Kayaking at Kallang Basin for the first time

Oh hello there, bright orange boat.

My kayak and paddle

I’m low-key proud that I’m no longer triggered by this place. I put so many hours into Kallang River and Kallang Basin during the four years I was a member of a local dragon boat team. This was where I invested my time and my love.

Kallang Basin… one of my old favorite places in Singapore

My friend Joanne asked us to join her for kayaking. Location? Water Sports Centre at the Singapore Sports Hub. It helps that I’m already familiar with the water here. It wouldn’t be intimidating at all. This is why I insisted I take a single kayak out… while Joanne and PJ can share a tandem kayak.

Kayaks that they rent out

Here’s how easy it is to get into a kayak (January 2022, with pandemic protocols in place)

  1. Go to the Water Sports Centre at Singapore Sports Hub.
  2. At the reception, pick out your type of water sports activity (e.g. kayaking). Pay the rental fee and sign the safety waiver. This is standard with water sports.
  3. If you need to change into sports attire and store your bags, there’s a locker room with showers.
  4. Go to the kayak area and wear your vest. A guide will ask if you need a quick safety tutorial which can take 5-10 minutes.
  5. Collect your kayak and put it in the water via the pontoon.
  6. Enter the kayak correctly from the pontoon.
  7. Babes, you’re in the water. Paddle into the sunset.

I paid SGD 18.00 for a two-hour session. This is the rate for non-Singaporeans/PR who are renting during peak Sunday late afternoon. Here’s the full price list for kayaks, canoes, and even dragon boats. Note they even have kayak passes… but when I computed, it makes no difference lol.

***

Being PJ and my first time to kayak, we requested for the quick tutorial which was explained in the most hyper-Singlish way… I swear, even ten years living here, that was soooo fast… dude. We got the gist of it anyway… as the nice guide, Jiansen (who knows my Coach Barak from my old dragon boat team), was able to demonstrate and provide tips anyway.

Ah, hello again, Kallang Basin

I was super excited by this point. My reunion with the dark green waters of Kallang. You can feel the dolphins jumping in glee, framed by the Tanjong Rhu backdrop. I was surprised at how I wasn’t scared to get out into the water on my own. During my dragon boat days, I used to paddle on the starboard side. Not sure what people will do with this knowledge but my right shoulder is slightly larger than my left shoulder, as a result. A blind masseuse once noticed this.

I was extra careful with my phone as I heard many people donated it to the river

I was watching Joanne and PJ try to navigate their boat. It was as if they were in last place on The Amazing Race… going in circles. They got their flow later on and I noticed they were heading further away from me.

Actual screen cap of Joanne & PJ in last place

I was so happy at that moment.

Like… I was finally reunited with the one thing I love… paddling.

[Cue Monologue] I hadn’t paddled FOR YEARS. I don’t talk about this anywhere else… but I stopped paddling for a personal reason. [REDACTED]

***

Joanne & PJ finding their way to paddle in sync… woohoo

When I think about cities or countries that I want to live in, it’s a must that there’s a paddling community there. That’s why Hong Kong is one of the places I thought about moving to.

The weather on Sunday afternoon was partly cloudy. It was perfect to be out in the water. I was avoiding the race lanes because normally that’s where the dragon boats would appear. No dragon boats were in the area though. Instead there were other kayakers… some looked like they were doing proper training. Others look like they were enjoying leisure kayaking like us.

Overall the experience was clean and easy. I’m surprised how quick it is to rent a boat and be in the water within 5 minutes. When you’re in a very developed city… these moments out in the water are absolutely therapeutic. I already started researching other places you can kayak in Singapore. I just learned you can kayak from near my house in Pasir Ris.

As for overcoming the trigger of this sentimental Kallang Basin, I’m all good. I guess after four years… it’s now bridge over troubled water.

I highly recommend kayaking as an activity to do if you want to de-stress. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) and paddles are provided. It’s recommended to also leave your phone in the locker. I’m planning to repeat this experience for a full two-hours again soon.

Water Sports Centre is located at Singapore Sports Hub, 8 Stadium Walk, Singapore 397699. The closest MRT is Stadium on the Circle Line. Due to the pandemic, there might be changes to the opening times and other safety protocols. Best to stay updated via their website here.

Visiting the Changi Chapel and Museum

I didn’t know there was a museum in the eastern side of Singapore which tells the story of what happened when the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese during World War II. I thought the museums were all within the city’s Civic District. It makes sense to have one within Changi.

