my parents brought me to their secret breakfast haunt at bussorah street two days in a row. it’s 7.30am. we pull up. the street is quiet and still in shadow, but the light glints gold off the masjid sultan domes. we pick up packets of nasi lemak. my mother peels the little fried fish and my dad mixes all the chili paste into the rice, which is unusually light for a typically indulgent dish. the proprietor makes the drinks out of a little corner of a french eatery with red walls and framed posters, and i’m sure the ice coffee i have is my new favourite. some days the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but on others, go ahead and exchange that for thirty minutes of better things. claim your right to early morning magic.
life brought me on another little adventure yesterday. got my sandals and ankles soaked by rain gushing down the slopes of Lock Road, but made it to the Mizuma Gallery in time to share a moment with some intense, photorealistic portraits by Hyung Koo Kang. i haven’t been trained to understand art as connoisseurs do, can’t decipher hidden clues and cheeky conversations embedded in histories and brushstrokes and angles, but there is always something universal, something visceral about a bare room and a haunting image.
went to The Wedding Dress exhibition at the museum yesterday. ivory gowns will always be beautiful to the eye, but it is amazing to think about the immense skill that goes into construction and all that handiwork. woke up this morning still marvelling at lace shadows, pearls dripping off dresses and of course, that incredible corset!
It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die.
The world will always welcome lovers, as time goes by.
(photo by tan wan lin)
We had the mezzé at cafe le caire before languorously sipping on beers elsewhere, and it’s $16 for plentiful portions of hummus, tahina, olives, salad, babaganush, chickpeas and feta to be scooped up with flatbread. Also, the fluffiest falafel I’ve ever had! This incredible photo is by my talented friend wan lin, who is ace at capturing sunsets with practically any kind of photographic equipment.
2. A georgette blouse I want to pair with dark denim and gold accessories every day
3. The gift of words
Now I am closing my manuscript folder: the Visions are in it, the 12 novellas, many of which I will some day read to you, letters, pages filled with notes, and Ruth. Did I not myself write these lines once in some dream filled with presentiments?
“…until the whole world dropped away from me
And nothing of all that life remained
Except a boundless gratitude
And a love stretching on forever!…”
If they had not existed, I would have written them now. How wonderful that they do exist. For hence this strange exchange: I can express my happiness in your words. –And thus you in turn will understand my happiness. Is it not so?
He caught me sitting on the floor by the shelf, swooning and lost in its first few pages, and I felt like a guilty voyeur. I’m not very far into the book, but my favourite little detail so far is how Rilke signs off — it starts off formally with his full signature, but by his third letter he is René Maria, and then very simply, René.
5. My parents, Lauren and I are headed to Malacca tomorrow for what’s left of the weekend! I haven’t been there for ten years, but I’m looking forward to trying satay celup for the first time, visiting a man who restores antique jewellery, a popiah skin maker and a red paper cutter, and just wandering around with my dusty but trusty camera!
Detoxing with plenty of fruits, vegetables and soup today after a semi-indulgent weekend, but there’s no denying what has top-of-mind prominence in food memory today…!
The burrata appetizer at Galbiati Gourmet Deli — plump pillows of fresh burrata, resting atop strips of prosciutto di Parma, green and black olives, ripe tomatoes, artichokes and toasted olive foccacia. Be still my beating heart.
Galbiati Gourmet Deli, 400 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 678050
the day was too golden to spend inside the lab, so wans and i snuck off to meet kenny for plain vanilla bakery cupcakes and the usual tea/dinner hybrid. i thought it would only take an hour at most, but by the power of wan lin’s trusty pink car, as well as our unyielding appetite for richer, sweeter afternoons, we ended up moving on to a bench in the pandan valley barbecue area with three forks and two slices of pie, pondering over the benefits of a graham cracker crust, and engaging in pie politics over who gets the last piece — a game i’m happy to play! later on, a golden retriever picks up slippers with his teeth and gives them to us as an invitation for a tug-of-war game, and wans and i go sun-chasing at the park i’ve never known of. a little boy shows me the shell he’s found by the breakwater and scampers off to find more. we walk on, and find clouds that look like hockey players, pest controllers and smoke.
not quite sure i know how to make sense of days like these. they are beautiful, no doubt, but they are also thick and heavy — with summer heat and the promises (or threats?) of the formless future. can we continue to devour life by the forkful when it doesn’t have a shape or name?
top panorama – west coast park; pies from windowsill pies at pandan valley
It’s not mine to claim, but Tiong Bahru is the kind of rustic neighbourhood you want to hide away and keep all for yourself. I spent half a year on a work attachment in the area, my family frequents a couple of eating spots here, and Sam and I love a rooftop bar in one of the boutique hotels. Besides the lush greenery and charming low-rise flats, Tiong Bahru has an eclectic mix of modern stores (cafes, art galleries, curated boutique stores) and old trades (food classics at Tiong Bahru market, bak kut teh, an egg supplier, a bamboo chick distributor, old convenience stores). Here are some photos I took over two visits, though I’m sure I’ve barely scraped the surface..
