Places in and around Singapore (Sept-Oct)

A recent report stated that Singaporeans, who enjoy peace, stability and material wealth, are more unhappy than the people in Syria. There are several reasons for this irony. First, people tend to have grossly high expectations of themselves and of other people and a smallest lapse/ error makes people unhappy and whiny. Second, I feel that people in Singapore are fond of routines, they go to the same places, do the same things that they are used to and this certainty makes life pretty much boring and dull. Spontaneous people tend to be happier in my opinion. I used to think that Singapore is a boring place because it doesn’t have much to offer but recently I realized this is because I have been sticking to my own routine. When I eventually broke my usual routine and explored Singapore, I find that I experience Singapore differently. There are so many sides of Singapore that I am unaware of and I am happy to see Singapore from different angles.

1) Exhibition on the peace effort in Afghanistan.

This was held at Lot One Shopping Mall one Saturday. It is a moving exhibition so every week it will be at a different shopping mall. It was an interesting exhibition, there were a couple of stationary tanks on the grass and boards with information. What actually drew the crowd there were the balloons and the opportunity for children to dress up as soldiers and be photographed. I find it strangely amusing as there was a long line of children waiting to be dolled up as soldiers and parents were excited to take photos of their children. Emotions will be really different if this wasn’t a photoshoot and their children are actually going to Afghanistan. Anyhow, kudos to the team who thought of this simple yet effective marketing ploy.

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2) Star Vista

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Star Vista, located next to the Buona Vista MRT, is perhaps one of the most beautiful buildings in Singapore. I love those tall pillars, they remind me of Sagrada Familia to a small extent. It is the first shopping mall which does not have air-conditioning for the walkways in Singapore and it is designed in a way to allow for maximum ventilation. Of course there is air-conditioning inside each shop. I really like this green architecture and concept. Hopefully there will be more shopping malls that look like this in Singapore. Star Vista mainly comprises of restaurants with a huge range of cuisine and it is crazy how even though there are so many restaurants, you always have to queue to get in any of them during dinner hours. There is a popular joke that if a restaurant doesn’t have a line outside of it during dinner hours, it is bound to close down in the next 2 months. Over the last two months, I have tried German food at Brotzeit with my family, Japanese food at Watami and Taiwanese food at Blackball Taiwanese dessert with Charmian. The food at Star Vista is not cheap but the ambience there is fabulous. It is always a good place to go and indulge and chill with good company from time to time. 🙂

3. Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Hotel.

Charmian got a room at MBS one day and invited me over. I was really excited to finally see how MBS looks like but when I got there, I thought that it was pretty ordinary. No doubt it is classy but it is not special because many good hotels look like that. The room also looks rather normal and pales in comparison to the more stylish Hard Rock Hotel over at Sentosa. The view was pretty decent as we got to see the Singapore skyline and the Marina Reservoir (I think that’s the name of the pool of water there). It was quite a magical night, that kind which doesn’t feel connected to yesterday or tomorrow at all. I remember chatting over beer in the room while watching cartoon network, I remember blots of lightning flashing incessantly across the night sky, I remember missing the last train and walking all the way to Esplanade to catch a taxi or night rider, I remember the helix bridge having a spooky glow after the heavy rain, I remember waiting with dozens of people and attempting to flag down taxis in the middle of the road and I remember the taxi ride home. The taxi driver spoke about Malala and about the earthquakes in the region. I remember him saying that the Aceh earthquake shattered all buildings in a district except for the mosque while the recent earthquake in the Philippines tumbled the churches. I remember commenting that the construction material is indeed important and I remember him getting frustrated because he was trying to imply something more spiritual. That was quite a ride, how many taxi drivers in Singapore talk about philosophical/ spiritual things like this? I remember seeing the orange cloud which resembles a dog when I got home and at that moment, I felt that life is beautiful. It also strengthened my belief that life is all about the experience rather than the trophies.

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4. East Coast Park

I went to the East Coast Park with my family for claypot rice and we chilled by the seaside for a while. The Singapore waters don’t impress me but I still enjoy the sensation of standing on the beach and letting the waves slam against my feet. I look at the oil tankers and I think about how each of them is tracked by companies and the naval forces. I wonder where they came from and where they were headed towards. I wonder what he thought about when he saw them?
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5. Macritchie Reservoir.

One Saturday afternoon, I joined a group of exchange students who are also staying in the Cinnamon College to do a short hike at Macritchie Reservoir. The majority of the group were were Germans but there were other people from Latvia, Norway, Denmark, China and Vietnam. It was actually more like a social event rather than a nature walk because people chatted about any other thing apart from the nature in front of them. I don’t remember hearing a ‘beautiful’. But I guess the nature walk in Singapore is too accessible and easy for people to fully immerse in the natural setting. Anyhow, it was a nice day out. I learnt a lot about how different people perceived Singapore. Some like Singapore for being a garden city while some lament that the people here conform too much to norms and do not think out of the box. We walked around the reservoir, saw the monkeys and walked in the jungle for a bit before heading out to Joo Chiat for Vietnamese food at Long Phung Vietnamese Restaurant. I like Vietnamese food, it’s healthy and particular about the flavours. Other Asian food tend to be a mix of different flavours but Vietnamese food is more of a flavour at a time. It was my first time at the Geylang area at night and it was quite an eye-opener, another side of Singapore that I have never seen, there were scantily dressed women standing outside karaoke clubs and people sitting around drinking.

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6. BP blending plant at Jurong Island

As part of the CSCleaders for conference, we visited the BP blending plant at the Jurong Island. Jurong Island is a restricted area so it was my first time on that industrial island! It looks similar to the Tuas area with many factories and trucks. The blending plant was an eye-opener too, I didn’t know that oil needs to be “processed” before it can be used and different companies have different formulas for processing the oil.

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