Tuesday, May 31 2022 (Day 6)
Today was a very picture-heavy day, with almost the same number of pictures as the combined total of the three previous days, so there will be large swathes of the blog entry that will be just photo galleries chronicling my journey without much narration.
To start of with, breakfast! I had skipped breakfast every day on the trip so far because I’ve generally not been that hungry and have preferred to save my appetite for a good lunch and dinner and maybe some in between snacks instead. I d0n’t want to overeat, after all. But the flip side of this was that I only am currently in Singapore for two weeks and only have a certain number of meal “slots” to experience new/old food again, so every meal I skip is one less entry in the list in the end.
The Eunos Crescent Food Centre/Hawker Centre was pretty near to where I was staying, but I had never eaten there because I would always be wandering around much further afield during lunch or dinner time, and not anywhere near my house. So I figured that I’d make an occasional effort to go out there and have breakfast to start my day, which would allow me to hopefully sample a range of different stalls as well.
So with that said, for this first day, I had Wanton Mee with Soup for $5 from a stall named Hai Xian Zhi Jia.
It should really be spelled Wonton Mee, as wanton is an entirely different word, but a number of stores in Singapore do spell it that way because.. bad English, I suppose. It was unremarkable, certainly not anything that evoked my wanton imagination or made me want any more wonton. But it was quite filling. I believe I actually opted for the large portion here, which lasted me through the day and eventually caused me to skip lunch entirely. So much for the three meal plan.
After eating, I also picked up a Kaya Pie from a nearby bakery named Aftertaste for $1.50. This was actually shaped like a curry puff, and that was what caught my curiosity and made me buy one in the end, because I had never seen a kaya curry puff.
Kaya is coconut egg jam, and that was all that was inside the “curry puff” as its filling here. It was pretty good!
After breakfast, I went on another adventure. My uniform purchase yesterday had emboldened me a little. I had seen another school shirt that I had really liked while wandering around back on May 26/Day 1, because it also worked as a certain reference to an anime show that I really liked. It also didn’t actually have an overt reference to the name of the school it was from, as far as I was aware. So.. why not see if i could get one of those, too? I pinpointed the school it was from and the supplier for their uniform, which also turned out to be not overly far from my house and from where I had went the day before. Therefore, I spent an hour and a half or so walking over to the store that sold the uniform, taking a leisurely stroll through both residential and shop districts and collecting a pile of photos as I went.
Singapore malls seem to be split into two distinct families. One type, generally the ones located near MRT stations or hubs, tend to be large and tall buildings, sometimes interconnected with each other, are what I call sterilized.. they’re clean and shiny and pristine and full of big-name, “safe” chain stores, to the point that there’s very little variant between many of the stores in them — there are dozens of these malls, but once you’ve visited 3 or 4 of them, you’ve seen about 75% of the stores that you will find in any other given mall. These malls are apparently called REIT malls, or Real Estate Investment Trust malls.
And then you have a second type of mall, often smaller ones tucked further away from train stations, which are more.. independent. Full of eclectic stores that sell odd things, often the only branch of said store to exist, packed full of specialty goods in order to make maximum use of their cheaper retail space, and occasionally these malls will even become themed over time so a lot of similar businesses will set up there to try to become a one-stop shop for a particular kind of good. For example, the electronics mall i visited a couple days ago. I’ve also since seen a mall full of beauty services, one full of vegetarian eateries, and I’ve heard of one full of sporting good somewhere as well.
I find this mall culture really unique and interesting! And depending on what you are looking for, both serve a different purpose and can be equally useful and interesting. For me though, as an explorer, the second type definitely calls out to me more.
Anyway, I eventually picked up my desired shirt from the uniform shop, which turned out to be a small, nondescript, roadside warehouse-like shop with a sliding door that I had trouble opening and closing. I simply named the school, the shirt colour (Team Spica’s shirt was the green one), and my size, and walked out of there with a shirt for $7.59 with no questions asked.
There was no visible school name on it or anything, which made it perfect! I’m not going to wear it around Singapore because the shirt is recognizable enough that it would cause confusion and disrespect to the actual school and students here, but I definitely would see no problem with wearing this around the house or even outdoors back home in Canada, or if I ever get to go to Japan to study or something.
After purchasing this, I started to make my way home to dump off my loot bag, as I planned to go down to Dunman High in the afternoon and felt it would be very disrespectful to bring another school’s attire along with me. On the way, I wandered through a REIT shopping centre next to Paya Lebar MRT Station named Paya Lebar Quarter, or PLQ Mall. On the top level of the mall, I noticed a bunch of claw machines from a company called Funclaw:
In particular, I saw this claw machine with very winnable and cute plushies (picture taken after I had already won the plushie, who was lodged up on the right of the chute on top of the mountain of other plushies there, right around where the grey one was):
It was winnable because the plushies in that machine were stacked so high up that even if the claw was rigged to drop the plushie due to the grip losing force, there was a good chance the plushie would be able to bounce into the chute from the impact of the drop anyway. I put down $5 for 6 tokens. as it cost $1 per play but gave bonus tokens if you bought them in bulk. But I easily nabbed my target plushie with my 3rd token:
He’s too cute. He’s a sleeping Tiger Cat, so I named him Napatak (Nap Attack), and will feature him in a future Plushie of the Week.
