I’m Not Fancy Enough For Singapore!
After nearly five months in Southeast Asia, I’ve created a new look for myself. Crazy hair, hippie pants, tank tops, far too many bracelets. (In fact, it was because of my many bracelets that I was recently recognized by some readers in Bali!)
If there’s a guy to impress, I’ll put on eyeliner and a cute dress. But at the moment, I’m not looking to impress anyone.
In other words, Kate — who used to more or less live in skinny jeans, cleavagey black tops and tall black boots — is not so fancy anymore.
My hippie look may work in mainland Southeast Asia — but it doesn’t work in Singapore.
After flying into Singapore from Bangkok and hopping on the MRT (subway) downtown, I realized what an outsider I was. I was surrounded by girls with Chanel bags (real Chanel bags!) and Burberry flats. For the first time in my life, I felt like a redneck!
That’s a metaphor for Singapore as a whole. It may be part of Southeast Asia, but it’s worlds away — it’s squeaky clean, organized, well-run, and so much more expensive than its neighbors.
Yes, it’s fancy — but it’s so, so, so nice!
One of my readers, Edna, a fellow adventurous twenty-something American girl living her own unconventional life, kindly invited me to crash on her couch for a few days.
Now, in your city, if four young professionals were living in a three-bedroom place, what would it look like? In Boston, it would most likely be a cramped, old construction Allston apartment with a questionable heating system overlooking a BU frat house.
Edna and her flatmates have a dream luxury apartment in a great downtown neighborhood. And this is their view:
It took my breath away. This is one beautiful city.
Lots of cities are beautiful. But there’s one thing that separates Singapore from other cities: its Chinatown.
In just about any city in the world, from Boston to Paris to Bangkok, Chinatown is a dark, seedy place, full of tiny, grimy streets and shady characters. In The Departed, does Jack Nicholson go to a porn theater in Southie or Dorchester? Nope, he goes to Chinatown!
In Singapore, Chinatown looks like the f*cking Old Town of Prague!
Forget the fanciness. In no time flat, I fell completely in love with Singapore — its intriguing Chinese-Malay-Tamil mix, its shining buildings, its orderliness, its jaw-dropping urban beauty.
But if you know me, you know that I can’t stand perfection. I needed to find Singapore’s edge.
I decided to check out Kompong Glam. According to Lonely Planet, it’s the Muslim neighborhood, its doesn’t have as many sights as Little India or Chinatown, and it’s a good place to buy raw cloth.
That doesn’t sound like the most exciting place in the world. It could be Singapore’s weak spot.
So I went to Kompong Glam, expecting to be bored, and this is what I found:
Kompong Glam was the sexiest neighborhood of all — filled with sleek bars and trendy tapas restaurants! Who knew that this would be the hottest place in Singapore?!
Singapore could do no wrong! I resigned myself to declaring that Singapore had no faults, thus rendering it perfect.
And then I discovered the Merlion. Singapore’s most famous sculpture is part lion, part fish, part LSD-induced fantasy.
In short, it’s ridiculous.
It’s strange…but this ridiculous statue is actually what made me truly love Singapore.
Singapore, you may be damned near perfect, but it’s nice to know that you don’t make sense all the time. We all need a little crazy in our lives.