The Orange Thimble // Blk 56 Eng Hoon Street. The interior is a mix of industrial and retro elements, the servers are friendly, and the piccolo latte and sandwiches are excellent! They have a partnership with White Canvas Gallery as well, and there are framed photographs and illustrations on display throughout the space.
The thing I adore most about this cafe is their utensil and kitchenware selection — old-fashioned painted bowls are used for ice cream, a variety of intricate plates for the food, and the stylish little Duralex Picardie water glasses that are perfectly designed with a gentle flare at the rim. Warm and welcoming, this lamp says “Open” on the other side and glows through the front window!
A rustic area out in the back. The cafe is full of little nooks and crannies to settle in, and lends itself well to comfortable, private brunches. If you’re growing allergic to the bustle of Orchard road and the city, The Orange Thimble might be the place for you! (Just don’t tell too many friends about it — I would hate to see this place being overrun with hungry cafe dwellers!!)
Walked out of BooksActually with Coast, a newly-published anthology of works by Singaporean writers. I believe very much in supporting local literature, and these compilations are perfect for picking up to read during a short work break.
#1: Picked these up from a corner magazine stall en route to dinner, and I’ve been so excited about them ever since! Polka dots and typewriters! I haven’t allowed myself to do a cursory flip-through yet, because I want to set aside a good hour or two for a cover-to-cover reading, as all good things deserve.
An excerpt from the editor’s letter of Frankie: “We can find ways to be creative. To be a little strange around the edges. To close our eyes and wait for the thought that says, “Yes! I can do it!”…And to have a wee bit of fun while we’re at it, too. Most often, it’s the weirdy bits that are the best.”
Smith Journal is a new “heads-up and hands-on” men’s magazine “full of photography, stories, people, adventures, interesting conversations and gentlemanly style” that I’d read about online and knew would be perfect for Sam. Honestly speaking I dropped the ball on a birthday gift for him this year, and was so happy to see this stocked at the magazine stall so it could be part one of a slew of (guilt-induced) little gifts. I might even be more excited about reading Smith Journal than I am about Frankie, so I’m counting down the days till I get to borrow!
#2: Secret sunset on a rooftop bar just outside of town, the skyline of my city in clear view. Managed to take this photograph just before the lens on the new Ixus 220 began to fog up, and I like that it’s just barely so. The bar is tiny, black and almost industrial, but the light at 6pm washes everything in amber and it reminds me of New York, pulsing with life beyond concrete city blocks.
Friday felt like someone else’s life. Saturday was out-of-body. Sunday was a mess. It’s amazing how many things can happen in seven days, in between brunch, bouts of writing, going back to school and a country turning forty six.
Frank was in town, and I joined the Hong Kong friends in showing him around, feasting, walking and sweating, Singapore-style. We ended thursday night by weaving around the streets of geylang, lorong 16 and up. We were there for a huge beef hor fun supper but everyone was more intrigued by ladies in their heels and skirts pretending to text but always waiting and watching out of the corners of their eyes.
Friday evening was a blur of pocket squares, voices, candlelight, back rubs at the poskod.sg launch party, a real celebration of passion. I must have been buzzing with beer and excitement, because I remember increasingly less of it now, only that there were so many kind words that I felt humbled and even a little silly. It was only Sunday when I became besotted with Huzir’s poetry, and five nights later there we were, exchanging thanks and shaking hands. Sam and I retreat to the gallery and walk the corridors of the Goodman Arts Centre, and take the night in. It is a wonderful moment and I’m glad he is with me.
On Saturday we trekked all around Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. Collectively, these visits felt like consecutive pages ripped straight out of a travel book, but even that can’t stop me from loving every street, smell and sound. The Chinese vegetable vendor on Campbell Lane taught us Tamil, the boys stared transfixed at threading at Rupini’s, and I breathed in the smell of the flower garlands.
We hit Kampong Glam just before the Muslim call to prayer and ended up falling asleep at a Cafe-slash-Chinese-Opera-House hybrid just a bit further down, the smell of Nasi Briyani from the street market still hovering over our shoulders. It made me smile to think of cultural ghettos being shared, C-M-I-O blending into CMIO. The next day, the Prime Minister spoke about stricter criteria for foreign professionals, and I absent-mindedly RSVPed ‘Attending’ on Cook A Pot of Curry Day, without realising that the same-old human divides are just moving on to international lines, as we all grow old under the same dusty dawn.