Archives for category: Marina Bay

Time has been the order of the day this last week or two – I seem to lose it, never have enough of it, or shamefully, waste it. It left me pondering the following…

On Tuesday I had a lovely lazy morning with my friend from Kent, Liz, in Plaza Singapura. This mall contains a Japanese Yen shop, at home it’s a pound shop, so can only imagine it’s called a dollar shop in the States! Now I am not a shopper at all but even I couldn’t leave the pink mango slicer behind. Liz went off and as I had some time to kill before picking the kids up I bought some lunch and headed outside. So, I’m sitting reading and minding my own business when a young lady comes over and says ‘Do you have the time?’ ‘Yes’, I reply, ‘it’s half past one’. She then sits down next to me and I carry on reading. About 5 minutes later she gets up VERY dramatically and clearly quite cross and says ‘I have to go now!’ ‘Ummmm’. Clearly she wanted to know if I had ‘time’, not ‘the time’! Sigh.

As I told Dom later that evening he reminded me of my best incident of confused English ever. Many moons ago, when Dom and I first met, I shared a flat in South London with my marvellous friend Jill. We lived in Tooting; it was a complete cultural carnival which made it very vibrant and a great place to live. The local shop was a ‘Costcutter’ where you could honestly find anything from plantains through to chickpea flour. I was in there buying something very ordinary when an old Indian gent walks in and says to the young shelfstacker ‘you got time?’. The young shelfstacker says ‘yes, quarter to two’. ‘No’ said the old gent in complete exasperation ‘thyme, to put in food’.

Anyway, to get over my lunch incident I went for a stroll and am always cheered up by the legions of tourists photographing the Peranakan shop houses on the road behind us. They are beautiful and the kids call it Rainbow Road. (Aren’t the bins a total shame?)

shophouse3

It reminded me of one of my first taxi trips in Singapore with a lovely old Malay cabbie. I was in no hurry and he was in the mood for a chat. He told me that this is a conservation area now but that the whole of Katong (the area we live) has changed beyond recognition. Shophouses were seen as houses for the poorer classes – now they are home to wealthy expats and posh Singaporeans from what I can see. My cabbie grew up in a shophouse in a lane near where we live and started to tell me about life in Joo Chiat and Marine Parade when he was a boy. It was essentially a fishing village – Katong means Turtle – and he made pocket money as a kid helping at the fish stalls. What is now a huge, soulless shopping mall was once the jetty and there were row upon row of fish hawker stalls selling food and people would come from all over the island to eat here. Only one building remains untouched – it was the old police station and then a tea house – and that too is due for demolition to make way for yet another hotel/ mall.

police station katong

Singapore is changing so fast, building after bland building is being thrown up, and I wish, more than anything, that the urban planners would find more time to think.

lanterns

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waterliliessausage buildingat the top

When you think of expat, you think of a gilded existence – a relocation package, a huge condo in Holland village and money to burn – well we don’t. Not even a smidge. Yep, we are the shoestring expats. Can Singapore be done on a budget?

So we head out to another the Bond Street of Singapore – Marina Bay Sands. It is jaw dropping, unashamedly exclusive and well, dangerously teetering on twee. There is a gondola taking people down a ‘river’ between the shops. And the shops – Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Ferrari, Gucci and Clarks shoes (I know, that’s what I thought.) Walking through it was enough – it makes you want to brush your hair and put lipstick on. Once you are out you are by the broken eggshell building – named by Millie – which houses the Art/Science museum. One Egyptian exhibition later we wandered down to the Marina Sands Hotel. It’s the 57 floor skyscraper with the sausage/ spaceship on the top. This is where it pays to be cheeky. At the top we ‘fessed up we weren’t hotel guests but this is Singapore so we were invited to go to the viewing point (and they didn’t look us up and down in that snooty way that Parisiens definitely do best). At the top? An infinity pool and a bar of course! Y’know, it was slightly hectic, very noisy and jam packed with Chinese and Japanese tourists. For all the money in the world people……….

As we walk out there is a boy of six swinging a Fendi bag. The urge to grab him by his Ralph Lauren collar and peek in his bag just to see what a kid would want from Fendi is OVERWHELMING so I know it’s time to go back to Joo Chiat Lane.

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