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Sunday, January 10, 2010

A foodie note on Mexican food in a food court in Singapore

One of my colleagues had been raving about a mexican stall in a kopitiam food court near Dhoby Ghaut. He had even lead a bunch of other colleagues to the place last week. It was enough of a incitement for me to try out the same. So, on a sunday afternoon, after a lazy morning, me and the missus got our lazy bums out of the house and took the MRT to Dhoby Ghaut station. I knew that it was somewhere between there and SMU, but we didn't have an exact address, and it was searing hot and humid and we were both quite hungry. We did find a kopitiam at the intersection of Bencoolen and Bras Basah, but we didn't find a mexican stall, and so we kept going further ahead. The Maps app on the iPhone showed another kopitiam a block away on the left and so we thought that must be it. It wasn't. Actually, there was no kopitiam. Curses to the Google Maps ensued and sighs from the missus followed. Not.Good.Signs.

Then, I decided to disturb AK, my said colleague and he promised that the last he saw the stall, it was still in the same kopitiam that we found at the intersection of B & BB. Now, my wife dispensed curses aimed at me. By now, I had this ominous feeling that Murphy was playing strange games with us, punishing us hard for dreaming to eat Mexican food.

We trodded back to the same place and on careful investigation, found a place called "EXICANTACOBAR", not really a mexican place, but if you looked carefully, you would notice a sombrero hiding an "M" and on even more careful observation, you could see a space between N & T and O & B. So, there we were, two Indians staring at a caucasian lady in a Singapore food court looking for Mexican food.

We asked her for vegetarian options and the kind lady suggested we have quesadillas and burritos and suggested that one serving of each should be good enough, with the quesadillas normally more than good enough for one person. We settled for those options, waited for the food to arrive, and broke into them like a pair of hungry wolves. Those two dishes were gone in 60 seconds, and we had to order a plate of fajitas to get us close to two full stomachs. 20 minutes and 20 singapore dollars later, we had eaten our best food for a long long time. This was the one time we weren't eating Indian food (I am bored to death with Indian food in an island full of esoteric possibilities) and still both enjoying it (my wife can't appreciate anything but Indian simply because she finds everything else too bland). Today, we learnt that mexican food is awesome, there is at least one food court stall being run by a caucasian in Singapore, that the mexicans eat with their hands too, and that there may be more interesting similarities between Indians and Mexicans despite us having no obvious historical connections.

At the end of it all, the food was so awesome that me and the wifey agreed in consensus (which itself is as rare as a blue moon), that the effort was well worth the super awesome food experience. Three cheers to the Mexican Taco Bar.

For those who plan to go back there:
Stall Name: Mexican Taco Bar (might be spelled as EXICANTACOBAR)
Location: Left corner (sandwiched between Chicken Rice and Economic Rice stalls)
Address: Ground Floor, Plaza by the Park, 51 Bras Basah Rd. Map Link.
Average Cost: $10 per person ($6-$8 per dish and average of 1.5 dishes if you are really hungry)
Rating: 4.5/5
My most liked dish: Quesadillas

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Quick notes from the middle of the week

A few interesting things have been happening, both inside and outside of my world, but none of them singularly interesting enough to merit a full post. Just a few quick notes then:

The 3 Idiots Controversy:
Let us ignore, for the moment, the conspiracy theory that the issue has been wrought upon by the parties to increase the publicity ahead of the movie release. I have already mentioned in a facebook thread that the reason why 3 idiots is so good (and I believe it is quite good) is all the changes in the script brought in by the film makers and hence the 70% credit, as Chetan Bhagat, would like to fight for, is undeserved for. There is enough semblance with the book that he definitely deserves credit, which he has received.

Self Serving MPs:
The fact that the Indian parliamentarians were a bunch of self serving maniacs was a long gone conclusion, but their latest act of unlimited travel for family members and companions of MPs is taking it a little too far. Read TJS George's brilliant, to-the-point write up on the topic.

Here, in Singapore, all parliamentarians are paid corporate grade, high-end compensation, meaning that no MP ever needs to worry about either earning illegal money or resort to such menial measures to live a comfortable lifestyle, forget a reasonable one. All Indians know that their representatives live in comfort (and why shouldn't they?), so why not make it a legal and straightforward for them to do so in the form of healthy remuneration? None of these stupid perks would be needed then. It would also mean that a professional in any other field, but worthy of representing and leading the public, would have a honest means of maintaining his income standards despite entering politics. (A guy like me can never make in politics what I make today, which is a lowly engineer's salary in a tech company, if I resorted to only the legitimate income of a full time professional politician). Something for all of us to ponder about.

A meaningless driving license:
I gave the Singapore's basic theory test for driving license and converted my Indian License into a Singapore Driving License, valid for a good 5 years. I neither have a vehicle nor do I intend to buy one in the foreseeable future. So the natural question is why did I get a license for myself?

Hidden behind all the highly structured and logical rules of the Singapore administration is a rather vexing rule that foreigners who wish to convert their home country license ought to do so within the first year of their coming into Singapore and would be disqualified from doing so later. They would have to go through the entire process (basic theory test, lessons, final theory test, practical test etc) to get a license thereafter. Is there any reason for burdening a guy just because he did not convert it within the first year? What benefit does the system gain from it? I couldn't guess the reasons.

Nevertheless, since I was in no mood to endure the entire process (and pay for the costly affair) at a later point of time, I chose to spend the effort right away in obtaining the license. Hence the conversion.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Trek to MacRitchie to begin the year

What could be a better way to start the new year than a healthy 10.5k trek in a tropical rain forest? So, me and Shyam (aka fox2mike) did exactly that for New Year 2010. We headed out to trek around the MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore, which is classified as a rain forest. The MacRitchie reservoir is connected by bus 157 from Toa Payoh MRT station. If you plan to go there, you should try to carry sunglasses, caps, sunscreen lotion, loads of water and energy drinks and possibly a raincoat. Between us, we had everything except the rain covers and as Murphy would have it, it rained quite a bit for us. :)

First, have a look at the reservoir from the front (the barrage side).

The trek is not too steep and it should be easy to maintain a steady rhythm. The canopies cover you well in case of a light shower. Don't depend on it if it rains hard, but there are rain shelters every half km or so.

Being a popular destination for hikers, don't be surprised to find company.

The first leg of the trek, about 5km, should end when you reach the HSBC treetop. Its a very narrow, wire suspension bridge, where you can walk only one way.

Dress for comfort, not vanity. It can get hot, humid and sweaty (specially because of the sun screen lotions).

The view from the treetop walk is quite excellent. There is a wide variety of flora to be appreciated and there is also good views of the reservoir and a distant view of the city to be appreciated.

Stop every now and then to check out and appreciate the variety of plants and trees around you. You would normally not associate such diversity with something thats right in the midst of a bustling city-state, but this is Singapore and anything is possible here!

This was on our way back through a different route, along the reservoir, where we stopped every now and then to soak in the nice views of the water body.

We were stuck in the rain a couple of times and this snap was shot to capture the ripple effects of rain droplets on the water surface. Nice pattern.

It took us a total of 3:40 hours to cover the 10.5k including the stops. As per Shyam, Singapore is only one of two cities, other being Rio De Janeiro, where you can find a rainforest in the middle of a city. So, its a worthwhile treat to your body and senses to head out once in a while and do the trek.

More photographs on my flickr profile with tag macritchietrek.

Administrative note

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