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I took a Bollywood dance class last week with some friends from the office.  The class was…well…strange? interesting? fun? horrible? fantastic?  I don’t really know how to put words to this…experience.

I asked my friend Beth how she would have described it, and she was far more eloquent. “It was not so much a class as a window of opportunity for the instructor to display/marvel at his fabulousness. But the moves were easy enough that we could follow without much guidance.”

She’s right.  Apart from the humiliation we all suffered through the windows of the trendy Chinatown dance studio, the most memorable part of the class was the flamboyant Filipino instructor, who spent an entire hour watching his pelvis move in circles.  This is a true story and I can prove it.

Because I knew my description could never do this justice, and I knew you would all have trouble picturing it, I managed to get someone to video our “routine.”  If you’re not rolling on the floor from laughter after watching this, then I don’t know what is funny anymore.

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Western New Year? One day.  Jewish New Year?  Two days.  Vietnamese New Year? Three days.  Chinese New Year?  FIFTEEN DAYS.  You might ask: What’s the big deal?  I might tell you: The big deal is that I have a little issue, and I’ve just realized that it’s now a 15 day issue:

I’m addicted to Chinese New Year cookies.   Seriously.  I. need. help.

They’re absolutely everywhere and I can’t escape them!  There is a cookie bakery at the corner of my MRT stop, so every day I’m starting my morning by smelling the buttery goodness (probably more like “ghee-y” goodness).  Even in the office there are dozens of cookie jars, strategically located about 10 meters away from my computer, so I’m forced to stare at them any time I go to the printer.  If I go to a meeting, the secretary will put out bottles of water and…you guessed it…CNY cookies.  People give me cookies as gifts.  One day I tried to swear off all Chinese New Year cookies and then (a mere 2 hours after my vow) an 80-year-old woman insisted I taste one of her home-baked pineapple tart cookies.  Just try saying no to a Chinese auntie!

Consider this my admission of a problem.  Is there a second step?

[photo credit: James Carrier & Simply Anne’s]

…otherwise known as the National Dish of Singapore.  I have a little debate going on with my foodie friend as to whether or not this dish is as delicious as its reputation suggests.  She argues nay, but I’m firmly on the side of the yeas.

What else can you eat in this town that is so cheap ($2 USD), so simple, so easy to find, so light, and doesn’t leave you feeling like there’s a frat party going on in your stomach?  Sometimes I just don’t want a meal with all the spice or the oil or the fried foods.  And compared to some of the other fare, chicken rice is relatively healthy (well, assuming you don’t eat the fatty skin).

To see if I was missing something, I went to the hawker stall at Maxwell Centre where Anthony Bourdain famously declared that the chicken rice was “so fragrant and delicious that it can be eaten on its own.” You can see part 1 of the Singapore episode of No Reservations below.  He also does a great job of showing how they make the dish (around the 3:00 mark).

On that note, I think I’ll go have some chicken rice!

Inspired by Nicole’s stylish friend to do a little window shopping on Ann Siang Hill, I set off to Chinatown armed with my camera and my girlfriends.

I had originally hoped to capture the trendiness of the Ann Siang boutique shops and cafés, but I was too busy looking for Theroux’s latest travel essays (thanks for the tip, Olga!) at Books Actually and sampling free patisserie goodies from K-ki sweets to get some quality shots.

Instead I’m giving you pictures from the street hawkers in Chinatown, which in my opinion are just as interesting and perhaps a little more timeless than trendy.

Bold LanternsChopsticks
Chinese New Year Cakes

Left to right from the top: (1) Hanging lanterns in a store off Pagoda Street, (2) friends in the orchid garden, (3) rows and rows of lovely chopsticks for sale, (4) very, very dry persimmons, (5) the worlds largest spinning prayer wheel (supposedly), (6) nian gao factory cakes, or chinese new year cakes, (7) more photogenic lanterns, (8) roasting chesnuts, and (9) ripped statue guarding the Red Temple.

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