We have a fun, emerging tradition in our young family, that involves getting sick every time we fly to Asia or Australia. We avoid the lurgies doing the rounds in Kiel all winter, smugly hop on a plane bound for warmer climes, incubate some sort of bug in the germ vessels that are planes, and fall to pieces in the first few days after our arrival. We’re doing well this year – two quick tummy bugs for the adults and a nice little cold for die Lüdde, spread helpfully over two weeks. (I can’t complain; she dodged the colds and tummy bugs doing the rounds back home, and it took ten days of being around family members with colds of their own, for her to finally fold. Her bockig tendencies do have their benefits.)
Thus the other day was named a downtime day for die Lüdde and her snotty, bad-tempered nose, so while she stayed at home with Nana, we ducked out to the Arab Quarter for a charmed afternoon. While Chintatown and Little India have a sort of volume and relative chaos that is part and parcel of their vibe, Singapore’s Arab Quarter has a calmness to it, perhaps anchored by the lovely Sultan Mosque, its golden dome and grey spires seemingly always visible. Mosque Street itself, with its colourful shutters and palm trees, is lined by fabric and trinket shops, cafes, and Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurants.
We stopped for a late lunch at a Javanese restaurant on Arab Street. Spicy, coconut-rich beef Rendang, barbecued chicken satay, some sort of delicious fried potato ball, soup, and an iced tea. Across the road, we were unable to resist buying a couple of toys for die Lüdde from a strangely soulless toy shop. Then we skipped down Mosque Street, picked up a couple of souvenirs, before tripping into Haji Street, shopping bags swinging, spirits high. Haji Street is narrow and bright and bursting with such coolness, you can smell it. Vintage boutiques with Japanese dresses my left thigh woudn’t get near, hole in the wall cafes with spartan decor and donuts, burger places, a Mexican place, and enough lush green foliage to remind you you’re in the tropics.
On the way back to the MRT station, we poked our heads down Bali Street – more spartan cafes and New York inspired bistros – and when we emerged from underground, walked home in a light, completely manageable shower. ‘Let’s do this again tomorrow!’ we said, ‘what a glorious afternoon!’
And so we returned the following afternoon, die Lüdde in tow. It began sprinkling as we arrived, and so we did the classic dash into the nearest restaurant, which happened to be the Mexican place. Usually this would be a thrilling statement to make, because Lord knows I love Mexican, and the place looked great. And, look, the food was fine, fresh and tasty, but the portions tiny, and it cost as much as our glorious and far more generous Javanese lunch the day before. Naja, you win some you lose some. We toddled back down Haji Street as the sky grew darker, the smallest of our trio dictating pace in the way only determined 18 months olds can, and soon after we exchanged die Lüdde’s car at the soulless toy shop for one that would retain its wheels longer than 12 hours, the heavens opened.
And it was a corker of a downpour. Not your classic ‘give it ten minutes and it’ll be over’ tropical shower, but a good, hour-long soaking. We sheltered for ten minutes under an awning before folding up die Lüdde’s Schirmbuggy, and stepping out. Despite getting utterly soaked, wading out turned out to be a good thing, because the rain didn’t stop until we got home, bedraggled and hungry – but with a new car.
So is there a moral to this plotless tale? Don’t attempt to step in the same river twice? Take golden, childless afternoons of chanced-upon delicious lunches when you can, and savour the memory? Don’t by toys in soulless toy shops? I shall leave you to ponder the numerous potential meanings.