I still had three other tokens to go, and didn’t really see anything else that I wanted to try to win. I tried to give my tokens away to a mom whose kid was ogling the claw machines, but she turned me down, saying that she was no good at them. In the end, I gave them away to a pair of guys who had spent over $20 on tokens while I was there, and they were very thankful for that. They told me that they had noticed me winning the plushie earlier and that I must be very good at claw machines, I just said that the plushie I won happened to be right on top of the others so it was an easy grab!
Moving onward, I also saw other giant plushies on the way home:
And stopped off at a juice store by Eunos MRT Station:
This was a Large Avocado Gula Melaka with Fresh Milk, cost a whopping $6, and was something I had never heard of before. Gula Melaka is apparently some kind of palm sugar or palm sap. I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t like it either. It didn’t really taste like anything I ever had before, like a weird blend of tastes that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be sweet or savoury, but it certainly wasn’t worth $6 to me.
I rested for a little while in my nice, lovely, air-conditioned room, before braving the heat-drenched city again. This time though, I brought along my umbrella that I had bought in Mustafa the day before. I couldn’t decide if its primary use was to be a parasol or an actual rain umbrella, I suspect the former even though the store label said the latter. But it was nice and broad and worked great as a parasol too. I made my way over by bus toward my former secondary school.
And finally reached the school itself. Like a prison, all the gates were shut except for one gate where incoming visitors were allowed through Unfortunately, since school holidays had begun, I was told that Dunman High‘s embedded Popular bookshop was only open in the mornings and had already closed for the day at 1 pm. I asked if I could be let in to look around the school anyway since I was an alumni of the place, and after a quick conferment with some teacher or other named Mr Ang (I think), they let me through on the condition that I stuck to the ground level only, as some upper level classrooms were still being used. I agreed. What follows is a largely unfiltered photo shoot of the school as I walked around my former school.
I don’t really have anything specific I wanted to say about this, except that the school was three or four times larger than it had been when I was a student there, and was now basically a bona fide campus. It even has a hostel building now.
Our old classrooms were still sort of there but had been converted into labs or something like that. Parts of the architecture, like the famous central grass area and pavilion and the front foyer, were still there and recognizable as well, but the school canteen was now very different, and everything that was familiar was also just different enough now that it felt wrong, like I, my presence, and my memories were all imposters. It was kind of an uncomfortable and sad homecoming.
There was still definitely a measure of pride in seeing the school still doing well though, and various students still here on a school holiday weekday doing sports and such (though they really should be taking this time off!). I also got to catch the bus 158 from outside the school when I was leaving, which i believe was the same bus number we had caught to Kallang MRT Station every afternoon all those years ago. Its route and associated MRT stations were different now though, but the bus stop was still right there as always, and that was familiar and comforting.
My next stop after Dunman High was a photography exhibition where one of my former classmates, Debbie, who I had met just a couple days ago, apparently had some work being displayed. This was located downtown, in a small arts building called Objectifs. I made my way over, snapping more sights that caught my eye along the way.
I reached the gallery, where admission was free, and stepped inside much to the surprise of the doorkeeper girl, who obviously wasn’t expecting anyone to show up to their little out-of-the-way exhibition. The name of the exhibition was “Like Opening One’s Eyes For The First Time”, and the front desk lady gave me a brochure describing the exhibit, before I walked around to catalogue them all. Here are the non-Debbie ones:
And here’s Debbie‘s piece, as well as the brochure page that talks about it, and a book I found propped up on a shelf in the exhibition as well:
She’s awesome! But that book in particular caught my attention extra hard — that was from a dream diary she had kept for 5-6 years or so and then drawn and annotated maps from, as she was exploring “virtual” spaces and used dreams as a medium to see what kinds of virtual worlds the mind could dream up and how that connected to and represented different parts of her life. It was awesome, and I reached out to her that night to chat about it and request to see if I could buy a copy (still pending, she was a little bit coy about it) since I would not only like to support her but also feel that it would contain valuable insight that could help me view my own dream diary through a different lens. Anyway what sprang out of that conversation was that we agreed we wanted to meet up and chat again this Friday., Jun 3rd
For the moment, I headed on back home, wandering through yet another mall along the way. Singapore is so chock-full of them. This was actually the vegetarian eateries mall I mentioned earlier in this blog entry, it was located basically next to the famous Buddhist temple that I had visited with joss sticks and flowers back on May 27/Day 2. I even saw several monks dressed in Buddhist garb eating at some of the restaurants here.
For dinner, I decided to eat at a store in this mall called Xing Hua Vegetarian Restaurant. Their prices were a bit high, but I saw their Coconut Steamboat, and it looked interesting, so I ordered one of it and a bowl of rice, which came to $9.70.
It looked interesting, sure, but this was the most awful meal that I had the pleasure of eating in Singapore up until that point, and quite possibly for the rest of my trip. It was largely bland and tasteless, and the coconut bits in the soup, while it did provide a bit of taste, did not mesh with anything else at all and nothing brought out the flavour of anything else. The broth was basically water, and everything I put in just cooked into dry, tasteless, standalone versions of itself. It could have used some condiments like sauces at the table which patrons could add into the soup in order to give it taste, and that broth might then have saved the meal, but it lacked even that much. This meal was horrible and tasteless and I still lied to them on the way out when they asked, telling them that it was tasty. Sorry. At least the chairs were comfortable.
And with that, I headed home to put that lousy meal behind me and look forward to all the tasty meals yet to come in my trip.