It’s called the Changi Chapel and Museum. Getting here was interesting. It’s located in a rich neighbourhood with “landed properties” (houses that sit on their own land, compared to majority of Singaporeans which live in condos or HDB flats). It is served by a quiet bus stop. The surrounding area is home to the Singapore Prison Service.

According to the staff I spoke to, the building was renovated after three years. It’s beautiful (by beautiful – how a memorial should be beautiful). The chapel inside is located in a central courtyard. It’s elegant. Surrounded by white walls and some greenery.

I’m not well-versed with these designs and I won’t dive much into the detailing here. But the first half of the open air chapel have these overhangs. To me, they look plentiful and lined up neatly… but crowded into half of the open space. Maybe it’s meant to interpret how this area was once home to prisoners-of-war (POWs) and how they were squeezed into the tightest spaces and exposed to disease.

Finally, the museum itself. It is free for Singaporeans and PRs. It’s $8.00 for non-Singaporeans, even pass holders such as myself. I’m always fine to help pay my part to support a museum.

The museum is split into sections with visitors walking room to room in a clockwise direction. Each section tells the history of the occupying power. First, the British whose troops were already in Singapore since the country was a straits colony. The Empire of Japan invaded in 1942 and Singapore surrendered, which left the British, Australian, and local forces at their mercy. They were interned at Changi. Others were sent to do hard labor by building a “Death Railway” in Thailand-Burma.

Here we are 80 years in the future and looking at the pain of our great-grandparents generation. By ‘our’, it’s because this was a suffering shared across Southeast Asia. The same empire invaded the Philippines. Over there, Americans and Filipinos were captured. Some ended up on the Bataan Death March.

There’s an audio guide that visitors can access using their smartphone. Personally I prefer to read information from the panels on my own pace.

What also caught my attention was a topography map of the area. I live in this side of the city so it was interesting to see where the roads were before the war broke out.

The museum documents how the interned POWs became resourceful. They hid cameras that could document how life was like. They built a workshop to create artificial limbs for POWs who needed life-saving amputations. I was thinking that around the same time, there was fierce fighting in other parts of Asia.

A British bombardier POW painted murals in nearby Changi Camp (the originals are inaccessible to visitors). These are displayed in one of the larger rooms inside.

And what also caught my attention was this:

A sketch… but how did the POW get access to materials to make this? See the next photo.
The artist-POW internee got the materials to create the drawing… from a Japanese guard.

That really hit me.

***

The war, as everyone knows, ended in 1945.

I think it was a fair recalling of the war. It did not read out as propaganda or asked visitors to take sides. Obviously, anyone would feel horrible to see all this suffering. I didn’t feel emboldened to anger. War is horrible, no matter which side.

The Changi Chapel and Museum is located at 1000 Upper Changi Road North. It is far from MRT stations (I think the future Loyang MRT station might be the closest). The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM (Last admission 5:00pm). Closed on Mondays but open on Public Holidays. They observe safe distancing measures (although it wasn’t crowded when I went). Learn more here.

I want to mention that the museum staff that greeted me was the friendliest. Her name starts with the letter P. ❤ I visited the museum in January 2022 and highly recommend it to those who can make the effort to reach this part of the city.

Revisiting Joo Chiat Road

Joo Chiat Road is a special place for me. It’s home to Betel Box Backpacker’s Inn, the first of many hostels I stayed at when I started my Singapore adventure ten years ago. Earlier, my friend Greg and I were in the area looking for a café. I couldn’t help but look for the green door of the backpacker’s inn (200 Joo Chiat Rd). To my delight, it’s still there. I don’t know how they stay open during these times.

Ten years later and Joo Chiat appears to have more cafés. The Vietnamese bistros are still there. Bus 33 still plies the area. I used to wait up to 20 minutes for that bus. It takes you to the city… specifically Bugis and Bras Basah, where I’d meet up with my friend Vero. She was studying at NAFA at the time.

Leading into my tenth anniversary in March, I’m going to take you with me as I retrace my first steps. I’ll revisit the first hawkers I went to, the first neighbourhoods I set foot in… and I’ll speak with people who made similar journeys through the years. Today was a reminder that this city wasn’t just a dream, it’s my home. And all of that started on this one-way street.

What would I do… if I had a little more $$$

It’s 4:17am and I can’t sleep. Again. It’s been like this for a few weeks where my sleeping habit is sht. I can take a 3mg pill of melatonin but it makes me feel sluggish when I wake up. I’ve started journalling but my work table has a pile of clothes and an Amazon microphone that never seems to find its own home. (Do I hide it in the cabinet? Hassle. I need it for my Zoom call.)

