After spending more than a week exploring Bangkok and Koh Samui, Thailand, we concluded our trip to Southeast Asia with a stop in Singapore. It was my first trip to the small city-state and I was excited to explore and learn more about the tiny nation. I didn’t anticipate that it would lead to one of my biggest travel missteps of all time.
We were culinary pros in Thailand, it was like we were scouting locations for No Reservations, the way we expertly found the best Bangkok had to offer. After ten days of eating nothing but Thai food, we were kind of tired of it to be honest. I loved the street food and the little cafes and I didn’t have a bad meal during our trip, but after a while it all blurred into a single recollection of chicken, sauce and rice. By the time we hit Singapore, I found myself longing for something Western.
Gadling recently broached this topic when they asked their readers if eating at McDonald’s overseas is ok, or if we’re just being horrible Americans. Personally, I love exploring McDonalds, and other brands, when I’m traveling around the world. The unique, locale variations are fascinating and honestly provide a rare glimpse into the culture.
That’s why I didn’t feel bad when, immediately after arriving at our hotel in Singapore, we walked across the street to Burger King for lunch. That’s fine, I thought, nothing wrong with a generic meal once in a while when traveling. It was nice to have something I was more familiar with and could order knowing what I would receive. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there.
I blame it on the fact that we went “all in” during our Thailand visit and didn’t really moderate our eating experiences. Every day we sought out unique cafes and delicious street food, soaking in the Thai culture one meal at a time. A break at McDonald’s would have probably served us well because, by the time we got to Singapore, we were done. Done with trying to guess what we were eating and done with the difficulty in finding a unique dining experience. We had been on the road for a while and honestly, returning home was starting to sound good.
The next few meals after Burger King were at a bad café at the zoo, an Irish pub and a pizza place. I know! I know! But in our defense, neither of us were familiar with the famed Singaporean culinary treasures until we were back home.
Now whenever we watch a travel or food show highlighting Singapore, we cringe as they visit night markets or hawker stands famed for their noodles or unique concoctions. Instead, we have no culinary memories of Singapore except for the extra value meal.
Food is so important in travel, it can relate subtle cultural nuances like nothing else. That’s why I so regret our massive, Singapore food fail and cannot wait for the opportunity to return and REALLY experience Singapore.