Taxi Drivers in Singapore

Taxi Drivers in Singapore

They deserve a little mentioning in my blog for the mere fact that I am dependent on them on a daily base. Although there is a very nice and well maintained, self-conducting Metro system (MRT) and I live only one station away from my workplace in Vivo City, I hop in a cab regularly. It’s not expensive here in Singapore and the meters have a variety of sur-charges, depending on rush hour traffic or which zone you drive to, from or into.
Taxi’s dominate Singapore’s traffic and their duty is clearly designed. You can wave them down, but be prepared for attitude; If not standing on a street curb “designated” for pick ups you are at the mercy of the drivers choice to halt. Ones you luckily waved one down, since everyone in this city is depending on this cheap fare, you might be told that the direction you are going to is not convenient for the driver…Although he will not say it in such kind words. Most of the time they simply close the window, wave you off with the same gesture that in other nations indicate “crazy” and take off.
See, driving a personal vehicle in Singapore is a luxury, one has to pay a street usage tax implemented by the government that is variably between US $ 5’000 to 12’000. First off you have to be given the rights to own a car, drive such vehicle and foremost receive a street license since the government controls the restricted access of vehicles in the tiny nation. The newer your car, the better economical your choice the less expensive the license, for a foreigner that is… If you purchase a new car it usually comes with a one year street tax allowance, which the following year can be US$ 8’000, way more than the yearly mortgage you owe the bank, It is better at this point to trade your car in for a new one, attached with a new license… Hence you see lots of new cars on the road and Singapore has become known in the used car market outside its borders for bargain deals.
Brings me back to the Taxi’s, which are not very economical, but still dominate the streets. Once you inside and have explained in English where to go to, the driver will roll into the left lane busy transportation route and a computer voice might invite you to put on your seat belt on the back seat. Hey, safety first. The very next thing is the odor of some sort of stinky socks that will incubate your nose; and it gets use to understanding this is a comforting and typical car odor consistent with Pandan Leaf oil. Very unpleasant to me. Most drivers chauffer in their retirement age to survive the economical pressures and top-up on the very low government support; wait till they give you some ramble about their lives and how easy we (in the back-seats) have it. I have had taxi captains driving in the middle of the lanes and causing other vehicles to dangerously swerve away from us while complaining about the youth not upholding Chinese traditions. But most all of them have one ugly practice in common, they love to drive in third gear. And this is precisely why I am committed to write this in my blog. As a person driving a car since  I am 14 (in Switzerland we drive tractors for the farmland) and owning my own cars since 16, living the last 15 years in Los Angeles, I have become an expert in driving proficiently and safe. But the sound of a tortured motor grinding in third gear while tucking away in rush hour traffic is plain annoying. I have sat in the back and watched in sheer amazement when drivers shift from first to fourth! Geared in third awaiting the traffic light turning green when trying to power the motor of stand-still and even more astonishing when such vehicle jokingly takes off with a heartbreaking whining noise from the engine, seemingly unconcerned by the face in the back mirror starring at me. The Taxi mechanics of Singapore must wonder? Or maybe they are so intone with the fact the gears ore gone on taxis at such regular basis that they simply think that is the part that needs to be replaced more than the air in tires should be checked… That dangerous reality is worse while another blog, especially during rain season. I’ve skated on the freeway home from the airport, realizing this is the most dangerous part of my journey.
I’m off to work, catching a cab!
Chef Raphael

good morning saigon

Back in Singapore for a while, escaping the craziness of Vietnam. I had a mad, mad time but it was great fun. First I went back to Hong Kong invited to visit the Eu Yan Sang factory and inspired about the many new activities developing on the TCM horizon. EYS is the first Chinese Pharmaceutical company to register and trademark all the fingerprinting of their herbs, within creating the first collective database and guidelines for TCM regulations and standards. Quite impressive and foremost an important resource platform from which hopefully more teachings about the theories and practices of this old traditions will find roots in the  Western world. Undeniably the future of our health depends on the measured intake of food and nutrition, minerals and even TCM’s that can boost and strengthen any immune system to help us prolong a healthy existence in an increasingly polluted environment. I will design a few TCM snack ideas and pitch them forward, hopefully they will encourage more consumers to become familiarized with the benefits of healthy eating.Talking about, I went to a few eateries in Hong Kong, even the famous COVA and was rather disappointed. For a pricy place  I expected much better service. I arrived there with a local friend and were seated comfortably on a nice table. Although the a la carte menu is nicely presented with Italian classics, the filet mignon was our choice, for we stumbled into the restaurant on the search for a simple good steak.My first course a Bisque of Crab meat was salty and the lesser quality crab meat with the uncomfortable harsh bits of shell in it. My friend Anto’s Garpachio looked much nicer, but did not impress either of us. Hey, maybe I have a simple taste? When the Filet arrived, both of them medium rare I was disappointed. I like mine perfectly medium, a delicious roast on the outside and the elegant meat part inside… but instead it was a bloody mess on the plate. Anto could not eat his, refusing to double back a filet he left his medium well done order bleeding behind. There is always a dessert to cheer up things, but when the signature tiramisu could not pull us out of the disappointment we fled the place after paying too much for too little.

Two days later I sat in a diner in Ho Chi Mingh city that makes that menu look fantastic; read the photos of the menu card, I had great fun. Indeed I ordered items I have never even heard of, or out of curiosity from the mystery enticed. It was all okay, not too spicy but fair for the price paid. My friend Ivan Rodan, the F&B manager for the Khai Silk Companies’ luxurious restaurant chain invited me as a guest chef to return in April. I am very excited doing so, representing RWP as a TCM chef in Saigon. Surely I took a motorbike ride through the infamous traffic in the city, risking my life but having great fun. Its all much easier when having a drink in the many nightclubs, although one has to get used to the stern and serious looking security people standing around alongside the walls. Apparently to protect my kind… from what?
Back in Singapore I am busy with creating special events menus; check out the Chinese New Years draft or even better, if you are in town common by and say hello.
I’m flattered that even the local media published my face in Singapores Straights Time… Although they had to mention that I am a 44 old bachelor.  Q will get a kick out of that one!My next few weeks will be busy with developing ideas for EYS HongKong bringing a series of TCM snacks into the public market place and possibly designing a new series of health maintaining elixirs. I’m up for all the challanges the future lays before me.Greetings

Chef Raphael