So instead, why not I write here.

What would I do… if I had a little more $$$

  • I would like to rent my own place with PJ. For the past 9 years, I’ve lived in shared accomodation in Singapore. This means I have flatmates. About 90% have been great flatmates, no regrets there. But lately I’m jealous of some friends (also: couples) who have rented their own cute apartments. It’s pricey! It’s not in PJ’s budget. It’s not in my budget too. But only if we earned a little more… kahit konting dagdag… we would be able to afford our own place. Preferably one that sits right next to a grocery store. So I can cook. Nakakatamad maglakad from our current condo to FairPrice. It’s at least 10-12 minutes one-way. It’ll be a 20-25 minutes return… carrying groceries in Singapore’s homophobic weather.
  • I would get myself a MacBook Pro 16″, the new ones. I’d like to top-up the specs so I have the best MacBook Pro in its class. This wouldn’t be for vanity reasons, no. I really utilise my Macs. The one I’m using now is from 2013. It can’t render 4K video. Heck, it can’t even render normal video at an acceptable speed today. I’ve produced many videos with my current laptop but I’m due for an upgrade. I want to edit in 4K. I want video editing to be fun and breezy again… not a gargantuan task when it comes to adding layers and rendering. I know my creative side is in video. I’d also use it to start a side job editing videos for clients perhaps. I dunno. Basta… a juiced up MacBook Pro 16″ would be nice.
  • Hire a personal trainer to keep me in check. I need one. I’ve put in effort to exercise. But I want to be accountable to a personal trainer who will push and guide me closer to my fitness goals. I aM nOt gEttiNg aNy yOunGeR. I want a personal trainer to guide me in nutrition as well. Apps can only do so much. Online classes can only do so much.
  • It would be nice to start investing in a small plot of land outside Metro Manila. Perhaps one in Laguna or Cavite. Gaah. What am I talking about right. I think this is part of my growing need to set up my nest. I’ve been watching numerous real estate videos. I’m also watching ones from the States. Houses that cost USD 40 million dollars. I love watching these house tours. I don’t think I’ll ever live in a house that costs USD 40 million dollars. But I do like looking at one… I’m a dreamer.
  • I want to never feel bad that I’m ordering Grab delivery food that costs over SGD 20.00. Decent delivery food can be around SGD 10-15 per meal. And I already feel bad about that. Normally walking into a hawker centre near the office you can get food for SGD 8-10. So ordering food at SGD 10-15 (though it keeps you safe at home) makes me feel uncomfy. I know it’s ridiculous. It’s food. I NEVER want to scrimp on food – we should eat good food. But it comes with a pinch. If I had extra $$$ I would like to never feel bad for ordering food that’s below SGD 30.00 at least. Okay that’s exaggerating. But you know… I want to eat from the ‘gourmet’ ones in Katong or downtown. Why must stick to Hao Lai Ke every week.
  • I’d love to start a mini-bar at home. Alak is expensive in Singapore. We normally get our alcohol from duty-free shopping on the way into Singapore from our travels. But travels are mostly imaginary the last 20 months. If I had more $$$ I’d like to resume a wine subscription. Or ‘invest’ in whiskey. Gusto ko may mini-bar sa bahay. I’d like to be Don Draper even in my pajamas.
  • Send a regular balikbayan box back to the Philippines. I mean… if I had more $$$ I’d like LBC to send me a small balikbayan box each month. And they’d collect it on schedule after 2 weeks. I’d like to fill it with groceries, a care package, masks, chocolates, gifts… and keep sending it back home. Like I don’t have to think twice if I can afford it. I’d like to just tap a few buttons on Lazada and have it delivered home. I’d write my notes and pack it nicely in a box.

I’ve intentionally left out the charities (like WWF), investments, and further studies (master’s degree, short courses on edX). Everything above are some of what’s on my mind. Call me out or add yours. What would you do with extra $$$?

Do you have scars? How did they happen?

Fast Answer: Yes (it’s not visible to the eye)

A few years ago, a moment of inebriated anger at an innocuous dinner and dance would change my life. Because it involved someone I loved who I brought as my “plus 1”, this moment would create a scar so deep that it’s taken years for it to heal. And, like the definition of what scars are, I have to be at peace with it being there. Because the scar reminds me of how words can hurt. It’s a painful reminder that I can be better for the people that matter to me today. The scar also reminds me to treasure life – and to never give another man the keys to that.

