THE MAGIC OF SINGAPORE ~ 2019 FAVORITES

August 19, 2019

Over the last two months that we’ve been in Singapore, Taylor and I have lived in five different neighborhoods. We’ve explored with family + friends and we came up with a list of our favorite places, people, foods + experiences. If you’re in Singapore or have visited, let us know what you think!

KOPI O KOSONG KAO (BLACK COFFEE)

Singapore coffee is the best coffee I’ve ever had. Always bitter and never sour, it’s rich, dark + flavorful. It’s so good it makes me sad to go back to espresso in Phoenix. It’s that good. Kopi costs one Singapore dollar (USD 75 cents) for a large cup and though the flavor is rich, it doesn’t make you as jittery as the coffee back home.

Our favorite Kopi O Kosong is found in the lower level of the Dunman Hawker Center in Joo Chiat. You’ll find a cute couple in their 70’s; the husband pours the coffee through the sock and the wife takes your orders and money with a smile. Another amazing coffee spot is at the Whampoa Kopitiam.

TEA HALIA

At Changi Village Hawker Center, you can find the best Tea Halia. A strong ginger tea made from fresh ginger root, there’s regular and there’s ‘extra’ (super duper spicy). Typically it comes with carnation milk and sugar, but you can ask for no sugar/milk - we did and it was delicious.

Why Ginger? It has countless health benefits including enhancing digestion and circulation, reducing muscle pain and soreness, and reducing inflammation of any kind. It’s a good antidote for all kinds of headaches and even fights infections. I remember once in a podcast interview with Dr. Khalsa, he said that there was a saying in Ayurvedic Medicine that said, “if Ginger can’t cure it, nothing can”.

FOOT REFLEXOLOGY MASSAGE

You can find reflexology places sprinkled all over the island, and my absolute favorite one is a reflexology space in the middle of the Bukit Timah Plaza. The doors slide open quietly and you see four brown leather recliner chairs on one side of the room and the scent of the air reminds me of smoky plum juice.

I always work with Ah An; he’s my favorite kind of lovely torture, although all the other fellows are sweet too. Inevitably, there will be some brief moments of dissociation from my body, because the pain is so great, but by the end of the hour, I’m struggling to keep my eyes open in the soft recliner chair. After an hour of massaging both of my feet and calves, he pulls out his powder puff and powders my feet so they’re not oily. I stumble out of the place half awake, half asleep and the world has a new glow. I imagine my face does too. ; )

PLACE TO RUN

My favorite place to go for a jog is East Coast Park. It runs along the southern stretch of the island and has walking and biking trails. You can sit by the sea, under a tree or out on a pier. I love to run in the mornings, when the trees are releasing their oxygen. It’s more likely to be cloudy in the morning too, making it much cooler for running (direct sun at the equator is intense).

I run for 30-60 minutes and then sit under a tree to do stretches and sit and meditate. I love the huge trees with their enormous roots, and love putting my back against the support of these big mother trees, with my face to the horizon. Huge freight ships and oil tankers line where the sea meets the sky.

It’s my favorite place to go for free insights. I make time. I leave my phone at home. I open up to the space. And wisdom arises. I feel so connected to the island when I’m here.

PLACE TO EXERCISE/STRETCH

When I was living up north, my favorite place to exercise was Toa Payoh Park. I’d jog around the turtle-filled ponds, admiring the water plants and trees. I’d do stomach crunches and then lie on my back and look up at the sky. I’d run by groups of people doing tai chi and qi gong. But the absolute best part? The reflexology stone path. I like the size and spacing of the stones better than the ones in the park in Taipei. Feels so good on my bare feet.

One day when I was hanging upside down on the bar, I saw a beautiful carnelian stone charm that someone had dropped on the ground. I picked it up and hung it up on a tree, partly so that the owner could find it easily if they looked for it, and partly to make a gratitude offering to the place. If you ever go to the reflexology path, look on the northernmost tree and you’ll see a deep orange stone charm hanging there.

CAFE VIBE

Social Space on Kreta Ayer is lovely for working or having meetings over coffee. You can get a chai, earl grey or tumeric latte with macadamia nut milk - and other fantastic hot drinks with yummy non-dairy milks. They have the sweetest employees ever and their music playlists are inspiring.

