I wasn't expecting much to begin with, but this has been by far the most frustrating visit so far.
To be fair, SG had all kinds of factors working against her; it took longer than expected to get through immigration, to ship 1/3 of my luggage AND to get int'l data roaming with Verizon working which eventually failed. By the time I got to eating which I basically came here for, it was past 8:30pm and at a tourist attraction with questionable authenticity, which reasonably annoyed me. Then a jam session I stumbled upon was so uninspired that it made me wanna rethink my own event, let alone the decision to stay a night here. I will have to elaborate on this in a later post. Also this Tiger beer is giving me headache.
I'll give her food a thumb up. The rojak that I mentioned as my first eat turned out a refreshing appetizer. Expecting a stir fry with sauce, instead came a mixture of pineapples, cucumbers and a few fried tofu-type morsels topped with hot/sweet sauce, a nice surprise. Lau Pa Sat offerings of Hokien fried noodles with shrimp and WHATEVER THIS THING WAS where you throw various veggies, fishcakes and noodles into a bowl then you hand that to a lady who cooks them all and throw this spicy soup on top, were delicious enough to make me wanna come back when I have more time and belly space.
But is there anyone in here sober enough to tell me what the fuck is going on?
I get the idea - it's their version of kyaba-club where you pay the house so you get to flirt and cuddle with girls. I spotted this place walking around on Geylang street where I was told that I would find frog soup (which I would eventually give up on, just couldn't eat anything at that point). It literally looked like a Chinese beauty pageant featuring 6 contestants in cocktail dresses with numbers on them, some sporting "$100" sash. Inquired, the waiter tells me that you buy them a flower, they come have drinks with you. Ah😑 Meanwhile on stage, the girls sing some Chinese ballad swaying side to side, looking either bored, pissed or both. The place is empty except for me and a few dudes playing pool. Male host of the pageant makes an announcement in Chinese then the waiter tells at him "Yapan! Yapan!" Realizing that he was encouraging ME to grab some of these beauties, I was very tempted to give this one girl that has the mad killer face on, but I doubt that she would tell me anything real beyond that she wants more of my money. I leave after one Tiger, and look for other bars but all I see is restaurants and people throwing fake bills into bonfires. Multiple of them. What am I missing here?
Since I'm offline I can't even call Uber to go home and I'd rather not cab back to the suburb where my Airbnb is. Ask one lady making solo bonfire where one can find a bar that stays open late, she points at a door behind her and I walk in to find a narrow stage with 2 poles. 3 girls singing some EDM and BOOM 🎉 right in front. Tables have "towers" of Tiger beer and the people are piss-wasted. As I try to snap a solo drinker passed out face down, "Ivy" comes looking into my phone and flirtatiously deletes the photo. She grabs me to an open table and brings me a glass of Tiger. The same concept, only with the 21st century facelift/enhancements (quite literally for a lot of these girls who really cannot sing or dance). #zerofucksgiven taken to where everyone involved is dehumanized. Everyone is a subject of exploitation. To my left, one girl is sitting on a dude's lap resting her head in her hands, clearly inebriated and probably dazed/confused. It's probably not her face. Not her body. Now not her mind either. I close out. Ivy no longer flirts.
At a quick glance, Singapore does Tokyo better than Tokyo who, frankly speaking, seems to be aging out. Kohey describes it perfectly; the shabu (meth) economy in which she needs an injection in the shape of a massive event like the Olympics every several years just to stay afloat; a commonly-shared view of the post-earthquake Japan for global-minded. On the other hand, as old as The Beatles which is a city equivalent of a tween, SG is on the rapid rise to the centre of world economy, possibly modeling herself after Tokyo, New York or any other major players but maybe with too much focus on the superficiality, like every tween wanting to look pretty and not much more. Cause she has yet to know what else it takes to build an identity. A cabbie who told me about Geylang, a native, has told me that SG's identity is hard to define due to its diversity. I get that, but I'm not sure if I would find that as a visitor.
As I exit, though, I find where a part of that identity comes from in the shape of - you guessed it - food. At a fucking airport.
I've never had Lamian before; it's said to be possibly where the term "ramen" derives from, and it doesn't take a linguist to see the resemblance. Ironically, as its Japanese distant offspring sees a worldwide craze, Lamien is almost nowhere to be found in the western rador. So when I saw it on the menu of Paradise Dynasty, a new competition to the world-renowned Din Tai Fung, I was in. Now this is 11am after 3hr sleep in my 20hr layover going between 2 timezones, so my mind might be wiped a bit. But if I get a chance I will make sure to have at least several hours of layover here so I can taste this soup again.
With any noodle soup, I tend to start with toppings such as chashu, fishcakes, sprouts and onions and whatnot, to get a glimpse of flavor before grabbing the noodle. Not a rule, just an unconscious habit. So I grab the piece of sliced beef and my jaw drops to the floor - that is one tasty piece of meat. Then with the boiled egg I basically have the same jaw drop, thinking is this the soup I'm tasting? Upon grabbing the noodle which is a bit soft for my taste, I realize when they say it's their signature soup they mean it. #mindblown. A polar opposite of Bakso in Jakarta the other night; while the Indonesian soup was visceral and burning hot like its weather, the Chinese pork bone broth is exquisite and deep, like its river. It's not overly salty or oily, a brain-fried LA hipster might find it bland, but sure is addictive. I had to stop myself from cleaning up bowl since I had a few more things coming my way, but for a minute there I lost myself. I lost myself.
Then I wept. Inside. The fucking soup touched my soul.
In my head I saw a river. An unidentified body of water that stretches from the mountains afar. It was not a fantasy of what I hope to see, but a humbling realization of my lack of knowledge, a reconfirmation and an awe of the distance I have ahead, until I find whatever the fuck I am looking for. Then I really decided not go to Beijing this trip. I will need more time and prep just to even scratch the surface of China. China is not a country. It's a continent. A civilization. A mother. And in there somewhere, I might find my father.
Soundchaser and a two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. Show me the receipts of your donation to @dwcweb @ltsc.cdc or @la_littletokyo Small Biz Relief Fund and I'll gift any or all of my recordings.