Below is a lovely recounting of our whirlwind affair with the tiny island nation as written by Ana Olson aka #tinyhands
As Ola would say later, while plying us with free drinks and dancing on the edge of insinuation at the sky bar, “they know where we are… they know where we all are… and I’m okay with that.” And it was true. There were cameras everywhere, almost four on every corner, keeping watchful eyes over the city - which is what made it all the more curious, all the more magical, that as we walked through the city that first night, the world felt intimate, personal and private. We passed countless couples holding hands and nuzzling each other on benches, finding their own secluded spots where they could tuck into each other.
The city was selectively and attractively lit, full of luminescent art installations that boasted significant purpose as well as beauty: energy-generating photovoltaic cells in a cozy upside-down birds’ nest, a giant inflatable moon that measured air quality.
We wandered around the Marina chewing on tapioca bubbles between sips of sweet milk tea and marveling at the sleek efficiency of the city, its earnest desire to be better than anything before it. And of course, self-consciously, we couched our own wonder in cynical analysis. There has to be something wrong with such a place, we would whisper, verbally pinching ourselves. So much good must come at a cost. And yet - and yet. As we stared up at the blue branches of the super trees - again, energy-generating, again, a marvel of art and engineering - and felt the warmth of the sea breeze and the fragrant kiss of frangipani, we had to ask: were we falling a little in love with Singapore? And did it love us back? It felt young, and energetic, like it wanted us to flirt. It wanted us to put on short dresses and dance until the early hours of the morning on Ladies Night; it wanted us to imagine a dozen romantic futures with a handful of partners and then, ultimately, it wanted us to get home safe.
Probably for the best that we left when we did, before we could question it any more than we already had. On our last day, riding the high of another perfectly timed train ride, another sleek, kinetic art installation, an efficient airport check-in and a non-existent immigration line, we picked up a bunch of new books at an airport kiosk. We handed them over the counter to the cashier, practically blushing, exclaiming “we loved Singapore! We’re so sad to leave! It was so fun!” He parroted us in disbelief “Fun? I don’t know about that.” We rephrased, flustered: “well, it’s just so efficient! Everything runs so smoothly.” He nodded “now that, I can agree with.” And it felt like a risky moment - like we had seen too much, and for a brief second, the fantasy had dissipated. No time to waste, we smiled and grabbed our things, knowing we could maximize the minutes before our flight to Phnom Penh. There was still a hostel to book, snacks to buy, water bottles to fill before we would board our next plane, and all of it, as always, under the gaze of the city we’d fallen for so fast, a thousand watchful eyes overhead.