Tanjong Katong | 16-220718

East Coast Road. After work on Monday, I head east to meet my friend for dinner in her stomping grounds – she was born and raised in Katong, near the East Coast Park, and still lives in the area with her husband. As she’s a bit late, I meander around our meeting point, 328 Katong Laksa, delighted to discover that East Coast Road is one of the coolest, most vibrant places I’ve been to in Singapore, easily on par with Tiong Bahru and Jalan Besar. Perfect mix of hip and heritage. Lots of nice local and international eateries, bakeries and bars, no less than three Baliesque açaí bowl parlours, curious local boutiques, yoga studios… And along the side streets I spot colourful Peranakan shophouses, various spiritual sites, lush parks… I walk up Marshall Road and Ceylon Road, just in time to experience a beautiful sunset procession with drums, flutes and song around the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple. And then my friend arrives. And the laksa is heavenly! Sitting at a small plastic table outside the orange-painted joint, we eat very slowly while catching up and enjoying the buzzing evening ambiance in the street. A variant of laksa lemak, Katong laksa is inspired by the Straits Chinese who reside in the area. Its spicy stock is flavoured with coconut milk and dried shrimp and topped with cockles, prawns, fishcakes and herbs. Bite-sized bits of noodle swim around in the fragrant mix. YUM! For dessert, we drop into one of the tropical paradise-themed super fruit parlours, An Acai Affair. Thoroughly enjoying the time with my friend (who is moving to Auckland in August!), I can’t wait to come back out here with Sanoop one day and show him all of the good stuff…

Pride. On Tuesday, our office is all decked out in pink fluff and rainbow flags. Everyone is dressed in pink, and towards the end of the afternoon, we all gather for food and drinks and a speech given by Paerin Choa, entertainment lawyer and organiser of Pink Dot SG, Singapore’s de facto annual gay pride event. A movement advocating the freedom to love unconditionally, Pink Dot SG hopes to bring LGBT Singaporeans closer to their family, friends and fellow citizens. In Singapore, there’s a law against publish display of LGBT love, and it’s similarly banned from mainstream media… in 2009, Pink Dot came together as an organisation to peacefully fight for the right to live, choosing Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park, the only place in the country with freedom of speech, as its annual gathering venue. That first year, 2,500 people showed up – dressed in pink and as such forming one big pink dot at the heart of the Red Dot. The following year, Google offered to sponsor the event, allowing the organisation to buy a stage and invite artists and renowned public speakers to perform. Year after year, it just continued to grow in size and creativity, with more sponsors joining as well, all of them representing foreign corporations. When a few years back it was made illegal for foreign sponsors to support/influence events in the park, 100 local companies stepped forward and offered to support the cause, challenging the general local fear or hesitation to officially associate oneself with the event. Last summer, when the event attracted 26,000 people, it was decided that going forward, only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents are allowed to join in events hosted in the park. This leaves out most of my colleagues (including myself), but thankfully, we’re allowed to throw a rainbow-themed party at the office any day…. and we decide to do so today, five days before this year’s Pink Dot event, everyone teary-eyed from Paerin Choa’s talk, which informed us of all of the above, none of which I had been remotely aware of… I mean, I had noticed that Projector was fuller and more buzzing than ever at the screening of Call Me by Your Name earlier this year, but little did I know that the screening in itself, even in a niche cinema, was a radical move for Singapore…

Multicultural Eve. After work on Thursday, I walk through the steamy CBD to meet my English friend at the Asian Civilisation for the exhibition, Angkor: Exploring Cambodia’s Sacred City. 7-9th century sacred Cambodian splendour, French romanticising colonialism and Singaporean flair for curating powerful exhibitions! Followed by drinks in their elegant outdoor bar facing Boat Quay – from here, you can’t really see the trashiness of the bars and restaurants occupying the ground floor space of the quaint shophouses across the quay; they just look … quaint, a lovely contrast to the shiny modern skyscrapers rising behind them. After we’ve discussed the impressive exhibition and caught up after our respective travels (she spent the summer in the UK, Italy and Greece), I cycle along the river to meet Sanoop for dinner with a couple of Kiwi friends at Italian-styled riverside Publico – before we all head over to the Singapore Repertory Theatre at the heart of Robertson Quay for the Melbourne Comedy Festival – genuinely hilarious jokes delivered effortlessly and well-timed by talented Indian, Sri Lankan and Australian comedians.

