Happy 50th Birthday, Singapore!

Monday, August 10, 2015

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I don't admit it often enough, but I am a pretty patriotic Singaporean. 

Unlike many of my peers, I have no intentions of leaving this country for extended periods of time, and it is always brings me comfort and a sense of peace arriving safely in the most beautiful airport in the world after spending time overseas. 

I actually do love most of the people in white, and I have no qualms about the public transport. Despite having to squeeze or miss a couple of trains sometimes, I think that it's already pretty reliable and that mistakes are inevitable. For me, it's on public transport that I truly witness the best and kindest sides of Singaporeans. 

The education system is probably the only thing I've been caught complaining about but beneath that, I know that I am secretly a fan of it and have full faith that I am benefiting from it. I remember a couple years back, chatting on Omegle (yes - what was I doing with my life?) where the American (or so he claimed) I was speaking to was impressed by my standard of English considering I was an Asian from Asia. While I was slightly offended by his remark, it made me pretty darn proud too. 

Truly, there aren't many faults I can find about life in Singapore and perhaps you can owe it to my lack of exposure to the world but for now, let's just bask in this ignorant bliss shall we :-) Here are twenty things that make me even happier living in this little red dot: 

Hawker food! My one true love, really - and eating at the hawker centre itself just adds on to the experience :-) 

Greenery everywhere! I love how rows of trees are always planted along our streets, it's a pretty small thing to notice but I think it's a lovely touch :-) 

The accessibility of ice cream! There's someone selling ice cream with every turn you make - be it artisan ice cream with waffles, McDonald's, or that uncle with his $1 ice cream motorcycle - which is always great to beat the sun in this sweltering heat

Our history! Sometimes our narrative is emphasized too much and too dramatically, but the knowledge that we did indeed transform and progress rather rapidly is always nice to know and good to revisit occasionally, just to make us appreciate things a bit more. 

Did I already mention hawker food? Perhaps but this deserves it's own point - lor mee! Although I am allergic to something in it and it causes me to get an asthma attack, this one at Albert Food Centre (near Bugis) is so worth it :-) 

 The prettiness of our country! I love how we have so many iconic structures - such as these supertrees, Marina Bay Sands, Esplanade, Singapore Flyer - everything comes together painting such a beautiful skyline and it takes my breath away everytime I see it in person :-)

I think café food deserves a little mention as well, considering its place in our F&B industry and I do also enjoy visiting cafés :-) One thing about me is that I always make it a point to order the fried chicken at every eatery I visit rather than their specialties - it's just something I like to do - and these ones from Strictly Pancakes are one of the best :-) 

Art festivals and fairs! (That coincidentally serve artisan looking food too) Love the growing art scene in Singapore and while I am not talented enough to be a creator/ contributor to it, I will always be willing to be support local artistes and businesses :-) 

Changi airport!!! Nuff' said :-) 

And more food... and ice cream... #noshame :-)

Heritage! So much of it is dying/ fizzing out such as trishaws that are now only common as a tourist attraction, and I don't think anyone has the capability to stop the country from these tangible symbols of heritage as we progress, and I'm not expecting all these things to be preserved either - all I can hope for is that I won't forget that things did ever exist. 

HDB void decks! Increasingly, void decks don't look like this anymore, and this was actually taken in National Museum, but much of my childhood was spent playing hopscotch with friends at a void deck, and I have extremely fond memories cycling around these multi-purpose sheltered areas as well :-) 

Museums! Free admission for Singaporeans/ PRs all the time - I don't understand why some people rushed to queue up during the Golden Jubilee weekend (apart from the ArtScience Museum) but these places are very lovely and there's always something to learn from every visit :-) 

Don't think I mentioned food yet... right? 

Our diversity! It disturbs me that this is represented by yet another food photograph... but well this was when I visited the Geylang Serai Bazaar where I got to witness the Muslims break fast and enjoy Singapore standard "street food". Truth be told, Singapore isn't even that racially diverse compared to some other countries and it's funny how we like to brand ourselves as that, but I love how we have Little India, Chinatown, Kampung Glam etc and that everyone for the most part is able to live peacefully with one another and I have super lovely friends from different races :-) 

Pasar Malams! Recently visited one near my old neighbourhood and I was super surprised to see Western-influenced carnival food such as fried oreos and churros alongside the usual muah chee, tutu kueh, "sharks' fin" soup etc. And it heartened me to see that there were many youngsters manning several of these stalls - I do hope this is something that would continue for a long time to come. 

I think it's funny when people say that it's not exactly unique to our country since there's so many night markets elsewhere, most of them so much more famous and are proper tourist attractions. But there's something really special about Pasar Malams and it's really the fact that they are temporary and can spring up anywhere and anytime in your estate - it's like a surprise and as a kid, I would get incredibly excited whenever I saw them setting up the makeshift tarp tents and visits to these pasar malams were always a treat :-) 

Come on - which place gives high quality, limited edition Lego sets to every single kid in the entire nation? :-)

Food fads! Where we bond over queues, taking photos and posting them on Instagram - until we finally get to eating it and end up laughing about how it was totally not worth it :-)

And of course, it's where family is :-) 

Oops, that wasn't twenty - here's the twentieth! Start the list with food and end it with food too right? Love how churros are popping up everywhere nowadays heh heh Spanish origins but so many flavours influenced by Singapore such as pandan and gula melaka :-)

So how did I spend my National Day? 

Initial plans to picnic with the family at Botanics/ Marina Barrage was cancelled due to our laziness so we ended up buying pizza and fried chicken and had a cozy bonding session in front of our telly watching the live telecast of the parade (which we failed to get tickets for... yet again) 

I did make use of the free public transport though, in the morning where I had a very lovely birthday lunch celebrating Ragini's birthday at Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre - thank you for inviting me! We had an Indian buffet, which was a first for me but everything was so flavourful and waow the types of curries they have are endless - tried things out of my comfort zone but there's no looking back ;-) Another perk of living in Singapore - you get easy access to food of different cultures! 

On a more sombre note, while I didn't exactly think that this year's parade was a lot grander than usual - I honestly can't tell the difference because there's always the same few components - it was definitely more sentimental. I'm not sure if it's appropriate to say this but I strongly believe that ex-PM Lee Kuan Yew's passing could not have been better timed. I don't mean it offensively, and as his daughter Lee Wei Ling puts it - he was suffering and in great pain following his wife's death a couple years back. SG50 is an important year, and while many had hoped that he would be there to witness us going one full circle of progress and development from the Padang and back to the Padang again, this year's parade definitely required a sentimental portion for Singaporeans to reflect and look back at how far we've come and I don't think it would have achieved the same emotional, strong impact if not for Mr Lee's passing. If he was still with us, emphasis might have been placed more on celebrating our achievements rather than a meaningful look-back and perhaps the Proclamation of Singapore might not even have been telecast or achieved the same effect as it did yesterday. I don't know, but I happen to think that his passing in March also allowed for ample time given for us to mourn before resuming our SG50 festivities. Truly, even in death Mr Lee has our best interests at heart and I do hope that we'll continue to do him proud for the next 50 years and beyond. 

With that, Happy 50th Birthday, Singapore! I am excited yet apprehensive for what's to come :-)

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