Thursday, May 29, 2008

Eating My Way Through Southeast Asia - Prologue (aka "Thank you, Anthony Bourdain!")

Last year LYL, one of my dear friends from childhood, was presented with an amazing opportunity - to move to Singapore for a year. This past winter, as she was preparing for the big move, she started petitioning her friends to see who would travel across the world to visit her.

LYL and I have been friends since 5th grade, when she moved to our sleepy suburban town. We have remained very good friends throughout the years. We survived middle school, high school and college together (though we went to different colleges). She lived with Husband and I back when he and I were still just living in sin, during the engagement and nuptial planning, and even for a few years after the wedding until he and I finally moved into our own apartment, like normal married people. So, when she asked me if I would visit her in Singapore it presented a bit of an awkward situation. Who could she count on if not me, her loyal friend of 20 + years?

"I'll be so lonely," she pouted, trying the sympathy angle. "I will be leaving my family and all of my friends for a whole year! I won't have any friends there."

I smiled politely and told her I would think about it.

"You would love it there," she promised. "Singapore is supposed to have the best food in Southeast Asia. They are totally obsessed with food. You will fit right in!"

LYL is very smart. She always has been, ever since she was a kid. She knew exactly how to play her hand in order to pique my interest. Unfortunately, there were many more obstacles - much bigger obstacles - to overcome other than just my desire to visit her.

Aside from the financial issues and getting the time off from work, a journey halfway across the world would have to be equally enticing to Husband. This was the deal breaker. Europe has always been the limits of our travels - bearable flying times paired with familiar, western cultures was what Husband wanted from vacation. I knew that Southeast Asia would be a lot to ask of him. As LYL and I parted ways that evening, I knew that in reality, I probably wouldn't even suggest it.

A week or so later, as we were watching tv, I noticed that Anthony Bourdain's travel/food show "No Reservations" was airing an episode about Singapore. I explained to Husband that I just wanted to watch a few minutes of it, since LYL was moving there shortly. He agreed that we could watch it, but only for a few minutes.

It is no surprise that we were quickly hooked by the amazing food that we watched Bourdain eat. What was surprising, however, were Husband's comments about how clean Singapore seemed, how orderly, how very modern. By the end of the show (yes, we ended up watching the entire episode), Husband and I were both salivating, longing to experience the wonders of Sin Huat Eating House for ourselves and he was crowing about how great Singapore looked. I saw my opportunity and pounced.

"You know," I began casually, "LYL asked me if we would visit her while she was over there. She said it is the food capital of Southeast Asia, and now we know that to be true. Plus, you saw yourself that it is modern and nice. It's not like going to India or something" (for some reason, Husband abhors the idea of traveling to India).

"I could go to Singapore," Husband shrugged.

And so the Super-Amazing Southeast Asian Adventure began.

We expanded our itinerary to include a short trip to Vietnam (you didn't really think that I could be in Southeast Asia and miss out on eating my very favorite type of cuisine direct from the source, did you?) with a stopover in Kuala Lumpur. After months of researching and planning, Husband and I were armed with guidebooks (including my very own copy of the Singapore Makansutra, essentially the Zagat of Asian street food) and ready for the feast of a lifetime.

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