...lebih baik hujan batu di negeri sendiri.
How apt this adage is for us, and for different reasons.
Our annual "balik kampung" trip to Singapore is probably icing on top of our cake! It is usually an Aidilfitri affair except for this year because most of the kids -- my nephews and nieces -- were sitting for their national (UPSR, PMR and SPM) exams. Our visit this year had to be resheduled for Aidil Adha when everyone was "free" and it coincided with the school year-end holidays.
This means that there were no all-day Hari Raya rounds of visiting our uncles, aunts and senior cousins. Therefore, no feasts.
This was the fourth consecutive year that we had opted to stay at a hotel on Orchard Road, and not at our aunt's place.
This is because our aunt and her husband who are living with their daughter, are both quite unwell. So we really did not want to trouble them, and we had to go through great length to explain to our aunt why it was near impossible for the lot of us to stay at her place.
We know Cik Ah. She'd insist on cooking every meal -- from breakfast to dinner -- for us.
We felt she was just too frail to be doing this for us. We see her get older and more frail with each passing year.
But we made a deal with her -- we'd let her prepare a feast for us every annual visit.
"That's the least I can do," she had told Nina.
So, for the past four visits, hers was the first house we'd gather at. Depending on our arrival time, we'd either have brunch, lunch or dinner at her place.
It was no different last week when the busload of us descended on Bedok, Singapura.
And what a lovely lunch it was.
We decided to stay in Singapura a day longer than we usually did. This was because the kids had been complaining that our visits had always been too short.
"Tak puas-lah," they had lamented.
It was great to stay a day longer. Besides, our niece, Saleha (a grandaughter of my late eldest aunt) was holding a "tahlil" for Bapak and our family members who had passed on.
We had also wanted to visit my dad's surviving brother whose health was declining.
Saleha made a point to have us all for tea or "makan" everytime we visited. It was an occasion to also get everybody together, including those we were unable to meet.
It was wonderful, as usual.
But the downside to our visit this time around was the fact that we had to have our meals around Orchard Road.
In the past, we would have our day revolve around our visits to our relative's homes. Which means that, we'd have our meals taken care of. So, when we were out shopping, we'd just grab snacks here and there. No problem.
How we had taken this for granted. We never actually thought about this. Until last week.
As we were out "traversing" Orchard Road, we realized that we had to have our meals -- essentially lunch and dinner -- within the vicinity.
I am convinced that there are not enough eateries in Orchard Road. Most of the restaurants were crowded and we had to wait in queue like we had never stood in queue before.
It's not as though we could go to another place when the place we had gone to was crowded. It was full house with a long queue at the other eateries. I remember the food court in Paragon was just brimming with people that it was better to wait in line -- like 20 minutes -- than to look for another makan place elsewhere.
The one marked difference between shopping complexes in Singapura and Malaysia is the availability of and accessibility to eateries.
Imagine, queuing up at Swensen's? Well I never....
Of course, the first night we were there, we had our dinner at Carousel's in the Royal Plaza on Scotts. It was a buffet. Lovely. $55.50 per person. So, all you can eat and it was worth every cent. But, every night there? Don't think so.
That was why, my niece, Marisssa was already missing "shopping in KL".
And when we got to KL on our way home, the kids waved so hard at Mid Valley Mega Mall.
"Ooooh. I love you Mid Valley," screamed Shaira. And not that she is a Mid Valley regular. But she was remembering the oh-so-wonderful varieties of eating places there.
"I can't wait to go to the Mamak shop," Adel said, breathless.
"And all the makan places at Ikano and One Utama," chipped in Amalina.
Oh yes indeed. It maybe golden raindrops across the causeway......but there's nothing like home.
That's where the heart is. And will always be.