Bookish Stops: Singapore (Part 1)
Hello! It feels so good to be back blogging here — life’s been overwhelming since I got back from the AFCC, and well, this year in general, but I am hoping (*fingers crossed*) I can post more regularly from hereon out.
Anyway, I have an article on the AFCC coming out this weekend, and I am writing recaps of the most inspiring sessions I attended, but in the meantime here’s Part 1 of the bookish highlights of my Singapore trip.
Subtitled: Notes from the End of the Purple Line — I swear I don’t know how my sister survives the daily commute; I lost more than five pounds on this trip!
I arrived late afternoon on Thursday, and my sister picked me up from the airport because I was staying with her for the trip. After dropping off my stuff at their flat, we went out to get some dinner and I made my first bookish stop.
#1: Sengkang Community Library (Compasspoint, Sengkang)
I love Singapore public libraries and I wish we had libraries like these here. My sister’s been making good use of the community libraries since she got to Singapore — every time I recommend a book to her, she just looks it up at the library! And she even gets to borrow e-books! The libraries are conveniently located (usually at the mall), and the selection is pretty amazing, and inside you can really see how the library fosters community spirit, drawing in readers of all ages, from toddlers to teens, families, professionals, and senior citizens! Plus, you need a membership to borrow books, but you don’t need one to come in and read!
(Note: I don’t have photos inside because the last time I attempted to ask if I could take pictures inside the library, I got a vehement NO from the librarian in Bukit Batok. And as you can see by the excess eye baggage, I did not have the energy for sneak photography! Will definitely put that on the agenda for next time, though!)
#2: Books Actually (Tiong Bahru)
The next day, Friday, I rose bright and early and set off to explore on my own (my sister had started a new job that week).
Flipper friend Peter recommended Books Actually in Tiong Bahru, and so I marked it on my Google maps early on (I admit, part of the reason I gave in and bought that iPad!) and off I went. Google maps and all, add an hour to get to Tiong Bahru from Sengkang, and it still took me an hour (milk tea stop included) to find it. It was FAR from the MRT station and it was located in a tricky street. It was nearly noon by the time I got there!
But it was worth it, as Peter revealed it was the bookstore that inspired Libreria.
It’s an independent bookstore with a lot of literary titles (Penguin fans, the mother ship is calling!) and Singaporean literary publications, literary stationery, and vintage odds and ends. I wanted a Sherlock Holmes Penguin mug but they only had limited titles, so after much hemming and hawing, I decided to save my money to get books at the AFCC, and ended up getting a bunch of Penguin pins (for me, my cousin, and one of my English students) and an Edgar Allan Poe pencil.
#3: The Tintin Shop (Chinatown)
Tintin is one of my fandoms and I’ve been wanting to go to this shop for ages and ages! Just off the MRT exit on Pagoda St., it’s a shop for authentic (licensed) Tintin merchandise: Tintin figures, comic books, stationery, and other collectibles. I got my first figure (Tintin in Tibet) from my cousin, then my sister had added to my Tintin stash when she found the Belgium store (Thomson, and the “suiting up” Tintin, plus a hardcover Tintin in the Congo!) so I bought two more figures on this visit, and now I’ve got a little collection going! Squee!
#4: Bras Basah Complex (Bras Basah Road)
After the Tintin Store, I managed to squeeze in Bras Basah Complex. I didn’t really have time to browse, but I wanted to take photos this time because last time I went my memcard conked and I lost all my photos. So sneak photography with a vengeance this time, hahaha!
Bras Basah Complex (walkable from City Hall station, Bras Basah station, or Bugis station) is a mini-mall filled with used bookstores (and a big Popular bookstore), books selling between SGD 3-20. Fiction selection is very extensive, British editions are aplenty, and there are fairly current titles in good condition that you can buy cheaper here than at the bookstores.
Last time I went here I happily got lost in the shelves for hours, and paid an obscene amount for excess baggage. This time I was just looking for Harry Potter foreign language editions I didn’t have yet, but no luck there, and all those shelves were making me a little crazy, so I sprinted off to
#5 Meeting Myra (Esplanade Park)
We’ve been corresponding on our blogs for ages, and we finally got to meet face to face! Myra is the program director of AFCC and she’s the one who referred me as a panelist — and I owe her the wonderful experience I had. This meetup almost didn’t happen because I misrecorded her number on the phone I was using (long story, but thank you Kenneth Quek for Myra’s number!) but it all worked out in the end.
It was the Singapore Arts Festival, and I was just in time to sit down on the grass for a short skit starring Myra’s lovely daughter Myka (front and center!), whose theater group was performing the popular picture book “There’s Soup on my Fly!”
And then we had a spot of coffee afterwards! It’s a great experience, meeting someone you’ve been friends with online (and erm, I mean that in a non-dating site context!), it’s like finding a long-lost friend, even though you haven’t properly met before then.
#6: The Reading Room (The Sail, Marina Bay)
Dashed off again to have dinner with college friends Saint and Harold, now both currently based in Singapore. Then we went up to Saint’s place at The Sail, and he showed us around the amenities, which includes this lovely lovely Reading Room. It’s a room with a view indeed — it looks out into Marina Bay. It has individual reading desks and reading lamps, and illuminated shelves — I was getting really worked up about it and I think my friends couldn’t believe I was most excited about this room, considering the pools, the karaoke room, the tennis court, and all the other attractions.
Awesome, isn’t it? I told Saint I’d stay over next time, if only to enjoy the Reading Room — I could
install a chaise and oodles of shelves and a mini-bar and live in this room forever! :)
That’s it for my first installment — I’ll be back with Part 2 before the weekend is up, and more on the AFCC after that. Plus, I’ve got a special giveaway (SG edition!) coming up, so check out the site again soon.