While reading about the recent coverage of Lee Kuan Yew’s death, I reminisced back to our first visit to Singapore a few years ago. Having spent a week in Borneo exploring the terrain at Borneo Rainforest Lodge and The Kinebatangan River Valley, both spectacular places in the wilder and often forgotten part of Malaysia, we relaxed for a few days and soaked up some luxury at The Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort near Kota Kinabalu. Perhaps the best kept secret in the luxury chain circuit, we had more than enough splendor and probably should have visited Penang at that point for some serious expat destination research. Innocently unaware I’d be laid off one year later, instead we chose five days in Singapore. Thinking the remote jungle atmosphere left us longing for a big expensive city filled with expensive food and touristy glitz, we headed out to Malaysia’s enormously small but powerfully wealthy next door neighbor.
Aware of the city’s reputation for shopping as a national sport, we decided to skip Orchard Road and all the cheesy attractions at Sentosa Island in favor of soaking up some culture. Realizing the best way to do this was explore the city’s ethnic neighborhoods, we opted for a few days well spent in Little India, one of the best places for Indian culture outside India itself. Naturally, Chinatown was also on our list of must-do places since Diane is Chinese and all real New Yorkers like myself love Chinese food but with our mutual fascination of all things Indian, we hopped on the immaculately clean and beautiful subway system and headed out to see what we might find. Like all good tourists, we did a bit of research and decided to try The Original Singapore Walks to get a feel for things before exploring some more ourselves. Ironically, it must have been the right tour guide because a few months later while watching an episode of No Reservations, lo and behold, there’s Anthony Bourdain taking the same tour (albeit just him and his crew) with the same woman who guided us.