…and I wish I were exaggerating, but really: I’ve just come back from my first trip to Singapore and it really is like coming back from another planet, or another reality, entirely.
1 – The public transportation system. I will single out the public buses and the MRT in this case, as they were two of the three main means of transportation that we (meaning my family and I, who had gone en masse to Singapore) used to get from place to place. (The third means was Uber, so that doesn’t really count as public transportation.) The buses were universally comfortable whether one was sitting down or standing up, and they really were convenient as a means of getting to one place or another, and it was pretty cool to watch them navigate the twisting roads and slopes.
The MRT gets its own paragraph because — well, we’ll never get anything like that in the Philippines. Not in the next fifty years anyway. Efficient trains, safe platforms, announcements in multiple languages, and the sheer cool factor of the fact that you could watch all the cabins ahead of you “dance” on the winding tracks — it’s like a great show, at least for an absolute newcomer like me. Add in the fact that people had no problems with connecting to the Internet and making or receiving phone calls, plus the whole idea of the stations being designed to double as bomb shelters: wow. All of it. Just amazing.
I’m sure that had I had a longer stay I would have noticed things to dislike about the buses, or run into a delay in terms of the trains, or something. But I guess the double mystique of being a first-time visitor plus the good luck of having mostly good weather made things much easier, and contributed a lot to my ongoing case of starry eyes.
2 – Food! Shopping! Books! Let’s see: I made it to the Chinatown hawker center for a steaming bowl of bak kut teh, then ate mango pudding. My brother took us to a fancy restaurant for a grand meal of fish and seafood. (Oh my god, best fish and chips ever. Fish and chips.) The first meal I ate in Singapore was an airport snack of kaya toast and milk tea and I was in raptures because whenever I order a hot milk tea here in the Philippines, there always seems to be some kind of metallic taste to go with the tea? It’s rather off-putting. But the milk tea in Singapore: it was lovely, there was no metallic taste, and it was just the right kind of sweet (meaning, not too much sugar).
Before flying off my mom had been encouraging me to save part of my shopping budget for clothes and — I’m glad I listened to her. I bought frocks! And I haven’t worn those in years! Normally I’m a trousers kind of girl, and I still dream of buying a suit some day, but now I have casual frocks to wear for when I’m out and about. They fit me and they’re really easy to care for, but importantly, they’re easy to go walkabout in. I wished I could have bought shoes, too, but problem one: small feet and problem two: I didn’t find the styles I liked.
I still bought books anyway, especially since they were books that I was not likely going to find back here in the Philippines: I got The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley, and The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman. I’m on a total nonfiction kick these days, don’t ask me why, but I feel that I need to read those books and so: I got them.
Oh, and I bought the fountain pen I’ve been looking for everywhere! I picked up a Lamy Vista with a broad nib. The body of the pen is made of clear plastic so you can see the inner workings of the whole thing. Fountain pen makers have been manufacturing demonstrator pens for many years and this was the last thing I wanted on my fountain pen list. I am a happy collector, and I will not be buying any pens for a while. (Now inks, well, that might be another matter entirely.)
3 – I actually had a reason to be in Singapore, and that was to celebrate the first birthday of my niece. My adorable niece who loves to blow raspberries at everyone and who is just itching to be able to walk on her own. My adorable niece who will probably warble along with lots of both English and Filipino nursery rhymes when she starts speaking. My niece! I have a one-year-old niece! I am such a proud auntie I can’t even.
4 – Brief as my Singapore trip was, it allowed me to touch base with two friends. One I’d only ever interacted with online: she’s a fandom friend and we’ve even collaborated on a couple of things — and on this trip, she whisked me off to Books Kinokuniya for the abovementioned books and fountain pen. I was glad to be able to demonstrate my fountain pens for her, incidentally.
The other friend I was able to see was someone dear to me from high school. He was more or less the first friend I made on the first day of HS freshman year. We’d had a brief run-in back here in the Philippines when he unfortunately had to come to town for the death of his father, but we promised each other we’d have time to spend together in Singapore. He was literally the last person I saw in Singapore, aside from my family, and he took the photograph of me that appears at the end of this post.
Do I want to go back to Singapore? Of course! There’s so much I haven’t seen yet!
Do I want to keep traveling? Yes! I want to go back to Hong Kong, the only other city I’ve ever visited, just to see what’s what. I want to go to Kyoto. I even dream about going to Barcelona, and setting foot in the one church in the world that I actually want to visit. (Yes, here I go again with my obsession with the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.)
Reasons to keep living. (She said, smiling.)
On Haji Lane in Kampong Glam, in the heart of the Muslim quarter in Singapore. That famous mosque in the background is, of course, Masjid Sultan.