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.

PaperMarket

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.

Reunification Palace & War Remnants Museum, HCMC, Vietnam

I always wanted to come to HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City) after skipping it last time. Now I’m here, I have to say; I prefer Hanoi! It’s ok here, but Hanoi has the lake. You can’t beat a city built around a nice lake. And the water park, you definitely can’t beat a water park.

So, I know I have been a total War junkie this month, but today I visited one of the most interesting sights ever. The Reunification Palace stands between Pham Ngu Lao & Dong Khoi in the centre of the city. It is famous for the iconic moment when Communist North Vietnam tanks smashed through the iron gates in 1975, ending the war. The place is frozen in time to that very day, with everything inside remaining untouched. How fascinating is that! I mean obviously they have pimped it for the tourists, but the decor is pure 70’s, and the whole place is like a huge, creepy, Bond villain’s layer. You are free to wander the four floors of preserved books, huge boardroom tables where world leaders once met. They had huge desks with military plans and old-fashioned telephones (black ones and special green ones that intrigue me.) Best of all a was a control panel with a huge RED button that was just aching to be pushed (and possibly a  WMD imminently launched.) There was a helipad on the roof and secret underground tunnels, the lot. I could have spent all day here.

(I took some nice black and white photos as the light was really cool, which are a good effort, even if I do say so myself. And since this blog has been starved of pics for so long, i’ve gona a bit David Bailey.)

Then we have the War Remnants Museum.  Everyone says it’s the better of the two so I saved it for last. And predictably it was terrible. Hundreds of tourists gauping at pics of Agent Orange victims, I don’t know, it just felt wrong. Hiroshima was similar in tone/context but because it was peaceful and quiet it somehow didn’t feel so voyeuristic? The only good bit was a stunning photography exhibition on the top floor; Requiem, showcasing the work and stories of famous war photojournalists.

Bogota, Colombia

Technically this is Bogotá; revisited, as I was first here for a night after flying from Leticia 2 weeks ago. It’s people are stylish, urban, quirky. There’s graffiti everywhere. It’s streets are arty and edgy, yet at the same time there are immaculate galleries like the Museo Botero. Now I don’t really get art, but this place is fun. The walls are lined with things like this Fat Monalisa by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Made me laugh. There is also a Salvador Dali, which is always worth a ponder for its pure bonkers value.

I then (accidentally) wandered into the Museo Historico Polica. No I haven’t been blog hacked by someone cultured. They were giving out sweets. Before you know it you are ushered on a private tour by one of Bogotá’s finest. Crime must be slow today. It’s disturbing, interesting and dull all in equal measure, but I was too polite to leave. From what I can gather the gist is an exercise in PR for The National Police force. They proudly tell you how many bad guys they’ve shot this year. Which I think is meant to make me feel safe as a tourist here but you can’t help thinking; Inaprops much? They do however have an interesting bit on Pablo Escobar – Colombian drug lord supremo. They have his Harley motorcycle and the bloodstained jacket he was shot in. Again, slight bad taste maybe? It is however a perfect excuse to watch Johnny Depp in Blow, the 2001 film about the Medellin cartel.

Later a group of us headed to the Zona Rosa, the posh area of bars/restaurants just North of centro, and home of the Bogota Beer Company. The specially brewed ales tasted drinking a pint of fabreeze to me, but boys get excited about draft beers, bless them.

Nothing however could overshadow Bogota’s best culinary invention; Chocolate Santafereno. Yes that’s right, hot chocolate with a slice of cheese to drip in. La Puerta Falsa, is a cute ye old bakery in Le Candelaria, has been serving it for over 100 years old. Genius.

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…

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