My favourite pieces of Singapore

Admittedly, my experience of Singapore has not been normal. I’m in a bubble- surrounded by intelligent, fun, dynamic people, the company of whom I’d enjoy even if we were stranded in Bloemfontein (for non South Africans, this is the equivalent of a really small town in Malaysia, for e.g.)

We move around in this bubble- whether it’s to eat, go clubbing or simply have a BBQ (I know, I’ve already transitioned from saying “braai”.) Combine that with living in a city as cool as Singapore and it’s pretty much a guarantee that I’d have the time of my life. I know that if I had to come here by myself or with just Rishav, my experience of the city would be different. Like most fast paced cities, I think Singapore can be a lonely place when you don’t have as much going on as everyone else does.

Being at INSEAD has forced me to seriously consider where I want to spend the rest of my life. We’ve ruled SA out, partly because we’ve spent our whole lives there, and also because I don’t want to deal with the crime, load  shedding, corruption and everything else. Those are the facts. I love SA and will always defend it and promote tourism there, but for me, it’s time to try something new. Of course, there are positives, like a great lifestyle, amazing weather and of course, the FOOD, but I’m hoping I can trade all of the negatives for some of the positives by living elsewhere.

The fantastic thing about doing an MBA is that you literally have the whole world open to you after. There are so many jobs open to us, and some of the best companies in the world come onto campus to recruit us. It took me a while to get around the fact that these people come to us because they want us. Apple, Google, Amazon, every consulting firm under the sun (McKinsey, Bain, BCG), all the investment banks… the world is pretty much ours. This would be great, if I wanted to work at any of those places. I’m making life difficult for myself and looking for a role in hospitality, but these are few and far between so let’s see how it goes.

During the week, I’m usually on campus most of the day, with evenings spent hanging out with classmates at restaurants/ bars/ their houses. We sometimes do fun stuff like go salsa dancing or clubbing, but I find myself getting very tired during the week so I prefer to get to bed by about midnight. As you’ll know from my Instagram feed, I spend almost every weekend travelling, because it’s cheap, everyone does it, and I don’t have much time in Asia left. I sometimes have moments where I look back at my old life- feeling stifled and bored in JHB (having eaten at EVERY single restaurant in the entire city and done EVERYTHING there is to do, multiple times), and I feel overwhelmingly happy that I created this life for myself. I get frustrated when people are unhappy where they are and don’t do anything about it. I scrambled to get the money I needed for this but I did it, and while making a change may not be as drastic as this, I do believe that if you don’t like where you are, staying there is the biggest injustice you can do to yourself. Yes, I’m spending money like water but if I ever imagined a dream life- this would be it.

So, for those of us in Singapore, we keep asking ourselves, do we want to work here? To be honest, I’m not sure I do. Singapore has a reputation for being very stark, manmade and rigid. It is all of those things- everything just works. Automated passport control at the airport, automated cash registries at the grocery store, queues at each entrance of the train at the subway (no pushing), very clearly defined pedestrian crossings, and then of course lots of skyscrapers and lots of malls. I like being outdoors and my favourite place to be is on a quirky street with restaurants, shops and bakeries.

The point of this post was to tell you about two of my favourite pieces of Singapore that fall outside of the norms. When I have time, I try to venture out by myself and explore as much as possible. I usually end up walking along a street, sweating to death, and then finding salvation in a coffee shop, where I work on my writing deadlines for a few hours. I love it.

So far, I’ve come across two areas that I find myself returning to over and over- so if you ever find yourself here, check out these spots.

Arab Street

Shisha, belly dancing and middle eastern food can all be found here. Textiles fill up the sidewalk during the day, while at night it is a popular hangout. Make sure to go to Haji Lane, which is the best for boutique shopping and coffee shops. If you stroll around outside of the main streets, you’ll come across stores that sell fantastic biryani and sweetmeats. Little India is also good for this- but I find it a bit too crowded for my liking.

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Next up, another very pretty area: Duxton Hill 

This area has been protected by the Urban Regeneration society, so it is one of the few historic areas in the city that hasn’t been torn down and replaced with high rises. I love it. The best restaurants in the city are situated here, and it’s a lovely area to explore and walk from place to place.

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So that’s it from me for today.. I’m in Singapore this weekend while most people I know are travelling- so I will try and be productive and get some of my writing done!

Have a happy Sunday

xxx H