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Posts Tagged ‘weird Asia’

 

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Durians in Chinatown.

 

 

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It’s a common sight to see a Singapore LTA (Land Transport Authority) dummy acting to control traffic. The first time you see one, you might have a giggle as I did. It can seem a strange tactic and you may wonder if it works.

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LTA Mannequin – Photo not mine.

But what if we spin that scenario on it’s side? What about an LTA officer standing so still that you THINK he’s a dummy. This is what I saw on foot near Jurong East the other day. It took me watching for a while to realize this was an actual officer. I’m not sure if this was on purpose or not, but I have to think it was or the officer was practicing for a future career transition as a living statue ala Amanda Palmer.

Well done sir on the discipline. Standing that still takes a lot of hard work! In the end it was the small movements in your hands that gave you away.

LTA officer

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A post-dinner cruise through Chinatown had myself and a few friends stumble on this site.

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“Huh,” we thought. “Is this legit?” Stephanie immediately chucked the boxes out of the way and sat down for a try.

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Unfortunately, the massage chair didn’t work. Massage chair uncle in his most stylish tee came out to troubleshoot the situation.

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Ahhhhhhhh. There we go.

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A few minutes later we were on our way having made a few new friends in this ambiguous shopfront.

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You know, just everyday life in Singapore Chinatown.

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The other day I noticed this odd sign in the office I sometimes work from. It has detailed instructions on how to wash your hands. I mean, I get it if you want to put up a sign reminding people to do it, but are there really people out there that don’t know how?

I apologize for the blurriness, but have you ever tried to discretely take a photo in a busy office bathroom?

An expat friend of mine and I send each other photos of things we think are unusual in Singapore, so naturally this was immediately sent to her. She replied with one of her own. No tutorial but a less than gentle hand washing reminder from an angry cartoon.

Have you???

Have you???

The next day I’m in the hawker market ordering a juice. I am waiting for the juice lady to finish dealing with the trash. She has her fist happily plunging ahead into a bag full of waste for a full 3-4 minutes of my waiting time, before she comes to serve me. I order my juice and patiently wait for her to a.) wash her hands and b.) prepare my juice.

You would guess it, she never took care of part a. She did not even bother to change or remove her glove. When I asked her if she was going to wash her hands, she pretended to not understand me, alienating me with a funny look on her face. What was the strange foreigner asking of her?? Surely it was too difficult and taxing! Let’s intimidate her by furrowing our brow and pretending not to understand why she might be upset or flailing about across the counter. Another lady, a nice one who communicates well in Singlish, had to tell her what was going on. Her hands. The germs. The glove. The trash. My juice.

She leaves halfway through making the juice and another lady takes over. What to do now? Take the juice half way made by trash glove lady or walk away thirsty?

I did not get a juice that day. I also did not get diphtheria, so you win some you lose some.

The takeaway to this post seems to be two-fold.

1.) The wash your hand signs in the bathroom may not be so silly after all. Perhaps it’s not a ritual everyone is accustomed to.

2.) Do not buy juice from the juice stand at Lau Pa Sat.

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On weekends spent working at home, Husband and I will often have some noodles as a lunch-time around the house snack.

We buy two different types of noodles. I get the ones without monosodium glutamate (MSG) and he gets the ones with MSG. He swears it makes things taste better, and I swear it gives you cancer or some other sort of yet unnamed disease. He asked for proof and so I go down a rabbit hole of the internet.

The only knowledge I start out with is that an ex’s dad was so allergic to the stuff that he had to carry an EpiPen with him when he dined at restaurants just in case the chef slipped some MSG in. He ended up being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance one Thanksgiving when the family decided not to cook and go out instead. That alone is enough to freak me out.

Being a good science reporter (one of my day jobs), I couldn’t leave it alone at that. Besides, my scientist husband doesn’t accept anecdotal evidence.

MSG is isolated glutimate, the chemical that gives foods umami flavor – that taste found in asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat outside the four well-known tastes of salty, sweet, sour and bitter.  Pure MSG does not have a pleasant taste until it is combined with other savory food items.

My local grocery store in Singapore sells it alone by the bag full to cook with. The first time I ran across it, I couldn’t believe how socially acceptable it was as an ingredient and had to take a photo.

A bag full of MSG. Available at your local Cold Storage.

A bag full of MSG. Available at your local Cold Storage.

Glutamate is naturally found in many foods and a research study from 2009 revealed that the tongue has a receptor that is exclusively activated by the chemical.

If it’s naturally found in foods, then why are we so scared of it? Well, there’s quite a bit of research out there linking the isolated form of the chemical to obesity, headaches or other symptoms. And yet there are other studies saying it is just fine.

So how do you know whether to avoid or embrace? I’m no doctor but I say if it gives you headaches, Chinese Restaurant Symptoms or other difficulties, avoid.

When it comes to your food choices, personal anecdotal evidence (aka your experience) is OK.

Personally, I’ll continue to embrace naturally umami laden foods but avoid the stuff in its isolated capacity. There’s just something unappealing and unnatural about heaping the synthetic shiny white crystals out of their plastic bag and onto my plate. But then again I take my coffee and teas without sugar and sweeten my desserts with agave nectar.

Still confused on what to do? Don’t sweat it too hard. Just remember the words of Micheal Pollen.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.

I’m pretty sure that bag of crystals is not a plant and I’m more than hesitant to categorize it as food.

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Husband does a lot of traveling for work and occasionally I get an odd gift from his travels. In the past it may have been a book from the airport bookstore he thought I would enjoy (thoughtful) or a designer-y purse from Italy (so glam).

Now that we are in Asia, the gift giving  is a bit different.  This is what he brought back from Cambodia.

I bet none of the other girls get a jar of pepper and a stone head.

Pepper fresh from a client’s pepper farm and a stone head. Kind of random, yet awesome.

Do you think the head should go in the garden?

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With the likes of durian and passionfruit, my life has become a lot like that lastminute.com advert that urges you to “go somewhere with complementary fruit you’ve never even heard of.”  Oh come on, you’ve seen it. There’s a version of it here.

My friend, Eva, whom I recently met in Thailand urged me to try rambutans. Tricky to open, they are delicious, sweet and they come in small bite size portions. Because of their small portion size, I like to refer to them as “low commitment fruit.”

Cruising through the market in Singapore, the aunties are pushing their produce. Lo and behold! Rambutans.

I picked up a bunch for snacking. I had to, they wouldn’t sell them in any smaller quantities.

RAMBUTANS!

RAMBUTANS!

To eat, cut the skin open or squeeze in your hand until a lychee-like ball appears. Be careful of the seed!

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