MY SINGAPORE WEEKEND
By Terence Tan
Singaporean lawyer Terence Tan has lived in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Canada but returned to his homeland in 2010. We asked him how he usually fills his weekends and for some insider tips on where to head for some peace and quiet.
If I don’t have a trial on for the coming week, or an opinion to draft, the perfect start to weekend would be a lie-in. But fate invariably conspires against me. I am usually roused by excited cheeps from the mischievous mynahs that inhabit the tree opposite my bedroom window. Around sunrise, a bevy of housewives cajole each other along the tiny lane outside my bedroom window to the nearby wet market, screeching incessantly about this and that and impeding honking traffic. Who needs an alarm clock, eh?
I like to start the weekend with a leisurely brunch. I occasionally get on my bicycle and perambulate to Chin Mee Chin Confectionary (204 East Coast Road). This establishment is over 80 years old and located in a period shophouse, providing a nostalgic throw-back to what Singapore might have been like in the 1950s. It serves home-made kaya with thick slices of butter on toast.
If I’m not feeling like a local kopi, I’ll usually head to one of the many excellent coffee houses available around the island. Two of my favourites are Oriole Coffee Roasters (1/10A Jiak Chuan Road) and Chye Seng Huat Hardware (150 Tyrwhitt Road). The latter offers much more than your usual coffee experience, with roasting happening on the premises, coffee-inspired gifts and books on sale and they serve an excellent cappacino.
As I am largely sedentary during the week, after brunch I like to go for a bit of a jaunt in a desperate bid to work off the week’s past meals. To avoid the midday heat, I enjoy spending a couple of leisurely hours pottering around the exhibits at the Asian Civilisations Museum, as well as the other fabulous museums administered by the National Heritage Board like the Peranakan Museum and the National Museum. I can’t wait for the new National Gallery to open later in the year as this will further expand my choice of midday cultural strolls.
Once the heat has abated somewhat, I’ll opt for some fresh air in one of the city’s ample green spaces, usually The Singapore Botanic Gardens, especially if they are hosting a concert or play. Gardens by the Bay and the various zoological attractions such as the Night Safari and River Safari are also brilliant.
If I’m feeling like a more organised walk, the Singapore Heritage Society arrange cultural tours of Singapore’s many colourful neighbourhoods, which is a great way of getting some exercise and learning something new at the same time.
After all this exercise, I’ll generally get an early dinner with friends at somehwere local like the Sik Wai Sin Eating House in Geylang. This popular jaunt offers up a selection of ambrosial Cantonese delicacies – I go for the steamed fish head and the garlic ginger chicken.
After dinner, if I’ve got any energy left, I’ll grab a few drinks at one of the many new bars and speakeasies to open over the last couple of years. One favourite is 28 Hongkong Street which does a splendiferous Old Fashioned!
A good way to start Sunday after a night out is brunch at Open Door Policy (19 Yong Siak Street) in Tiong Bahru. It serves good strong coffee and my favourite start to the day – truffle scrambled organic eggs with oysters, shimeji, Portobello mushrooms, baby spinach and sourdough. After eating, I might wander through Tiong Bahru.
If I feel like a some peace and quiet, away from the maddening crowd, my favourite communion with nature is a hike or bike ride along the Rail Corridor. This was formerly railway land and stretches approximately 24 kilometres from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar, with much greenery and birdlife to gawk at en route. Alternatively, a fantastic walk through MacRitchie Reservoir Park gets you to the Tree Top Walk, a suspension bridge overlooking an exquisite canopy of rainforest.
For a coastal escape, I’ll hop on a bumboat from Changi Point to Pulau Ubin. Here you can rent a bicycle and explore the island, both on and off-road, which is highly recommended. If I don’t eat lunch on the island, I’ll head to Changi Village Hawker Centre when back on the mainland for some Nasi Padang or Nasi Lemak and a fresh coconut to rehydrate.
In the evenings, I enjoy exploring the streets around Arab Street and Haji Lane – there are lots of small independent shops here selling interesting products and there’s a good vibe in the evenings. Blu Jaz is a favourite for a chilled dinner on the patio and I might pop into Bar Stories (55/57A Haji Lane) or Long Play (4 Haji Lane) for a night cap before heading home.
Enjoy your weekends!
One of the oldest attractions on the island, Underwater World