Literary City Guide | sINGAPORE


Once
There was a quiet island,
With a name.
You must believe me
When I say that sunlight,
Impure but beautiful,
Broke upon the bay, silvered
The unrepentant, burning moon.
— Edwin Thumboo, The Best of Edwin Thumboo

Tour Guide: POOJA MAKHIJANI

Pooja Makhijani writes children's books, essays, and articles, and also develops educational media and curricula. She blogs about arts and culture in Singapore at notabilia.wordpress.com and can be found online on Twitter and Instagram

Q&A

 

Relationship to Singapore: My partner and I left our beloved New York City in 2010 to find adventure in Singapore.

Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Jane Austen

Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Suvir Saran

Writing soundtrack: Bridges: The Best Of Ravi Shankar, a beautiful compilation album that has tracks from his 1988 concert at the Kremlin in Moscow, as well as his collaborations with George Harrison and Philip Glass.

Pen or Pencil? Pencil, no question!

Coffee or Tea? Tea, preferably a malty Assam.

Paperback or Hardback? Paperback, so I can stuff several in my bag. 


Good Reads


BOOKSTORES

Basheer Graphic Books. Basheer Graphic Books carries a range of art and design titles, from fashion photography monographs to furniture design tomes, from cinematography manuals to ceramics encyclopedias.

Wardah Books. Wardah Books stocks an astounding collection of English-language books on Islamic philosophy and Sufism. I love the cheeky section titles in Wardah Books, such as “Reign of Quantity” (books critical of modern capitalism) and “Matters Still Unfolding” (books on politics and Islam).

Woods in the Books. This picture book shop houses picture books, graphic novels, and comic books for children and adults.

LIBRARIES

The National Library. Housed in a gorgeous, modern, sixteen-story building, at the National Library one can browse books about Singapore—from architecture to photography to orchids to dance—for hours. 

READINGS & CONFERENCES

Books Actually. BooksActually carries quirky, funky tomes (many by local writers) and vintage toys and tchotchkes, and also hosts local and international writers and thinkers.

Story Slam Singapore. Here you'll find the city’s only regular storytelling show. “It is dedicated to perpetuating the oral tradition and art of story telling by recognizing differences and celebrating our shared experiences as a human race.”

OTHER FINDS

Bynd Artisan. This retail shop and atelier carries an exquisite ready-to-write collection that includes leather-bound journals and leather-crafted office and desk accessories (binders, tablet cases, luggage tags, business card sleeves, etc.).

Small and Able. Small and Able sells HEY KUMO products and a range of stationery and lifestyle wares. They have such a keen eye for attractive, well-designed trinkets. Their very inviting reading corner houses an incredible collection of magazines.

Good Eats


COFFEE SHOPS

La Ristrettos. La Ristrettos is hidden in Novena Medical Center; grab a seat on the terrace for a quiet meal.

The Plain. The Plain serves comfort food (including all-day breakfast and delicious open-faced sandwiches) and great coffee. 

Loysel's Toy Cafe. Best known for its premium gourmet coffee concoctions tucked away on the banks of the Kallang River.

A PROPER MEAL

Kailash Parbat. The only restaurant to serve authentic Sindhi delicacies. I trace my ancestry to Sindh, in present-day Pakistan, and grew up eating Sindhi curry (a gram flour-based vegetable curry), sai bhaji (yellow split peas, split green gram, and a combination of green vegetables), and loli/koki (a thick flatbread made with ghee).

Sin Ming Roti Prata. Try Sin Ming Roti Prata for roti prata, a flakey flatbread. Roti means “bread” in Hindi, Urdu, many other North Indian languages, and Malay. Prata means “flat” in Malay. Roti prata is traditionally served with a mutton- or fish-based curry, but it’s common to find outlets serving roti prata with egg, banana, chocolate, durian, and cheese.

Blu Kouzina. Blu Kouzina serves traditional and modern Greek recipes with the freshest of ingredients, some especially flown from Greece. 

TREATS

ET Artisan Sweets. ET Artisan Sweets is a bakery with macarons in unique flavors such as peanut butter and jelly.

Island Creamery. This ice cream shop boasts beloved local flavors like Tiger Beer Sorbet or Pulot Hitam.

Flor Parisserie.Japanese-styled patisserie serving authentic Japanese-inspired French pastry.


POOJA's 5 Favorites


1. Favorite view: From Changi Creek, on the southern bank of Sungei Changi, one can see bumboats ferrying visitors to and from Singapore’s offshore islands. The walk offers breathtaking views of Pulau Ubin. Every few  stop to inhale the aromas of the salty sea and jasmine flowers that lined several stretches of the boardwalk or listen to the calls of black-naped terns that flew overhead.

2. Favorite place to write: In my home office.

3. Favorite museum: The Asian Civilizations Museum, home to a very impressive collection of Asian artifacts, and the Peranakan Museum, a museum about the Singapore’s unique Malay-Chinese culture, are two of the city’s best museums.

4. Favorite coffee shop: Loysel’s Toy Café (see above)

5. Favorite thing about Singapore: It is perpetual summer! Every day is perfect for a swim or a barbecue or a picnic.