Surrounded by Brightness | 01-070816

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Oysters & Bubbly. Looking down on life in the streets from my office building, what’s always central in my vision is a small, quarter-circular art deco building. White. The Black Swan. Total ’20s glamour. After work on Monday, I meet a friend there for small meaty and larger slightly watery but still tasty happy hour oysters and a bottle of Champagne to celebrate that day’s office highlights and life in general.

Bochinche. The last bubbly drops drained, we walk across the neatly manicured lawn opposite work to the newly opened Argentinean restaurant in Amoy Street, where we take a seat in the bar section of the charming room (overflow of bright paintings, black- and white-patterned walls and floors, great vibe – busy bartenders, good lighting, view across the space to the open kitchen) and order some sea bass ceviche, grilled octopus and sour egg-white-foamy cocktails.

A Night in Paris. On wednesday, I pop into the Parisian bar in Tanjong Pagar, with an English friend and her visiting sister, who spent the past year working in the French capital. Chitchat, snacking on charcuterie, drinking luscious unlabelled Ladies Night rosé, drinking in the delicious ambience. Everyone around us sports bright red lipstick, wavy ’20s hairstyles and elegant dresses. The pastel-coloured walls are covered in gold-framed mirrors and romantic dance posters. Ferns and roses everywhere. The whole polished thing looks like a Woody Allen film scene.

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Kilo. On Thursday night, my tastebuds travel to Japan, while my body is securely planted on a window seat in a shiny Orchard Road mall. My friend and I share a sashimi/avocado salad and soft shell crab in the funky minimalistic concept store/restaurant while we look out on the trees lighting up the sleek, grey area.

Jewel. Next morning, I fuel up with some v60 coffee at a cafe with floors and tables painted up in a blue jewel pattern, the spectacular brewing equipment lit up by an old architect lamp for the ultimate hipster visual effect. The Ethiopian and Somalian bean varieties are both superb.

Sunny Stroll. Mon-Thurs, I jog to the gym in the dark before dawn, and so it’s a nice change to walk ever so relaxed with my Jewel coffee in the mild 8AM sunshine, slowly making my way across River Valley and Robertson Quay (pitstop at Common Man, of course) to the office.

National Day Celebrations. Next Tuesday is a public holiday as the nation celebrates its 51 years of independence from Malaysia, so this Friday we’re supposed to dress in red and white (embarrassingly, I forgot that memo) and enjoy some Malaysian, Chinese and Singaporean treats at Happy Friday Hour in the office. My colleagues in the events committee have lined up an impressive selection of homemade goodies in the pantry, at little tables covered in red-and-white-checkered tablecloths, along with wine and fizzy drinks, and smilingly urge everyone else to have a go at the interesting-looking items. I accept a fishball, a mushy slice of coconut/glutinous rice cake, an egg/chilli cookie, some spiced cashews and two peanutbutter/jelly (soap?) bars resting on banana leaves, just so that I can have a closer look at it all and take this picture.

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Boulevard Beauty. On Saturday afternoon, headed for the gigantic white lotus flower at the feet of the Marina Bay Sands, I promenade along the spectacular deck framing the bay, appreciating it’s splendor – the clean boardwalk, the manicured lush greenery, the jolly tourists, the soft-curved steel and glass constructions of the shoppes, the view to the yachts racing around in the marina.

ArtScience. Making it to the museum, I meet my friends for the Singaporean version of the Big Bang Data exhibition I saw in London a few months back (at my favourite gallery, Somerset House). It’s so neat and clever how they’ve curated the exhibition to fit each city  on its tour, with the current focussing on Singapore as a Smart Nation.

Utomhus. My Swedish friend suggests digesting the show with a dinner ‘utomhus’ (‘outside the house’), and so we find a place that serves dim sum – and awesome cocktails! – in a cosy walkway. We sit on bar stools around a narrow wooden table outside the lively restaurant and chat happily into the night.

Blair Beauty. In the bright Sunday morning light, a little light jog takes me to Blair Road, a pretty pocket of well-kept and -conserved Peranakan beauty. A quiet residential road between Tiong Bahru and downtown, bending idyllically down towards a meadow at the far end. What a pleasant surprise to find this stunningly chic and heritage-laden paradise of bright pastel-coloured ornaments, verandahs and shutters, stained glass and stone lions, lush ferns and palm trees.

Pineapples and Pigs. Trotting back home, I pass the bright National Day celebrations preparations. Flag garlands being hung from lampposts. Buzzing activity of creating bountiful tableaus featuring herbal tea, meringue cakes, golden fruits, roasted piglets and incense in front of coffee shops and convenience stores. Golden, orange and red hues. Lions and pineapples. Majulah, Singapura!

Home Alone Work. For hours this weekend I sit at the dining table and work in tranquil solitude – my flatmates are in Saigon, partying till late and eating all the crispy street food they pass, according to perfect photo poses on social media.

Trip Planning. And I get some admin done, such as planning trips with friends. August, September, October, November and December will all offer up trips to Malaysia (my brother moves to KL this week) or Indonesia (the volcano we’re climbing in two weeks erupts on 1 August!), and while I’m initiating 2017 with a trip to California, I want to focus the rest of next year’s travels on checking out all of the cities I’m dreaming of the most – Bangkok, Hanoi, Hongkong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul. For now, though, I’ve still got a lot of exploring to do in Singapore.

Reflections. I spend Sunday evening in the heights of  Daniel Libeskind’s double curvature masterpiece near Labrador Nature Reserve (must go for a breezy stroll or run on the esplanade there soon!), cooling down in the olympic-size pool, gazing out across the bay towards Sentosa and the sunset above the dinosaur-resembling cranes, munching on greasy takeout and vegan ice cream and watching a chick-flick with my sweet hostess.

Angles. Incidentally, walking down to the Reflections earlier in the evening (an hour’s sweaty stroll), I got to see the Henderson Waves from a different perspective than normally. Small event, but a significant reminder. I’m used to looking down from it – the dizzying panorama of the highway way, way, way, way down below, making my hiking buddies and I talk of vertigo infused moments, nauseating experiences, bungee jumps, suicide jumps. How spectacular the spiralling construction also looks from the pavement! So high up among the rainforest greenery. Imagine if that’s how I’d seen it for the first time. How alluring the idea of actually walking across the bridge in the sky would’ve appeared!

Likes of the Week. Louis C.K.’s old and wise observation, ‘…it’s not your life. It’s life. Life is bigger than you. If you can imagine that. Life isn’t something that you possess; it’s something that you take part in, and you witness,’ reminding me to stop being too self-centered. // Being everything vs being unique. // Hatsthe decision to matter and how narratives are the engine behind feelings. // Singapore’s vision of using technology to empower people to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives – and arborists’ digital guide to keeping trees strong and healthy (how wild is it that there’s 1 tree per 5 people in Singapore, and they are all tagged!). // In Europe, at least to me, August carries a bittersweet sentiment – the transition from warm summer euphoria to crisp autumn thrill, all the bright moments of soaking up the best qualities tied to both seasons. Here, it’s just another neutral tropical month. I like it; it’s a great spot for contemplation.

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