Quite the perfect excuse, really, to buy myself a bottle of Madame Pearl’s Cough Syrup. How could anyone have resisted the vintage packaging which appears not to have changed much since 1954, those to-die-for fonts and contrasting pop colors ? Apparently it’s also Hong Kong’s best-selling cough syrup brand, or so its website claims.
Well now, time to see if it works as well as it looks. (Even if it doesn’t, I guess I’ve already got my money’s worth.)
UPDATE: It works !!
I meant to buy some fabric but what with the market being closed on Sunday and remaining stalls closing up by early afternoon (ugh !), we bought ice creams (blame it on the hypnotic ice cream truck music) and took a walk about the neighborhood instead.
Since I’m not generally a fan of sugary-buttery goodness, you can probably guess that I wasn’t the one who’d ordered this. I wasn’t tempted to try it and didn’t eat any of it either.
Instead I ordered tomato macaroni soup for the first time, apparently a cha chaan teng staple. It was just okay, probably something I would order if I was ill or if I didn’t feel like eating at all.
Yay for roasted meats. The pork crackling was very good and so was the side of crunchy cabbage. I only wish they had included Singapore-style chicken rice or duck rice chilli in their selection of condiments.
This was our late dinner last night. I got home slightly earlier i.e. 8.30pm and whipped up a quick meal of chilli tuna linguine. Canned chilli tuna courtesy of my friend S who unloaded her stash at my place en route back to Singapore. As you can see, I love coriander very, very much and usually add an irrationally ginormous amount to my food whenever I cook at home.
For our trip, we were based in Shantou mainly because my parents and sister flew in direct to Shantou from Singapore. We pretty much spent most of our days visiting relatives and ancestral homes in Chaozhou, the two cities being so close it didn’t even feel like we were traveling between cities.
Markets hidden in snaking residential alleys.
I’m fascinated by Shantou’s cage-like apartment facades that are messy, dingy and so full of character.
Chickens and ducks for sale in the market, fresh meat like it should.
It’s the first time in my life in an environment where everyone speaks Teochew unabashedly. It was so surreal considering that as a child growing up in Singapore, for a time I was rather ashamed of speaking Teochew in public (all my friends in school spoke either Mandarin or English, only old folks converse in this antiquated dialect, or so I thought) and couldn’t understand why my mom insisted on speaking the dialect instead of Mandarin. Fast forward to 2010, I’m really glad I was able to order food in Teochew and be understood by the locals.
A friend recently backpacked for a few weeks through southern China. Upon arriving in Shantou, she found it boring and couldn’t wait to get out as fast as she could, promptly getting on the next bus to Xiamen.
In Shantou’s defense, I’ve been to far more dreary cities devoid of character still fumbling to find their place in modern China today. In comparison, Shantou can be rather attractive and quaint if you take a bit of time to get to know it even though it’s as left behind as those other cities.
To me it is familiar (can’t help it, Teochew heritage) yet foreign at the same time, quite unlike the other parts of China I had been to.
Its melancholic charm best experienced in narrow streets and crumbling architecture left forgotten and unpreserved. By the way, these posters are pure gold.
In the city’s old quarter, I get the feeling as if I am in Singapore or Malaysia circa 1970/80s.
Stained glass windows are everywhere if you notice. Wonder what’s the story behind since I don’t usually associate stained glass as intrinsically Chinese. British merchants, treaty ports, colonial past ?
Rust eating away at the cast-iron art-deco facade, an impressive structure that I wish had been better preserved.
Of course some traces of Communist influences…
Pointed arch window frames, stained glass windows and may Chairman Mao live for 10,000 years.
We also found Mao in unexpected places, which makes the exploration quite very rewarding.
A little snack since the flight in question was delayed for more than a few hours and there was nothing else we could do to interrupt the boredom of the wait.
Waiting with the extended family I have never known at the airport for my parents and sister to arrive. Finally ! That’s the plane they were on.
Dai pai dong, Teochew style FTW.
A selection of boiled/ steamed fish to go with plain rice porridge.
Wanted to try the tasty-looking raw marinated crabs but chickened out in the end.
Listening to children on the streets speak fluent Teochew, yet another surreal moment.
So many oysters to shuck.
More beef noodles.
Fishball and sliced pork noodles.
Probably the weirdest thing I’d seen in Shantou (make that Chaozhou too).
How long does it take for reused signages to reach this stage ?
If I have to pick one photo to represent the state of derelict and despair in Shantou’s old quarter, this will be it. Everyone’s resigned to fate, residents and buildings alike.
Such a pity the buildings are just biding their time to be torn down.
Transporting pigeons on public transport. On the same bus we also witnessed how buses double as express courier service when a person got on the bus to collect a parcel from the bus conductor then hopped off at the same stop. Highly amusing !
As you may already have noticed, noodles was our starchy staple of choice for the duration of our stay in Shantou.
The cab driver had to answer a phone call midway through our ride, except that his phone was chained to his belt. He was speeding along the road with his head tilted in this manner for ten or so nerve-wracking minutes.
A Chinese opera puppet show we stumbled upon after following the sounds of lively music. It was a lovely treat especially as we don’t get to see much of these in Singapore anymore.
We were among the few people at the neighborhood temple watching the performance under the awnings, alongside old folks.
Indiscreet and nonchalant advertising by the street.
An interesting choice of gates for a construction company.
Spied upon the subtlety of stars…
… and motorcycle taxi drivers waiting for their next customers.
Farewell Shantou (and Chaozhou), it’s been a trip like no other and certainly much more significant than any trip I’ve gone on. I’ll hope to come back soon one day !