So Singapore

Less than a week to go before we move out of our apartment—how did our time here pass so quickly? I never even got to write about food in Singapore. It’s one of the biggest things we’ll miss, of course: Food courts on every corner! Everything from popiah to sardine-o to fresh coconut juice to “Western Delights”! F&B (the local acronym for “food and beverage”) even in the National Geographic store at VivoCity Mall!


So Singapore: "No Browsing" Display in National Geographic Store (© Martha Nichols)


We’re awash with only-in-Singapore moments as we get ready to leave, especially after our return from Bali last week (a “vacation” beset by troubles for me, including several rounds of illness, way too many mosquito bites without taking malaria pills, and Internet problems). I was glad to get back to Singapore, even though I appreciated the natural beauty of Bali. I could live in Singapore, I’ve realized, which feels like an amazing internal place to arrive.

I present a few more photos here to illustrate the peculiar pleasures of our temporary home, although in some sense every moment here has been “so Singapore.”


So Singapore: Queue for Good Luck at the Fountain of Wealth (© Martha Nichols)


Kiasu Smackdown, Part One: Last Saturday, we took in a movie at the Suntec mall and were treated to the sight of people circling the Fountain of Wealth. Here’s a typical, completely untongue-in-cheek commentary—the largest! the best!—from the site Your Singapore:

Fountains of fun

Listed by the Guinness Book of Records in 1998 as the largest fountain in the world, the Fountain of Wealth is located within one of Singapore largest shopping malls, Suntec City.

In fact, the shopping and office district was constructed in accordance to Feng Shui principles. The 5 towering office blocks are designed to represent a left hand’s fingers, with the fountain sitting in the middle of the “palm”, symbolising wealth.

And during certain periods of the day, visitors are invited to walk around the fountain’s base for good luck. At night, the fountain comes alive with spectacular laser performances and song dedications.

Suntec city engages over 300 retail outlets, 50 pushcarts and 100 F&B establishments spreading across 4 floors. The mega mall is divided into 4 zones: the Galleria, offering high-end labels, the Tropics, emphasising on lifestyle merchandises and services, the Fountain Terrace, specialising in F&B, and the Entertainment Centre, comprising of a cinema, fitness gym, an arcade and many more.

Hint: The laser show is not spectacular. Neither is the F&B. But the Fountain is so bombastically ugly that it’s impressive, and I don’t mean that as cynically as it may sound. Despite the many clichés of Singapore that are true, the place somehow manages to rise above the clichés. It amounts to far more than fines for littering and hyper-consumerism.


So Singapore: Circling the Fountain (© Martha Nichols)


Kiasu Smackdown, Part Two: Last Friday and Sunday, we had dinner at what’s become one of our favorite places: the Sentosa boardwalk. Not Sentosa Island itself, but the new boardwalk you can stroll across from the VivoCity mall, including several outdoor pubs and a people-mover walkway. It’s the height of glittering artificiality. It’s also a wonderfully designed outdoor lounge space and a paean to urban planning.

Besides, where else can you simultaneously see fireworks, a giant animatronic display of mating cranes, cable-car gondalas glittering against the sky, the Merlion glowing purple—as well as hear a live rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads”?

So Singapore.


So Singapore: Sunset at Sentosa Boardwalk (cable cars against the sky; © Martha Nichols)

So Singapore: Sunrise over Simei MRT Station (© Martha Nichols)

So Singapore: Fountain of Wealth and Surrounding Buildings (© Martha Nichols)

So Singapore "Refrain from Sitting" Sign in National Geographic Store (© Martha Nichols)


7 thoughts on “So Singapore

    • Thanks, Jane. Living in a new place always does odd things to time: Moment to moment, everything feels hyper-real, as if every second is an hour. Then suddenly, the place has become a familiar place, and time starts to move the way it does back home: way too fast!

  1. I totally want to go to Singapore now! Giant feng shui wealth fountains..F&B…animatronic mating cranes….It sounds like what LA could be if it truly liberated itself….Thank you so much for your travelogue….

  2. Well, that’s the thing about the Singapore clichés: They do add up to more than shopping malls and police fines, but it takes awhile to figure it out—or maybe it just took me awhile, Joan.

    As for LA and Singapore, Caroline, you are so right. Certain parts of S-pore seem very LA to me—but there are crucial differences, too, that have to do with the lack of urban planning in America and also our expectations about space. Thanks for reading.

  3. I like Joan’s comment — and your response. Okay, now I get it! I think it would take me forever to adjust to a place so far out of my comfort zone. You guys are pretty brave!

  4. Hey, J — Well, brave is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps. Singapore is very easy in many ways, and it’s certainly far cleaner and better organized than Boston. At the moment we’re in Sai Gon, and as many times have we’ve visited Viet Nam, I’m much more out of my comfort zone here.

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