Scene-setter(s): For your highbrow-ish literary fix, Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim; for your lowbrow-ish cinematic kicks, check out They Call Her Cleopatra Wong, starring Singapore’s Pam Grier, Marrie Lee.
Pound-the-table recommendation: We were lucky enough to be hosted by
friends-of-friends, Melinda and Nisid. Had we stayed in a hotel, we probably would not have discovered their charming and delicious neighborhood, Joo Chiat—pronounced “Jew chat”—which is a world away from Singapore’s weirdly futuristic downtown core and full of dreamy shop houses like this one:
Back-pocket fact: Every visitor to Singapore has heard the warning, “Don’t chew gum/spit/traffic drugs or you’ll be publicly caned!” Actually, as our immigration forms warned us, the punishment for drug trafficking is death, but the public canings meted out for smaller offenses have less to do with pain and more to do with societal shame. And now, there’s an app for that! Or at least a website. Singapore’s heavily censored newspaper The Straits Times hosts STOMP, a site where people can upload snaps of fellow citizens behaving badly (jaywalking, eating on the subway, being brown while parenting/working/walking/living). Sadly, we failed to make it onto the site in our three days in Singapore. Next time!