Next up in our series in which women living all over the world share what they love about the places they know is Kathryn. Kathryn graduated college with a degree in Literature and promptly moved from Chicago to Singapore, to reconnect with her heritage. She writes about the expat life in Singapore, as well as other globetrotting adventures (including drinking coffee in Tokyo and literary themed cocktails in Thailand) over at Kaya on Brioche. Here she describes how she would spend her ideal Saturday in her city.
I don’t often get Saturdays off with my work schedule here in Singapore; so when I do, I don’t waste them by sleeping in. I’d savor a slow wake up, enjoying the cool morning breeze as it drifts into the flat, a much cherished respite from the hot humid year-round Singapore weather. I live with two other girls in a high-up HDB flat (Singapore’s version of government sponsored housing; the majority of the population reside in these box-like structures).
I then make my way down to have breakfast at my favorite coffee shop in my Holland Village neighborhood, known for its profusion of eateries and expats. Yakun is not one of the many hipster-like Western cafés in the area, but a small traditional kopi and kaya shop. At Yakun, I can grab (for cheap) a hot kopi (rich dark coffee served with condensed milk) and kaya toast (thick bread spread with coconut egg jam). The steamed version is quite delectable.
As nerdy as it sounds, I would then make my way to the library. I read about a book a week on my commute on the crammed MRT (subway). My favorite branch is the one near Orchard Road, the famous shopping street of Singapore, flooded with malls housing departmental stores from Takashimaya to exclusive boutiques like Ferragamo. Inside one of the shopping malls, Orchard Gateway, you’ll pleasantly find the Library at Orchard. It is well-designed, with curved white bookcases and automated check out machines. I simply drop my book into the box and it automatically scans and updates on my mobile app. Very efficient!
After a good long time happily browsing in the library, it is time to eat again! There is a reason why Anthony Bordain raves about the hawker food in Singapore. Yes, sometimes eating at outdoor hawker stalls leaves me sweating from the heat and spice, but I’d take it any day over a Western sit down restaurant because of the often-superior taste and lower prices. The classic Singaporean dish is Hainanese Chicken Rice. Every Singaporean has an opinion on where the best stall is for Chicken Rice, and I am definitely no expert. But I prefer the one at the hawker center near Farrer Road MRT; it offers bigger portions (for my American sized stomach) and comes with a price tag of only $3 SGD (about $2.15 USD).
Next stop is Tiong Bahru. This neighborhood has one of the oldest HDBs in Singapore (old for Singapore means about 60 years old). This is a fun neighborhood to meander with friends. As I make my way to my favorite bookstore (yes, books again) from the bus stop, I walk past beautiful white apartment buildings covered with flowers, plants, and hanging laundry.
Books Actually is a small crowded bookstore showcasing many Singaporean authors and poets. This is where I get gifts for my family; unique finds I can’t locate outside of Singapore. At the back of the bookstore, hidden to the side, is a small room filled with antiques.
There are many cafés in Singapore, but one of the cutest ones is right down the street from Books Actually. Plain Vanilla is actually a cupcake shop, featuring an open-air room outside with a large communal table. Air conditioning can be fierce in Singapore but this sitting area provides just enough shade from the sun. I’m able to enjoy a cupcake, drink a second cup of coffee and pass the time with a friend at leisure as my unhurried afternoon turns into evening.
Thank you so much, Kathryn, for sharing your life in Singapore with us! I have tucked away all your little tips for where to read, relax, and dine, should I ever be lucky enough to visit! In the mean time, I look forward to continuing to read all about the international hidden gems you find, over at Kaya on Brioche!
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