Singapore was a city of contrasts. From the bustling ethnic districts of Chinatown and Little India to the cool calm of the Botanic Gardens, to the sophistication of Clarke Quay and the financial district. From sweltering humidity to torrential rain, often changing back again half an hour later. From expensive bars and restaurants serving international food to the cheap and cheerful cafés of Chinatown.
It is so often the food that defines my memories of a place. The restaurants lining the Boat Quay with tanks full of live fish and crabs. The cafés advertising crocodile meat and Bird’s Nest Soup. We did not try either, nor did we sample the greenish-black Century Old Eggs that appeared in the hotel buffet one morning!I did want to have a taste of durian while I was there. This is the large spiky fruit with an evil smell and a supposedly delicious flavour. Singapore seems to have a love/hate relationship with the fruit, with its durian-shaped Opera House and durian-coated elephants on the quayside, but strict ‘No durian’ signs in the underground trains and elsewhere.
But it was harder to find durian to eat. Presumably it is so rank that it is always consumed behind doors, a secret pleasure for its devotees. Eventually I found a stall selling durian crepes. It was strangely deserted and the woman looked at me doubtfully as I approached. ‘It is very strong smelling’, she said.
Actually it did not smell as awful as I had expected. But it was cold and tasted like sweet custard. I took one mouthful and threw the rest away.