This is the Shopping Post I promised!
But before we go shopping, I want to show you another funny picture:
Those of you with multiple small(ish) children will understand how valuable this is. Yes, you can slather on sunscreen and train your children to hike and trek and plod through wildernesses and The Grand Canyon and who knows where else, but add scorching temperatures in near-100% humidity to that and it brings a whole new meaning to the expression "Are we there yet?". This bike has saved us. You can rent it at the beach by the hour, and it comes in two sizes: Nuclear Family (seats 5, below) and Extended Clan (seats 7, above).
Pedal when you want, stop and get off to take photos when you want, sit in the portable shade when you want. It's like a minivan without walls, and you generate your own sea breeze as you go. Green all round.
Also, I forgot to mention in the earlier post that the girls have a new favorite activity.
Besides this one, I mean:
It started when they saw me shin up a tamarind tree to pick a pod for Grandpa to sample.
I mentioned in this post that my childhood was full of this sort of stuff - tree climbing, hiking through great unknown backyard forests and discovering Singaporean wildlife. None of the pink Barbie and Princess
So of course they wanted to climb and conquer the Singapore trees. So they did. And, thereafter, each time we were at a park, they looked for Good Climbing Trees. Good for them.
Later, I discovered the genetic explanation for this:
That's Mum. Not quite a tree, but still. She must have not gotten the memo about Grandmas slowing down in their golden years and, say, sitting placidly and knitting. Good for her.
A few more beach shots
(this is the South China Sea, incidentally, not really the actual Pacific Ocean)
before we head to more urban haunts.
First, the kids'. Asia, as you might have heard, is teeming with cute, trinkety merchandise, particularly Japan, the unofficial Capital of Cute. Singapore is not that far behind. There's a nice mix of very modern (and expensive) and very traditional stuff to browse and buy. Like these old paper balls
that we bought in bulk so the girls could give one to each of their classmates when they presented their I Went To Singapore country reports in school.
By far, the girls' favorite shops were the stationery stores. We'd explained to them that the modern toys in the US were of much better quality than the regionally-made ones, and more reasonably priced than the imports. The stationery selection and quality in Singapore, though, are unparalleled, largely because there are so many charming and ingenious independent retailers (as opposed to the megalomonopoly that is Crayola in the US) from different corners of the Commonwealth. Here are the girls in Smiggle, the color-coordinated stationery heaven that originated in Australia.
We wanted to buy everything here. In several colors.
And now mine. Actually, I didn't do a lot of sewing-related shopping on this trip -the two metres of ikat in that earlier photo were my only fabric purchase. And Emily and I took a train to the Textile Centre (that's the bulk notions and hardware place) for just a couple rolls of trim and some snap hooks. There's only that much mad sewing a person can do in the eleven months before the next trip to Singapore, right?
Summary: not a lot of buying. Browsing, though, was another story.
So, the husband and I went on a walking date.
The destination was lunch at one of our favorite curry restaurants.
En route, we walked through some of my favorite shopping haunts of yesteryear, through the older neighborhoods of Singapore,
Old shuttered windows on the upper storey of traditional shophouses, very common in the heartland neighborhoods of Singapore.
a nice change from the modern steel, glass and neon malls in the heart of the city shopping district.
This is Arab Street,
flanked by quaint old shophouses on either side.
Back when I was a teenager, I'd come here with Mum to shop for special-occasion fabrics - lace, satin, batik, silk embroidery thread, trim and tassels, stuff like that. We had other fabric places to go for regular, everyday craft and apparel supplies; Arab Street was the place for the rich, shiny, fancy, embellished material that became prom dresses and wedding gowns. It was also a tourist spot - and the tourists would turn up to mingle with the locals, their cameras around their necks, fanning themselves with folded maps, all prepared to haggle over batiks and baskets and Persian rugs. So much fun to watch.
|The Sultan Mosque on an intersecting corner|
I hadn't been to Arab Street in about a decade, because that's how long I haven't needed to make anyone a fancy gown or bridesmaid dress. So this year, I decided to revisit it.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had changed. There were still the old lace and satins,
and other shiny silky floral apparel mainstays,
but there were now also quilting cottons (lots of dots but no stripes - why?) among the bolts of apparel fabrics showcased in renovated displays. Whoa.
RTW garments - both mass-produced and custom-tailored.
And accessories of all kinds - for the home and body - scarves and skirts and coasters and rugs and table linen and cushion covers and kerchiefs and coin purses and bags.
