My Singapore: Corrie Tan of The Straits Times

Today, I am so thrilled to welcome a fellow book, art, and book arts lover to notabilia! Corrie Tan is a talented writer, a curious traveler, and a dear friend.

In her own words: “I’m an arts reporter and reviewer with the arts/lifestyle section of Singapore’s largest newspaper, The Straits Times, which means I am constantly nosing my way through a maze of art exhibitions and scrawling my thoughts on theatre in the dark. I graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Literary Arts, but I also dabbled very heavily in Slavic Studies, visual art, and theatre. My writing has been published in Ceriph and various other literary publications in the U.S.

“I love Singapore, but I also love wandering through other countries with a good pair of hiking boots. I have drifted through Mongolia, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan, have spent a great deal of time in Russia, and have received a grant to do field research on migration patterns in Tibet and Xinjiang.

“I can be found tweeting, rather regularly, and mostly about the arts, @corrietan. Sometimes I spy on what people are reading in Singapore on buses & trains #CoverSpySG. But mostly I like listening to what you have to say.”

To Corrie…

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Must-eats?

I grew up in the east, in Marine Parade and Katong, the home of all excellent food (Katong laksa, all things Peranakan, a deluge of seafood… I could go on forever).

East Coast Lagoon Food Village: Right by Bedok Jetty, where dozens will be staking their claim with their fishing rods and coolers, this bustling food village serves up the best satay beehoon and slabs of luscious grilled stingray.

I stumbled on Coccogelo earlier this year. The cozy parlour creates the most delectable artisanal gelato, with a twist. They have a fantastic range of local flavours, from Yakult to Pandan Kaya, and for the more adventurous, flavours like Wasabi Chocolate Chip. If you want to stick to something safe, you can’t go wrong with Pistachio or Milo. The whimsical illustrations on the walls are done by MessyMsxi, a brilliant local illustrator and acquaintance of mine.

Not exactly in the East, but one of my recent haunts: Artichoke Cafe & Bar. Stop by for brunch or a full-out communal dinner, and then swing by Sculpture Square to take a look at their works (it’s just next door).

For a true Singapore experience: tuck into frog-leg porridge in Geylang followed by durians by the roadside. You can’t miss the profusion of stalls… and smells.

Must-shops?

The girl in me is a sucker for alldressedup, a women’s fashion label founded right here in Singapore by Tina Tan-Leo. Most of the kooky necklaces and drapey pieces in my wardrobe come from their irresistible VIP sales. Sign up for their mailing list and then head to StarHub Green in Ubi when they alert you to a sale and you can get $500 dresses for about $150.

This only happens once a year, and the 2011 edition was in November, but The Affordable Art Fair in the F1 Pit Building is a great place to check out (and even buy) art pieces which range from $100 to $10,000. Not too difficult on the pocket, very family-friendly with a play area for kids, and you can test your eye by deciding which emerging artist strikes your fancy.

Visit one of the slew of flea markets in Singapore and buy handmade. My picks are Public Garden and MAAD:  Market of Artists And Designers.

Must-dos?

Post-Museum used to be one of my favourite places, but they have since moved (and their in-house restaurant Food #03 together with them) into a sort of nomadic state, out of their cozy shophouse nook in Rowell Road. They organised everything from art exhibitions to film screenings to events with a strong social activist bent and I’ll be waiting with bated breath for them to re-establish themselves again.

Based in Niven Road, art gallery Evil Empire is run by the inimitable Alan Oei, the mastermind behind the annual Open House projects. Basically, you go on well-curated art tour around a small patch of Singapore. Earlier this year, hundreds of eager art viewers descended on Marine Parade to do an art walk into/around five HDB flats. Their owners very kindly allowed a dozen artists to run wild in their living spaces, putting up artworks or conceptualising mini exhibitions in their apartments.

One of my favourite places in the whole world: BooksActually, now in Tiong Bahru. I first got to know Karen and Kenny six years ago, when they had just barely opened the bookstore on the second floor of a row of shophouses in Telok Ayer Street. They have since blossomed into the independent bookstore of Singapore and their store is crammed full of great reads and knick-knacks. They have started publishing local writing as well. Go for their events, where they get local writers in to read and discuss the literary arts, and their workshops, ranging from book making to creative writing.

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Need directions? Check out notabilia’s My Singapore guide!

Know a creative person who wants to share his or her must-stop spots with my readers? Please email all suggestions to me with the subject line ‘My Singapore.’

(Additional credits: Photograph by Corrie Tan.)

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