Movies & Mangroves | 13-190616


Bay Splendour. Similar to the thrill felt when crossing Brooklyn Bridge, Waterloo Bridge or Knippelsbro, there’s something simply wonderful about walking from one side of the Marina Bay to the other and taking in all the stunning touristy sights on either side of the sparkling water. After work on Monday I walk towards the Arab Quarter in the golden hour evening light, Skyping with my mum, telling her about all the wonderful impressions – the wide white bridges, the water traffic, the orange sun reflection on the pillars of the Marina Bay Sands, the relaxed atmosphere among business people fleeing downtown.

Bergs Gourmet Burgers. I meet a lovely Danish girl for a second date in the lively Haji Lane. We sit on bar stools at a high table in the walkway in front of the rather primitive-looking burger joint and tuck into our greasy gourmet comfort food while chatting cosily. She’s finishing her law degree while doing an internship at the Danish embassy, and I first met her a few weeks ago, for drinks with a mutual friend whose boyfriend works at the same shipping firm as her boyfriend. She’s from Jutland like me, but furtunately that’s far from the only thing we’ve got in common.

Emilia Clarke. After dinner we go to the cinema to watch the cute, touching, inspiring and by some groups of society wildly criticised film adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ chick-lit bestseller, Me Before You. Although I don’t normally read books like that (yup, I admit it’s silly to feel the need for that phrase), I totally loved it, and the film doesn’t disappoint. Emilia Clarke is adorable as Lou, and I could watch those 110 minutes of her expressive eyebrows moving around her glowing face over and over again. By the end of it, my new friend and I are both in tears.

With Love From Tokyo. Next morning, a girl from the Tokyo office is close to tears on the conference call I have arranged with her to go over some training material. Moving here next week, she’s busy prepping for her new role here as well as sorting all the practical and personal stuff tied to relocating. I tell her not to worry about the training and please focus on packing up properly and saying goodbye to her friends and family. Assures her that I know how she feels and suggest we go for dinner and drinks on her first day here. This makes us both feel better – I’m no longer the newest one here, and she starts smiling broadly, thanking me and expressing her excitement by saying that her heart is already in Singapore.

Banhmi Brothers. A Vietnamese colleague takes me to a banh mi stall on Raffles Place for lunch on Tuesday. I opt for one filled with tender, peppery flavoured chicken, pickled vegetables and lots of fresh cucumber, coriander and chili. So yum.

Quay Eve. The crispy white baguette keeps me full for 7-8 hours, after which I stop working and go back to Raffles Place for a spinach wrap with seared tuna, kale, pumpkin and other veggies at Salad Stop, which I eat sitting on a bench in Boat Quay, listing to the Globalist, looking at people and the water, pondering the significance of the work achieved that day.

Favourite Interaction. With my friend who’s on a business trip to Melbourne, I have a WhatsApp correspondence this week about our favourite interaction of the day. Like this blog in general, it’s a nice way of highlighting positive experiences. On most days I have several contestants, which is something to treasure, just as it’s exciting to hear what he picks out in the winter down under.

James Blake. Running along the river on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, I pass quite a few badminton and tennis players among the usual tai chi practitioners spread across the grassy paths on both sides of the stream. I go through my own easy yummy yogi routine by the waterfall in Alexandra Canal Linear Park, while listening to James Blake’s I Need A Forest Fire on repeat, happy to be part of this energetic community of people clearing their minds and exercising for a healthy start to the day.

The Horse’s Mouth. Aspiring to keep moderation in all things, I finish off Wednesday with a whiskey sour at a speakeasy on Orchard Road, intrinsically hard to find – behind a dodgy-looking restaurant in the basement of a shopping mall. It’s nice enough though, with dark wooden furniture and low lighting to fit the concept. Keeping me company is a Danish private-yet pilot who has the whole world as his work space.

Tramontana. At 2am on Thursday, three friends in London wake me up on FaceTime. Having dinner at our favourite of all of the Spanish restaurants we used to frequent together, they thought I should join them for a glass of wine. Lovely idea, but sadly I’m too tired, completely disorientated in fact, and have to hang up after a brief look at their happy faces and raised wine glasses. Next time.

Volunteer Day. Later that morning I find myself alone in the office as everyone else is out at a senior centre or a children’s activity centre doing volunteer work – i.e. chatting to the elderly, playing with the little ones and packing food in an assembly line. Someone forgot to add me to the charity email alias (I probably should have enquired) so I didn’t get the memo. Or the fancy logo tee. Next time.

Impact Hub Singapore. On Thursday eve, I join my travel book author friend at an event organised by the Hub, just to check out the hip working space, listen to the four smart speakers and meet my friend’s lovely entrepreneur (e-commerce, luxury travel and exercise programs) friends.

Artichoke. After the talk and panel discussion, we have dinner and chilled white wine at nearby Artichoke. Such a cosy candlelit atmosphere on the terrace in front of the mediterranean-style restaurant.

