Happy (Lunar) New Year everyone! At least I’m in time to greet everyone for that. Enjoy your fried tikoy and egg or your virtual yusheng, however you celebrate. 新年快乐！
A lot has happened the past two months which I’ll write about at length once I get over this crunch period at work. Three things I’m most ecstatic about:
Last December, I finally learned how to ride a bicycle. (It only took me thirty-*bleep* years and one minor tumble! There’s hope, people.)
Hub and I started to take our health more seriously — and discovered something new in the process.
And finally, my little family recently received our permanent residency approval here in Singapore. Very grateful for it — and it also means quite a bit of planning for when our kid moves on to “big school.”
We live near a small hill in central Singapore called Mount Faber. One afternoon after fetching our kid from school, we decided to hop on a cable car (not too much of an indulgence, since we have an annual pass) and walk to the lookout on top of the hill.
We recently learned that apart from the famous Merlion in the central business district downtown, there were four other official, Singapore Tourism Board-approved Merlion statues scattered around Singapore, and our neighbourhood hill housed one of them. (There used to be six, but the giant Merlion on Sentosa with Cyclops laser eyes was closed last year.)
The Merlion statue itself is a short ten-minute walk from the cable car stop, at a spot called Faber Point.
You can get there via a shaded path where you can find murals depicting various scenes in Singapore’s history.
The view at Faber Point was stunning – on one side was the sea, the tall cranes at the port, the distinctive shape of the luxurious Reflections at Keppel Bay residential complex, and the orange egg yolk-sun sinking slowly on the horizon.
On the other side were neat rows of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats in the Bukit Purmei estate and a glimpse of the city skyline.
It was quiet when we dropped by, with only a few joggers catching their breath and one enthusiastic teen busy with what I guess was a TikTok video. She danced alone, with her phone camera on a little tripod.
There were many telescopes at various sides of the lookout point for us to get a closer look at the scenic views. Each side had an arrow which indicated both an international and a local destination that – I assume – one would eventually reach by walking straight as the crow flies, through walls and water.
In honour of Halloween, this October instead of my weekly Sunday Sofa Sojourns posts I will list a few of my favourite creepy things. I’ve written about horror graphic novelsandkids’ books.
Music videos usually clock in at four to six minutes on average.
Artists have only that short period of time to make something memorable, of course never forgetting that the audio is the real star of the show. By definition, the visuals play second fiddle to the music. That doesn’t equate to boring – clearly there are many examples of music videos becoming as recognisable as the songs they accompany (think A-ha’s ‘Take On Me,’ or Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ to name a few). The creativity involved in integrating both pieces of content makes music videos fascinating to watch for me.
Even better, with YouTube everyone now has the luxury to watch their favourite videos whenever they want. Hands up who remembers sitting around in front of the TV – be it MTV, Channel V, or Myx – waiting just to catch a glimpse of theirs?
This week I’m writing about creepy music videos.
First things first: ‘Thriller’ isn’t on this list. (Not a hater here: that dance scene in ‘13 Going on 30’ is a personal guilty pleasure to watch.) While Michael Jackson’s video is certainly iconic, there’s something about the dancing undead that just didn’t scream “scary” to me.
Second, I haven’t included anything from Marilyn Manson, Aphex Twin, or anything like that – though some of their videos fall well within the nightmare fuel category. I have nothing against these musicians, I just chose from the universe of music I actually listen to.
Finally, all of the music videos on my personal short list are not shit-your-pants scary. But I vividly remember the first time I saw each of them and all settled uneasily on my mind. Clearly, there they still linger. Here goes.
1) Black Hole Sun, Soundgarden (1994)
Show me a ‘90s kid who didn’t get creeped out by the bug-eyed ever-widening grins of the suburban townspeople in Soundgarden’s music video for Black Hole Sun.
Throw in other Twin Peaks-esque imagery: an eclectic band of doomsayers, that elderly lady applying lipstick while simultaneously ogling a muscled man and exercising with a vibrating belt, and a Barbie melting on the barbecue, and you’ve got yourself one terrified kid.
2) Breathe, The Prodigy (1996)
In The Prodigy’s Breathe the imagery is less subtle and more in-your-face: close-ups of roaches in a dirty sink, millipedes, a loose alligator. Actually, I found the duelling shots of Keith Flint and Maxim more disturbing. It’s probably all those flashing lights.
