Flock Productivity. After some yoga and some quinoa granola with oat milk at home, my friend and I start off the week with a quiet email morning at Flock Cafe in Moh Guan Terrace, the only public place in TB with wifi. Coffee, tea, low classical music, the sound of the coffee grinder, sitting across from each other and typing away, an occasional shared smile, but otherwise, deep, productive focus. Run by four decor, food and coffee loving siblings, the indie hipster cafe offers a charming, chilled ambience, just the kind of place to which you want to ‘flock’ with like-minded people, come together, in the clean white furniture with blue and grey accents – minimalist, industrial feel meets cosy comfort. A great place to kick off the work week; just before lunch time I close my laptop and take a break by walking into the office through Chinatown.
Best Breakfasts. One is homemade: 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, 1 cup of oats, 2 cups of oat milk, 1 teaspoon of açaí powder and a bit of cinnamon stirred in a jar and kept in the fridge overnight; ready to be consumed in the morning with a garnish of fresh fruit on top. Yum. One is a surprise: my friend leads me to the Daily Roundup, below the Working Capitol and the Goethe Institute in Tanjong Pagar, for heaven in an açaí bowl and a cup of prana chai. That building exudes an ambience of creativity, knowledge acquisition, industry, getting things done. Not bad as a background for munching on a purple smoothie covered in fresh and dried berries and sipping on oatmeal-colored liquid spices. The next cup of prana chai of the week, a friend and I enjoy post-barre in the small leafy yard behind Punch by Hong Kong Street. On Saturday, it’s the chai and the almond matcha latte at equally as leafy Curious Palette in Bugis that kick off the day, and on Sunday, after sleeping till 10am to fight off a hangover, my friend and I go to Sentosa for a perfect morning grub at Tanjong Beach Club. We sit at the bar, with a soothing, cheerful view of children and puppies playing in the pool and on the beach in front of us, the smell of suncream and the sound of upbeat house music in the air. Instantly hydrating and refreshing fresh coconuts with paper umbrellas through the top, a strong long black, a shared plate of spicily marinated chicken breast served with pineapple chutney, parsley and red onion. Dessert: an açaí bowl to share before the plates are cleared and we enjoy a few hours of drawing, reading, walking on the beach, without talking, just taking in the moment at that happy yellow spot in the sun with the graceful, charming ’50s logo. It starts to rain the minute we leave the island, and I sense a deep pluviophile joy settling inside of me as we uber back into town. This week, week 42, was my ultimate favourite week of the year as a child because it was the Autumn Break, and a little bit of the hygge central to that concept is reflected in the torrential tropical rain: we can go home and cuddle while the water is drumming on the roof and windows.
Tuna Lunches. Such varied inputs from sweet people while chewing on raw-marinated tuna at Hawaiian A Poke Theory (three times), spicy poached tuna sandwich at Danish Joe and the Juice and seared tuna salad Aussie The LoKal respectively. Energy gained through favourite healthy foods and spent on rewarding social interactions: Monday with an English friend, Tuesday with a Vietnamese colleague, Wednesday with a Thai colleague, Thursday with a Danish childhood friend and his Singaporean girlfriend, whom I meet for the first time, and Friday with another English friend. There’s a beginning consistency – catching up on travel stories, news from around the offices, new ideas and selected anecdotes, a growing acceptance of silence, comfortable silence, mindful of what we’re chewing on.
Pool Parties. Three condo pool parties this week, yet only at one of them do we actually jump in the pool. Some of my favourite kind of nights. On Tuesday, it’s tapas and red wine at D’Leedon, a futuristic white complex designed by Zaha Hadid, with a whole lake district of pools to frolic in, with an English and two Danish friends, celebrating the new job of one of them and … life! Until I have to leave at 9:30 for two conference calls, which I call into from bed. On Thursday, we pick up various little dishes of tasty Thai food from Bangkok Express in Newton Food Centre to enjoy at a big rustic wooden table by the 24th floor pool of L’VIV with a couple of Swedish friends, and some red wine again, and on Saturday, it’s back to D’Leedon, and tapas, and wine, and cocktails, and night time splashing around in one of the pools, before going to a house party full of inspiring Google people in Club Street.
