I write this post while jet-lagged and sporting swollen ankles after a never-ending flight back from Singapore. I confess, before I ventured East, I was excited to simply spend time with my friend who moved there (and finally scope out Singapore Airlines’ celebrated Singapore Girls). However, as soon as I landed on the island, I was instantly smitten: with the verdant landscape, the colorful shophouses transformed into boutiques, and the noodles, mounds and mounds of luscious noodles.
If I had planned my trip just a month later, for March 9th-12th, I would have been in town for SingaPlural, the inaugural Singapore Furniture Design Week held in conjunction with the International Furniture Fair Singapore 2012/29th ASEAN Furniture Show/Deco Asia 2012/The Hospitality Show 2012. A contemporary design scene is booming here, and this show would have allowed me an inner glimpse.
Much of Singapore is shiny and new, from its gleaming skyscrapers to its massive (many subsidized) apartment buildings to its immaculate don’t-even-think-about-sipping-water-here Mass Rapid Transit. While I experienced its alluring contemporary vibe everywhere—tucking into an icy chendol at fancy “hawker stall” Food Opera inside luxe shopping mall Ion Orchard, drinking a cocktail whipped up by a San Fran transplant at sleek new bar 28 HongKong Street, sipping an iced coffee at vintage furniture shop-cum-café Restore Living, buying a handmade clutch from a local indie designer at Pluck, gawking over paper products at darling bookstore Books Actually—it was Singapore’s history I was most captivated by.
Before the Asia trip, I had never heard the term Peranakan (referring to those descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore), but here I discovered this rich culture, through exploring the intimate Peranakan Museum, feasting on Peranakan cuisine at Blue Ginger (think black nut chicken and durian ice cream), and one of the trip’s highlights: a tour of the Baba House, a circa 1895 home that’s been fully restored to its Peranakan glory. Now acquired by the National University of Singapore’s Centre for the Arts, it’s painted a dreamy, vibrant blue, and swathed in gilt and mother-of-pearl. Singapore’s modern scene is thrilling, but to walk through the ornate doors of Baba House is to take a gander at a magical architectural legacy—one that primed me for Penang, the next leg of my trip that I’ll fill you in on next time.