I used to come to Singapore’s Chinatown way back in 2008 to shop for bargains or just stroll around aimlessly or grab some quick chow. Here you’ll eat even when you’re not hungry. Everything here reminds me of our Chinatown minus Binondo and Sta. Cruz Church, pancit and the local hopia. It’s remarkable how these districts all look and feel the same regardless of country.
For eating and drinking there are numerous stalls and restos around Singapore’s Chinatown that serves just about everything – from frog leg stew to Chinese sweets to an assortment of noodle fare. Tables and chairs are placed in the middle of a close road, finding a place where to eat is never a problem. Singapore’s Chinatown is over-endowed with eating places; you might as well forget your diet. Along the streets are the old buildings of Chinatown, which they aptly called heritage centre. Here you can find an office that offers tours and literature about the district. The place is always teeming with people regardless what day of the week. During Chinese New Year its streets are filled from side to side.
Another interesting store that Filipinos are bound to enjoy is a shop called Bee Cheng Hiang that sells meat products that resemble our tapa. They also serve grilled pork, hard and sliced thinly and sold by the pound. The taste of this delicacy is close to our inihaw na liempo. A personal favorite, Hokkien mee is fried noodles cooked with frawns, toge and some greens – aside from this Fukienese dish, there is prata with its spicy reddish yellow curry sauce on the side. These have become la comida favorita for us couple.
Pass the streets of Singapore’s Chinatown (but still in the same district) is a pleasant place where old shops has been restored. Along this street is the historic Vishnu Temple built in 1860. Known for its intricate carvings and is truly a temple exhibiting Hindu art at its finest. The Vaishnavites worships “avatars” (incarnations). A fascinating attribute of this island nation is how several religions exist without conflicts and tensions.
Half an hour ride via plane is Kuala Lumpur where there exist another popular Chinatown. There are great bargains here, although we found some tinderos a bit too aggressive and rude, except this one who kept on talking about Pacquiao after he found out that we were Filipinos. The district is perfect for buying souvenirs. If in Singapore you can still identify Filipinos from the crowd, this would be difficult to do in Malaysia – because they all look like us. We were delighted to meet Filipinos, both tourist and shopkeepers. Like this kind lady, originally from Tanauan who gave us a relaxing foot spa. She said that the owner is a Malaysian who rarely visits the spa. It’s sad to hear their stories, being far and away from home is not easy, especially if you’re just compelled to do so because your country can’t offer you a job.
Kuala Lumpur airport (or simple KLIA to many) going to Chinatown is a 30 minute ride by an express train. From the Sentral station, another train ride this time you must hop to another platform (using their MRT that service the whole KL city) then finally alighting in Pasar Seni. Trains are part of the daily lives of Malays and they have a very impressive infrastructure. Traveling by train going to other Malaysian states (even Singapore and Thailand) is also a great idea. We found several hotels that offer inexpensive lodging – in the business center (KLCC to them – Malays are fond of abbreviations like us) where the Petronas tower is located, hotel prices goes up considerably.
The night when we were in Malaysia, we dined at one of the many local restos that serves freshly cooked seafood. I try to avoid restaurants that serve frog dishes – I don’t know why; probably I just grew up liking Kermit the Frog and did not like the idea of him being cooked alive. Seafood, regardless of type, is best in spicy red sauces. We had big prawns and the Malay version of chop suey. While eating diner, we were entertained by a fist fight between a young man and an old lady – I don’t know what’s wrong with that guy but something like that would never happen where I came from. As soon as the fight was over the busy street resumed to its normal state. We then went back to our rooms with our stomach full to its limits.