This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Singapore: mulling it over in Haji Lane

hajilane-2Deep in what was once called “Little Arabia” and now renamed “Kampong Glam”, sits a lane that once was poor, then totally dead, and now a hipster mecca with artsy boutiques and little independent cafés and bars. The two-storey, colonial style buildings are decorated with street art and at night, music is booming. Here you can grab a cocktail, while a street down into the heart of “Little Arabia” you cannot find any alcohol (or non-halal food) at all.

This is Singapore: layers upon layers of culture, morphing into something new by quick swings of time. What once was dead is now the heart of cool. And in the midst of it all stand old buildings that have seen so many trends pass by. Not sure what they think of their current coat of paint. hajilane-3Singapore is ever-evolving, but it is also very orderly and safe. What else could it be if one is fined 300 SGD (170€) for eating a durian fruit at the hotel, 500 SGD (300€) for eating or drinking on the subway, and 2,000 SGD (1,200€) for smoking in the wrong place? Perhaps this is not the most constructive way to encourage good behavior, and it certainly is not the way to function in a positive space, but it works. This, combined with a pleasant and polite demeanor makes the busy society work at least in the superficial view of the visitor.

One cannot help but wonder if such is the only way? If threatening by proper punishment is the only way to “encourage” large masses to adhere to rules that make living pleasant for all? While waiting for a train at the MRT station I watched a video reminding me that molestation is a serious offence. Victims were encouraged to shout out for help, indicating they had been touched and by whom, and passers-by were encouraged to interfere. Molestation in Singapore is an Outrage of Modesty, punishable by prison AND caning. Yes, caning. In the 21st century. hajilane-1But as long as I do not eat durian or smoke, and nobody accuses me of molestation, I should be just fine with a glass of wine here on Haji Lane. And perhaps some Middle Eastern cuisine for dinner, while darkness descends on the golden domes of the Masjid Sultan mosque.kampongglam-1(Singapore; July 2018)

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Cubic sleeping

podHello Singapore! Finally not only a quick greeting after I breeze through Changi airport, but a proper 3-night stay. And where am I staying? Apparently, it’s all about “pods” these days. To the extent that some hostels sell beds covered with a curtain and call it a “pod”. But as I stay in a sleek, large business hotel nearly every week, an actual tiny-living pod seemed like a refreshing experience.

And so, jet-lagged and sweaty from carrying my gear through the hot Singapore night I arrived in a quirky, new pod hotel in quirky Kampong Glam. I had upgraded the “pod” experience to a “capsule” experience and found a little cube just for me, in light, wooden, Japanese minimalist style, with sound-proof walls and slat pull-down blinds for privacy. Inside is a decently sized bed, power outlets, USB outlets, a light with a dimmer, a safe, a fold-down table, space for a big backpack, and hooks and racks for hanging clothes. The capsule is not much more than a meter tall thus it was sitting and crouching only.

The hotel is new and stylish, with a number of sections including wards for capsules and shared, spacious, modern showers and toilets, one set per section. The breakfast room and all of the hotel has fast wifi, and the breakfast is basic but fresh. 30€ per night of this feels infinitely better than 100€ per night in a  dingy old hotel on Bencoolen street.

After a shower I crept into my capsule for the night. Jet-lagged, and still a little dazed and amazed that I will not be returning to my apartment in Finland when I come back. Perhaps I will stay there for a few nights while I get my affairs in order and everything packed and carted off to long-term storage, but most likely that will be it. When I return I am going to take a leap into a slightly frightening unknown, once again.

But first there is Singapore. Which to me equals noodle soup.

(Singapore; July 2018)


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Mr Stork

mrstork-1The views, the seating, the food, the cocktails (!), the service… I am not even sure what should be mentioned and what not. I seldom advertise for places, but Mr Stork has become a favorite in Singapore. As it is on the roof of a skyscraper you need to know where to look. mrstork-2And even if you do know where to look, finding your way up is not exactly easy. But if you manage, you may be rewarded with a drink out of an elephant cup (double yay for a paper straw!).mrstork-3(Singapore; July 2018)


Bird’s eye view

cloudsLovely ones, apologies for the radio silence. Wow, nearly three months have gone by: an entire summer. And what a summer. One where it has been an everyday challenge to climb high enough to see the bird’s eye view. Instead I have spent most of the time either buried in the trenches or with my head spinning. It is an act of mindfulness to gently pull on that string that we all have attached on top of our heads. You know the one that, if we just keep pulling, lifts us up higher and higher, so that when we are alongside the clouds we actually see the big picture of our lives.

I am writing this from Singapore, where I arrived just a few hours ago. It is late and I have slept about 9 hours in total during the past two nights. The apartment in Helsinki is now emptied, boxed up, and wrapped in plastic. Tomorrow hell breaks loose and the replumbing team begins to tear up the bathroom and the pipes in the entire building. And I grabbed my backpack and shut the door behind me. For a long while. Quite probably for good.

There are so many cliché ways one could describe starting a new chapter. I will not attempt any of them. Instead I will focus on sleep – and starting tomorrow, on noodle soup. I am hoping that this combination will slowly pull me up so I can see the big picture again.

(Singapore; July 2018)

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Interlude: above Russia

businessclassLovely ones, please rewind to mid-August with me. We are about 11 kilometers up in the air, flying over Nizhny Novgorod, skirting past thunder clouds scattered on both sides. Thunderbolts light up the dark above Russia. The time is 1.30 am. I am sipping a glass of ice wine and thinking about my flight out to Bali one year ago. I was in a low mood, pondering about pain and loss and the hardships of staying alive.

This year I indulged by upgrading to business class and stepping out in Singapore for a night. I am probably not going to need to mix melatonin with a martini like I did last year. And at least today I will not write about pain and losses and the hardships of living. Because life is so hard, I have become selfish. Because we all must put our own health and wellbeing first, we must also consider our own happiness first. There are few people in this world who put our own happiness first, so better not take the chance they are going to do it forever. longbarSo I do as I choose. I do as I please. I have been forced to trade off a huge chunk of my life, which definitely justifies some indulgence. And so I allow myself, without shame, to fly business to Bali to practise yoga, eat delicious raw food, spend time with myself and friends, and to be pampered by a luxurious spa in the jungle. And I will begin with having a Singapore Sling in the Raffles Long Bar with a couple of long-lost friends.

You should try it some time, too. longbar-2
(Above Russia and in Singapore; August 2016)