But man, what a sick beat. I only recently realised I’ve been singing it wrong for over two decades (it’s not “Psychosomatic-atic insane” haha).
3) All Nightmare Long, Metallica (2008)
I don’t know what I was on when I first saw this video, but it didn’t immediately register that I was watching MTV. I thought I was watching some Blair Witch-type illegal Russian documentary. Also, bear in mind that while nowadays zombies are old hat thanks to shows like The Walking Dead, in 2008 they weren’t as commonplace.
In short, the video scared me for a good eight minutes. Also how chilling is that line, “Hunt you down without mercy / Hunt you down all nightmare long”?
Special Mention: Burn The Witch, Radiohead (2016)
I listened to a lot of Radiohead back in the day when I was an angsty teen haha. I only came across this track recently (I didn’t know they were still active!). I have to include it here because I like how cleverly it merges imagery from The Wicker Man with innocuous stop-motion animation reminiscent of Postman Pat.
Could have been creepier without the scene at the end, though.
As always, I hope you enjoyed this short, musical list. Till next week! 👻
My surprise Cameo video for the Hub worked out! He and I are both yuuge fans of the LOTR movies, especially the first. We used to re-watch The Fellowship of the Ring all the time; it was our top choice for “movie-in-the-background” – times when we were busy with other stuff but wanted something interesting on TV that we could passively listen to. The Hub and I agreed Sam was the real MVP of the saga. One Valentine’s Day, the Hub even signed off his card to me as “Your Sam” (does that make me Frodo in that scenario?!).
I highly recommend Sean if you’re thinking of getting a Cameo (provided you’re a fan, of course). He started off with a Marilyn Monroe-esque ‘Happy Birthday’ song which was pretty funny. You could tell he took the time to personalise each birthday message a bit. I only wrote Cameo a sentence or two about the Hub and Sean was able to build on that for a 5-minute-long video. He even managed to squeeze in his iconic “Po-tay-toes” line at the end. Sulit.
Other things we did on the Hub’s birthday: a nice omakase lunch at one of our favourite Japanese places capped off with drinks at Raffles Hotel. We both wanted to try the original Singapore Sling at the Long Bar but found out the bar was temporarily closed; the hotel was serving cocktails at the Raffles Courtyard instead.
We were seated and comfortable when I opened the menu and found out that an Original Singapore Sling costs S$35 (around Php1,300 or US$26). I reasoned to myself this was the first and probably the last time I’ll be trying it so… okay. Fine.
According to the menu, a Singapore Sling consists of Widges London Dry Gin, Bénédictine, Raffles Signature Grenadine, Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco, Ferrand Dry Curaçao, pineapple juice, fresh lime juice, and Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters.
Our drinks came with the obligatory tray of peanuts. (Traditionally, the peanut shells are thrown on the Long Bar’s tiled floor.) It was good, but was it worth S$35? The jury’s still out on that one.
2) I realised parts of the old Sentosa monorail tracks haven’t been demolished.
One of my most enduring childhood memories was a short trip my family took to Singapore in the ’90s. It probably got stuck in my head because the trip happened during a school week. I felt like I was playing hooky from school the whole time, and it felt good.
We had a day out in Sentosa Island. Back then, VivoCity was non-existent and the distance was wider between the main island and Singapore. There was no Boardwalk to cross. The Mount Faber Line cable cars were already around, but we took a ferry to the island.
I remember the breeze on our faces as we rode a monorail in Sentosa. Unlike today’s Sentosa Express which only stops at four stations – VivoCity, Resorts World (where Universal Studios is), Imbiah (for the nature walk), and Beach station – the monorail in my memory looped around the island. I even recall passing the giant “Sentosa” logo while on the train. The monorail ride experience and the rest of that day – a visit to a SeaWorld aquarium, a wax museum, musical fountains in the evening – is probably one of my core Joy memories haha.
Imagine my delight then, when I discovered while walking on the Imbiah trail the other weekend that parts of the old monorail tracks were still there! I don’t know why I never noticed it before.
Does anyone know why some parts of the track weren’t demolished?
3) We walked some more.
We had dinner at Robertson Quay in one of our favourite Middle Eastern restaurants (so far it’s the only place we found with kebab koobideh that approximates our beloved Alounak).
