Books for your #staycation
With the pandemic disrupting our travel plans, staycations are now the activity du jour.
Whether you use your SingapoRediscover vouchers at attractions, or just simply do a walking trail around the heritage spots in town, there are still many hidden gems in Singapore (sometimes they're hiding in plain sight) that we can miss.
That's where books come in. There have been many books written about this sunny island set in the sea—both fiction and nonfiction—that can help you get a better appreciation of this place that we call home. But which ones should you pick? Here are some suggestions that will enhance your #staycay.
Take your young ones on an excursion around the Lion City with the Secrets of Singapore series. These five books are meant for children, but really, grown-ups will be able to learn a thing or two, too. Trace the history and heritage of the island and get a sneak peek into some of the country's most iconic landmarks, including the National Museum of Singapore, the Botanic Gardens, Changi Airport and National Gallery Singapore. As guidebooks, these have fun facts that aren't always public knowledge and they're a great resource if you're visiting the places featured in these books. For instance, in the latest instalment about the National Gallery Singapore, it reveals that the batik painting "Untitled (Malayan Life)" appears to have been hung slanted. However, it's not the painting, but the building that is tilted. The painting is actually hung correctly. Also, did you know that Singapore's national butterfly—the Common Rose Butterfly—resides at the Butterfly Garden in Changi Airport's Terminal 3?
We all love visiting Sentosa for its staycation venues, attractions and beaches but did you know that there are strange goings-on happening on the island? Well, in the fertile minds of authors A.J. Low and Peter Tan, there are. First, in A.J. Low's Sherlock Sam and the Seafaring Scourge on Sentosa, Samuel Tan Cher Lock—aka Sherlock Sam—is a kid detective, who has to solve the mysterious disappearance of some priceless artefacts from a private collection. Together with his trusty robot, Watson, and his gang of friends the Supper Club, they find clues that lead them so Sentosa (and a few other offshore islands) where they confront the dastardly Pirates Inc. Sherlock Sam and friends have to come up with some clever solution to foil those wrongdoers. This is Book 15 in the series and the other books in the series also visit various locales in Singapore, from Katong to Jurong.
Meanwhile, Peter Tan's series, Sengkang Snoopers, also features a group of young kids stopping some no-good folks and their nefarious plans. In Book 1 of the series, The Mystery of the Hermit's Hut, the Snoopers—Su Lin, Su Yang, Bus, Zizi—visit Pulau Ubin and their stay turns into an adventure when they see strangers in a supposedly abandoned hut. They also pick up a parrot sidekick, Kuning too! In Book 2, The Secret of the Tiger's Den, the Snoopers are in Sentosa to enjoy a staycation when they find a scrap of paper with writing on it. Thinking that it could lead to treasure, they decide to seek a secret hideout called the Tiger's Den. But then, they meet a couple who aren't quite what they claim to be. It's up to the Snoopers to uncover the secret of the Tiger's Den and stop the baddies along the way. We're sure children will be thrilled by these adventure tales right in our backyard.
Speaking of Pulau Ubin, author Frankie Theo has managed to capture the spirit of that popular destination located off the northeast coast of mainland Singapore in his book, Pulau Ubin: The Last Frontier. A visit to the island itself, one of the last rural areas in Singapore still surviving, is a must, but before you go, pick up this charming collection of pen-and-ink sketches. Francis' art brings to life the nature, the simplicity, and laid-back vibe of the island—qualities increasingly rare in urbanised modern Singapore. With more than 50 original illustrations drawn on location, this book is a remarkable record of a truly unique place and way of life.
Back on mainland Singapore, world-renowned travel writer Pico Iyer puts pen to paper for a book that records his experiences in Singapore. In This Could Be Home: Raffles Hotel and the City of Tomorrow, he uses the Republic's most illustrious hotel icon, the Raffles Singapore, as a focal point as he looks at how the city around it has grown through the years and how the hotel itself has managed to not only maintain its 133-year tradition while keeping up with the times. Drawing upon numerous stays in Raffles over 35 years and the fast-ascending city all around it, Pico Iyer also reflects on the “Grand Old Lady’s” literary legacy and its mark on writers everywhere.
Another iconic structure that you can find dotted around the country are shophouses. In the first of two Singapore Shophouse Walks books by Russian photographer/writer Tatyana Kildisheva, you're led on a visual and historical journey around Singapore’s Chinatown and its surrounding areas. Showcasing the Peranakan culture and architecture, the stunning photos beautifully illustrate the accompanying text; while maps show the reader where to find the most picturesque and beautiful Peranakan shophouses and terraced houses around Chinatown, Blair Plain, Duxton Hill and Tanjong Pagar. Reflecting on Singapore's history and the present, the book makes the perfect gift and an unforgettable keepsake not only for visitors to Singapore who want to learn more about local culture; but also for Singaporeans, too.
This easy-to-carry book does exactly what its title says. Singapore Pocket Precincts: A Pocket Guide to the City's Best Cultural Hangouts, Shops, Bars and Eateries is written by Shawn Low and Wyn-Lyn Tan, and they have sniffed out the best in the buzzing city-state of Singapore. Yes, we may be small, but we still can pack a punch when it comes to things to do, whether it's visiting heritage-protected temples, mosques and churches or neon-lit "supertrees", or indulging in some retail therapy. And what is a Singapore guide without a cool selection of places to eat and drink? And no, this guide isn't restricted to the mainland—there is a selection of "field trips" you can take to the islands like Pulau Ubin or Sentosa.