Check out the three sarong kebayas over my right shoulder! (They're the full suits of sarong skirt and embroidered blouse) They still don't make them manual-embroidery-style and with the wing-needle heirloom seams like they did back in the day, but these modern electronic-machine versions are still gorgeous (and pricey).
Ah... a shop selling ikat.
See the ikat?
They're in the rightmost display column below.
That's not real ikat, by the way. It's just block print on regular cotton, not the authentic tie-dyed woven-threads ikat.
There's me with the salesperson, who'd taken me to the back of the shop to look at "real ikat for only S$45 per meter". There are many kinds of ikat, but this turned out to be so much more silk brocade than the weave pattern I love that I passed and bought the faux print stuff instead.
|A shop selling lanterns and light fixtures.|
|A charming Turkish eatery.|
Here's one of the few shops that still look like they did 20 years ago, complete with fluorescent tube lights and rolls of fabric in glass cases. And the no-longer-ubiquitous Chinese proprietor in his white singlet. We conversed in Chinese, because that's the right thing to do in a shop like this, and discussed yardage and width, and particular differences in the designs of the batik. I felt like a teenager again, speaking the language of (as I called it) Old Sewing.
And then we were on our way again, the husband and I, to a different shopping spot:
Sim Lim Tower, the home of dozens and dozens of stores selling electronic bits and bobs (and entire computers also). Like Radioshack but in bulk, loads cheaper and organized in ways so mysterious, only the counter staff know how to find anything.
Again, I hadn't been here in about a decade. Years before even that, when I was in college, I might have had to come here for the electronic components I needed for my final year project (a pre-amp). Or maybe my lab partner did the shopping and I just drew the graphs. I honestly don't remember - I mean, Physics is lovely and all, but not as lovely as fabric, of which I have much more vivid and inspiring memories.
Back to the tour now. There are seven? eight? levels of shops just like this one, but I walked into the first one I saw,
and amassed supplies for the kids. See- there I am consulting (in English and Chinese - soooooo nightmarish) the staff on DC motors and battery holders.
So much better to buy components bulk(ish) than as the rather limiting and horrifically overpriced kits you'd find in educational resource stores here in the US. Just the other day, for instance, I was at one of those such stores and saw a kit that taught you how to make a bulb light up. Didn't know whether to laugh or weep.
So I bought battery holders, alligator clips, connecting wire by the metre, 3.8 V bulbs, bulb holders and some random switches. These were not my favorite switches (harder for kids to connect) but they were out of knife switches (which I like because they are extremely visual in how they work) and these were all they had. I also wanted to get some lower-revolution DC motors so that our projects wouldn't be limited to just spinning fans and propellers and suchlike. I suppose I must eventually find out where to buy those little plastic gears to get them to rotate more slowly, so that the kids and I can make more exciting things like carousels and revolving toys.
Also - I couldn't resist - I bought a circuitry kit to make a doorbell. So inexpensive - it's only about US$4. This one requires soldering, but we have a breadboard at home which the girls can use instead to play with. Jenna, I think, will especially like decoding the resistors because they're colorful and rainbow and striped (all of which she loves).
Finally, we were on our way to the restaurant in the neighborhood known as Little India (there's the very colorfully-striped Sim Lim Tower in the background),
passing colorful temples and offices-disguised-as-temples,
Incidentally, Little India is the place to come for saree silks and tailors for custom-fit saree tops (what are they called? I forget).
Papadums and real banana leaf plate liners!
And food! Mutton and rice and kebabs and chicken and lime juice and all things good.
Sunshine, ikat, electronics and curry.
All dates should be like this, no?
P.S. Short shopping guide to finding fabric in Singapore:
- Satin, lace, ikat, batik, formal apparel fabric - Arab Street (nearest MRT station = Bugis)
- Saree silks and other apparel fabric - the shops along Serangoon Road and the department store Mustafa Centre in Little India (nearest MRT station = Little India)
- Brocade, qipaos and other related apparel and apparel fabric - the department store Yue Hwa and People's Park Centre in Chinatown (nearest MRT = Chinatown)
- Haberdashery, notions, sewing hardware - Textile Centre (nearest MRT = Lavender)
- Modern, quilting and craft fabrics - Spotlight in Plaza Singapura (nearest MRT = Dhoby Ghaut)
- Neoprene - various stores in industrial estates; email me.