singapore diaries (i)

The same winter I turned twenty-five, my parents moved to Singapore. My father’s job was relocated here and they’ve been here ever since – fifteen months and counting. It is hot. It is muggy. It’s the kind of steamy you can only find in the very best saunas in England. It’s often uncomfortable. It’s like nowhere I’ve ever been, fusing the fast-paced, colourful beat of Asian megacities with the calm, orderly, clean charm enforced by Lee Kuan Yew.

I’m visiting this week and, while here, in their sixth-floor apartment that overlooks a coral-rich marina, I have been thinking about how unexpected life can be. Twenty, fifteen, ten, even two years ago I had no idea that this unique tropical oasis one degree north of the equator would become a significant part of our family’s story. None of us knew, and yet here we are – falling asleep to the staccato whirr of the air conditioner, waking to unfamiliar birdsong and the chattering of crickets. Life’s unpredictability can be scary, of course, but it can also be rather wonderful.

So far we have eaten Hong Kong’s finest dim sum in an air-conditioned mall, taken the ‘bumboat’ out to the island of Pulau Ubin, abundant in monkeys, wild boar and arachnids the size of a small child’s visage. We have fed wild cats foil sachets of Whiskas in thirty-three degree heat; we’ve swum laps of the cerulean pool in the courtyard each twilight and dodged pinhead jellyfish in the Strait of Singapore. We’ve unbuckled our sandals and covered our shoulders to watch Hindu prayer in the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple in Little India. I’ve lapped up laksa and fried carrot cake (made of turnips, not carrots) at the hawker centre and listened to Singaporean schoolchildren sing in the shadow of a converted Catholic convent. There have been sudden rainstorms of biblical magnitude, which leave the pavements, leaves and passersby glistening. We’ve balked at close encounters with apes fond of sandwiches, and admired butter-yellow butterflies dancing in the hazy equatorial sunlight. At night, sometimes, bolts of lightning illuminate spots on the horizon, like the lights of an old telephone switchboard.

We return then to my musings (ramblings?) about the unexpected. Growing up, I never imagined – of course, I didn’t – the vagaries, or indeed the specifics, that have come to pass. My parents’ move, my own profession, my thoughtful partner, my own experiences living abroad, and the chance to take advantage of my family’s location in the central hub of southeast Asia. I feel immensely grateful for it, largely because it was so unexpected. Eighteen months ago, even, I’d never travelled further east than Cyprus, never really yearned for the tropics in the way I occasionally feel homesick for the damp, fragrant air now. This blessed unexpected turn of events makes me hopeful, at heart. Hopeful that the future – in spite of the strange, distressing political situation at home (which still, all these many months later, leaves a lump in my throat) – is often better than we could ever have imagined. It’s often entirely magical.

(photos) on digital, Singapore, March 2017

  • The tropical heat often leaves a lyrical disposition in the taste of your mouth after a sweltering visit, doesn’t it? I’m from Malaysia but live away from home and every time I go back for a visit, it reminds of how two worlds are so different, but great in their own ways. Love the way you talked about Singapore (while I’m definitely not a fan of the country itself, ha) but it certainly has it’s unexpected charms…

    Cherie ✽ sinonym

    • frauleinlouise

      Hi Cherie, thanks for your comment. I love what you said about the ‘lyrical disposition’ of the Asian heat….right on. I know what you mean too – Singapore at first glance is all glitzy steel and skyscrapers, but peeling back the layers, I find it has so much charm! x

  • Accepting the unpredictability of life is so freeing! I’ve been to Singapore once for a swim meet, but I didn’t have much time to explore; I’ll have to visit it again! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    • frauleinlouise

      Aww, what a lovely reason to visit Singapore! Thanks for reading, as always x

  • What a beautifully worded piece of writing. I adore this! Sounds incredibly cliché, but I am SO GLAD I discovered your blog. Looking forward to the next of the Singapore series! x

    • frauleinlouise

      Thank you Laura – rest assured, I feel quite the same about your gorgeous musings on La Retour! Oh, I’m glad – and looking forward to penning them! x

  • Amy

    This is such a lovely insight into your life Lulu. It’s so funny how unpredictable life can be, and how you can end up in such a different place then expected! Hope you enjoy the rest of your time there 🙂 xx

    • frauleinlouise

      Thanks Amy – it’s kinda funny, right? I’m so glad we can’t predict the future… Thank you, too – 2 days left and it’s gone so fast! x

  • This is such a wonderful post Louise! It’s so joyous to increase these kinds of changes life brings and your photos and descriptions of Singapore are so zestful and bright. Singapore has been a long time dream destination for me – I’d love to explore one day. x

    • frauleinlouise

      Thank you Laila, what a lovely comment to read! It is such a colourful city; a photographer’s dream! I hope you make it there someday soon 🙂 Thank you so much for reading (love your blog!) x

  • oh my, i love your writing. LOVE IT.
    this feeling resonates with me. not particularly about singapore, but the unpredictable circumstances that life can offer you. also, i love how you describe your experience in singapore.

    • frauleinlouise

      Thank you so much – I love when writing resonates with others, that’s the true joy of it! So pleased you could relate. x

  • Your shots are always so stunning! They’re like telling us a story behind every picture.
    And also, they made me want to go to Singapore again! x

  • Feel like I was right there with you Lu, with that same sense of bewilderment and appreciation for the unexpected ways our lives unfold. Beautifully, beautifully written my friend – I’d love to hold your book in my hands one day!


  • So pleased to see that your second visit to Singapore seemingly wasn’t plagued by illness as your first one was! Reflecting on the changes that life brings is always fascinating to me, and as a longtime reader of your blog I can’t help but smile when I read of your happiness. Hope you had a wonderful time! xx