SINGAPORE - There are hawker centres you go to for a quick meal and then vamoose, and there are those where you linger to people-watch and to sample mouth-watering fare.
Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre at Block 20 Ghim Moh Road is one of the latter.
It was my stomping ground where I lunched during my days at a junior college a short walk away. On weekends, my family braved the crowds for meals.
On a recent visit, I was struck by the easy camaraderie of folks there.
At Thye Hong fishball noodle stall, a regular customer with a standing order got a "scolding" from the stallholder because she wanted something different that day.
"You are so disorganised," he told her in Mandarin, in mock anger and smiling the whole time.
"Long time no see," said a man nursing a cup of coffee, to a friend.
Three women sat in companionable silence while picking the tails off a big pile of bean sprouts. At the next table, a group of women with fancy handbags were in deep conversation.
At Ghim Moh Chwee Kueh, I could not resist snapping a photo of a tall pile of steamed rice cakes in metal cups, laid out on large round boards stacked on top of one another.
The friendly uncle at the stall smiled and said: "You don't often see this, do you?"
A long-time Ghim Moh resident was not surprised when I recounted my experience there.
"Oh, the stallholders keep an eye on each other's kids too," he said.