They have a fair trade retail section with all kinds of fun items to look at and I dare say I also fell in love with their chocolate mousse cake (whoops!). I feel so comfy and at home the moment I walk in the door and the people working there make all the difference. One day I walked in and one of the fellows took my heavy bag and put it down on a chair for me. That simple, tiny kind gesture melted me.

CHINESE TEMPLE

My favorite Chinese Temple in Singapore is in Ballestier / Toa Payoh on Boon Teck Road. We lived next door to it for almost a month. Two times each day the Daoist priest would do his ritual, making offerings and knocking the muyu, a hollow wooden instrument; the ritual (which lasts for over an hour) and the sounds shift + clarify the energy of the entire neighborhood. Smoldering aromatic wood and coniferous incense offerings perfume the air when you walk by. Giant bright red and gold lanterns hang from the front gate and rooftop dragons line the sky. The rich teal, red and yellow color palette stands out from the grey and black apartment buildings. You can enter in various doors of gold and wood to see quiet altars, statues, carvings and prayer places.

A second favorite of temples is the Kwan Yin temple downtown. It is the only temple to have not been destroyed in World War Two and it is always chock full of people offering incense, flowers and prayers, along with through divination sticks.

Inside there is a huge red carpet on which you can remove your shoes and sit on the floor in front of the altar of the eight-armed embodiment of compassion: Chenrezig, or Kwan Yin.

Outside there are flower vendors selling pink and white lotuses, magenta orchids and bright yellow chrysanthemums. You can offer flowers and in exchange you can take a little bag of someone else’s (recycled) flowers. You receive the blessing flowers as a result of someone else’s past kindness, and in the future someone will receive the flowers you offered.

TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE

One of my family members had a severe health issue early on during our time in Singapore so I had to find a Traditional Chinese Doctor who could see us *immediately* - same day! Because it was so urgent, we couldn’t wait for any appointment times; we just had to walk in.

We got really lucky. We were staying in Toa Payoh at the time, and we just went to the nearest TCM clinic & we won the lottery. We found an incredible TCM Doctor, Dr. Li. She sees patients at several clinics around Singapore & we later went all the way to Clementi to see her again.

Super gentle, in tune, observant & skilled, she handled not only our emergency swiftly, but cured all the rest of us in the meantime of all our other issues over the last few weeks. She asks questions, looks intently at you, really listens, feels both pulses, checks your tongue & away you go with 7 days of customized herbal powders to add to hot water & drink 2x/day.

I’ve heard many people here say that Chinese medicine works, but really slowly. I disagree. I’ve seen it work almost immediately, with tremendous benefits that unfold over time. If a chronic issue that’s been lingering for 3 years is almost gone in 3 weeks, that’s pretty fast! And not just one of us experienced that, but all of us of us traveling together experienced that level of transformation.I know it can be hard to find good TCM practitioners so I love sharing when I’ve discovered the real deal. She’s it. ♥️

LION DANCING TEAM

Their lion den is on Lorong 26 Geylang 28. We spent an entire day watching a massive celebration for one of their deities. About eight other lion dance teams filed in, along with a dragon dance team. Lion dance music filled the streets for hours, making our hearts beat faster and captivating our eyes.

Later that night, we walked by the lion den and went inside. We made incense offerings to their deity, and then a few of the team members let us try on the lion head.

FRUITS

Last time I was in Asia, I was obsessed with Soursop. This trip, it wasn’t really in season, so we mostly drank it in juices and smoothies. Then we discovered dragonfruit. The rich magenta fruits with tiny black seeds won us over and for the first half of our trip we were drinking cooling dragonfruit juices and eating the fruit - turning our fingers, lips and teeth bright pink.

 

Then we were introduced to mangosteens and we became total junkies. Round eggplant-colored fruits with white fleshy fruit segments inside, the only other thing it remotely reminds me of is cacao fruit. It’s sweet and otherworldly, rich with minerals and vitamins of some sort that my body must not have seen in a long time, because I just can’t get enough.

Another favorite this trip was longan fruits. The perfect snack for late-night hunger, but beware, once you have one, you can’t stop. You have to eat the whole bag. Or at least I did. ; )

 

GORENG PISANG (FRIED BANANAS)

When we lived in Toa Payoh, we worked from home a lot and got into the habit of having a tea break every afternoon, or rather a goreng pisang + kopi o kosong break. Boon Goreng Pisang at Ballestier Hawker Center makes the best fried bananas on the island.

