Singapore nowadays is a glossy place. It has a cosmopolitan, international feel. These are not things that I thought I would enjoy, but having made several trips over the past 35 years to visit my now deceased grandparents, I now look forward to being in this environment. Spending long weeks at a time, trailing older family relatives performing their daily routine, the ordinary parts of the city have kept me interested. Maybe it’s this juxtaposition of the city’s slick against the everyday that makes it all the more enjoyable.
First of all, there is the food. The city is known for it. What I like about it—apart from the quality, the variety and the price—is the culture. Food is not just about entertainment here. It’s not all about the latest cafes with amazing interiors. It’s about being able to get a great meal at a pretty low price at any time of the day. It’s about cooks specialising in a few things, honing their craft and cooking it every day. It seems to keep the city grounded.
Secondly, the city is green. Although you walk on concrete pavements all day, everywhere you look you can see green. From tiny remainders of lush rainforests, to carefully maintained pot plants on the street, to the impressive Gardens by the Bay—the green refreshingly contrasts against the cacophony of lights and sparkling surfaces of malls.
And then there’s the weather. Although Singaporeans have made an outstanding effort to conquer the heat with air conditioning, as a visitor from a cooler climate, the weather is something to be enjoyed. No carrying cardigans or jackets around “just in case.” It’s warm all the time. Although you do need to be prepared for a chilly restaurant or sudden torrential downpour.
Singapore has positioned itself as a city of the future and the feeling is palpable and exciting. But what I will remember most are early morning walks along suburban streets, the fragrance of frangipani in the air, crickets chirping and the promise of a great meal just around the corner.