Barre Days and Barre Nights. All of the alcohol is balanced with some exercise. Mornings or nights every work day of this week are spent in front of a ballet barre in Hong Kong Street, with one friend or another. On Monday night, we go straight from the studio and over to Real Food in Clarke Quay Central to eat pumpkin salads and drink green juices in our yoga outfits, and on Wednesday, I’m picked up by a friend to have a surprise dinner downstairs from the studio, at the kitchen counter of Vasco, where there’s a discount on cocktails for people wearing yoga pants, and yet we still opt for the Malbec to go with our snapper ceviche and spicy chicken skewers and okra, while building dream castles. I’m rarely alone this week, but all of the socialising is possible because it’s with people with whom I can relax and recharge completely before or after or in-between work. On Friday morning I run to the gym alone before joining a body pump class with a friend, and after the class (all of the yelling, the aggressive music, the aggressive movements reminds me, though unnecessarily, of just how much I’ve come to enjoy the slow, joyful, mindful and graceful qualities of barre), I swim alone for about an hour before barre with another friend. That night, I go for a long solitary walk as well, before spending the evening on the colourful waterfront by the Marina Bay, at the new Superloco in Customs House, for a wonderful ceviche/soft tacos/corn on the cob dinner, served by a passionate Aussie waiter who spends circa half an hour of his evening on explaining to my friends and I the extraordinary flavours and textures contained in the menu.
Bugis. Meandering around in one of my favourite areas for a great deal of Saturday and Sunday. After Curious Palette, we check out Southeast Asia’s foremost arts institute, Lasalle, a big, black block, seemingly solid when viewed from one side, but revealing a beautifully airy, bright and bubbly flower of organic white petals when you walk into the centre – or enter from the opposite side. The ground floor is covered in a big, rolling lawn, where little children run and play, and as a funny contrast, several adults are sleeping or taking a coffee break in the rectangular window holes of the black holster. Moving on to see the Pantone-like shades of the yellow, green, blue and pink Rochor Centre from the ’70s, which is soon to be demolished to make way for a new expressway. As we stand in the atrium with all of the pigeons and stare up at the washing poles hanging from windows of those of the flats that are still inhabited, we’re almost hit by a water balloon thrown from on the windows. Who did it? A kid? A grandmother? Someone tired of tourists with their cameras. Moving on to two adjacent temples down the street. There are ceremonies going on in both of them, and we enter them to sense the worshippers, the music playing, the incense burning. I don’t understand any of it, but the experiences are very different. There’s a noisy sense of chaos in the Chinese temple, with candy in glittery wrappers being stuffed into people’s pockets and bags as the main feature that sticks in my mind as we hurry out after a few seconds. Below the pastel-coloured elaborate roof ornaments of the hindu temple, on the other hand, I feel completely calm, observing and absorbing the peaceful prayers, the flower petal and mini banana offerings and the burning fire from a corner, where I’m quite happy to stay for a while. Moving on to Kapok: a cool concept store with a cafe and gallery, where all of the chik clothes and homeware pieces are of Scandinavian (particularly Danish) and APAC origin, with some Singaporean brands thrown in as well – very refreshing to see. Next door is the National Design Centre, which currently displays a big army of yellow, green, blue and pink Rody figures to celebrate the 50 years old friendship ties between Japan and Singapore. That was Saturday; on Sunday we go to Bugis to see Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic at Projector. I laugh more than six times; cry three times; love the photography, the touching performances and the ideas of knowledge, wisdom and love that it inspires. Afterwards we take a walk to check out the hip-looking Academy Roastery Cafe before leaving the area for an exquisite chirashi don dinner in one of my other favourite areas, Robertson Quay, from where we stroll home in the dark, past the row of painstakingly-restored romantic conservation houses on Tong Watt Road, crossing the river and looping back to TB along the neon-lighted row of busy Chinese eateries on Outram Road.
TB. As for my own small neighbourhood, I try out one new place this week; new for me, that is. Orange Thimble, a lovely little cafe full of fun art pieces, old books and new magazines. A nice tranquil backyard. Free wifi – Flock is not the only good place to work after all. The coffee is good too. I get it to go – to drink at the barber shop down the road, seated comfortably in the waiting area, reading a few Strait Times updates on the American election circus while my friend is getting a haircut. Other than that, I use Tiong Bahru for buying presents from the homeware boutique Strangelets and the gourmet grocery shop further down Yong Siak Road: one for a friend whose birthday party I’m going to next week (a bottle of nice Italian red wine, a ginger-scented candle and artisanal Singaporean chocolate), one for a friend’s child’s Christening in California (a wooden male peacock) and one for a friend’s 4-months old child (a wooden panda), who is visiting next week with her parents. They are currently in Bali. I’m going to Bali next weekend with a friend visiting from London. She’s here till the weekend after, when my brother is visiting from KL. By that time, I will have been living in Asia for 6 months. So much has changed; so much has stayed familiar; everything is quite all right.