My Tropical Island Home | 17-230417

Home is…! Back in our bright, clean, spacious flat in our cosy, charming, pretty neighbourhood. ‘Why choose?’, is the question we keep asking when people ask us where we want to live – are you gonna move to Australia? We feel at home in many places, and as long as we have each other…, and all that jazz… But as much as I love travelling, staying at – clean, cosy, well-designed and nicely located – Airbnbs and leading a balanced, healthy and exciting life from which I don’t need a holiday as such, as nice is it also to create bases filled with memories and things that have a meaning to us… and our Tiong Bahru flat is a nice base. In which do to our morning sun salutations (Sunny Sals, as they say in Oz) and pilates exercise routines, have our chai latte and chia pudding breakfasts, reconnect after work with sofa time and home-cooked dinners, hang out with friends…

On Monday, the main highlight is that I sign up for the Chennai marathon in September, with a 5-day program arranged by my friend’s nonprofit, a school for former street children, one of which I have been sponsoring for a few years. After I last ran a marathon, in May 2014 in Copenhagen, I’ve always known I’d do it again sometime, to improve my time (4 hours and 4 minutes), to be able to actually enjoy the experience – during the entire Copenhagen run, I was so anxious that I wouldn’t be able to finish; now I know I can – and to do it for a special cause and in a special place, while Copenhagen was all about familiarity – I came home from London to do it with my uncle, who is a running coach. The Chennai run makes sense to me, now, where I am, both physically and mentally. In much better shape than I was three years ago. Used to running in close to 40 degrees. Thrilled at the prospect of experiencing and learning more about My Name Is Kumar – the community, their projects, the children.

Tuesday’s highlight is my friend’s birthday party at our new favourite neighbourhood all-in-one venue, Crackerjack. She lived in Melbourne for a year before she moved here, so it’s a good chance to swim around in our happy memory pool – she wants to hear stories about our trip; our stories prompt her stories; we toast in espresso martins and share a bunch of delicious tapas-y dishes as we praise the wonderful town down under.

On Wednesday, it’s tapas and bubbles night at a friend’s place, a charming studio flat in the ‘mews’ of Tiong Bahru. We sip champagne and chat about literature, ideas, work, travels and, of course, love… everything and nothing. At 9:24pm, I rush home for a 9:30pm call. Fall asleep straight after that, still on Sydney time, waking up at 4 in the morning and ready for bed at 10pm.

On Thursday, it’s having an old and a new friend of S’s over for my home cooked green chicken curry. I’m so happy I’ve got a bike now, to transport groceries home in, and after weeks of eating out, it feels balanced and wonderful to lay out my natural whole foods purchases on the kitchen counter and stand there for an hour or so, preparing, washing, chopping, sautéing, tasting… as I watch the sun set through the open kitchen windows. S comes home carrying a bunch of pretty, dark pink dianthus, which we put in the slate ikebana vase we found at Byron Bay Market, and our friends bring two bottles of chilled wine; it’s good to reconnect with the one of them I know, and the other one, a Singaporean girl, Strait Times journalist, seems so sweet. Lovely conversation and more wine (I try to balance all of the alcohol out with some herbal tea and turmeric tonics). They all seem to enjoy the food too, so all aspects of the evening are pure bliss.

On Friday, after having worked from home all day, I meet my best friend in town, whom I’ve known since the week after I moved here, and who’s moving back to Denmark in a week, for drinks at her office, followed by more drinks, food and live music (Coldplay covers mostly) at the so-called ‘hawker hall’ (it’s really just an expat street food market – very East Londonesque), Timbre+, where S and his colleagues join us. After finishing our burrito bowls and wasabi chicken skewers, we go for drinks at the rooftop bar, Lantern, whose view of the bay is a good reminder of the splendor of Singapore.

Oh, and I pick up a copy of my friend’s guidebook on Singapore, which is fresh off the press. Greet her at her flat with a bunch of the same flowers that S got me, and go for a cup of celebratory coffee at the bakery, catching up and flicking through the beautiful book, the first page of which has my name written under the overview of Editors and Proofreaders. Yay.