It was a balmy evening and it seemed everyone was out and about. So, we took the opportunity to walk from Robertson Quay all the way to Clarke Quay.
We finally reached Boat Quay where we caught the bus home.
Because I’ve been in A Mood lately, I’ve resurrected an old Spotify playlist I made of all the sad songs I could think of.
I chucked everything but the kitchen sink in there, so my playlist ranges from ’80s power ballads (I distinctly remember when I was in preschool crying on the school bus every time I heard Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’ on Manong’s radio — opo, every time), OPM songs that vividly remind me of my real-life break-ups (Sugarfree’s ‘Kwarto’ — each line was on point, even the dusty jacket in the corner), to indie (‘Your Ex-Lover is Dead’ from Stars is a favourite… “And all of the time you thought I was sad / I was trying to remember your name” …*mic drop*).
Anyway. I’ve been listening to this playlist a lot recently. It got me thinking about what the saddest song ever written could be.
My gloomy playlist certainly had a lot of promising candidates. Who would win the Saddest Song award? Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ (“I wish I had a river I could skate away on” always gets to me)? Would it be Abba’s heart-rending entry, ‘The Winner Takes It All’? Adele’s painful, plaintive request in ‘All I Ask’? How about Alanis Morissette’s ‘So Unsexy’ (to anxious people like me, this song always struck far too close to heart)? (As you can see, I got stuck on letter A.)
Then my random playlist shuffle landed on ‘A Letter To Elise’ from The Cure.
Don’t get put off by Robert Smith’s goth look and crazy hair. Have a listen with your eyes closed.
From me and you, there are worlds to part With aching looks and breaking hearts And all the prayers your hands can make Oh, I just take as much as you can throw And then throw it all away Oh I’ll throw it all away Like throwing faces at the sky Like throwing arms round yesterday I stood and stared Wide-eyed in front of you And the face I saw looked back the way I wanted to But I just can’t hold my tears away the way you do Elise, believe I never wanted this I thought this time I’d keep all of my promises I thought you were the girl I always dreamed about But I let the dream go And the promises broke, the make-believe ran out
The quiet, aching resignation in those lines. Hay.
Here’s a soothing, gentle cover version from Goh Nakamura.
We’ve been riding cable cars nearly every weekend lately.
I know it sounds extravagant when I say it like that. But we’re simply making full use of a Faber Licence annual pass we bought recently at a promo price. If we rode the cable cars every week for a year, it comes to around S$3 (around Php 100) each trip, with unlimited rides for four people. It’s non-transferable (they check our photos), but still, that’s just Php 25 per person. Sulit naman (It’s a good deal). It’s a fun weekend activity and my kid is a happy camper.
The Singapore Cable Car Sky Network (there’s only one) is made up of two lines: the Mount Faber Line, which you can take from Harbourfront Tower all the way to Faber Peak and back to Sentosa island (a 30-minute round trip ride); and the Sentosa Line, which makes three stops within the island at Siloso Point, Imbiah Lookout, and near the Sentosa Merlion (a 20-minute ride).
There are ongoing construction works now near Sentosa Line’s Merlion Station, so we usually hop off at Siloso Point Station and take the free beach trams around the island, another activity my kid loves.
Personally, I prefer the cable car rides itself. The views of Sentosa island from the sky are also hard to beat.
There is Brani Terminal and the Sentosa Boardwalk in the distance, with Hard Rock Hotel Singapore in the foreground and Festive Hotel to the right. The terminal will eventually close and move to the Tuas mega-port in western Singapore at some point, as the government intends to redevelop this area into the Greater Southern Waterfront. The port will be replaced with waterfront promenades and residential / commercial spaces. With the Covid-19 situation now, I’m not sure when this would be.
I like seeing the rows of solar panels atop the Bank of America Merrill Lynch building, visible when you approach Harbourfront Tower on the Mount Faber Line.
This is an aerial view of Adventure Cove Waterpark. It’s strange to see the water slides and Adventure River stripped of water. We can already spot small black stagnant pools in some places, littered with leaves. We see the sharks and dolphins are still there, possibly living their “best” life (as can be had within the confines of their tanks) with no humans to bother them.
The giant wave pool at Adventure Cove looks rather lonely now.
This is Siloso Beach last month, when Singapore celebrated its 55th National Day. The heart-shaped installation was made up of 10,000 red and white flags, each with a heartfelt message.
