It’s been almost two years. It’s time to talk about Singapore.
This is the last photo I took before leaving the United States in 2015 to move to Singapore. While my time in southeast Asia would be temporary, my expat life would not. This is when I would stop saying, “I live in New York” and start saying, “I’m from New York.” If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you have seen this photo a lot. This is the face of extreme excitement.
I saw recently that Singapore is gearing up for their 52nd anniversary celebrations. She had just turned 50 when I arrived, missing out on the main celebrations by a few weeks.
Singapore is glam, right? It is modern and clean and seriously, nobody canes you for chewing gum. Everyone needs to relax about that.
And it is, truly, spectacular what this country has managed to achieve in its short history since independence. If you visit Singapore, I highly recommend going to the National Museum of Singapore. It’s a very moving tribute to the challenges this island country has overcome.
I got to work in Singapore. And by ‘got to work,’ I mean, ‘tried to enjoy every single moment of expat life. Even while the humidity makes sweat pour out of you like a freaky but low-budget Star Trek alien.’
I fell in love with a robot. Naturally.
I slipped into Hindu temples, the first I had ever seen, and was duly impressed by just how descriptive the carvings are.
I tried to find Singapore microbrews. This one was located in a hawker center in a parking structure in Chinatown.
Though most of the time we ended up drinking sub-par beer while sitting on the street on plastic stools outside boiling hot hawker centers and gorging ourselves on dim sum. That wasn’t a bad life either.
I adopted new ways of eating ice cream.
I found hipster brunch places that we could only really afford when someone else was paying.
We made it to an island off the coast of the island and went bike riding. And I didn’t fall once.
We went to the Singapore Zoo and saw the baby giraffe, which was standing aloof from its parents in an obvious bid for adolescent independence.
I nearly teared up while watching the Gardens by the Bay light show, with the supertrees blinking on and off to the Star Wars soundtrack.
I managed to check off all (or at least most of) the touristy things to do Singapore.
And I even made it to the top of the iconic Marina Bay Sands, not for a dip in their Insta-famous infinity pool, but for a casual $14 beer.
But, in case you haven’t noticed, I lived in Singapore for the last three months of 2015. And I haven’t written about it — in the two years since then — at all, except for references in my nomadic life round-up posts. It doesn’t even get mentioned in my top 11 moments in Southeast Asia. Why not?
It’s hard to say why. Or maybe it’s easy.
This was the view out of my apartment. And while I’ve doctored it as much as I could, you can still see the fuzziness of Singapore’s haze problem — a disaster they inherited from Indonesia burning their forests. Everyone had an app on their phone to tell them just how unhealthy the day’s air was.
And Singapore really is crazy expensive. Having just packed away a bunch of money from a freelance gig, I didn’t worry too much as I spent and spent. But the cost of living was prohibitive. A second round of beers at a place like this would have been indulgent.
And then there were the malls. Living near Orchard Road, I was right next to the main shopping drag of Singapore. Half the metro stations were inside malls. On more than one occasion, I actually pulled out my phone inside a mall to figure out where I was. I had to GPS my way to the exit.
And there was almost a feeling of over-development. Even Singapore’s Sentosa Island has been extensively developed. You have to get through theme parks to reach this beach.
I’m not trying to say anything bad about Singapore. There is a lot of beauty, culture, and accomplishment in that city-state. But, in truth, I never really clicked with it.
But I did click with these guys. Suppliers of the best butter chicken in the Little India hawker center. And on one of our last nights there, I was feeling so nostalgic, I made them take a selfie with me. I miss those guys. And their naan.
Pin it, because they are in fact pretty pictures. Especially me with the robot.