Singapore: The Savvy Guide by Yu-Mei Balasingamchow and Simon Richmond

Singapore: The Savvy Guide, a travel app by Yu-Mei Balasingamchow and Simon Richmond, promised to be a “short cut to the best of the island state” and set out to prove to out-of-touch travelers that Singapore isn’t Singa-bore. What better a tool for this “urban explorer” than a hand-held city guide full with 214 hand-picked entries by two incredibly talented travel writers?

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We took Singapore: The Savvy Guide for a spin last Saturday when we found ourselves at one end of Geylang Road at Geylang Serai Makan Place.

“Now what?” he said, after we had wolfed down three putu piring (steamed rice cakes stuffed with melted gula melaka [palm sugar], topped with shredded coconut, and garnished with pandan leaves).

“Geylang for durian?” I said after consulting Singapore: The Savvy Guide. “Dessert #2?”

From Singapore: The Savvy Guide:

The sex trade is piled along the even-numbered lorong (lanes) branching south of the central artery of Geylang Road, where cheap shops and eating houses stay busy through the night selling everything from G-strings to durians. Don’t expect Amsterdam-style prostitutes on show in shop windows—it’s all discreet, the action confined behind closed doors at low-key brothels and cheap hotels.

So, after a healthy helping of fresh durian, we wandered down those even-numbered lanes. As I wrote that night on Twitter, “… Unsavory, perhaps, but real, gritty, [and] soulful.” Though the transactions that take place here are discreet, as Yu-Mei and Simon write, it’s easy to identify the brothels if you are the slightest bit perceptive. (And yes, I was stared at, but it was nothing that a big girl like me couldn’t handle.)

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While the app was likely written with tourists in mind, we thought the photographs and video (several of 2,000) were useful and informative. It’s very easy to sort entries by name, neighborhood, price, or distance, as we did on Saturday night.

And, I’ve added the the app’s hidden gems, including hip bars, gay haunts, cool cafes, and art galleries, to my personal “To Explore” list. I’ll definitely be using this app again and again.

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Full disclosure: Yu-Mei and I crossed paths on Twitter and she gave me the heads up about her app. Since September 2010, Yu-Mei has been living in London, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in cultural studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the co-author of Singapore: A Biography, a must-read book on the “lifestory” of this island city-state. Connect with Yu-Mei on her blog and follow her on Twitter.