Umbrella. It’s raining as I walk along the river after work towards the cinema on Orchard Road on Friday night. Unlike everyone I pass I do not have an umbrella, but I do love the feeling of warm summer rain in my hair and on my face and I do usually find umbrellas terribly annoying. It’s pouring quite heavily though, blurring my vision and turning my sandals into slippery pads underneath my increasingly cold feet. Just as I think it’s getting ridiculous and am about to succumb to Uber, an elderly guy shouts out from behind and kindly offers me his umbrella as he’s reached his destination. I thankfully accept and manage to arrive at the cinema relatively dry.

The Man Who Knew Infinity. My Taiwanese friend and I watch the beautifully shot story of an Indian mathematician working his magic at Cambridge a century ago, creating work that scientists today use in trying to understand black holes in the universe. Starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons, the film keeps a perfect balance between broadcasting the couple’s genius and still keeping it commercial – a beautiful lovestory.

Bootcamp. Saturday morning I go to a bootcamp at a gym in Telok Ayer Street with the English girl with whom I went to the gallery last weekend. Building a friendship with different activities (we drink coffee and walk through Chinatown to get there) and forcing myself to do exercise I would never do on my own. It’s good.

Thesis. After a shower and some porridge, I start proof-reading my friend’s dissertation on epistemic communities in a large Danish management consulting firm. It’s 74 pages long and keeps me occupied for quite a while. It’s a nice task: meticulous, almost meditative, focus on syntax, semantics, structure.

Baby. Half the world away, one of my best friends gives birth to a girl. She sends pictures and types out a few texts to describe the wild experience. I want to go home.

Hills & Waves. Late in the afternoon I meet a Thai colleague for a nice long hike in the Southern Ridges, first climbing Mount Faber, then crossing the beautiful Henderson Waves Bridge and finally making our way down towards Labrador Nature Reserve.


Tamarind Hill. The reward is a tasty meal and chilled sparkling wine at Tamarind Hill, a Thai fine dining restaurant in a stunning colonial building in the middle of the lush rainforest. We sit on the verandah, surrounded by stylish luxury on one side and the wilderness on the other side. A real foodie and enthusiastic cook of her native cuisine, my friend is truly impressed with the many small dishes we share. The fish cakes, spicy tuna salad, seafood tom yum soup and lemongrass fried rice are particularly outstanding, but we’re also quite appreciative of the mango sticky coconut rice that we share for dessert.

Pulau Ubin. On Sunday morning, my friend from the other side of the road and I meet for an adventure. Starting with a coffee from the bakery, of course. And a taxi ride to Changi Point Ferry Terminal, i.e. a small jetty next to the airport. Paying a mere $3 we take a bum boat to Pulau Ubin (‘quarry island’ in Malay, referring to the many abandoned granite quarries on the island) northeast of the city, enjoying the 10 minutes of soft breezes and salty aromas out on the open water before docking on the sandy shore of the last kampung (village) of Singapore. What a sight – small wooden houses, multicolour string pennant flags zigzagging the air, smiling and pretty chilled-looking locals renting out mountain bikes and selling overpriced coconuts. Up until about 50 years ago about 2,000 people inhabited the 10.19 km2 large granite block in the ocean, but now the number is down to about a hundred. The only school closed 16 years ago. The quarries and rubber plantations have been abandoned, and the natural flora and fauna makes up one of the last rural areas in Singapore (wonder how long that’s gonna last). We rent a pair of squeaky bikes, leave the village behind and pedal down rustic trails under swaying coconut palms, reaching soothing sights ranging from open meadow to thick jungle to flourishing mangroves to secluded beaches. We make four stops: by a colourful temple full of golden hindu and buddha statues, burning incense and fresh flowers, well kept by a sweet lady who tells us in her very sparse English that she’s lived here her whole life and that her dad was a fortune teller; by an eerie yellow shrine built to honour a German girl who died in an accident while escaping the British army who captured her family here at the outbreak of WW1; by a dodgy-looking coconut water cafe to have a drink and a rest; and finally in a pretty swamp full of poison-green  water-lilies. After a few hours the chain on my bicycle falls off and we walk back to the village to catch a boat back to civilisation.

Network. As I lie down on my bed to relax for a bit after the expedition, a friend from home calls me to ponder the meaning of life. We chat for a while, and it’s as lovely and familiar a conversation as ever. It’s nice meeting new people with whom to share experiences here, but it’s even nicer to be reminded that as much as I enjoy interacting with people, now that the feeling of initial insecurity/homesickness is starting to fade, I’m not desperate to meet people just for the sake of company. My existing friendships are solid, I don’t mind my own company, and as far as socialising in Singapore goes, I can relax concentrating on those individuals who really inspire me and contribute to making me happy.

Cinematic flair. The week ends with curtains drawn and lights turned off in the living room, where my flatmates and I watch GoT until we can’t keep our eyes open anymore.



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