercings – not fooling anyone though. Mood typical Hindu mixture of festive/religious/casual.

Back to the hotel to change, me into new jacket over fishy T-shirt and new shoes beneath old jeans, Maureen to wear new Desigual funky top beneath wicked new hair and over jeans and shiny sandals. Heat decides us on a taxi out to Iggy’s at the Hilton*. All very posh, strolling past the designeriest label shops into the stylish modern interior of Iggy’s. Sitting at the pastry counter would have been nice, but they prefer to put us at a proper table. There are plenty of T-shirts and jeans in evidence, so phooey on the guidebook again**. Good four-course meal, definitely fine dining, the pasta course is the best for “fusion” with salty/fishy Asian tastes on classic Italian presentation. Service is very muted, dishes swished in and out with occasional murmured explanations and definitely no affability. Three glasses of wine sees us (Maureen) a bit tipsy.

Wander out through ION Orchard (what I expect a Singapore mall to be, shiny and busy and gaudy and confusing) and take the MRT to Bugis, then amble the Kampong Glam district while it patters with rain. Restored colonial shophouses, nice mosque+palms as backdrop, tiny designer and vintage boutiques on Haji Lane remind of North Laines, Brighton. Stuffed and woozy, can’t summon enthusiasm for shops or architecture, and make our way back on foot to watch more Thaipusan promenaders before returning to the Hangout***. Rest, then dinner at the hotel’s Wild Rice Bistro – which turns out to be quite posh and thus not for the typical backpacker guests at all. Apart from us of course! We find the pasta dishes good and properly fusion – the laksa pesto has the exact pungent herbal taste of laksa with the texture and rich freshness of pesto. The desserts don’t live up to billing. Up to roof for night photos of city, back to room for packing and Bali read-up, bed by 12:30.

* – we picked Iggy’s off of the 2010 list of “50 Best Restaurants In The World” which this year has the Fat Duck at 3 and only two others from the UK. I don’t know how it’s judged or voted, but it’s clearly chiefly marketing for the gourmet industry; Iggy’s was a very good meal, but I’ve had more than a dozen better which implies that at the very least those should all be higher on the list.

** – this happens the world over. Guidebooks seem determined to tell you that the local population (e.g. South Africa, Singapore, London, Miami) like to dress up to dinner and the better restaurants insist on smart-casual attire. In Miami, Stellenbosch and now Singapore we’ve taken the trouble to get into decent clothes for a fine-dining experience only to find plenty of local diners in jeans, T-shirts and sometimes shorts. London diners are the smartest dressed I personally have found anywhere.

*** – our hotel is called The Hangout @ Mt Emily, and is aimed at backpackers (having the only rooms at £60 that we could find with decent reviews on TripAdvisor), but in Singapore fashion it is also stylish, clean, well-maintained and has loads of useful facilities.


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