The AJ Hackett bungy jump tower is always a source of interest to my kid. If someone happens to be on a jump or zipping down the 450m zipline from Mega Adventure Park, we can hear the screaming from the comfort of our cable car.
Finally, there’s what is touted to be the “reigning king of public toilets” across Singapore, found in Faber Peak Singapore (you can hop off at the Mount Faber Station on the cable car line). In this glass-enclosed toilet at The Jewel Box, you can soak in superb views of Mount Faber’s greenery and the cable cars while making yourself comfortable on the couch provided. There’s even a fish tank with real fish inside. Best of all, it’s clean!
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of hawker centres to daily life here in Singapore.
One of my ex-colleagues once told me that throughout her childhood she had never seen her parents cook. They bought dǎbāo (打包, takeaway) all the time. “I turned out all right!” she declared.
Eating out every day sounds expensive, but honestly when it comes to hawker centres it makes sense. You can have good eats for very reasonable prices. The variety is great. There’s even a sense of community in the air. Back when we used to live in one of Singapore’s heartland neighbourhoods, we often saw groups of old uncles hanging out at the hawker centre tables chatting over their morning kopi and kaya toast – especially for hawkers located near HDBs. (HDBs refer to public housing managed by the Singaporean Housing and Development Board or HDB. It’s where almost 80% of Singaporeans live. I’ll blog about these gems in the future.)
What’s a “hawker centre” anyway? These are open-air food courts made up of many stalls selling affordable cooked food. Most are conveniently located near HDB estates and near wet markets.
The construction of hawker centres in the 1970s-80s was part of a government programme to legalise street hawkers and ensure food preparation was up to standard. Nowadays the National Environment Agency, as a government regulator, ensures hawker food is prepared in hygienic and safe conditions.
If you’ve seen the movie Crazy Rich Asians (2018), there’s a good montage at the start featuring Newton Food Centre where Henry Golding orders plate after plate of hawker food in English, Mandarin, and Malay: satay (meat skewers),roti prata (Indian-influenced flatbread), fried carrot cake (a misleading name — it’s made of radish cubes), hot bowls of spicy laksa (noodle soup in curry coconut milk) and fishball noodle soup, shaved ice desserts, and of course, cold mugs of beer (Tiger, I hope).
Pro-tip #1: while it’s cool how the movie introduced Singapore’s hawker culture to a global audience, trust the locals – there are better satays to be found elsewhere besides Newton.
Pro-tip #2: keep your eyes peeled for the nod to the chope-ing tissue at 0:22. When at a hawker centre (or any food court in Singapore for that matter), do not sit at tables where there are tissue packets. This means that spot has been chope-d, i.e. reserved. Doesn’t sound fair? It is what it is. #RespectTheTissue
The Hub and I love hawker food. Before coming to Singapore, we were already familiar with a few local dishes: the glutinous goodness of chicken rice and the sinfully rich char kway teow, for instance. When we lived in the UK, we paid frequent visits to London’s Chinatown to sample New Fook Lam Moon’s bak kut teh (the soup more herbal than peppery) or Rasa Sayang’s chicken rice. We later learned that Rasa Sayang’s version of char kway teow is more Penang than Singaporean, with the Singaporean version somewhat sweeter.
With so many choices, how do you know which stall serves the best food? The length of the queues of course!
Alternatively, you can check out food reviews online. When the Hub and I first arrived here, we relied heavily on a food blog called “ieat•ishoot•ipost” written by a family doctor named Dr. Leslie Tay, who’s also an avid foodie and photographer. His blog’s tagline is “never waste your calories on yucky food.” (He also uses his platform to teach his patients on what kinds of food to avoid if they have certain medical conditions, which I think is a smart way to merge your work and your passion project).
I like that his blog is organized into dishes: from Assam Fish all the way to Zi Char. It makes it easy to search for places when cravings take over. While there are one or two recommendations which didn’t please, I think this is simply a matter of taste, and overall Dr. Tay’s recommendations were an excellent starter guide for non-locals like us to navigate Singapore’s rich hawker culture.
You may already know how fond I am of bak chor mee (the thought of the chili and vinegar in al dente noodles already makes my mouth water). But our best discovery from Dr. Tay’s blog was the gloriously messy Hainanese Curry Rice.
