Where Time Stood Still

It was an early Friday morning. I was awake at the crack of dawn, completely unable to go back to sleep after a deep, solid, undisturbed doze at 9pm the night before. As the morning seemed to clear, the birds begun to break into their little tunes and the first sun rays were slowly creeping into my bedroom. I rose, took a short shower, and headed out for breakfast after I concluded that I had no ingredients left in the pantry. I was left to dismay thinking that no eateries seemed to be able to satiate my ferocious hunger at the hour, when suddenly I had a light-bulb moment about the time I read an article about a kopitiam that is open at 4am. I set out immediately and took a bus to Raffles City just like how Google Maps told me to. I circled the place, crossed the same street over and over again for what seemed like 15 minutes and had just realized that I was taken to a wrong address. It was easy to get into an irritable mood because I was extremely hungry (re: hangry), but I tried to keep my composure because it was in the early mornings. I took the train to Lavender and luckily the kopitiam is not a long walk from the station.

Entering Heap Seng Leong is like taking a step back into the past, where time has stood still despite the rapid, encroaching growth of the surrounding metropolis. The grout between tiled walls are grimy due to no ventilation, worn marble-topped tables and plastic chairs which are probably older than me are covered with a layer of dust. At the counter, plastic containers are filled with what seemed like stale snacks and sits next to them is an abacus. Despite the clutter, it looked as if everything is in its right place. Early as it was, I spotted a few elderly and I was the only young person in the place. While the rest of Singapore is leading their respective lives, contributing to the modernising city or is probably just enduring their lacklustre, mundane jobs, the people here are trapped in an absolute stillness. It seemed as if they have a comfortable corner of their own in the shop, leaning nonchalantly on the old tiled walls reading newspaper and sipping their daily fix of coffee while getting lulled by the faint rhythmic whirring of the rotating ceiling fan.

Dressed in a white singlet and pyjama bottoms, the elderly uncle approached me to pick up my order. I ordered, “kopi gu-you 一个, roti 两片和两个鸡蛋。” My Chinese is extremely rusty but in Singapore you can totally get away with Singdarin. It was within a couple of minutes that my breakfast is finally served on my table. In place of latte art is a couple slices of butter which has melted off into a swirl that sits on top of the coffee like a film. Two slices of toast are filled with kaya spread and a generous slice of butter is sandwiched in between, runny soft-boiled eggs are served with condiments like soy sauce and ground pepper for me to season it to my liking. I stirred my coffee slightly, revealing a rich, full-bodied, smooth coffee that is fragrant with caramel notes. I hardly tasted any butter, but it has added an extra bit of creaminess to the coffee. However, my coffee was slightly too sweet for my liking and the butter made me feel a little queasy. I finished half of it. Toasting it the traditional way by using charcoal, the elderly uncle scrapped the charred parts of the toast with the sharp edges of a milk can. The bread is nicely toasted, giving the texture a slight crisp, and yet is still chewy at the same time. I love dunking it into the coffee.

As hours pass the place grew busier. Patrons went in and out of the pantry like it is their home, greeted other acquainted regulars and finally sat for a pleasant conversation over coffee. I didn't want to disrupt their contentment with my camera shutter sound, but they seemed unperturbed. I guess it is such a common act now that they simply don't bother anymore. I could not help but wonder, how much longer can this place withstand the unforgiving march of time? It is simply a matter of time that coffeeshops like these will diminish in this modernising city, and it is heartbreaking to think that yet another cultural heritage could be slaughtered for development before we know it. 

Common Colors

COS top, Zara culottes and sandals, Topshop hat 

I have always thought that there would come a point where minimal wear would get a little too banal, especially in my case where I cannot afford the luxury of layering in this alarmingly sunny weather, but COS has always succeeded in persuading me the other way round and depleting my bank account dry with their regular additions of understated yet exceptional pieces that I naturally incline to for casual ease. They flush out ensembles that satisfy my sartorial cravings and had me whipping out my card faster than a speeding bullet. Be that as it may, their clothing is sure to become staples that will always hold their place in my wardrobe even after all my closet purges. 

Summer Suit

H&M Studio suit, Zara top and shoes

Dressing well in summer always requires a little more thought, doubly so in my home country, where summer goes all year round. Options are getting more and more limited, as light-weight, loose-fitting t-shirts and denim cut-offs become a default outfit combination because the sweltering heat promotes an altogether lethargic system that makes elaborate dressing so damn hard. Thanks to Pharrell for the re-emergence of short suits! Short suits provide as an excuse to still dress smartly on warmer days, which in my case, literally everyday. It is sharp but informal at the same time, and it's totally up my alley.