The Real Singapore

When I browse the Travel Section at the bookstore, sometimes out of sheer curiosity, I flip through a guidebook on Singapore. Somehow, they always seem a bit odd to me.  Strange in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.   If I were to attempt to explain the strangeness, I would say they don’t reveal what Singapore is really like.  Perhaps they flatter us too much, but I have to remember that travel guides are written to entice visitors. Usually the griminess is left out for you to discover. A traveller would probably only spend a few days here anyway. 

Perhaps only a local who has grown up here and heard stories from their parents about the old Singapore, can attempt to reveal the secrets of a city. It’s the same way a New Yorker has an intimate knowledge of his city, beyond the Sex and the City glitz and what we see in the media. Local knowledge goes beyond the ‘off the beaten track’ section in a travel guide.

As a third generation Singaporean (my grandparents migrated here in the 1920’s from Ceylon), I feel excited to share my thoughts on what Singapore is actually like. I hope to also reveal what it was like growing up and working in Singapore. Most of all, what I can’t capture in words, I hope my photos will reveal.

Singapore Actually was an appropriate blog name, because if you’ve been here long enough you’ll notice that the word ‘actually’ peppers our speech. Lazily drawled by teenagers, it sounds like ‘ek-cher-ly’. Someone not familiar with Singlish might find the word closer to jibberish. So Singlish is not all about ‘lah’ which I think we using less and less these days. The pun on ‘Love Actually’, a movie I adore, was icing on the cake. And that was just my little introduction of how this blog was born.

I included the photo my partner took of the beautiful cat sitting in a stack of plastic basins in Chinatown, because it’s so Singapore. Older folk in Singapore, still use these when they wash dishes. The buckets are used for the old fashioned way of bathing, where water is collected in a bucket and a small vessel with a handle is used to scoop out the water to pour over the head. Buckets were also used to collect water when it rains. It’s all very environmentally friendly if you think about it. Although grandma and grandpa are doing it to save money and not the environment.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore helps me survive the mid-life crisis
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16 Responses to The Real Singapore

  1. Maria says:

    I’m already loving it! This is why I read you on Tiny Island: to get the inside scoop on what makes Singapore tick. You deliver the goods like no-one else. Congratulations on the new blog — long may it reign!

    • admin says:

      Maria, you’re my very first visitor on my very first .com blog. You inspired me to provide the inside scoop and I’ll do my very best to deliver 🙂

  2. 365days2play says:

    Congratulations! I love the name Singapore Actually!! Hoping to learn more about Singapore through your new blog! Best of Luck and may your hits go up up UP!!!

  3. kirsten says:

    I never really realised this until I started playing tour guide and showing friends from overseas around Singapore – many of the things we take for granted and think of as “ordinary” and even “boring”, like the karang guni man (even though there are less and less of them these days) and the roadside ice cream sandwich vendors are actually things that fascinate and interest visitors. And they barely get a mention in the travel guides!

    It’s great that you’re trying to capture the Singapore atmosphere and spirit instead of just the glossy tourist spots!

    • admin says:

      I’m so happy to see you here Kirsten. I hope I can a true local picture of our country that the guidebooks gloss over. In a way I am glad I experienced life in the 70’s when the karang guni man was a daily visitor who came to collect our old newspapers and other stuff we didn’t want.

      • kirsten says:

        Yes definitely! And I think in a way many Singaporean bloggers are all trying to do this – to show a side of Singapore that foreigners will not be aware of. Certainly that is also what I’m trying to do. Good luck and I’m sure this blog will be AWESOME!

        • bookjunkie says:

          I think you are definitely doing a brilliant job of throwing off the covers on social aspects of SIngapore that you don’t see in the mainstream media. My take is a little more frivolous and will dwell more on the history, culture and little trivia that I have picked up over the years and didn’t give much thought to till now.

          Thanks so much for the vote of confidence Kirsten 🙂

  4. Crystal says:

    Congrats on the new blog! Love it already.

    Love, Actually is one of my all time favorite movies. My husband rolls his eyes because when Hugh Grant starts dancing to “Jump! (for my love)” I giggle and bounce like a teenager again.

    I was fascinated to hear about using the buckets for bathing. I have a hard enough time trying to get my shower done in the time before my hot water heater runs out, and I bitch constantly about the lack of water pressure…I’d cry my eyes out if I had to use a bucket like that!

    • kirsten says:

      Hugh Grant’s dance made it worth the ticket price when I saw Love, Actually the first time. And the second. And when I bought the DVD… *you get the picture*

    • bookjunkie says:

      I am so happy you like it Crystal. I totally adored Hugh Grant in that scene….swoon! Everything in that movie was sweet and wonderful.

      I don’t think I could go back to that, but I recall baths like that when I was younger and when we had our water shut off due to governmental plumbing projects. I don’t think I could go back either and prefer my quick not so messy showers. For me as well, water pressure is critical. Whenever I am on holiday and face a shower that trickles I mentally whine non-stop as I’m showering. I just don’t feel that I can get clean enough.

      In a strange way, water pressure is not a problem when you have a bucket system. It’s quite a nice sensation to have that much water over you. But at the same time I don’t like the whole messy aspect of it. And there’s also the filling the bucket bit. It’s quite a lot of work, including boiling kettles of water so that the water is not too cold. I recall my mum doing that.

  5. ThinkPinkToo says:

    Yay!!!! Love it already 🙂

    • bookjunkie says:

      The whole WordPress server keeps hanging and I’m wondering if it’s the domain or the WordPress Server. I hope it’s better tomorrow. I am so happy to see you here J.

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