Trip 35 -- Kangaroo Island and Singapore Walks
Singapore day 5: Bugis to airport
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Yesterday: 27518 steps/22.25 km/13.83 mi/4h 3m
Grand total for Singapore: 180832 steps/146.23 km/90.86 mi/26h 41m
Between arriving in the main part of Singapore city and departing for the airport, I had about 24 hours. Naturally I used that time to eat.
On my first trip to Singapore, 25 years ago, I dined at the Imperial Herbal Restaurant. It has since dropped "Herbal" from its name and moved locations, but it remains a unique dining experience. Everything on the menu is designed to strengthen one or more parts of the body, according to Chinese medicine.
Rather than a cocktail, I began with a glass of Panax ginseng deer-penis wine. "That's a Superman wine!" my server had said when I'd ordered it 25 years ago. Deer penis is thought to have therapeutic qualities and enhance virility. The red wine had a bouquet -- if it could be called a bouquet -- like fresh, thick mulch, and its taste was very acidic, almost medical. It turned sludgy by the bottom of the glass. Had I thought ahead, I could have had the deer-penis soup, but it requires a day's notice. Maybe in another 25 years.
The soup with shark fins, fish maw (swim bladders), abalone, and sea cucumber (a more appealing term for "sea slugs") was good for general health and stamina. I appreciated the spectrum of textures from crunchy fins to squishy maw; the flavor was much enhanced by a dash of hot sauce.
The main courses presented more textures: slimy braised crocodile tail and rough but springy goose web. I needed a vegetable, of course, and the stir-fried boxthorn -- along with the same plant's fruit, wolfberries (commonly called goji berries) -- had a dark spinach-like flavor contrasting with the sweet raisin-like berries. The dessert of hasma -- a kind of tissue from snow frogs -- will help my lungs and kidneys and maintain my youth and complexion, so they say. And the eight-treasure tea aided me digest it all.
They say that the Cantonese will eat anything with four legs other than a table and anything that flies other than an airplane, and there were plenty of examples of that in the massive Chinatown Complex hawker center. How about the fallopian tubes of a pig, served as a salad? "Taste it. Tell me what you make of it," the vendor said, laughing, as he served it to me.
I was obviously not the first person to seek out his food among the 230 stalls at the center; word gets around by YouTube, which is how I found him. I was lucky that the fallopian tubes were in stock, he said; there have been supply issues.
He came back after a few minutes. "So what do you make of it?" he asked. "You come here, you have to try the local food."
"I love them!" I said. They looked like miniature conch shells and had a slight crunch, not quite as crunchy as jellyfish, with a subtle hint of fermentation, a bit like chicken hearts. The salty sauce added a lot of the flavor.
Then on to another stall for "halogen pig intestine" and "red oil plagiarism," as signed in English, the latter of which especially must have been lost in translation. I flashed my phone's camera at the sign with Google Translate and it came up variously as "Red oil copy (00 things)," "Red oil iron," "Red God Sand," "Red oil hair (0 country)," "Red Oil Family 00 Capsules," and "Red Oil Hands and 0 Items," none of which brought me any closer to telling me what I was about to eat. The accompanying photo revealed it to be a kind of dumpling, filled with what I'm certain was something from a pig, though I couldn't tell you which part.
Back toward the hotel I had some relatively benign Hainanese chicken rice -- one more item I hadn't gotten around to having on this trip -- with some vivid-purple fresh dragonfruit juice. These dishes were not very large, which gave me the stomach space to try them all.
My walking route from the Intercontinental to the airport was almost entirely along car-free park paths. I zigzagged my way over to the War Memorial Park and walked right through the narrow opening between the four tall, thin columns that honor the civilians of Singapore's main races -- Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians -- who died during the Japanese occupation in World War II. Then I headed to the walkway along the Singapore River, opposite the Merlion, the country's iconic half-fish, half-lion statue. (In one of Amanda Lee Koe's stories, the Merlion is brought to life as a scorned ladyboy coming to terms with his heritage.)
I went over the river on the Helix Bridge and continued east along the south bank, through the Gardens by the Bay. I crossed over the Marina Barrage, a dam opened in 2008 to create a reservoir and prevent flooding. Birders were out with their cameras and tripods on the other side, watching the egrets, plovers, and herons of the wetlands. After a brief construction zone, I entered East Coast Park.
The popular park is divided into eight sections, lettered A through H. It took me two hours to walk its length, sharing the paved path with joggers, bikers, and other walkers. On the inland side were facilities such as toilets, bike shops, restaurants, and one more large hawker center. On the beach side, people grilled dinner at the circular barbecue areas, erected tents for camping, and swam in the strait that separates Singapore island from some of its more southerly landmasses. There were lots of people, mostly families, and the ambient joy made it an uplifting place to walk. Noticeably absent were parking lots -- I remember only one along the whole stretch -- which kept things quiet and safe and made the whole exprience feel much more like an immersion in nature.
The landing path for Changi Airport-bound planes went right over the little waterway separating sections G and H of the park. The walking path took me out of the park and just outside the Stella Seaside Lounge, where I paused for a snack and a cocktail. I wasn't very hungry, but it was a lovely place to sit outside, and I didn't need to be four hours early for my flight. The place had a particularly strange ordering system that required me to send requests from my phone to the kitchen but still provide a credit card to a server, when she came by in person to verify the order, in order to keep the tab open.
Less than ten minutes later and I was back on the Changi path to the airport, the one I had come down four days earlier. Even at night, there were people walking the Jurassic Mile section, the dinosaurs illuminated and with a soundtrack of piped-in music. I found my starting point and had just enough time to make it inside to Jewel, a shopping and entertainment center, for the last sound-and-light show presented at the world's tallest indoor waterfall. Among other attractions the airport offers are a butterfly garden, a cactus garden, a hedge maze, and a forest trail.
The flight from Singapore to Newark is officially the world's second-longest by length; Singapore to JFK Airport is calculated at three miles longer, but the distance varies depending on weather patterns and where pilots can pick up the favorable winds. My flight to Newark took 18 hours and three minutes to go 10,610 miles, making it the world's longest-distance flight for the day by 94 miles. We enjoyed a faint dark-green view of the Northern Lights and, because of the time of year and difference in time zones, had two dawns on the same day.
For one of my inflight meals I opted for the lobster Thermidor and paired it, appropriately, with the film "The Lobster." The movie is not about a lobster; its only association with the crustacean is one person's explanation of which animal he would like to be turned into, if he could no longer be human. My thoughts may have turned back to the sheep in this situation, but his appreciation for the lobster is compelling. Among other things, "lobsters live for over one hundred years," which would give me an opportunity to explore the seas by swimming home from Singapore, and they "are blue-blooded like aristocrats," which means I could do it in style. I'd just have to avoid food lovers such as myself.