Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

Are you brave enough for Smith Street?

with 8 comments

I love Singapore. I’ve actually lost track of how many times I’ve been there, because whenever I go travelling in Asia or Europe, I make sure I have a couple of days stopover on the way or returning home.  There’s a camera shop in Chinatown run by an Indian named Roy – we always stop in and demand he convinces us to buy something we really don’t need. And there are a couple of ladies who give the most amazing foot massages in the world for about $10 for an hour-long massage. They feel a bit sorry for us because all we have are daughters, but we don’t mind. We’ve been to the night zoo and photographed the Merlion from every possible angle, and really done everything there is to do. But we keep going back. And we will keep going back because we can’t resist the call of Smith Street after dark!

During the day, Smith Street is your typical Chinatown market, not a lot different than Toronto or New York or San Francisco. Street vendors and tiny storefronts sell designer fakes or knock-offs, pirate music and DVD vendors annoy the heck out of you, and the selection of Hello Kitty paraphernalia will blow your mind!

But once the sun goes down everything changes. Kiosks that have been locked up tight all day unfold, revealing woks and fryers, freezers, delicacies of every kind, prepared by mad genius chefs who can work miracles in mad heat. The street is lined with tables that fill up so quickly, humans of every ethnicity drawn by the wondrous aromas to the promise of food like they have never had before. And I have never, ever been disappointed. My favourite – chili crabs – possibly the messiest dish on any planet, but spicy sweet and utterly divine. The second night it’s Peking Duck. I was so disappointed in Beijing – it could not meet the standard of Smith Street.

I’m thinking about going again in September – there’s some very cheap tickets going right now…

Note – the guzhen is the tradition Chinese stringed instrument used in every Chinese style anything. You’d know it as soon as you heard it.


Written by Titirangi Storyteller

29/07/2011 at 1:16 am

8 Responses

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  1. Oh, your description of the food is making me hungry. I haven’t been to Singapore yet, but it’s on my list. Mr. Husband always mutters something about getting caned for some imaginary transgression, but then he is always good for an objection to going anywhere. I can usually talk him into it anyway.


    Trinity River

    29/07/2011 at 1:55 am

    • If he gets caned, I’m sure he will have earned it! I remember that huge controversy maybe 20 or so years ago about a young American caught shoplifting or some other crime that westerners consider harmless who got the cane. All the outrage. I remember thinking at the time that I would not ever to Singapore – the people must be totally Barbarian.

      Of course the opposite is true. It’s an extraordinarily polite and safe country. The crime rate is among the lowest in the world. If Mr Husband leaves his wallet anywhere – on the sink in a bar loo – it will either be there when he goes back an hour later or someone will have turned it into the restaurant owner and he can retrive it with them. If you and Mr Husband decide to go for a romantic wander along a quiet section of the river at 3 in the morning, no one is going to bother you. It’s a really nice feeling.

      Of course if Mr Husband decides to ignore all the warning signs as he arrives at the airport that the penalty for trafficking drugs through Singapore is death, he shouldn’t be surprised when his trial is swift and the penalty severe. That’s assuming the authorities get to him before you do.

      Fortunately, we can be sure that Mr Husband did not get where he is today by committing petty crime and his family business partners are not Colombian drug cartels. Mr Husband will be dazzled and fall in love with Singapore. Oh and once he tries those chili crabs – there’s no turning back!


  2. I have favourite little streets in each of the major cities I’ve visited. Like this, they capture aspects of the authentic culture of the country. Sometimes it is a very small street!

    I listened to some Guzhen music on You Tube. It’s calming and gentle to my overworked ears today. Many thanks for the intro!



    29/07/2011 at 11:32 am

    • Guzhen can be very soothing, or, if played over tinny speakers at high volume, one of the most irritating sounds imaginable… I suppose the same could be said for piano or guitar, but its distinctive sound is iconically Chinese. I guess I have a love-hate relationship with it, but I’ve got to say, I kind of love the -hate part…

      Small streets appeal to me, too… small details in small places, or I guess in large ones. One of the nice things about having knocked off most of the ‘big rocks’ is that I can indulge and explore the pebbles. Of course there are a few big rocks I have not got to yet – Spain is pretty big, and London. Hmmm… I think those are my only two big rocks left… strange…there was a time it seemed the world was strewn with an impossible number of big rocks of all kinds. While there are certainly enough left to keep things interesting, I look back at those I’ve knocked off and I’m rather in awe…


  3. Chinatown is unarguably my favorite part of Singapore. The first time I went there, it was so incredibly dazzling. I just stumbled upon the place, and just my luck, on that very day, the New Year procession was happening. They brought out Buddha’s relic from the Tooth Relic Temple and it was paraded around with lamp-bearing monks and beautifully costumed men and women and lions and dragons…




    02/08/2011 at 1:11 pm

    • Yes! Singapore is full of those kinds of surprises! The first time I was there we were walking around Chinatown, the back streets, apartment blocks and were dazzled as a parade of colourfully dressed men and women came down the steps of a building, banging cymbals and chanting. They built a rather largeish shrine on the footpath and filled it with ‘money,’ set it alight and then paraded around it, chanting while it burned. When it was done, they disappeared from whence they came – no further ado…

      Do you find yourself returning?


  4. You had me at the $10 foot massages, but then the picture of the food . . . Man, I probably shouldn’t browse your blog when I’m hungry, and I’m very hungry.

    I’ve always been intrigued by Singapore, and it’s on my list of places that I want to visit. By the way, I remember that incident about the teenager and the caning, but I cannot remember if he in fact was caned. Do you remember?

    My daughter (grown) would go gaga over all of the Hello Kitty products.



    10/08/2011 at 11:15 am

  5. Ah yes the caning. I think that was nearly 20 years ago, but was such a huge item in the US media at the time. American teenage vandal and several of his mates in crime got a few lashes after a property-damaging crime spree. It was harsh, but that is how many Asian societies operate – they have very little tolerance for youth-crime that the west considers more or less harmless. There’s not much adult crime, either… So you can go for a walk along the riverbank at 2 in the morning without fear of being attacked – which is pretty damned nice – and really – how it should be…

    Go to Singapore! And make your way up the peninsula as far as you can – at least Malaysia and south-western Thailand… explore a few islands in the straits of Malacca… it will be hot, but it will be worth it!


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