Singapore's Chinatown retains its distinct identity, despite sights such as these country and western dancers, but increasing prosperity means it is no longer the colorful working-class neighborhood it once was. In Chinese, it is called Niu che shui, or "bullock-cart water",  a reference to the way all its water was originally delivered in the 19th century.
Singapore – Been There

Surprising Singapore: the Lion City still has a bite

Photo by Julio Etchart

Singapore – Been There Surprising Singapore: the Lion City still has a bite

In Singapore, whose name means “Lion City” in Malay, surprises have a habit of seeking you out.

Ben Lerwill
Ben Lerwill Travel Writer

I am sitting outside among the smoldering grills and satay kebab stalls of Boon Tat Street. Smoke from the hot coals is furling up into the Asian darkness overhead. The night is powerfully warm with that close, woozy street-heat that beads sweat on the forehead and seems to smell of everything at once: the city, the trees, the river, the traffic, fried food, the day just gone.

There are dozens of plastic tables, littered with chopsticks, heaped with noodles and heaving with people. At one, I start chatting with a middle-aged man named Sundram. A jug of cold Tiger beer lands between us with a slop. We pour measures into disposable cups. I soon learn that he makes a living as a minibus driver.

“I like to watch soccer,” he says, on hearing that I’m British. “Arsenal is my team.” We carry on talking and then it comes out, gradually: how he was a serious player in his youth, how he’d eventually been selected as a striker for the national team. I sit up with a jolt. You actually represented Singapore? “Yes, four times,” he says, then frowns slightly, turning a satay stick in his fingers. “But I didn’t score.”

Dinner al fresco with an international footballer doesn’t feature as a Singapore attraction when you flip through the glossy travel brochures. Like the furiously messy-to-eat chilli crab that gets served up across the island, there is often a bit of effort required to get to the interesting bits.

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Eating out, such as at this satay stall in Lau Pa Sat, is popular with those wishing to escape crowded apartments and enjoy the cool evening air after humid days. The average Singapore family spends less than 10 percent of its income on food shopping, with the drop in eating at home reflecting the rise in women in the workplace. Photo by Edwin A. Franken

Edwin A. Franken

Edwin A. Franken

Nikon D800

Aperture
ƒ/4
Exposure
1/60
ISO
1600
Focal
28 mm

Eating out, such as at this satay stall in Lau Pa Sat, is popular with those wishing to escape crowded apartments and enjoy the cool evening air after humid days. The average Singapore family spends less than 10 percent of its income on food shopping, with the drop in eating at home reflecting the rise in women in the workplace.

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