Local Heart, Global Soul

June 13, 2010

Singapore backstreets where a different sort of shopperholic hangs out!

Filed under: SINGAPORE — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch) bak kwa bbq meats

Most tourists visiting Singapore head to an address with a name that has become synonymous with clothes, shoes, jewelery, watches, cameras, electronic goods and All Things Shopping:  Orchard Road.

In reality Orchard Road is jam-packed with high-rise buildings sitting cheek by jowl,  filled to bursting with a multitude of businesses large and small.

I get the impression that they are all squished together in sometimes a rather chaotic manner so that they can have the converted street name on their business card that shows they have “residence” on the famous Orchard Road.

I bought my very first (film) camera in Singapore… if you want to shop for electronics, watches and cameras,  I have some advice.

You need to do your homework and know the prices you would usually have to pay for your item  at home, know the exchange rate and then be prepared to barter…never take the first price they give you and work to get as many accessories as possible into your bargain.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You’ll need to be tough, have the strength to  resist the standard sales patter,  pleas and assurances that no other place will match this “special offer”. I walked out of several shops in spite of “special offers only available for me since I was the first customer of the day” until I got a price and accessories that I wanted and I knew it was about $300 New Zealand Dollars (Euro 150) cheaper than I could have gotten at home.

I also realised later that I was not as good at bargaining as I thought, had I been better I could have gotten a still better deal, but I was happy enough with the final price so both seller and buyer had a reasonably win-win situation.

Family Kiwidutch are not regular tourists, whilst we like to take in the most popular sights sometimes,  we are not into shopping, malls and merchandise. Instead we are happiest off the beaten track, going to the places that the locals like to go to.

We are very lucky to have a  wonderful Singaporean friend and she’s a fellow foodie so it’s not Orchard  Road that we have our sights on this morning… it’s Circle Road… the district where foodies hang out.

(photograph © Kiwidutch) Dried Octopus

There are many little streets in this area, they are warehouses and distributors of all kind of culinary wonders. I freely admit that about 90% of them I could not identify in any way shape or form by myself, so it’s a brilliant education as well as an assault on your senses.

The smells of herbs and spices and things unidentified linger in the air, there are boxes piled up outside shops, they spill over onto the pavement.

These are clearly the favourite places of many locals because the shops are busy, customers are filling bags from merchandise  displayed in boxes, crates, jars and sacks.

Staff are filling the shelves, serving the customers or loading even more things in from the street…

Since I don’t post photos of my kids on the net, you’ll have to imagine the following scene, we spy several containers in one shop and I ask my friend to identify the contents, “sugared lotus pieces, pres orange and sugared carrots” comes the reply.

So, did I hear right?, they candy carrots here? My daughter has pricked up her ears and asks what they taste like, my friend makes enquiries in Mandarin and daughter gets a piece of carrot to try.  Daughter takes a mouse-sized nibble nervously, I click the shutter as she tastes it and get a great shot of a very “interesting”  face, screwed up, and between quizzical and disgust. Clearly shes not ready for candied carrots just yet.

She gives it to me to get rid of to try, it’s very carrot-y  in flavour, quite chewy but also way too sweet for my tastes. Still, it was good to be given the opportunity to taste it.

(photograph © Kiwidutch) Sugared (candied) Carrots

(photograph © Kiwidutch) herb for chicken soup

(photograph © Kiwidutch) whole cloves

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch) cassia

(photograph © Kiwidutch) sugared lotus slice

(photograph © Kiwidutch) lupcheong, dried chinese sasuage

(photograph © Kiwidutch) lupcheong, dried chinese sasuage

(photograph © Kiwidutch) dried mussels

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch) pandan leaves for rice dumplings azhang

(photograph © Kiwidutch) dried squid

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch) dried prawns, heibee

Himself was intrigued by the amount of dried seafood available, daughter with the “Yes” reply to her question “are those things at look like sticks really food?” and I adored the smells of the amazing spices, the aroma coming out of that large sack of whole cloves was a-maz-ing !!!


  1. Man, I can smell that place from here! We always try to ferret out the local places when we travel, too, otherwise all you get is the usual touristy stuff. Thanks for the tour!

    Comment by blisterina — June 14, 2010 @ 12:27 am | Reply

  2. […] usual there were more photos than I could handle in one post, https://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/new-15/ so here is Part Two of our shop tour around Circle Road. (photograph © Kiwidutch) (photograph © […]

    Pingback by The Circle Road, a Haven for Backstreet Foodies… Part II. « Local Heart, Global Soul — June 14, 2010 @ 1:03 am | Reply

  3. You are so fortunate to have a local friend to show you around! What an interesting place that Circle Road. Is there nothing they won’t dry?? 😉

    Very resourceful people. I admire your penchant for taking LOTS of photographs. I have gotten out of habit, forgetting that even the rather mundane is so much more easily explained in photos. Thank you for the reminder, Kiwi! 🙂

    Comment by milkayphoto — June 14, 2010 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, I think it’s definitely a case of ” a picture paints a thousand words”.. just *how* would you even BEGIN to describe these scenes without photos? I certainly don’t think I could do them justice.
      Classic case of what I could only describe as “what’s ordinary in one back yard is exotic in someone else’s”.
      One apology needed… I was preparing a future post and forgot to change the month, WP added this new feature that it gets immediately published (agh I hate this new improved feature) as I pressed update so that I could insert text and it sent the still almost blank message to everyone who subscribes!
      It’s not the first time I’ve messed this up either (kicking self). Apologies for that, I’ll try harder to keep an eye on that, especially as it’s late in the evening here and I seriously need to take better care when I’m tired.

      Comment by kiwidutch — June 14, 2010 @ 8:22 pm | Reply

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