“Umami bomb” is the best way to describe it — the best Hainanese Curry Rice is a flavourful explosion of curry sauce, fried porkchop, stewed cabbage, and braised pork, and it has found a permanent spot on our personal comfort-food list.
Hainanese Curry Rice is not Instagram-friendly, that’s for sure. It may never snap up a Michelin Bib Gourmand. If I recommend it to one of my ang moh friends he / she might demur.
But you seriously won’t know what you’re missing. Super shiok.
Salamat Mr. A from A Barbarian in Gentlemen’s Clothing and Mikki from Mikki Bihon for the back-to-back nominations! Coming up with answers for these things is fun, but isn’t easy. 😅 If you’re looking for good, honest blogs to read, I’ve just named two. You’re welcome.
If you’re interested, here’s the earlier Liebster Award post I wrote sticking to the rules. Because I went through all the motions mere days ago, this time around I’ll just answer the new questions.
Age, Height, and Weight? Old enough to remember what life was like without the internet, tall enough to reach the top shelf, and heavy enough to break bones.
Have you ever borrowed a small amount of money and forgot to return it? No. a) I don’t really feel comfortable borrowing money so b) in the rare cases I do, I make it a point to return it as soon as I can.
What is your most controversial opinion and why do you believe them? I don’t like being preggers. I love the end product though.
Wearing a suit without a tie, yay or nay? Tell me why? Totally yay. Exhibit A.
What blue-collar trade do you think is underappreciated? Why should people pay more attention to it? Construction workers and farmers. These are the people who’ll survive a zombie apocalypse.
Why should every man be strong? Referring to the full spectrum of strength — physical, emotional, mental, spiritual — these are ideals for everyone, not just a particular gender. For fathers in particular and to paraphrase John Mayer, be strong for your kids. You’re modelling behaviour.
Mind sharing cheap stay-at-home date ideas? A homemade sous vide steak (finished off with a sear on both sides in a hot skillet), a good bottle of wine, and Netflix is good enough for us.
What hobbies would you suggest for men? Read. Smart is the new sexy.
What outfit (or lingerie) does your significant other find insatiable? Birthday suits always work. For him, pwede na rin sa akin yung uniform nina Michael V sa Yabang o Panget, hahaha.
Tell us about you, why should people follow you and read what you have to say? What do you think sets you apart from the rest? Hmm, I think everyone has a really good story to tell if we only take the time to listen. My approach to blogging has always been to write with a person in mind and treat the post as I would a conversation with a friend. Of course, the lens with which I view the world is as a Filipina OFW mom. If that interests you, my blog’s door is open and you’re welcome to stay if you like.
Tell me what you think about me, what is your impression of me and my work? Like a neat glass of whiskey. 😊 If you can, do read about Mr. A’s ongoing fundraiser to save his mom’s house here.
If you can blog about something that no one can ever read, what would it be? Probably my bout with new mom blues.
What would have been your job if not for your current one? I play this game with myself all the time. 😁 Recently, I’ve daydreamed about being a sociologist or a librarian.
Seeing how the pandemic has affected everyone in the world, would you consider migrating to another country? I’m staying put. But if I had to leave, maybe NZ. Jacinda Ardern has been so impressive throughout this ongoing crisis.
What do you think would have kept you preoccupied if there was no coronavirus? Work. Haha. Vacation planning, hopefully.
What skills would you love to learn? How to fry calamari a perfect, crispy golden brown.
If you can forget someone in your life, who would it be and why? Maybe the Hub, so I get to relive the thrill of knowing him afresh à la 50 First Dates. Binabasa n’ya ‘to so charot lang haha. Hi boo ❤️
If you can change one person today, who would it be and why? Certain Filipino leaders come to mind. The reasons are self-explanatory.
If you die now, would you like to have another shot to live? Yes, absolutely. If so, would you like to continue living as yourself, or live as a new person? If I get to retain all my current memories, as myself would be great. Parang About Time, one of my favourite rom-coms.
What is your idea of afterlife? A huge library with the world’s knowledge to immerse myself in, endless time to spend with loved ones, and zero responsibilities.
If you can talk to anyone in the past, who would it be and what would you tell them? Both sets of grandparents, who passed away relatively early in my life. I never really got to know them. I want to listen to their stories in their own voice.
Name a song that best fits your life so far.Vienna, by Billy Joel.