I awoke rested and oh so chilled in my comfy Sheraton bed and said bye to Carolyn who was nipping off to help with last minute wedding prep. I lounged around for a while before getting ready for my first Singaporean wedding. I had never met the bride or groom but since Carolyn was bridesmaid Nani had kindly invited me along to their special day together. However, the wedding didn’t start until later and there was the very important question of breakfast to address first and foremost. I could have ordered room service or went down to the hotel restaurant but I was in Singapore and so the most sensible decision seemed to be to head to a hawker centre. I messaged Halle – my go to for food recommendations – and she suggested I head to Hong Lim Hawker Market for Tai Wah Pork Noodle. I checked on google maps and it was a 15 minute walk (I love how close everything in Singapore is). So after getting wedding ready I headed out into the heat to find some pork noodles.
The one rule I have learnt about hawker centres (for those who don’t have a top tip friend) is to follow the queues. You can pretty much turn up to any of the centres at any time of the day and the popular stalls will have huge queues. As soon as I arrived at Hong Lim Hawker Market despite the fact Halle had recommended Tai Wah Pork Noodle this was one of 2 stalls with queues at 10.30 in the morning. I joined the queue (top tip, don’t go dressed up in wedding attire to a hawker market, your face will soon sweat off) and thankfully after a short 20 minute wait had a bowl of steaming pork noodle soup in front of me. It was fantastic with pork meatballs, handmade dumplings, pork mince and pork slices finished with crispy skin on a bed of maggi type noodles. It also come with a steaming bowl of pork broth soup. I sat at a table not far from the stall and a lady approached offering drinks from her juice stall. It was breakfast after all so I opted for the apple, beetroot and carrot juice – ABC with some ginger which was surprisingly tasty and felt somewhat healthy. The soup had handmade pork dumplings, pork balls (which I was less of a fan off) a peppery pork soup and veg. It was delightful and very reasonably priced at under 10 SGD for the meal and drink.
I had some time to spare and so wandered off along the river next to the mall where the function centre for the wedding was in the sun. My previous experience of visiting Singapore at this time of year had usually endured cloud and rain so the sunshine was a welcome treat. I sat on the river watching the boats zip by until my face started to melt off and I headed indoors to the reception venue. I was greeted by a family member who welcomed me quizzically, she clearly hadn’t got the memo about my attendance. After a quick call with the bride to explain my presence I was asked to sign the guestbook, a most awkward experience when you haven’t actually met either the bride or groom and then shown to a table in the centre of the room where the wedding party would sit (none of which had arrived). It was a long 30 minute wait for the bride, made even worse when the groom thanked me for coming (I wasn’t sure it actually was the groom as him and the best man had similar outfits) and I shook his hand pretending we were long lost friends. Finally Nani and her bridesmaids arrived and I was joined by Carolyn for the ceremony.
Nani looked absolutely beautiful! She wore a white shirt and black wrap around skirt with the traditional red cover for her head, albeit a more modern lace version. It seemed a style of get-up to that worn at Indian weddings I had attended albeit perhaps slightly more liberal given her head wasn’t properly covered. She made her way to a bench on the stage surrounded by gorgeous flowers while her husband Nick sat with the local elders from Nani’s mosque and a male member of her family, her brother, to agree to the exchange of ownership. This was a very interesting take since Nani didn’t do anything for the official wedding other than comfort her mother who was crying. Traditionally a marriage severs ties from a girl’s family and puts her into the ownership of her husband’s family and so the ceremony is an emotional time for the bride’s family who are in effect losing their daughter. The men sat and bartered away. Nick was required to repeat different speeches from the Quran which he had learned as part of his conversion for the wedding. Once the elders and he brother were satisfied that Nick would indeed look after her it was finished and lots of pictures were taken. We were then treated to a buffet meal. The interesting point that I learned about this wedding was that it was very unusual to only have it for a set time. Usually with these events it is held at a family house or community centre and lasts all day with guests arriving and leaving as they please with a steady stream of food throughout the day. Given that Nick’s family were from Australia they had tried to create a mix of cultures wedding but unfortunately it meant that a lot of Nani’s family didn’t attend due to the non-traditional elements and that a lot of food went to waste. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and after 3 heaped plates of food I headed back to Nani’s room to help her dress for the Aussie part of the wedding. Carolyn and I even had time to sneak in a lychee iced tea at the food court of the mall before the second ceremony – can highly recommend Liho tea.
This part was more traditionally Western with both parties saying vows, albeit to each other rather than being governed by a certain god. Nani wore a beautiful lace gown and her hair and make-up was changed so it was a massive transformation. Everyone was teary watching the couple say their vows to each other and of course afterwards there was yet more pictures before we were physically escorted out of the venue by the staff who were clearing and setting up for the next event. Carolyn and I decided to take this opportunity to head back to the hotel and change into something more comfortable before hitting up Chinatown for some food and shopping. We headed for bean curd at People’s Park hawker market but after scouring the place it turned out that the bean curd stall had moved, much to Carolyn’s dismay. We wandered around the stalls browsing for souvenirs before heading to Legendary Bak Kut Teh for a tasty treat of the famous pork rib soup. It was super cheap at under $10 for the meal. I ordered the standard portion which contained short and long pork ribs in a garlic, pepper broth served with rice and a thick soy sauce. It was hearty and delicious. The Chinatown branch was also lovely with lots of pictures of famous diners from over the years advertising their famous soup.
We still had some room and after having the best dim sum of our lives at Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong a few years earlier decided to check out their Singaporean offering. It was a bit of a walk to get there but the light was fading and it was a pretty enough walk. The restaurant is contained inside a mall, which once we worked out how to get into found easily enough. Luckily for us there wasn’t much of a queue so we settled in and ordered the famous pork buns (super disappointing, the soft flaky pastry synonymous with the HK institution had been swapped for a fried circular ball that was hard to bite into), custard tarts (pretty standard but certainly not the best I have eaten), vermicelli roll with shrimp (pretty good although the roll itself could have been slightly thinner) and spicy dumpling (by far the highlight). It was a pricey and unsatisfying meal and we headed back to meet the others at Clarke Quay wondering how the Singaporean version of the HK dim sum classic could be so drastically different. We met the others at SQUE, a bar alongside the river underneath the earlier wedding venue where we all enjoyed some drinks (unlike those pesky Aussie’s who had broken the drinking ban at the actual wedding). It was a nice evening and good to get to know some more of the guests at the wedding a bit better. However, it was an early start for us the next day for our road-trip to Malaysia and so we headed back at the civilised time of 10.30p.m to pack and enjoy our final night at the Sheraton.