Gamify | 09-150718


  • Mornings. 7-8am every morning, after having been half awake in bed for about 15-20 minutes, watching the light grow ever so slightly lighter, I do a few warm-up exercises on the balcony, focussing on my breath and my range of movement and nothing else, jog slowly up through the leafy alleyways of Tiong Bahru while putting this year’s ultimate summer song on repeat or finding a podcast to gently feed my brain (either DID – I love Kirsty Young’s compassionate style and can listen to her interview virtually anyone about the soundtrack to their lives – or UXPodcast on digital design), speed up gradually, do 5-6 laps of Tiong Bahru Park, taking in its quintessential morning atmosphere, the soothing music guiding the 4-5 big groups of dedicated tai chi practitioners, the few fellow sweat-drenched runners circling those zen groups, the drowsy-faced dog walkers, the cheerfully chatting power-walkers, the soft light enveloping all of the blissful activity, and then I continue along the steep grassy hills leading to the local public swimming pool, change quickly, do about 20 minutes’ worth of laps in the deliciously cool water, again thinking of nothing but the rhythm of my breath and my movements, change quickly and sprint back home while the day’s podcast comes to an end. By then, at 8am, Sanoop is ready to heat up two cups of his homemade chai topped with frothed oat milk and decorative bits of fresh cardamom for us to enjoy on the balcony, maybe with a side of coconut yoghurt sprinkled with organic, gluten free, untoasted muesli and pieces of fresh mango or mangosteen if we’re hungry. We’ll enjoy the view of the green canopies and blue sky, exchange intentions for the day or just smile at each other, and then I’ll get ready to go to work, go back downstairs and find an Ofo bike and cycle through Chinatown to the CBD. Mainly me-time, with a bit of him in it as well – my perfect way of embracing the day 🙂
  • Barre Dance. Barre is a staple of every single week days. As natural and inevitable as breathing. One of my favourite barre teachers doubles as a very talented dancer, and this week I attend her barre dance classes, a mix of balletic stretches and fun choreography for a pop song… At first, it feels a bit intimidating to stand in front of the mirror in the studio and … dance. Especially knowing what an incredible dancer she is. But it turns out to be pretty easy to push away constraining thoughts of being slow or awkward or bad at remembering successions of moves … as soon as the music starts and she starts guiding us, we just … dance. A good reminder that it can be really fun and stimulating to learn something new, especially when it builds on something that’s become so ingrained in your everyday life – expanding your comfort zone in a very comfortable way…


  • Merciiiii, Merci Marcel, for gracing the CBD with your bohemian chic! I rarely go to Club Street, but the meringue-like facade of the French bistro, the charming sidewalk seating between potted palms and under mint green awnings, has an alluring effect – and so I meet my new Kiwi friend for lunch here. Really tasty, fresh, well-composed salads, excellent service, nice conversation. Despite having grown up in each our end of the world – just as I’ve never been to New Zealand, she has never been to Europe; her childhood holiday destinations were Fiji, Aitutaki, Vanuatu, Queensland, Sydney… so incredibly exotic, haha – we have a lot in common.
  • Highline Pool Time. I’ve passed by this new giant upmarket condo so many times… the 100 spacious luxury flats are advertised for their prime location, in the midst of an idyllic heritage neighbourhood. One could point out the irony in the stark contrast between the three swanky, chunky skyscrapers and the neat, narrow rows of cute heritage Art Deco low-rises surrounding them. But I am positively intrigued and decide to focus on the architectural splendour of it. When I meet a new Aussie friend who lives here, I’m quick to suggest that I come by on Saturday afternoon with some fresh mango, a bottle of Prosecco and my swim suit, haha. And how lovely it is to walk over there, through the small leafy paths of our ‘hood and enter the polished gate to the high-end complex, which actually is more lush than I’d thought – the white blocks are framed by a sizeable impeccably manicured park, and there’s even a cool communal garden on one of the rooftops. My friend’s flat is beautifully designed – I’m very impressed with how homely she has made it in the merely six weeks she’s been living here. She even got a fish! Working 12-hour days, this is her comfortable respite, and as such, she had an immediate desire to build the perfect comfy and energising nest. As much as I love my charming walk-up, I also recognise the charm in living in streamlined luxury and having a haven like this. How lovely that I now have the opportunity to pop over once in a while! We spend the ‘arvo’ by the pool, swimming lazy laps and otherwise lounging in sun loungers immersed in the shallow end of the pool itself, getting to know each other through such a nice conversation – it’s only the second time we meet – filled with equal measures of depth and humour. She is a good listener with a positive outlook – very refreshing! Before we leave, she takes me to the top of the building to have a look across all of Singapore. It’s particularly fun to see Tiong Bahru from this perspective – our house looks like a tiny lego brick!
  • Americana Speakeasies. Together with Sanoop and a friend of his, my new friend and I head into Amoy Street to dine at Burger Joint in the dark alley behind the flashy street (I highly recommend the portobello burger!), and have a New Orleans-themed night cap at Junior, The Pocket Bar, a tiny, elaborately decorated speakeasy-styled back alley craft cocktail bar that changes themes every six months. The bartenders are consistently passionate and capable…
  • World Cup Final at 1880 with friends… 11pm on a Sunday night. Featuring six goals and plenty of action and emotions displayed, it’s not an unexciting match…

Mystery Dates:

