Open Door Policy. Monday is a public holiday, and as Muslims around town are celebrating Abraham’s sacrifice, my friends and I indulge in a dairy- and gluten-free brunch in Tiong Bahru, my order made decadent by the soy ice cream that’s topping the honey-roasted granola. Delicious. Moments of blissful conversations with favourites gathered here between travels – one arrived from India in the morning and leaves for Australia the following evening, one is off to Portugal in a few days, one arrived from Copenhagen a week ago and two are telling tales of exotic diving holidays around the region.
Tamarind Hill. At the other end of what turns out to be a super relaxed holiday with nothing on the agenda besides eating and napping, we go for dinner at my favourite Thai restaurant set in the middle of the lush greenery on top of Labrador Park. We’re alone on the stylish, orchid-decorated black and white wooden verandah with our outstanding seafood tom yum, papaya salad, tender salmon and chilled white wine.
Morning Jewel. Starting Tuesday with coffee with a friend from one of my favourite franchises, Jewel Coffee – we order it to go and wish each other a good day before we part ways outside the Asia Square branch. Both offices in very near proximity. Making a nice loop of the day, we meet in the same spot after work, this time for a salmon steak with sautéed broccoli in the modern food court centrally in the square.
Private Class. 55 minutes at the barre Tuesday-Friday. Two of the classes are private ones, and the instructors are so sweet and familiar by now – encouraging words of praise – notice that I’ve gotten stronger and more flexible over the past weeks. I make an extra effort as well, as these might be my last classes. My parents are visiting this weekend and next week, and I want to spend all of my free time with them. Exercise will have to be early morning runs and Kayla before they wake up. The week after I’m in Malaysia, and the week after that, in Denmark and London. Back here in three weeks, I plan to replace barre with free yoga at Sri Muneeswaran Hindu Temple and my own routines, incorporating as much as I remember from the barre classes, at home or at the gym. But let’s see – I’ve grown quite fond of the atmosphere and instructions at the barre studio in Hong Kong Street and might just end up back in the good flow created here.
London Calling. Indian summer in England these days. Friends and colleagues send pictures of sun kissed barbecues in Victoria Park and Hyde Park, of bright morning walks through Shoreditch and Notting Hill, of Soho rooftop drinks. On Wednesday night I meet an English friend for dinner at Jamie’s Italian in Vivo City (which reminds me of my first year in London, when we all found the chain fabulous, frequenting the Angel outlet in particular, until we realised it wasn’t that cool – I still like Jamie, though, … and his Mediterranean-inspired comfort food), followed by a screening of the third installment of Bridget Jones in the mall’s cinema – a bit cheesy, but genuinely funny as well (it easily passes Kermode’s 6-laughs-test), with a great soundtrack, several flashes of Colin Firth’s heart-melting, miraculously youthful smile and idyllic shots of London. In just under three weeks I’ll be there! What a wonderful feeling.
Lantern. Thursday night is for a single glass of red house wine by the roof top pool of the Fullerton Bay Hotel to wrap up the day with my Danish friend, who started working at an office on the Marina Boulevard.
First Goodbye. Friday night starts with the first in what naturally will be a string of expat friend leaving announcements. The usual complex feeling of being happy for someone while sad about the prospect of missing them. A dear colleague and I go for a glass of after work wine at Bochinche in Amoy Street, and as we sit there in the walkway outside the lovely Argentinean restaurant, enjoying the golden evening light cast upon the charming shophouses around us, she tells me that she quit today as her husband accepted a job offer in their home country. She’ll go with him and pursue a career as yoga and mindfulness instructor. Her dream is to open her own studio.
Second Goodbye. Next stop is dinner at a friend’s house in the Duxton area. We open a bottle of wine and order some takeout salads. After a succession of private and professional changes lately, this friend has decided, quite spontaneously, to move to London. She’s packing up her possessions as we chat, generously giving me a huge pile of great books, a beautiful Balinese raindrum (!), glass vases, a plant, useful jars, a poster in a beautiful black frame as well as lots of food – bags of organic quinoa, dried coconut flakes, coconut milk, canned tuna… I walk away from there feeling shallowly excited about these treasures, excited for her about her decision to move, gutted that I’m losing another great new companion here in town, comforted knowing that we’ll stay in touch and meet again somewhere.
Moon Festival. Walking home on Friday night, I notice how the streets of Chinatown are covered in decorations to celebrate – full moon, moon worship, moon gazing. Among other concepts, the festival celebrates loved ones coming together – the moon being bright and round symbolises family reunion, apparently. Quite appropriate – right at this moment, my parents are high above the clouds, en route to join the celebrations.
