The Hubby commented that we’re often in the right place at the right time in the cities we live in. Something big always seemed to be happening: in London we were around for Will and Kate’s wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the London 2012 Olympics, and the birth of cute Prince George in St. Mary’s Hospital, which was close to our Paddington flat then.
Now our home for a little over two years, this lovely Little Red Dot, is celebrating its 50th birthday.
It’s a long National Day weekend. The city’s streetlamps are lined with SG50 posters. My Facebook feed is flooded with tips on where best to view the National Day fireworks or the Air Force display. (I’ve seen — and heard — the planes practicing from our office building in Marina Bay since waaay over a month ago. That’s Singapore for you.) SG50 sales and celebrations are everywhere. It’s not just laundry hanging out to dry on the HDBs’ balconies; most are draped with colorful posters or all dolled up in Singapore’s flag.
I still can’t believe it’s been two years since we moved here. It could be because I’ve spent exactly that amount of time balancing work and my MBA (which I’ve finally finished — just in time before Peanut arrives, whew).
I don’t think we’ve fully explored Singapore yet. We haven’t been to Pulau Ubin, flown a kite in Marina Barrage, or gone cycling in MacRitchie Reservoir; we haven’t spent a good deal of time in the heartlands; we haven’t gone prawn fishing; I haven’t had the Mustafa Centre shopping experience. I’ve never even tasted the original Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel.
Where I think we’ve done an awesome job is food. One of the first things we bought on arrival was a copy of Dr. Leslie Tay’s ‘Only the Best: The ieatishootipost Guide to Singapore’s Shiokest Hawker Food,’ and we dutifully worked our way through the bowls of vinegary bak chor mee, hot and peppery bak kut teh pork rib soup, sinfully good char kway teow chock-full of cockles and plump shrimp (in Dong Ji’s Penang version), juicy lamb biryani, soft and tender chicken rice, cuts of roast duck and char siew smoky with fat and flavor, plates of hokkien mee mixed liberally with chili, sweet and eggy chili crab paired with hot mantou buns, steaming spicy fish head curry (the gelatinous stuff around the eyeballs are my favorite), and the umami bomb that is Hainanese curry rice. The extent of our local hawker food “knowledge” amazed even one of my work colleagues, who was all “How did you find out about that?”
We’ve done some of the usual tourist-y stuff, mostly because visitors from home were never in short supply. We’ve been to Universal Studios, the Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, Fort Canning, Gardens by the Bay, the Botanic Gardens, and countless barbeques hosted by well-meaning friends. We’ve swum in Marina Bay Sands’ infinity pool and marveled at the view. We’ve had brunches, dinners, drinks in Haji Lane, Chinatown, or gentrified Tiong Bahru. We’ve watched the F1 night race. I’ve participated in a city run (Singapore, after all, is a city in love with marathons, races, and running in general). Unlike a few friends who prefer the city’s cheap and convenient cabs, I’m an avid fan of taking public buses and trains (perhaps due, in part, to our home station being the terminus — we’ve never really dealt with crazy crowds. This will soon change, eep). I’ve volunteered at a public library in the East (impressed at the massive book selection and facilities. Lucky, lucky kids!). I’ve even been to an all-you-can-eat durian buffet of sorts at Combat Durian with work colleagues, and had my fill of the sweet-bitter creaminess of Mao Shan Wang, the King of Kings.
I think we’re slowly getting there.
We rode a cab today coming home from a family friend’s baby shower. We were almost home when the cabbie asked us if we were from “Philippine.” We said yes. He spoke with obvious pride. “It’s Singapore’s 50th independence day tomorrow. Majulah Singapore. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event,” he said. “You should go see the fireworks in Harbourfront. It’s just across the road. It’s a special time. The next one won’t be for another 50 years.” I agreed and added we may not even be around the next time. He laughed. “You should go,” he repeated. “It’s a special time.”
It’s a special city, sir. Happy Jubilee weekend, all.