Singapore does’t shut down often, but it shuts down good over Lunar New Year. Unlike China, where new year celebrations last for weeks and schools and businesses are closed during the busiest travel season of the year, Singapore grants two days of public holiday for the celebration. Many restaurants and businesses also shut their doors for two days or more, which only otherwise happens around Christmas. And even then, it’s not hard to find places that are open.
Lunar New Year, though, is different. The roads are quiet, public transportation is quiet, and there’s little activity around town. I headed to Chinatown one morning to look at the decorations and see what was going on; it was slightly busier than I expected but not busy at all.
There is also a really beautiful Hindu temple in Chinatown and its well-wishing puts into perspective one of the aspects of Singapore that I really love.
The following day I headed to Little India early in the morning and watched the neighborhood wake up. The sights and sounds of Little India are like nowhere else in Singapore and it feels like a different world entirely.
I love the colors . . .
. . . the markets and shops . . .
. . . and echoes and signs life being lived.
Singapore is glittery and shiny and other worldly and yes, it looks like whatever you saw in Crazy Rich Asians (or The Bachelor though I haven’t actually seen it). But when you look closely, Singapore looks like this, too.
The following Beatles lyrics keep floating unbidden to mind:
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?
I’ve been feeling a lot like poor ol’ Eleanor Rigby recently. It’s a lot of preparing to go out, being happy with friends, coming home, looking frantically for distraction. More podcasts and playlists than usual lately. The silence when I’m alone leaves me with my thoughts, and my thoughts are spinning.
Our last day with kids was Friday and we have two days of “wrapping up” to do this week and then one more school year is in the books. It is all happening shockingly quickly. My friends and colleagues begin flying out Tuesday night, which means that this whole leaving thing is now very, very real. I don’t actually head out for another two weeks but I’ll be in Laos next weekend and the following weekend means losing my apartment and beginning a very long plane ride. This was my last real weekend here in Singapore, which took me by surprise when I realized it Saturday night.
However, thanks (as usual!) to Lauren and Jamie, it was a really good one.
The weekend started with a department end-of-year celebration at Hombre Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in Boat Quay where I had surprisingly spicy margaritas and a veggie quesadilla. Very fun evening with some truly wonderful people.
The delicious food theme continued on Saturday when Jamie, Lauren, and I went to the first annual Singapore Coffee Festival to sample brews and foods from Singapore’s best coffee shops.
The event lasted for four days and included the three-storey exhibition of coffee, food, and independent “lifestyle” boutiques; live music; lab demonstrations from brewers; and open chats about coffee, brewing, and local coffee culture. The price of admission also included a nifty tote bag and a couple cool mugs! The festival organizers actually stopped door sales of tickets while we were there on Saturday because the F1 Pit Building that housed the festival was very crowded. If you want to go next year, which I really encourage, I highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance! They’re discounted during the pre-sale, too!
A going away party for another friend Saturday night gave me one more look at Marina Bays Sands all lit up. The Singapore Flyer is over on the left.
My bucket list item for today was a visit to East Coast Park. I’d initially been planning to rent bikes to go exploring, but we decided a walk would suit our needs (and other plans for the day) just fine. It’s so funny seeing the shipping lanes right off the beach, though. I still can’t get used to that.
My primary objective overall was to spend as much time with my friends as possible, which we certainly accomplished. We made time for aloo gobi and garlic naan from Tekka Centre in Little India, too! That was a major highlight. Love me some Indian food, especially in this part of the world.
What I enjoyed most was spending this weekend in so many diverse environments. A mere 48 hours managed to cover Mexican food, hipster coffee culture, fancy bars, the beach, and the crush of people and delicious foods that represent Sunday in Little India.
I’m going to miss this place. A whole hell of a lot.
If you need me, I’ll be in a corner with my eyes closed and hands wrapped around my knees. And tomorrow morning, I’ll take that face out of the jar by the door and head back to school for the second to last time.
I am ashamed to admit that it took me until Thursday to make it to Arab Street. Mitch says we talked about going a few times, but never got around to it. The one excuse I can think of is that it used to be a pain to get there, but now that the Downtown line runs through Little India, almost everything is easier and definitely faster! Singapore is building more lines, too, which is very exciting even though I won’t be here to see it.
Anyway, this was our first week back at school and it went really well. I did better than I expected with regards to jet lag, and the kids were great. They were mentally checked out at the beginning of the week but have come around a lot. I was really glad to reunite with my friends, too. There’s a lot to talk about after 3 weeks away!
Jamie, Lindsey, and I headed to Arab Street for dinner Thursday night and it was just wonderful. The Lebanese restaurant that Jamie chose was excellent and we went to a popping Mexican place for margaritas afterwards. I will be definitely be back to Arab Street because there are loads of adorable little cafes pretty much everywhere. There were a couple cool boutiques, too, that I will have to check out. Trying to reinvent my wardrobe.
I hadn’t planned on being so fascinated, so I only had my phone with me but the pictures are okay. It was a lot like Chinatown, but with shops selling Turkish lanterns and hookah instead of chopsticks and chicken rice.
I will absolutely be back soon!
Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by a twenty-something teacher trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place