(This question is part of a 30-day Q&A challenge using the “365 & me” app)

If you didn’t know your age, how old would you think you are?

Fast Answer: 27

I’ve been slightly sensitive (okay, maybe like 10%) when conversations with new people I meet revolve around age. The most common reaction is “Woah, you don’t look 30-something!” – I don’t know how to react. It’s flattering they might think I’m in my 20s. I guess it’s a compliment. Not that there’s anything to feel differently about being in our 30s, 40s…

But if I didn’t know my age, I’d think I’d be 27. I seem to be fixated with that age. In your late 20s, you’d be probably be progressing in your career. Probably getting burnt out from that “first job” and thinking about what else is out there. When I was 27, I wanted to move to a different city. I wanted to pursue a new thrill.

I also think being in your late 20s, your skin looks and feels better.

Eighty percent.

Proof of life:

It’s not that I wasn’t doing anything in August. Quite the opposite!

  • Returned to evening “WODs” (workout of the day) with my Philippines-based fit fam.
  • Moderated a webinar for work. (I’ve never moderated a webinar before.)
  • Continued producing weekly “Saturday Uncut” videos on YouTube.
  • Managed work load after some sudden changes at work.
  • Interviewed potential candidates to fill in an opening at work.
  • Studied Katakana and more Japanese conversational phrases.
  • Spoke with a few insurance brokers to shop around for a plan that works for me.
  • Recorded a podcast episode with someone in London.
  • Took the first steps in a real estate investment.
  • Stayed safely at home.

They announced that 80% of the country is fully vaccinated as of today. Great news for the country.

I share more of “what’s happening” in my most recent “Saturday Uncut” (August 28, 2021):

How do I feel right now?

The tides are changing quickly as we head towards the end of the year.

A situation at work which would make me anxious or stressed might not be so bad at all. First, I’m getting the support I need from internal stakeholders. Second, we might be hiring two people to take up the space of one backfill. That means more teammates! Third, I feel this confidence that I can emerge from this.

Randomly, I’ve also started to feel better about my age. “It’s all downhill from here” was what I secretly thought about turning 36. But a few weeks after my birthday in July and now I’m fine. I’m invested in learning. It makes me feel like I can still do most of the things I want.

$$$ is something on my mind more often these days. I’m starting to think about retirement. What age do I want to retire? Where do I want my money to go? What investment should I start? Is my insurance enough? What can I do to earn more? Should I be studying UI/UX to make myself competitive? Will I be able to manage renting a whole apartment with PJ in the near future? How can I build my emergency fund? Am I spending too much at the dentist?

It’d be stupid to end this post talking about a mortgage. So I’ll give you a BTS song I fell in love with today.

Great job again, Singapore… for vaccinating 80% of the country’s residents.

See you in September. ❤

Celebrating our anniversary at Little Island Brewers Co.

Since I moved to the eastern part of Singapore, I’ve always wanted to grab a beer and take in the ambiance at Little Island Brewers. It’s a self-service brewery and restaurant located in Changi Village.

When we arrived on a weeknight, the setting was comfortable. There were barely any people here due to this pandemic. I remember seeing their Facebook page and the place was normally PACKED pre-pandemic.

Since I made reservations and we arrived 15 minutes early, we were given options to choose whichever table has a “Reserved” card on it. We picked a table right around the center of the outdoor area. I loved the string of lights and thought it’d be perfect.

P and I ordered the Animal Farm (SGD 48.00) platter:

It has beef brisket, pork belly, tikka chicken thigh, beer sausages, served with mashed potato, mixed greens, and sauces. I’m a sucker for everything tossed into a platter like that. I was happy with everything on the platter. The pork belly was crispy and juicy. The beef was tender. The chicken tikka was definitely grilled. And I can never get enough of mashed potato.

I think P was unaware of the large serving size. He also ordered the Chicken Tikka Burger (SGD 18.00):

This came with fries and mixed greens. Knowing P, he would ignore the greens. He loved his burger and I took some of his french fries.

Of course, Little Island Brewers is a… brewery. I was excited to check out the craft beers. Because of the pandemic, the staff will do the “self-service” for you. Here’s what the craft beers section looked like.

They let you sample the draft beers. I easily get tipsy when I start mixing different types of alcohol. I picked out the Hefeweizen since it’s their wheat beer. Golden Ale was the recommendation as well as the Double Trouble.