  • Spontaneous Night. As I get home from work on Tuesday, Sanoop says we’re going out, he won’t say where to, and he even instructs our Grab driver to not reveal our destination. My excitement grows as we drive through the CBD, around the Marina, over to Bugis. Fairly confident it’s either gonna be food-related (local or international?), some sort of cultural experience or a wellness treatment, it’s still pretty exciting not to know where we’re going and to know that he knows it, but only came up with it this morning, haha. Foot reflexology at Tang Dynasty Wellness Spa, a parlour that was recommended to him by the Grab driver who took him to work this morning. Not as dodgy and dark as some of the other parlours in the area, it feels very clean and blissful, and, most importantly, the therapists are very talented, attentive, tailoring the rubbing to our individual needs. Ahh. Feet ready to fly after an hour of pampering bliss, we pop across the street for dinner at The Ramen Stall, where we’re served giant fragrant bowls of a natural, vegetable-filled, chicken-rather-than-pork-based take on the traditional Japanese soup under a cloud of (plastic) cherry blossoms covering the ceiling. Very recommendable! So, now, with a spring in our steps and hot liquid splashing around in our bellies, we meander down through a lovely shophouse street, where all of the buildings look as if they were made of artfully swung meringue, pass by a Chinese street theatre performance, pop into a hip coffee shop for a shot of espresso, try on a selection of vintage Hawaii shirts hanging in a corner of the coffeeshop, and buy one of them, continue through buzzing Kampong Glam and Haji Lane, buy a freshly squeezed ABC juice from our usual juice joint, and end up lying down on our backs, holding hands, on the cool marble benches lining the courtyard of the glorious Batman Building. Stare up into the green palms and grey sky, enjoying each other’s presence with very few words. I have now idea how long we stay in this position; it feels timeless and very blissful. At some point, we start feeling droplets hit our faces, get up, walk through Atlas Bar (thinking that it looks so lovely, but that I am so happy we are able to have a fun night out without drinking alcohol) to get to the taxi stand on the other side of the building, hail a car and drive home.
  • Marina Barrage. The following evening, to celebrate our 25 months anniversary, I invite Sanoop on a mystery date: Sunset Picnic on the Green rooftop of Marina Barrage! Poke bowls, cold pressed juices, blanket. A few joyful families and couples scattered across the lawn. Runners jogging the perimeter of it. Glorious view of boats tied to jetties below us, Gardens by the Bay in front of us, the skyline lighting up as the sun goes down. Maybe our new favourite spot. It’s a bit cloudy, so the sunset is not spectacular, but it’s just so nice to be outside and feel grass between our toes. I have to be back home for a 9pm call, but we still have plenty of time to walk along the gardens to the Marina Bay after dinner…
  • Little Farms. My Kiwi friend told me about this gourmet Aussie/New Zealand supermarket, which exists just around the corner from where we live without us having had a clue. After dinner on Thursday, I suggest we go for a walk along the river – with a special surprise destination. I know that when we get there, he will be thrilled to walk around between shelves loaded with hippie happy products, haha. I am right, and after a few minutes, we turn ourselves into the happy owners of heaps of organic coconut yoghurt, almond milk, sauerkraut with turmeric, hummus with turmeric, vegan baobab ice-cream and what not…
  • Liberty Coffee. After ‘only’ sourcing, roasting and distributing the coffee they’d pick up on international journeys via their respective jobs as a Singapore Airlines pilot and a travel journalist, the pair behind Liberty Coffee have recently, due to popular demand, opened a cafe and retail space in Jalan Besar. The destination of another one of Sanoop’s spontaneous surprise Grab trips (he just looked up ‘coffee shops’ near Little India a few minutes before ordering the car and got very lucky), we spend all of Saturday morning in the vibrant place, drinking delicious nitro cold brew coffee and reading (him, FT Weekend; me, Lab Girl) before meeting a couple of friends for Kerala food at Premaas
  • Christmas Brekkie at Common Man Stan. My 2017 Christmas present to Sanoop (and myself, haha) is a monthly breakfast throughout 2018 in a place we haven’t been to before. The gift that keeps on giving. The July instalment happens this Sunday – the final mystery date of this week. As we cycle off from home around 9am, Sanoop has no idea where we are going, and I stay close behind him to tell him when and where to turn. It’s not that we need more excitement in our lives… haha, but that’s essentially what we’re creating, albeit without forcing it. How do you make an exciting ritual out of something as mundane as going to get a foot massage or watch the sunset on a lawn or go grocery shopping or eat breakfast? You wrap it up as a surprise date, remind each other to appreciate the small things in life, turn the small things into big things. Tah-dahhh… all of a sudden, we find ourselves enthusiastically soaking in each aspect of this thing we’re experiencing together, with gratitude as an easy bi-product. When you don’t know your destination, you pay much more attention to the journey itself. A practice that then helps us to become more mindful of the journey, the present, in general. Common Man Coffee’s newest outlet is in a beautiful shophouse nestled between Chinatown and the Marina Bay in Singapore. Sanoop is pleasantly surprised when we reach it. We sit at the bar. Eat well. Drink well. Read bits of FT Weekend out to each other between bites and sips. Enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the friendly service. One of the waitresses recognises Sanoop from the days when he used to frequent the franchise’s first outlet, over two years ago, and the two of them have a nice conversation, something that actually happens pretty much everywhere we go, haha. Previous Christmas brekkies: Jan: Shuk, North Bondi, Australia (shakshuka to share, window seat). Feb: hole-in-the-wall coffee place in Venice, Italy (phenomenal coffee was enough to sustain us before a long day of wandering around and eating heaps of pasta for lunch and dinner). March: Alchemy, Ubud, Bali (smoothie bowls, fresh juice, turmeric oat lattes). April: Victoria Market, Melbourne (vegan wraps, fresh juice, heavenly coffee). May: Clan Straits Cafe, Singapore (broths). June: Fiskebistro, Juelsminde, Denmark (smoked fish, rye bread, outdoor bench facing the beach).

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