Umbrellas were in order on Day 7. Not that this is an unusual occurrence – Singapore gets over 90 inches of rain on an annual basis! Ford was able to join us (beginning his vacation – yay!) We grabbed a cab to the National Museum of Singapore. The Singapore History Gallery took us on a journey from the beginnings of Singapore in the 14h Century to the present day. I found it fascinating that so many countries have had and influence here…Britain, The Netherlands, Japan, China..as well as the countries that surround it. By the time we were done in the museum the rain had cleared.
We ate lunch at one of Singapore’s “Hawker” centers. I”l tell you one thing…People in Singapore take their food seriously. A hawker center is a food court of sorts – but not necessarily with chains like we have in the States. Lots of “mom and pop” food stalls with all kinds of interesting food. Traditional Malaysian dishes, Indian food, Chinese fare…Beef, Chicken, Fish…you name it, they’ve got it. And its very inexpensive! We had Chicken Rice – considered the national dish of Singapore.
Then it was on to Chinatown to find Ford’s barber. His name is Mr. Lee. He’s 74 years old and has been a barber for more than 50 years. Mr. Lee is one of the last remaining “street barbers” in Singapore. They operate their businesses in alleys and have quite a clientele. It was amazing watching him cut Ford’s hair. This was no quick cut – he took his time and snipped Ford’s hair at every angle.
It was like a trip back in time…the makeshift barber station, an old battery operated radio and clock, various and sundry cans of spray and a sheet for shelter all set against the canvas of the modern Singapore skyline. Mr. Lee finished Ford’s haircut with a straight razor – it was the cleanest and most precise barber cut I’ve ever seen. And it cost $6. I consider myself fortunate to have experienced this simple transaction – a slice of local flavor that will soon fade as Singapore grows and changes.
Here is a link (Click Here!) to a short video that tells a little more about Mr. Lee.
That night, we were guests at Ford’s girlfriend Seri’s home for dinner. It was a bit of a journey to get there via the MRT public transportation, but thankfully we had Ford as our guide. Sidenote: On the way, I stopped to use a ladies room in the subway and I saw a woman cupping water from the bathroom sink with her hand and DRINKING it. Sounds gross, right? But that is how CLEAN this place is -no smell, no trash, even in the subway! According to Wikipedia (we all know this is the BEST source of accurate info, right?) approximately 82% of Singaporean residents live in apartments like Seri’s family does. The apartment buildings are built by the HDB (a government entity – Housing and Development Board) for residents to purchase. Often extended families live together – and there really aren’t rest homes like we have in the US – they care for elderly family members at home.
We were greeted by Seri, her Grandmother, Aunt, Sister and her Grandfather. Her uncle had to work late so we didn’t have a chance to meet him. They had prepared bistik daging for us – it is a Malaysian/Indonesian beef dish that was somewhat similar to chili in the US. But WAY better! The table was beautifully set and we were charmed by their generous hospitality. After dinner, we relaxed and visited, and munched on a traditional dessert. They presented us with a wonderful surprise gift of Singapore novelties. We came home with shirts for Tom, beautiful silk shawls for my mom and I, bamboo placemats, chopsticks, sauce dishes and coasters, a gorgeous table runner and a very special spoon for my collection. We felt so welcome and comfortable in their home – and were so thankful to have been invited to visit the home of some native Singaporeans – especially since one of them is spending a lot of time with our Fordy!