Friends and Family, Travel
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Szymgapore, part I: the dragons and the merlion

*It’s pronounced Shim-gapore.


The crappy thing about being a scientist, is that you tend to move around a bit. And so do the people you meet and grow to love.

The silver lining flipside of this, is that you get to meet a bunch of awesome people from different places, and sometimes, as you move, your paths cross again and again.

In 2010, I met Polish Szym in my hometown of Perth. He was doing a Phd, I was doing Honours in the lab next door.

In 2012, I moved to Germany as a Phd student, and a couple of years later, in 2015, he joined my lab as a Postdoc.

In 2018, we lived together briefly, after my ex and I broke up.

In 2020, I visited him in Warsaw with my favourites, Joram and Doro and their at-that-time-tiny-and-only child. A last minute trip at the end of Feb, before the world went to shit.

In 2021, just as the world was starting to feel normal again, he stopped by London with his BFF.

He moved to a small mushroomy town in Czech Republic, I suggested a visit. He said something like:

‘Yes well, actually, no. I might be in Singapore’.

‘Great, then see you there’.

Getting to Perth from Europe almost always involves a stop, sometimes two. This time around, I Scooted into Singapore on late Thursday evening, and headed out on barely-Sunday morning.

Szym met me at the airport, we headed home, chatted a lot, and went to sleep.

And then in the morning, we went exploring.

There was some (very quiet and polite) bus riding for a bit, and then we hopped out and walked a bit.

We walked past the Sri Mariamman Temple- first built way back in the 1820s to serve the growing Hindu population that had established as part of Singapore’s trading scene….

.. And stopped briefly in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

As the name suggest, the temple is known for holding a religious relic, supposed to be the tooth of Buddha.

I have to admit that we didn’t actually go up to the fourth floor to look at the tooth itself, but instead just had a quick look at the magnificent lower floors.

Outside there was a dragon, who seemed very happy to see me:

We walked a bit more, through the beautiful streets of Singapore, which somehow- despite the very strong lack of space- manages to keep historical buildings alongside the new builds, and always always infuses everything with more than a touch of greenery.

Here’s the point where I should mention that my photos and activities from Singapore are basically ‘us posing’, ‘food’, or ‘incredible plants and associated buildings’. If you’re not into that content, move on along.

We had a Planned Location for breakfasting, but worried that it may have too much of a queue, so decided to do a quick pre-breakfast at Birds of Paradise.

Featuring thyme-infused waffle cones, and a mix of local and classic flavours displayed on continuums from floral to fruity to herby and spicy, earth, nutty and chocolatey.

I took Pandan and Masala, because when there is Pandan, always take Pandan.

In the end, we decided that- having just icecreamed- we probably didn’t need to breakfast immediately. So instead of heading to the queue of Planned Breakfast Location, we instead walked around a little more, before settling into one of Singapore’s many many brilliant foodhalls.

These are literally everywhere in the city. Szymon explained that a lot of the ‘council housing’ (which most of Singapore’s housing is in some way- it’s all very government controlled) involves some kind of street level eatery. So you’ll never have to walk too far before you run into a foodhall with cheap and delicious eats.

I scoffed seafood laksa and soup duplings, while Szym took some Banh mi. Plus there was a chunky soursop drink, filled with fruit bits.

After a bit more strolling, we stopped again at Lau Pa Sat aka Telok Ayer Market, to get another drink (Singapore is HOTTTT), this time a sweet iced Kopi.

The market itself is very cool- built in the 1800s (first in 1824, and then rebuilt in 1838 and 1894), and representing one of the oldest Victorian buildings in the region.

And then we headed for the bay.

^Apparently there were several of these ‘modified seats’ around the area, but we only managed to find this one.

We posed chaotically in front of the famous Merlion, a creature that represents Singapore’s fishing past as well as its soft lion-y centre (Singapore actually means lion city).

Just us, the sun, the water, and about 89384308 other tourists doing the same pose.

Because it was so hottt and huuumid, we also spent a chunk of the day loitering in shopping centres. Which felt very growing-up-in-Perth Summers, but also much more modern and hip because Singapore.

To me, Singapore seems to be the place where you can get everything, more so than any other place I’ve visited.

I think part of this feeling represents the truth of the situation, but part of it also comes from my own bias, and the fact that the feeling of completeness requires that a place has things from our home and childhood. So Singapore is one of the few places that not only has the European and American brands and foods, but also has a lot of Aussie things (and of course, childhood in Perth was very south-east Asian, so after years and years in Europe, a good laska really smells like Australia to me).

We eventually made our way to CHIJMES (originally Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School, pronounced ‘chimes’), a complex that was originally constructed in the 1840s as a Catholic convent, orphanage and school for girls.

There, we stopped into Analogue (, a sustainability centred bar with a 3D printed recycled plastic bar, mycelium fungi tables and vegan food and drinks.

To drink, we took the cactus, the soursop, the wabisabi and the smokey jerky, and all of them were smooth and delicious.

We also had the famous nuggetz, the mantou (with mushroom, sweetcorn and celery), and a special kind of gnocci-esque thing with peanuts. Also all quite delicious, but the nugz were the clear standout.

Apart from a very relaxing vibe, the staff were very friendly, and happy to explain the concept of the space and the background and story of the various items we were consuming.

And then we headed home, past a 3 day fire ritual (which had some amazing throat humming happening when we passed the second day), and gorged ourselves on fruits:

The chiku (sapodilla) wasn’t ripe, so we had to abandon that one, but the mangosteen and rambutan and longons were incredible. And mangosteen is the best fruit that has every been created – literally the peak of fruit evolution, so that was pretty successful.

Also pictured here: some jackfruit, rose apple and soursop we ate on day two.

But more on that later.

Part II here:

25-27 January, 2024


  1. Pingback: Szymgapore, part II: ‘Let’s Du-rian it!’ – Fish with Whiskey

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