You can choose different types of serving size. We went for the smaller sized “Stem” so we could sample more. Here’s how the Stem glasses look like at Little Island Brewers:

I think I’ll stick to my wheat beer. It was my favorite among the ones we tried. After three glasses, I started to feel a little tipsy. I think my alcohol tolerance has changed in this pandemic. I’m actually cutting back on beer. But I thought this was an occasion anyway. 🙂

Plus, I was enjoying myself! Beers, a meat platter, and celebrating an anniversary. It was also a cool evening. New dining restrictions were about to be enforced so we managed to enjoy an anniversary dinner outside the house.

I think the place is popular amongst cyclists who find themselves having a pitstop at Changi Village. The area is in a slightly more remote part of Singapore which is inaccessible by MRT. I think that adds to the charm of the place. You have restaurants lined up within the parallel buildings that line Changi Village. There’s a nearby park and a nearby jetty for those going for a day trip to Pulau Ubin.

Little Island Brewers bills itself as self-service – with exception of this pandemic, there are some measures like letting the staff get your beer for you. I try to imagine how this place looked like pre-pandemic. It must’ve been packed and featured bands perhaps.

I’ll add this place as a recommended drinking spot in Singapore.

Little Island Brewers is at 6 Changi Village Road, Singapore, 509907. There is no MRT station near this location. But there is the Changi Village Bus Interchange which is two minutes away by foot. (Learn more on their Facebook page.)

Tell me about your favourite drinking spot in your city.

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Getting my second vaccine jab in Pasir Ris

I guess this is a continuation of a previous post about getting my first vaccine jab. 🙂

July 25. The day of my 2nd vaccine appointment. I was LESS anxious this time. Probably because the first experience was breezy and painless. Plus, I had a cute guy inject me!

Like the first time, I didn’t take public transport since Pasir Ris Elias Community Club is a nice 15-minute walk away. I know that GoJek has some type of free transpo promotion for those getting their vaccination. But I didn’t want the fuss of downloading the app and being subscribed to some marketing mailing list. I’m fine walking since it’s good to get some sunshine.

Singapore flags are up and in full display – National Day is in a few weeks

I reached the community club on the dot. As soon as you arrive, you get asked if you’ve experienced fever or anything of that sort in the past 24 (or was it 48) hours. Then you get led up the stairs to a waiting area.

I can say I got my jab within 10 minutes after arriving on my assigned schedule. Lol no cute guy this time but instead a very friendly young lady in a hijab. I wanted to get a selfie with her for this blog but I was too shy.

The waiting area was filled with people! Must be a good thing. People are getting vaccinated here.

TED Talk Time: I checked that as of today, 50% of Singapore’s population is fully vaccinated. The country’s goal is to have two-thirds of the population vaccinated before National Day in August. I think they’re making great headway to reach their goal despite the spike in community cases. The cases the past few days are in the triple-digits.

Like last time, they give out masks to those who get vaccinated at this community club.

I walked home afterwards and walked home without listening to Blackpink. I don’t know. I think I was emo underneath the sunny weather. I feel lucky and grateful. But I think about things like… how about our friends in Malaysia? Indonesia? Thailand? And of course, how about my family and friends back home in the Philippines. The Delta variant has started to spread back home.

When I got home, I checked my TraceTogether app and the “In Progress” vaccine status changed to “Waiting to take effect”. Tapping it brings you to another page which tells you which date you’ll be fully vaccinated. My 14th day will be 8th August, right in time for Singapore’s National Day.

Wherever you are in the world, please be safe. Please get vaccinated. Sending love. ❤

How is it like to get vaccinated where you are?

“Are You Local?” Podcast Launch

I’ve finally launched my podcast! I was afraid to hit publish back in late 2020 because of imposter syndrome. I needed to take a “time out” and wait until I was comfortable putting my voice out there. It’s not perfect but I learned not to fall into that perfectionist trap. So finally, here it is! (Open in Spotify here).

“Are You Local?” is a question I get asked by some taxi drivers when they hear I carry a different accent. It’s an innocent question I’m usually happy to answer. But to have to answer it every time, I pondered what does local really mean. Many of us move between cities and countries. Are there secrets to fully integrating or happily co-existing?

In this podcast series, we’ll hear from folks who have moved to different parts of the world. We’ll also hear from people who live in multicultural locations. These are conversations with people who are finding their new place away from home.

My friend Greg joins me in the first episode and we explore what local means to him as a Singaporean. The podcast is available on Spotify. Support my storytelling by tapping “Follow”! Thanks!