On Saturday, I meet the friend from Friday night for brunch at Tanjong Beach Club, after which we embark on a clandestine hike along the coast, sneaking around fences and under surveillance cameras, creeping across almost vertical rocks and through tall wild grass, from Tanjong Beach to Palawan Beach, finally climbing the wooden tower on the southernmost snip of reclaimed land connected to Palawan by a long wooden bridge, which according to Google Maps is the southernmost point of continental Asia – Singapore is definitely an island, no? After that, it starts raining feroushlisly, and we seek shelter in Tiong Bahru, finding S hunched over a pizza at PS, joining him for a cheerful chat, before she and I have a blissful 75-minutes couple’s massage at Nimble and Knead. Afterwards, we have a cup of ginger tea and hug goodbye under the frangipani trees outside the parlour, agreeing to catch up on Sunday as well, and next Saturday too – her flight is next Sunday… and then we’ll see each other in Copenhagen in early June. It’s late afternoon by the time we leave the parlour, with a blissful glow in our face. S and I chill out at home, doing laundry, listening to podcasts, before we go for an explorative wander, reminding ourselves that Singapore is great, through Chinatown, getting a craft beer at the market, watching a beautiful pink sunset from a stall above the leaning roofs of the colourful shophouses along Smith Street, and then meandering up through Ann Siang Hill Park and Telok Ayer Park to Lau Pa Sat, stopping here and there on the way to laugh at some joke or photograph some mural. At the food market, we share a plate of fried stingray with sambal, prawns in a gingery lemongrass marinade, seafood fried rice and cabbage, all served on orange plastic plates. It’s all so, so, so tasty, and even if we don’t know how much msg and other chemistry they contain, we agree it’s ok to eat local food once in a while. We sit at a small round table outside the touristy, elaborately decorated white pavilion, so cute against the CBS skyscrapers surrounding it, surrounded by lively crowds and exchange few words as we smile at each other and eat away quickly. Fresh pineapple juice to go – zigzagging through the area to get to Boat Quay, from where we walk back home along the river, again stopping a million times, among other things, to watch a bunch of kids flying with neon-lit drones on the newly planted lawn between Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay. Getting so extremely thirsty from the salty dinner that we each down an 0.5l Evian bottle in no time when we reach the petrol station across from Warehouse Hotel. And falling asleep within seconds of coming home after an active day.

Sunday’s highlight is checking out Singapore’s version of a hipster street party, the Amoy Street bloc party, very sleek and constricted, yet definitely still lively. So lively, in fact, what with drunk Swedish guys dancing around in front of the dj wearing Native American chief headdresses and very lightly dressed and heavily made-up girls drinking oversized rosé straight from the bottle. We take our overpriced yet still delicious tiny snacks from the Ding Dong and Bochinche stalls at the end of the street to the small Telok Ayer Street Park and eat while we talk about different types of street parties we’ve experienced around the world. Then we walk all the way to our favourite indie cinema, the Projector, in Bugis, stopping briefly in front of the Asian Civilisation Museum, where terraced granite benches create a beautiful staircase from the park to the water, from where there’s a grand sunset vista – a huge perfect candyfloss of a pink cloud sits right above the Marina Bay Sands. We’re watching Get Out, the first thriller I’ve seen in a long time – it’s very well-made, but I just can’t handle scary movies; I scream several times, and S and our friend are just laughing at me, hugging me and covering my eyes. Ugh! When we come home, there’s a parcel in the mailbox – the latest issue of the magazine Suitcase, featuring a large spread on Singapore, which made the sender, a close friend from London, who came visiting last year, think of me. So sweet of her.

As for physical exercise this week, I’m back at the Hong Kong Street barre studio every weekday, with an especially early, 6:30am, private session on Friday, with an instructor who is new to the studio but a very talented teacher, pushing me hard and perfecting each of the poses and postures down to millimeters and seconds. I feel so satisfied and energised as I cycle home through a heavy, hot shower, home to a warm hug in bed followed by sun salutations on the balcony, which by no means make the sun come out – the rain is like a grey carpet shutting out daylight as well as the view of the street, trees and neighbouring white and red houses: it’s cosy. In the weekends I run, starting to train properly for the marathon now. On Saturday morning, it’s raining heavily again, so I don’t bring my phone on the run. No idea how far I run or for how long. I love listening to music – while I run, while I work, at most times. But I also love being able to listen to my own thoughts, in silence, listen to my surroundings, or focus, concentrate, on any given action – running, working, socialising, or whatever. Sometimes they are not mutually exclusive; sometimes music can create a wonderful ambiance – enhance what I’m engaging in; blend in with the rhythm of the run and create something wonderful. Another reason for carrying my phone on runs is the ability to capture special moments of beauty or wonder or fun with my camera. Or writing down the thoughts and ideas, genius strikes, to which running is so conducive. If I don’t have a notepad handy, I’m afraid those thoughts – or the thought of losing those thoughts; the perfect string/stream of them – will haunt me, either ruining the run or my peace of mind. But on this Saturday morning, I decide to just let go of any thoughts that might come. To focus on my love of running, on moving my body, feeling it work, my breath, my muscles, my posture, the way I step, the way I move my arms, sensing my surroundings, the warm raindrops blending in with the sweat running off me.

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That whole week, I still have Australia in me… on my mind, in my body, at heart. Byron, Melbourne, but particularly Sydney. I listen to a live recording from 2014 of The National playing at the Opera House, and I still can’t quite believe we were there. Not just viewing it from the spectacular outside, but experiencing it from the inside… the grace and exciting beauty of the building and the ballet. And Bondi. What a place! ‘If only it weren’t that far away’ is what people always say. When you’re there, though, it feels like the centre of the universe.

This Week’s Specials:

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