The Esplanade Theatre, nicknamed the “durian” as the “scales” look like a durian fruit.

Sticky, stinky, hot and humid. That is Singapore and Hong Kong in a nutshell - but don’t let the weather put you off. Just wear cotton and comfortable shoes, walk slowly, carry a fan and a bottle of water. I was in Singapore performing in Tempest: Without a Body with Mau dance group. We performed at the Arts Festival at the Esplanade Theatre.

Before I get to the food, the architecture is the first thing to impress you in Singapore. A shining example of Asian modernity, the city-state excels in both eye-catching 21st-century buildings and restorations of colonial shophouses. I’d say it’s probably the cleanest of all the Asian cities and I felt safe walking at night, as there were always cars and people around.

Marina Bay Sands is a casino and hotel with exclusive bar atop that looks like a ship or plane. Opening soon, the ArtScience Museum is designed to look like a palm or lotus leaf.

The grand Sultan Mosque, Bugis

Would you believe, Bible House

In general, food is cheap. This bowl of seafood laksa was only S$4.50 from a café in the Esplanade Theatre.

The same place also had rice and salted fish wrapped in a banana leaf, S$2.50 – cheap as chips, actually cheaper, and more nutritious.

On my first night in Singapore I had my most expensive meal at popular seafood restaurant Long Beach in Dempsey Rd. Singapore’s most famous dish is chilli crab. The massive crabs actually come from Sri Lanka. It sits in a soup of thick chilli sauce and is served with fried or steamed buns. After attacking a leg or two of the crab the tasty sauce can be mopped up with the buns for a well-rounded meal. We also had black pepper crab, drunken prawns (prawns literally drowned in rice wine), Thai-style steamed chili whole fish, fried mini squid (which were tiny and crunchy, like eating popcorn) and Chinese mushrooms and broccoli, which was a welcome reprieve from the seafood. Man, I was full after that feast!

Singapore chilli crab with fried and steamed buns

Best thing at the extensive Chinese-Malay-European breakfast bar at the hotel – coffee bau (coffee-flavoured buns with lotus paste inside)

In the Bugis district I had a filling Indian pancake with egg and sardines, S$5

This huge vegetarian thali plate at Komala Vilas
in Little India was S$8. Not the tastiest I’ve had but a lot of food. Mango lassi was the highlight.

Exterior of Komala Vilas restaurant

Thai Express is a modern café in the Esplanade and in nearby Marina Square. The S$8.95 lunch special consisted of tom yum fried rice with tofu strips and tapioca & corn dessert (the nuclear-green thing). I enjoyed the tapioca the most as the rice was too spicy for me.

Thai Express lunch with radioactive tapioca dessert

On my last night my cousins Chris and Emily took me to the massive La Pa Sat hawker food hall. At this stall you chose a bunch of ingredients and noodles and they make soup while you wait. Excellent value for S$3.50.

Good cheap Asian tucker at La Pa Sat

What I didn't eat at La Pa Sat

Hong Kong island skyline

During my short stay in Hong Kong I had three notable eating experiences. On my first night after a big walk to the waterfront to see the Symphony of Lights, feeling a bit lagged and definitely hungry, the bright sign of Just Salad was a beacon in the humid darkness. Salad, that’s all I wanted, and got a leafy roast vege version for HK$51.

The next day I took the train to Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha, the biggest seated Buddha in the world, at 34 metres high. I walked up to the Buddha and visited the museum where a revered fragment of Buddha’s bone was on display. The HK$60 entrance fee also included the vegetarian lunch at the monastery, which consisted of soup, chop suey with some kind of chicken-like TVP, mushrooms & bok choy, white rice and crispy fried rolls with daikon inside. Not a problem to finish the rolls but the rest was far too much for one person. Also had a peculiar taste I couldn’t pinpoint; it just wasn’t the same as Mum’s food back home. The most amusing things at the monastery restaurant were the signs on the tables and toothpick holders: “One charity work can blocks hundreds of disasters”!

200 steps to reach Big Buddha

Vegetarian lunch at the monastery

Spiritual sign

Think good thoughts while cleaning your teeth

That night my cousins Mike and Karen took me to the fashionable retro-chic China Club, owned by art collector Sir David Tang. There were eccentric objects and art on the walls and the food was modern Chinese. We had scallops and veges in noodle baskets and fried fish among other dishes. The cuisine was tastefully presented and delicious. Finished off with sago and mango dessert. Sorry, no pics, too busy enjoying the food. Here’s one I pilfered from the web.

China Club, Hong Kong

On my last day in HK I went into Stanley St downtown. HK is hilly with narrow streets and this area is heaving with shoppers and traffic as usual. After walking around the only thing I felt like was frozen yoghurt, and lo and behold I came across Yoppi. My cup of yoghurt and fruit was HK$59. Unable to withstand the dense humidity any longer I trudged back up the hill, only stopping at a supermarket to buy seaweed strips and rice crackers. I had an early flight the next morning and those snacks kept me going.