Reunion! As such, at 6am on Saturday morning, I pick them up at the airport. I never did that in London – too much of a hassle. Here it’s easy. Butterflies in my stomach as I wait, a cute cup of coffee in my hand, my best friend on the phone as I while away the minutes until they come through the glass doors. It’s been, what, 5 months since I last saw them, hugged them, was hugged by them, and I’ve missed that so. Those months have flown by, but how wonderful it is to see them – to now be able to introduce them to what’s become my world since we last saw each other. They look happy and rested, my mum waving away a tear or two as she hands me a bag of goodies – my favourite Danish fashion magazine, my favourite perfume (Warm Cotton from Clean), an Eight Hour creme, handlotion with hawthorne etc. – and my dad looking eagerly around: adventure time.
Show and Tell. A tour of the flat, meeting my flatmates, morning coffee at Plain Vanilla, the little shops on Yong Siak Street, the exoticism of Tiong Bahru Market, a pitstop at the Bakery, a stroll around Tanjong Pagar, spotting my flatmates and their friends having brunch at Luxe, chatting to them for a bit (look, mum and dad, it’s so cosy and lovely here that you run into people you know in the streets!), chilling on a bench in Duxton Plain Park, admiring a huge Indian rubber tree, meandering down to have a look at the beautiful shophouses lining Everton Road and Blair Road, ending up at charming Strangers’ Reunion for a hearty lunch, ubering back to the hotel in Tiong Bahru to rest – while they have a little nap, I settle down in a deckchair on the neat little plant-lined balcony attached to their room with a newspaper and pieces of fresh dragonfruit and mango from a basket by the bed.
TB Night. After the rest and a shower, we stroll through Tiong Bahru to have a light dinner at PS Petit. Superfood salad and a glass of wine. It’s not very creative, but it’s showing them where I normally hang out. Here as well a friend of mine pops by – saying hello, meeting them. And after dinner, another one joins us for a second glass of wine, after which my parents shuffle home to sleep and watch the F1 qualifications. We move on to Bincho for a cocktail, and then to a very hipstery house party above the bar. Fun vibe, but for some reason we end up spending most of the night on a stoop downstairs, chatting, drinking chilled wine and enjoying the music and laughs from the balcony above us.
Tanjong Beach Club. Blissful brunchtime on Sentosa – scrumptious açaí bowl and toasted sourdough with spinach and egg. Young coconuts. Great coffee. Fresh ocean breeze. The epitome of a tropical view – pool, daybeds, the charming design of the bar, beach volley, yellow umbrellas, light sand, palm trees, turquoise water. They love it, and so do I.
Garden City. After brunch, we go to the Gardens by the Bay to check out both the Cloud Forest (first time I went it was dark; great seeing it in daylight) and the world’s largest glass greenhouse, the Flower Dome. So much fun doing something touristy together – especially at this environmentally aware educational site – feels like being a kid again.
Music in the Street. Accompanied by a friend of mine, we stroll slowly along the esplanade, listening to the vrooooms from the grand prix circuit on the other side of the bay, taking a break by a small white- and green-painted piano, on which I play the only tune I know by heart, seeking shelter from the burning rays of sun under the palm trees, enjoying a light late lunch at Lantern, which has got little black and white checkered F1 flags on the tables, taking in the spectacular views from the blissfully airy heights.
Teppan-Ya. We finish off the week with an eclectic Japanese standing buffet – grilled teppanyaki meats, spiced sashimi, handcrafted sushi, cold soba noodles, spicy edamame beans, fresh fruits – and free flow of good white and red wine while turning our heads in pendulum speed between the tv on the wall and the panorama view of the magnificent harbour, the skyline (with F1 flag-resembling lights projected onto the tallest one of them) and the race below. Special setting – memorable experience. Small, warmly lit restaurant, earthly colours, minimalistic lines, mostly Japanese fellow-diners and race-onlookers. An incarnated fan, my dad claims this is his best formula one experience ever (he’s had a few, even this year), and I love listening to his excited and interesting stream of facts about tyres, engines, engineering and sponsorships as well as psychological analysis and little observations about each and every one of the 20 drivers. We’re cheering for Kevin Magnussen, of course, and also Lewis Hamilton, his other favourite driver, as they make their way around the city circuit 61 times, such a show, at such a scale, over in such a short time. My mum is sitting comfortably in a corner, having a grand time as well, chatting cosily with a sweet waitress while tucking into the delicious matcha ice cream. We’re not on the grand stand, we can’t hear the cars, we don’t have tickets for any of the concerts (Kylie Minogue, Queen, Imagine Dragons) unlike most of my friends here, but we have the app, the tv, the view, the refreshments and each other.