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Notes from the Underground

Singapore is one of the few places on earth where it's possible to visit every train station in the entire country. So I've decided to do exactly that. Over the coming months, I'll send a dispatch from every single one.

Mallrat

Forget retail therapy. Think, archery, boating and getting a maid. This is all about the strange little things that seem to appear in shopping malls in this corner of the world.

Good Eats

This part of the world is fill of some truly amazing foods. Some flavours are great, others are a little more acquired. Find out more here.

The Great Outdoors

Air conditioning is pretty popular around here, and eating is the national sport. But there are still plenty of things to do outside.

Most Recent Articles

Selfie Coffee: all your questions answered

Posted on May 13, 2015

Because you all have so many questions about caffeinating a picture of your face, I’m going to tell you all about this important issue. I went to this place once, and that makes me an expert.   Where and what is this Selfie Coffee about which you speak?  Selfie Coffee is on Haji Lane in Bugis, which is Singapore’s favourite spot for taking selfies by murals and bike shops. It’s the perfect location for this cafe, where they can put those pictures towards something ephemeral and slightly pointless. The baristas here pour a dense layer of creamy stuff on top of a coffee, and then print photos onto the foam. You can take a photo on site, or use one of your faves. I used this picture, which is undeniably a masterpiece: Wh … why? What for this be?  Isn’t it obvious? It’s because of a hopelessly self-obsessed younger generation who are so smitten with their iphones and their faceyspaces and their Whatsapps and and their Selfie-sticks and their Tweetygrams that they can’t even get through a coffee without taking a picture of their face and printing it onto the foam. Not like back in my day when we watched CHiPs and worked in factories and caught Polio on playgrounds that were built out of broken glass and ughhhhh…. I can’t even write...

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The lies that protect the stones: a weekend in Siem Reap

Posted on May 7, 2015

National Geographic has lied to you. Repeatedly. And so has every other glossy travel magazine, for that matter. In a way, they own Angkor Wat. Not as a physical object, but as a carefully crafted corner of the popular imagination. Long before you arrive, you know exactly what it looks like. It’s massive stone spires and carved rock faces. It’s saffron clad monks wandering past a stupendous tree root, which has taken an eternity to smash its way through a stone wall. You know the stuff. This is the bit they leave out: So, everyone gets duped by photography, only to be met with every other dupe who has ever seen a travel mag, clambering over the same bit of rock. (And then, ironically, they all take photos that carefully crop out all the other tourists, and the cycle repeats itself). Still, we all know Angkor Wat is scarcely off the beaten track these days. More than a million people visit every year. There’s no sense getting grumpy at people who are doing exactly the same thing as you. And there is, of course, a very good reason they come here. Angkor Wat truly is a truly incredible bunch of chiselled rocks. It impresses with both its size and symmetry. About 1.5 million cubic metres of sand...

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Throwback thursday – Changi Jewel from 1952?

Posted on May 7, 2015

Changi Airport is arguably the world’s best. Okay, I haven’t been to every single airport in the world. Maybe French Guiana has one I’d much prefer. But I’m not too badly travelled. Changi is superbly efficient and a pretty good place to hang out for a few hours before a flight. And it’s going to get better, because there’s a typically massive Singapore public works project underway. The goal is build a giant glass palace full of vegetation and...

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Throwback Thursday: VR Man

Posted on Apr 30, 2015

In the late ’90s Singapore’s Media Corp produced this live-action superhero drama. VR Man is the alter ego of computer engineer Alex Foo who, after a nearly fatal accident, gained the superhuman power called ‘Virping’, which is something to do with projecting an image and then making it temporarily real. He could also run very fast and had super-strength and all the regular superhero stuff. Some of my Singaporean friends told me about this series, and they remember it best...

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Koyasan – Japan’s monastery-filled mountain retreat

Posted on Apr 28, 2015

This slideshow requires JavaScript. We ended up at Koyasan through clumsy and belated booking. It turns out, there are a few weekends when Kyoto and Osaka quite literally book out, because half of Japan shows up to see the autumn foliage. So we got off the plane and went to the closest available accommodation, which was a few hours by train up a hill. Then onto a funicular. Then onto a bus. But even if it was a slightly...

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Throwback thursday – Kampong Glam’s past

Posted on Apr 23, 2015

This little snippet of the history of Kampong Glam is worth a watch. Haji lane is apparently named for the Indonesian pilgrims on their way to Mecca. The dutch colonial administrators tightly controlled the pilgrimages, but Singapore was a free port, so it became a stopping point along the way. And inevitably, many stayed. The clip itself is full of completely gratuitous drone shots. But its an interesting look nevertheless.             southeastanddownMore Posts -...

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Throwback thursday: Singapore Airlines Commercial

Posted on Apr 16, 2015

  I’m not exactly sure how old this ad is. Judging from the cars, the Singapore girl’s haircut and the 1970’s yacht rock-style jingle (complete with sensitive-man guitar fingerpicking), I’d guess no later than 1978. The fact that there are lighters (boats used to unload ships) in the background means it couldn’t have been later than 1983, when boat quay was cleared of the old, but nevertheless decorative wooden clunkers. Payar Lebar airport features too, and that closed in...

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