The owner is Rose and every banana comes with a smile. She also makes fried green mung beans and tapioca (a yummy chewy treat).

Noodles:

MEE POK TA / KWAY TEO TA

Nothing I’ve ever had in Singapore before, this was my latest food obsession. It’s a sort of comfort food: Mee Pok is the egg noodles, but our favorite was Kway Teo - the rice noodles - and the ‘Ta’ means dry, so you get your soup on the side. The best Kway Teo Ta we had was at the Bedok Hawker Centre made by three women. Make sure to put a fresh red chili into every bite of noodles.

Up late at night? Hungry at 1 or 2am? Get your late-night Kway Teo Ta/Mee Pok Ta fix. Sit at little tables outside and people watch outside on Syet Alwi Road. The Kway Teo Ta (spicy rice noodles) and the Mee Pok Ta (spicy egg noodles) are yummy!

LAKSA

Found in what used to be a gangster area, you can find this little coffeeshop across from an open field and a hardware shop in the Sungai Road area.

The Laksa is served in small bowls, cooked over charcoal and filled with hamm cockles (like little clams without the shell). If you’ve never had laksa before it consists of: rice noodles served with a soupy gravy made of spicy coconut and spices, with fish cake, lime leaf, candlenuts and other spices.

WONTON MEE

Your choice of noodles, with wontons, bbq pork, green chilis and soup on the side. Our fav: Cho Kee Wanton Mee at the Old Airport Road Hawker Center. The man who owns the stall is super duper sweet and his cheeky worker is kind too. Ask for extra chili and extra green chilis - yummmm.

HOR FUN

Wide rice noodles fried with a gravy with egg ribbons poured over it with seafood and veggies. It's the green chili that makes everything come together. We loved Fetty Wang in Bencoolen, where you can sit in or outside around big round tables. Bring your friends and have a noodle feast! But this place is often super busy.

Desserts:

ONDEH ONDEH (KUEH)

Ondeh Ondeh, a Nyonya (Peranakan) delight, are glutinous rice balls flavored with green pandan leaf and coconut, filled with palm sugar that liquifies at room temperature. Put the whole thing in your mouth, otherwise the palm sugar will drip down your chin like maple syrup. We love these so much, we served them at our Flowerlounge event in Singapore.

SUJI LADOO

If you want a sweet treat from little India, enjoy waves of lovely rose incense and fun music as you make your way to Mogul Sweets on Serangoon Road. Our favorite treat is the Suji Ladoo, which is a ball of semolina, almonds, powdered milk, ghee, sugar and loads of cardamom. Best eaten while sitting on the side of the road, people watching in Little India.

AH BO LING

Want to try a hot dessert? Ah Bo Ling is a hot ginger soup with glutinous rice balls (kinda like the texture of mochi) filled with peanuts or black sesame. The hot, sweet ginger soup is comforting and ginger is beneficial for so many things in the body: see tea halia above. If you’re having dessert, it might as well be good for the body. ; )

MUAH CHEE

Like mochi (glutinous rice) blobs dusted with sweet ground peanuts, we found Muah Chee at a popiah stall at Old Airport Road Hawker Center. They were so good that Taylor and I ate most of them standing up before we even got back to our table.

SHAVED ICE

At Mei Heong Yuen Desserts on Temple Street in Chinatown, there are so many different types of shaved ice! And it’s shaved so finely it melts in your mouth faster than cotton candy. Our favs? Chocolate, mango, soursop, black sesame. The best thing? Not too sweet!!! We were surprised that the level of sugar was bearable, making the shaved ice refreshing and fun. Taylor says, “But whatever you do … DON’T get the Durian Mochi!” ; )

BEANCURD

What a weird name right? A jelly-like soybean pudding, this stuff is so good I dare you to try not to eat the entire container (and in five minutes flat or less). You think to yourself, I’ll just try some and save the rest for later, and five minutes later you’re licking the spoon with an empty plastic container. Our favorite was a famous one, sold at Old Airport Road Hawker Center, called Lao Ban Soya Beancurd.

If you make it to any of these places, let us know what you think! And if you find any other spots that should be on this list, let us know + we'll add it to our list for next time!

Love + happy travels,

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