I had the pleasure of a quick night time drive through Orchard Road in Singapore in mid-November.
These shaky cellphone pictures from a moving vehicle really don’t do justice to the Christmas lights. The theme, which some have questioned as being un-Christian, is ‘A Disney Christmas’.
But what struck me was how, a three-minute drive from the end of the shopping belt, we came across this other light up for Diwali or Deepavali – the Hindu Festival of Lights, in Little India in Serangoon Road.
This festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and light over darkness.
How wonderfully brilliant that two diverse festive occasions can be celebrated peacefully and harmoniously almost side by side.
It made me realise that while I’ve taken photographs of historical buildings, quirky art, gorgeous gardens on my travels, I have pitifully few photos of my morning cup of coffee, my after-dinner coffee or even my hotel-room coffee.
Yet, these cups of comfort represent many special moments: the quiet contemplation on a balcony, the thrill of discovering a local coffee shop speciality, the restful recuperation on a photo stop after two hours on a coach, even a conversation starter on a long train journey. Indeed, each cup was often a cultural experience and history lesson in itself.
So here are some royalty-free stock photographs that come closest to what I’ve encountered. My thanks to the photographers for their generosity in sharing, and for capturing what I should have.
This reminded me of kopi tarik (co-pee tar-rake) or “pulled coffee” in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The stall owner would raise his metal pot way above his head, take perfect aim and pour coffee (or tea) into a mug. He would pour the liquid in the mug back into the pot the same way, and repeat the pot to mug transfer. The result was a frothy beverage with the temperature just right for sipping. The old-fashioned cappuccino, perhaps?
This is Vietnamese dripped-coffee. In the tin cup are coffee grounds with hot water poured to the brim and kept warm by the saucer on top. In the mug is sweetened condensed milk. When all the liquid had dripped into the mug, you stirred your drink with the metal spoon and ta-da! … coffee.
I must confess this was something I didn’t actually try, although my fellow travellers did. In Singapore, traditional coffee shops in the 1930-40s served coffee with condensed milk and a blob of butter; this was called kopi gu you (co-pee goo you, where gu=cow, you=fat, hence coffee butter). The butter was said to add flavour to the coffee, and to “smoothen” its taste. Today, this drink has made a comeback, and also flourishes in parts of the US as Bulletproof Coffee, blended with the butter, coconut oil and protein powder.
And these two cuties remind me of my too-short trip to Nagoya, Japan.
In an attempt to promote phone-free dining and arrest the decline of real conversation, McDonald’s erected these mini-lockers. The intention was for diners to safely store their phones while they ate and conversed with the people they were actually dining with.
Look closely and you will notice the absence of phones, save two.
The lockers themselves were absent from that outlet several weeks later.