Inner Circle

Home is Where the Secrets Are

Our resident columnist, Yeoh Siew Hoon may be an intrepid traveller who is always on the go, but this month, she learns how to switch off and just do nothing...

Home is Where the Secrets Are
This new Gardens has stunning views across the bay. Even though it had only been opened three days, there were already a few people who had found it and were enjoying the new discovery, knowing full well everyone else will soon discover this secret.

Sometimes when you travel so much, you often miss out on the pleasures of being at home and discovering the joys of being a tourist in your own neighbourhood.

I was reminded of that recently when I was told of a German couple who are regular returnees to Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort. When asked why they visited every year, they said, “Because there’s always something new to see every year.”

Often it takes strangers to remind you of what you have at your doorstep.

I have lived in Singapore now for more than a decade and they are right – it keeps changing and I keep discovering new secrets about it. 

One weekend, I went for my usual evening walk in my neighbourhood in Tanjong Rhu and I found they had opened the new Gardens By The Bay. It is amazing. One moment it is hoarded up – and has been for the last 18 months or so – and the next, The Reveal – a beautifully landscaped park right on the edge of the sea.

This new Gardens has stunning views across the bay. Even though it had only been opened three days, there were already a few people who had found it and were enjoying the new discovery, knowing full well everyone else will soon discover this secret.

This section of the Gardens links Kallang Basin by bridge to the Marina Barrage on the other side, which means you can now walk around and across the entire bay. Imagine the new coastal walks that will be opened up for visitors …

Old neighbourhoods are also being given a new lease of life and I always urge visitors to Singapore to venture beyond the city. For example, if you head out to the Wessex neighbourhood in Portsdown Road, you will find some wonderful restaurants where you can dine under beautiful raintrees. One of my favourite haunts is Colbar, which serves great fish and chips. 

At Kallang Riverside Park, there’s an old industrial building that’s been renovated called Ture and it houses a café that’s become almost a cult among coffee lovers called Loysel's Toy cafe by Papa Palheta. The coffee is excellent but it’s the setting that’s outstanding, you wouldn’t know you were in Singapore. Ask the taxi driver to take you to 66, Kampung Bugis.

In the building, you will find niche businesses – there’s a shop called Ukulele Movement which sells nothing but, yes, ukuleles. Who knew there were so many ukulele lovers in Singapore?

In Duxton Hill, I found an amazing bookshop that’s rekindled my love for printed books. Littered With Books is in a two-storey shophouse and it’s staffed by young people who know their books, a rarity these days in a world of Kindles and iPads.

But as much as the new entices, the old retains its charm.

I was reminded of that when I was sitting in the lobby lounge of Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, the other day, having a cup of tea. As I sank back into the cushion and simply observed, I was transported back to the very first time I stepped foot into this hotel almost more than two decades ago.

I fell in love with the gardens then, and I remain in love with them now. Some things shouldn’t change.

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