We thought it was the crack of dawn. But, then, we were reminded not to undermine the body clock-negating capacity of a windowless room. As we stepped out, we were disoriented by the sunlight as it pierced through the hallway curtains. Turns out, it was an hour before noon.
It was our eleventh hour in Singapore and we had roughly 62 more to go.
With no elevator, the only way down and out was to descend six flights of stairs. It was only then when we got to appreciate the quaint European aesthetics of The Inn at Temple Street. And, really, a business name can’t be more straightforward: It’s a three-star hotel. On a Street named after a Temple. And it blends seamlessly within the labyrinth of shops and pubs typical of the Lion City’s version of Chinatown. That’s where our motley crew stayed that weekend.
It was the third Singapore trip for me and Jad. As for Jaja and Lori, it was their first time to both meet the city and each other. In 48 hours, though, all our personal milestones were set to be trumped by a far greater common one: we were going to watch U2 live.
As we set foot on Temple Street, the whole stretch was already teeming with activity. It was scorching, as the sudden overcast barely offset the midday heat. Scenes from Crazy Rich Asians, inevitably, came to mind. And, actually, we were less than a kilometer away from where the “bok bok, bitch” exchange was filmed. But as much as we were already hungry, we didn’t feel the need to look for that cafe. Finding a meal wasn’t difficult – after all, we were in Hawker Country. It was choosing from the readily available food options in the area, which posed a bigger challenge. Fortunately for our digestive systems, the dilemma didn’t last long. Mother Nature helped us decide in a matter of minutes.
The sky let loose a heavy downpour, almost without warning. We took shelter in one of the restaurants along Pagoda Street, which was parallel to where we were staying. There, we had our first meal of the day.
The rain ended as abruptly as it began. After having our fill of roast duck and Hainanese chicken, we continued scouring the premises for souvenirs. Jaja persuaded me to join her Boomerang post midway through the stroll. It’s a mandatory arrival ritual, as far as any trip with her is concerned.
We reached the corner of Pagoda and South Bridge Road, where the main entrance to Sri Mariamman Temple is found. Built in the 1800s, it’s Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple and, consequently, the city’s hub for Hindu community practices. The vast complex occupies three streets and it’s where Temple Street got its current moniker. Since we were pressed for time, we settled with its facade.
Well, we did have half-an-hour to spare for dessert. We wound up in Smith Street and stopped by Nanyang Old Coffee.
Singapore’s coffee culture may not be as celebrated worldwide as that of, say, Italy or even its ASEAN neighbor, Vietnam. Nonetheless, locals take pride at their distinct take, which comes replete with a lexicon of lingo. Here, kopi is brewed in traditional handmade method with small amounts of caramel and butter, or, in some cases, margarine. It’s traditionally served with condensed milk and best partnered with half-boiled eggs and kaya toast. After our stop, we explored the rest of Chinatown Food Street and admired its murals.