Raffles’ Letters Exhibition, National Library Gallery

IMG_2168Hidden up on the tenth floor of Singapore’s National Library Building, this exhibition of ‘Raffles’ Letters’ promises the ‘Intrigues behind the founding of Singapore.’ There’s nothing like being friends with Phd students to inject a little culture into my Saturday morning.  This is how I found myself on a very educational curator’s tour by legal historian Dr Kevin Tan.

Kevin taught us many things about Singapore in the 1800’s, and two worldly lessons in particular.

1) That although wars are created by a great many factors; feuding over shipping lanes, egos, empires, megalomaniacs and so on. The founding of Singapore, hinges mainly on the British & our obsession with tea! Apparently, panicked by our dwindling supplies of tea & other spices at the turn of the century, Britain sent adventurers to China (& therefore Singapore as a stepping stone) to steal their plant samples and export them to the British colony of India. Naughty but true.

Number 2) is that if ever, like Sir Thomas Raffles, you want a shortcut to posthumous fame, don’t waste your time founding a Nation. The legacy is apparently all in the act of writing, and the secret…. is to publish a good book. There’s hope for all us bloggers yet!

When: Raffles’ Letters runs until 28th February 2013, entry is free
Where:  National Library Gallery, North Bridge Road, between Middle Rd & Bras Basah.

Singapore Writers Festival

So I google TimeOutSingapore Thursday evening.

This pops up: Singapore Writers Festival 

I love living in a city where this is how you can spend your weekend at a moments notice.

Organised by the National Arts Council, the festival features panel discussions, writers workshops & book signings.  All for $15 for a week-long pass.  Three of my highlights included:

“Pillow Fight: Do Women Write Better Sex Than Men?”
This was part of their ‘Erotic Fiction’ strand. Always a crowd pleaser. Hearing this city discuss the artistic merit of XXX porn is actually quite a bold move for shy little Singapore. Refreshing to see a little risqué festival programming.

You Can Write Too!
Was a nice pep talk panel discussion from writers old, young & new. It’s inspiring to be reminded that the first step to becoming a writer is to call yourself a writer. Other great tit-bits included: “Write for you” & “Don’t write in secret!” Wise words.

Getting Lost; Getting Inspired
Wanderlust, exotica, travel writing. All of my favorite things.

The quote of the weekend has to be:

“I write to taste life twice. Once in the moment, and once in retrospect”  Anais Nin.

Bookworm Sundays; 3 Singapore Reading Rooms

So this one’s a bit niche, but my new favorite Sunday activity in the city is to embrace my inner bookworm & all things paper & crafty. As in arts and crafts, not scheming.

Whether it’s brunch over the Sunday papers on Club street, or finding the perfect bench to read 5o Shades of Grey on Bayfront Avenue, here are three of Singapore’s  literary hotspots.

National Geographic Shop, Vivo City, HarbourFront MRT.

It’s how I’d like my dream living room to be. ‘100 places to see before you die’ books, &  S.T.U.N.N.I.N.G framed prints of  their more iconic travel photography.  I could marvel there for hours. Well, maybe one. The moody lighting and ‘DO NOT touch vibe’ make you feel a bit of a grown up, but that’s anywhere that sells coffee table books isn’t it. The staff know most people aren’t there to purchase, and come just come to get inspired. A genius extension of their brand if you ask me.

Evernnew Second Hand Bookstore, Bras Basah

Just across from Raffles and (appropriately) next door to the National Library. It’s  in a slightly run down shopping arcade, but their outside bargain bin is always a winner for a little book-swap roulette. They don’t strictly offer book exchange, but when I offered them my old copies anyway they knocked $.40 off. Thanks then.  Novels are 2 for $5 in the section outside. The stacks of paperbacks inside are in no logical order, and are individually priced.


Paperchase, NBC, City Luxe. Fair enough, stationery stores are ten a penny. Except this one gets its spot on, with it’s lovely staff who hand you origami puzzles to solve as you’re browsing, and enough paraphernalia to warrant a masters degree in scrapbooking. Singaporeans, like Japan and lots of Asia, take their paper stores seriously. Papermarket is like a boutique version of Hobbiecraft, and much less industrial. The pis de resistance is their special craft room. Very Emma Pillsbury from Glee. They offer a schedule of arts & crafts classes.  Too cute.

Hangzhou to Chengdu – aka the 37h train.

Yes you read right 37 hours. 37. Think of what you could do with that. I’ll tell you.

36 hours of death by passive smoking/bellowing Chinese synth music.

To be fair, there was moment when it got much much worse. The hour when the train screeched to a halt, the smell of the squat toilets took over, and a single Avril Lavine song played through the speakers.

Although on the plus side I did polish off my second Danielle Steel novel in a fortnight. Anymore and it’s not going to look like a book exchange accident anymore.

To quote Andi (who point blank refused to join me and opted to stay in Shanghai) “All this to see some Pandas?”

Somewhere in the South China Sea, Osaka to Shanghai, Japan & China

A 44 hour voyage on board the Su Zhoue Hao ferry. My bed for two nights; a wicker mat (and blanket/pillow) in a four bed ‘dorm.’ Q) And the price for this? A)22,000 yen too (£188)! The question on everyone’s lips: So why didn’t I just fly?! What can I say; I like to mix it up. Don’t say I’m not keeping it real.

Ironically they had loads of the fancy cabins empty too, as in low season the ship was at sailing at a fraction of its capacity. It’s hard to figure how they make a profit, unless there was priceless (or dodgy) cargo we didn’t know about. It was lovely for the novelty factor but a little like visiting a sad, out of season theme park. Atmosphere wise, it was a little like the Hull to Rotterdam P & O Ferry. Except instead of raucous stag do’s and slapper hens drinking WKD singing karaoke,  it was me an only half a dozen Japanese pensioners/under 5 year olds. Still with the karaoke (theirs not mine.) It had all the makings of an Agatha Christie, set on the orient, minus the murder. We had ‘Ms Knits a lot’ (in the space of two days I witnessed her whip up a fur-lined cardie from scratch.) We had ‘origami man’ (who entertained some stray kids by making paper cranes.) We had ‘Binoculars’ (a cute father-son duo constantly surveying the landscape). Yes I spent my time nicknaming everyone as this is obviously what people did before the internet/chargers for their laptops. I polished off the Danielle Steel novel that I mocked in 8 hours straight, basking in the sun top deck on day one. It was a long 24h after that, sailing right into the heart of The Bund – Shanghai’s centre. All in all it was more memorable than yet another runway, so it was worth it. Kind of.

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

Blasts From The Past…

April 2020

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