Like the eye of a storm, Singapore is a center of calm, cleanliness and order in the chaos that is Southeast Asia. Upon crossing the border from Malaysia, I was immediately struck by the beautiful, lush landscaping, the trash-free curbs and the pedestrians waiting patiently at crosswalks. But what truly made our five days in this modern and efficient city-state fantastic was the incredible hospitality of Anand Samuel, a good friend of mine from law school.
Anand, who grew up in Singapore and now lives in New York, just happened to be back home visiting when we arrived in Singapore, and was more than generous in showing us around his hometown and introducing us to his wonderful friends and family. We celebrated our arrival with Singapore Slings at the ultra-touristy but must see Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel, the bar that originated the drink. The rest of our time in Singapore was a whirlwind of delicious meals at hawker stands and food courts, parties with Anand’s local friends, and a fabulously informative private tour of the National Museum of Singapore led by Anand’s mom, a docent at the museum.
A highlight of the National Museum was the Living Gallery – Food, a fantastic display of food-related artifacts and sound installations from the 1950s to the 1970s. The exhibition is designed to demonstrate how street food reflects the ethnic diversity and cross-cultural exchanges of Singapore. Best of all was the context the exhibition provided for our delicious culinary adventures at the Newton Hawker Center – chili crab, bak kut teh (pork rib soup), oyster omelet and Hainanese chicken rice, just to name a few of the many dishes we sampled.
After stuffing ourselves with Singapore’s gastronomic delights, it was great to get off the tourist trail and meet locals, getting some perspective on what life is like for young professionals in Singapore. Not only did we get to meet friendly and interesting people, we were also able to get a unique insight into what our lives could be like if we lived and worked in Singapore. Unlike anywhere else we’ve traveled to, in Singapore we were able to see the city through the eyes of our local peers and really picture ourselves living there. The city is melting pot of different cultures with English as the official language, it’s clean, green and easy to navigate, and, of course, there’s the amazing food. If it weren’t for the endless heat and humidity (profusely sweating immediately upon exiting anywhere with air conditioning was a common phenomenon), Singapore could give Philly a run for its money as our adopted hometown.
It was also eye opening when we realized how many of Anand’s friends have lived, worked, studied or extensively travelled abroad. These Singaporeans are truly global citizens. It seemed like everyone we met had tales to tell from adventures in other parts of the world, and their enthusiasm for travel and experiencing other cultures was energizing after three months on the road.
The Singapore Sling was created at the Raffles Hotel at the turn of the 20th century by Hainanese-Chinese bartender Ngiam Tong Boon.
- 30ml Gin
- 15ml Heering Cherry Liqueur
- 120ml Pineapple Juice
- 15ml Lime Juice
- 7.5ml Cointreau
- 7.5ml Dom Benedictine
- 10ml Grenadine
- A Dash of Angostura Bitters
- Garnish with a slice of Pineapple and Cherry