Esplanade Park. One of my favourite green spaces in Singapore… especially in early morning light or in the golden hour right after work. On Friday, I leave the office around 6pm and meander up through the CBD, through to Boat Quay and across the pretty white bridge leading to the lush, stately park, alive with people running, cycling or strolling along the neat paths cutting through the perfectly manicured lawns or lounging in groups on the wooden steps leading down to the water, from where there’s a splendid view of the sunset light gleaming on the curious durian-shaped National Theatre and Marina Bay Sands… ahh, so fresh and beautiful! I continue over to Bugis to get to…

Papi’s Tacos. Last Monday, the talented folks behind Employees Only launched the first real taqueria in town, Papi’s Tacos! I step into the tiny, buzzing, very food truck-esque joint and find Sanoop sitting at the top of the bar, saving a seat for me. We order and watch Papi and his Mexican crew prepare our treats right in front of us. Love the fresh, tasty fish and vegan tacos, cactus salad, guac & margaritas! Good vibes under the travelling banana trees, in lively Shea Street, straight across from Raffles Hotel. Fun fact: when we first met, Sanoop was staying in a studio flat right above what’s now Papi’s! An Airbnb, because back then he lived solely in Airbnbs… three weeks in Bugis, three weeks in Australia, three weeks in Orchard, three weeks in America, three weeks in Robertson Quay… and then he moved in with me, ha ha… but the first time I visited him somewhere, it was here. So sweet!

Night Cap and Pampering. After the scrumptious dinner, we Grab to another tiny jewel, the Big Easy-themed speakeasy Junior the Pocket Bar in Tanjong Pagar, for a burned mint julep and some fried okra at the bar. Meandering home after our night cap, we both impulsively stop in front of OD Wellness, enter and sign ourselves up for the most blissful foot reflexology we’ve ever had – beautiful wooden room, complete silence, cheerful male therapists sitting next to each other and tending to our feet simultaneously – very careful massage, with added elements of cupping, scrubbing, rubbing with warm towels, knocking with rubber hammers… very ritualistic!

More Katong. After a morning run in the park and FT Weekend reading at Plain Vanilla, we head east so Sanoop can experience what I experienced on Monday: the colourful Katong vibrancy. We munch on small bowls of steaming orangey laksa at 328 Katong Laksa and, subsequently, deliciously airy swirls of açaí soft serve at Beriwell. Wander past all of the pretty shophouses, such as the iconic ones on Koon Seng Road, and end up at our friends’ pool party. The pool and bbq area of their condo is on the roof of the 6-floored building off Changi Road. We swim, play pool volleyball, talk to new people, drink sparkling drinks, eat watermelon, dim sum and grilled vegetable and chicken skewers, laugh a lot, listen to summery music… all with a panoramic view of the East Coast and CBD skyline. The sunset in particular is spectacular…

Sunday. Wake up 6:30am… first impulse is to look left at the soft morning light, next is to fear that I may be too heavy and groggy from drinking g&t’s and Prosecco yesterday to run today, third is test myself: begin cycling my legs slowly in the air and circle my head around as well; everything feels fine, light, pain free, actually. Sanoop is still sleeping and I give him a light hug before changing into running gear, going out, breathing in the fresh, warm air. As I start jogging through the alleyways of Tiong Bahru, I realise that I really do feel remarkable well – the alcohol left no palpable signs. There may be a concerning side to this realisation, but for now I decide to celebrate it: put on an All in the Mind talk by the founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, on Optimism & Hope and continue over to Robertson Quay, which is so blissfully empty at this hour, and feel my sweat and heartbeat making aware of themselves as I sprint up the 90% (or so it feels) incline to Fort Canning Park… a while later, I’m back in bed to snooze for another hour together with Sanoop, before we get up and do yoga, drink chai, eat coconut yoghurt sprinkled with moringa powder and cinnamon. I spend the day reading and writing indoors, while he does some gardening on the balcony and goes off on an adventure on his own. He can’t tell what he’s doing, but next weekend he will take me there, haha. In the evening, I go for a refreshing, stretchy swim with my friend at the Highline, and then she and I pick up some PS food to eat at home with Sanoop. Dessert: Zebra Dream organic vegan ice cream with strawberry and baobab. Pure, perfect bliss.

Makes Me Smile:

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