Asia vacation 2008: Day 2 Singapore

It was a Sunday in Singapore. After doing my morning swim at the hotel pool, Smelly and i took a cab to get to the closest Ya Kun Kopitiam (Coffee shop). The Malaysian-born cab driver told us to avoid certain areas as it was the day of the Singapore Marathon. She attempted to take us to the Ya Kun located at Tanjong Pagar but apparently on arrival, we realized that it was no longer in operation. The cab driver then took us to the Ya Kun that i had frequented several times in the past, the one located at Far East Square on China St.

Ya Kun kopitiam, located at Far East Square.
Ya Kun kopitiam, located at Far East Square.

Ya Kun is well known for its Kaya toast. Kaya is basically a fragrant sweet tasting spread. It is best eaten on a warm toast with several thin slices of butter. A close friend of mine in Seattle is crazy over Ya Kun’s Kaya spread. I think he’s going to be pleased with the number of jars of Kaya that he will be getting.

Our plan for the day was to visit the Singapore Zoo. I remember coming to the Zoo in the late 90s and was impressed by its exhibits. To get to the zoo, we walked to the Raffles Place station, the nearest MRT station. We got on a North-bound train and went all the way to the Woodlands station. From the Woodlands station, we were to get on a weekend-only shuttle bus to the zoo. Since the next bus would not arrive for another 45 minutes, Smelly and i decided to have a quick lunch at the shopping mall near the bus terminal, which is located right next to the MRT station. I don’t know what happened but we ended eating at MOS burger, a Japanese burger joint. The food was horrible.

It took probably close to 15 minutes before we arrived at the zoo. On arrival, i noticed a long line at the bus stop. I thought it was the line people to get on the bus. I was dead wrong. This was the line for the ticketing booths! After waiting in line for more than 45 minutes, we finally got into the zoo.

Freaking long line at the Singapore zoo.
Freaking long line at the Singapore zoo.

If you like primates, then you are probably going to enjoy the Singapore zoo. However, Smelly is not too fond of monkeys. It seemed like primates took up almost half of the zoo. Everywhere we went, there was some kind of monkeys, apes or baboons.

I'll do your back if you promise you'll return the favor later.
I’ll do your back if you promise you’ll return the favor later.

I swear i left the hair clippers over there 2 years ago.
I swear i left the hair clippers over there 2 years ago.

Overall, the trip to the Singapore Zoo was a complete disappointment. The Red Panda that i saw on my previous visit was longer there. Smelly was really excited about seeing the Red Panda when i told her about it. Normally a visit to any zoo will take up at least half a day for me. Smelly and i spent exactly one hour at the zoo before taking off under the hot and humid day.

Later in the afternoon, Smelly and i did a little window shopping and people watching in shopping malls along Orchard Rd, a street that is lined with shopping malls on both sides. We were eagerly waiting for our dinner at 1830.

Smelly and i are big fans of Anthony Bourdain’s travel show “No Reservations”. In one episode, he was in Singapore and he was taken to this restaurant called Tian Jin Hai. He had nothing but praise for the food at the restaurant, including the fame steamed shark head. We have been wanting to visit this restaurant ever since we watched that particular episode. I had arranged to meet up with my cousin and his wife, as well as my parents and my sis at the restaurant.

After telling the cab driver our destination, he informed us that the food court, where Tian Jin Hai restaurant was located, was being demolished. I found the address of the restaurant from the famous makansutra.com website. It was KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, that took Anthony to Tian Jin Hai in the “No Reservation” episode.

The cab driver was right. On arrival, we noticed signs around the Jackson Kopitiam that it was being demolished and stalls in the Kopitiam had moved to “Golden Wall Centre”. It was then i also realized that this “Kopitiam” was actually in the MacPherson neighborhood where i spent more than four teenage years. After informing my sis that Tian Jin Hai was nowhere to be found, she made the decision to eat at the nearby Hunan shrimp noodle restaurant. Supposedly, this Hunan shrimp noodle restaurant is very well-known. Smelly and i were obvioiusly disappointed that we had come all this way and yet we were not able to taste what Anthony Bourdain had enjoyed.

The day ended with my cousin taking us to the Telok Ayer Market, aka Lau Pa Sat (老巴刹). We had some satay and i had a nice cold bowl of Cheng Tng that more than made up for the crappy Chendol i had the previous night.

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