Rose-Tinted Goggles (Singapore Day 11)

Sunday, Jun 05 2022 (Day 11)

This Sunday, my last full day in Singapore on this trip, saw me wandering around to my three later childhood homes, Yishun 799, Yishun 723, and Tampines 294, as well as a couple places besides that that held some meaning for me. It was basically a pilgrimage day. I ended with over 250 photos and many sore body parts, so for this extended blog post, pictures are getting posted as gallery sets without too much analysis or commentary on individual photos. Though there’s still some for interesting ones that stood out to me, and there will still be an overall comment block before each set.

So I learnt on this trip that my entire childhood was a lie. Barely anything was recognizable and in some cases my memory was completely off the mark. I’ve never been more convinced that the world is a virtual reality and everything before the start of my blog was a deepfake life simulation. But I’m on to you now, Tigey.

My first stop of the day was to Khatib MRT Station, a stone’s throw away from my Yishun 799 house, the first house I actually do have some strong memories of, where I stayed from when I was about 3 years old to about 8 or so, 30+ years ago. There was a block in the way where there used to be a wide, open field that allowed me to see the house from the actual station, so that was rude.

But to start off, I first headed in the opposite direction from Khatib MRT Station that my Yishun 799 was in, as I remembered that there were a row of shops there, and well, I wanted to see what they were like. They were a normal row of shops. I don’t know what I was expecting. I did remember an NTUC Fairprice store though, and I did find it, but it was facing in the opposite direction from what my mental image of it was, which was a bit weird.

I then made my way back toward Yishun 799, passing a police box that I remember very well. Mom or Dad dragged me there one day when I was little and crying my eyes out. Yay trauma. I remember it as being the eastern edge of my pre-Primary 1 world though.

I visited our old house and was greeted by another dog — this one was barking its head out so I didn’t stop to stare at the house. The little enclave of houses we used to stay in is now called Khatib Vale. What sort of an odd name is that? It’s perfectly level, so what part of it is the vale/valley? Are the HDB flats the mountains?? Also, vale is a word I associate with elves in fantasy worlds so I guess we were born from an enclave of elves?

Brunch

I then went down to the coffeeshop/kopitiam just downstairs and one block over from Yishun 799 — this place was well within my consciousness as a ~5 year old too and the first ever coffeeshop that I actually remember eating at. I don’t remember the stores, but I’m not surprised. There were probably better stall to eat at, I was considering a duck rice stall, but the Uncle was friendly at this store (he jokingly offered a full refund if I wasn’t happy with the meal) and so I ended up here.

This dish was their Traditional Minced Meat Noodles, retailing for a flat $5.00, which he recommended because it had a little bit of all the other dishes in it. I didn’t love it, but I liked it well enough, although there were pig intestine bits in there or something that I had long forgotten existed as an ingredient in some Singapore dishes until I bit down into its bitter(?) taste.

There was another friendly old man wandering around from table to table offering drinks from the coffeeshop’s drinks stall too, and I requested some bandung (rose syrup) milk, which he provided me a nice big cup of for an additional $1.70. I had requested for soya bean milk at first, since he approached me while I was seated on the table and thus didn’t have a chance to see the menu, but they didn’t sell that.

Here are some miscellaneous gallery pictures from the lunch coffeeshop.

After lunch, I went over to another flat in this elven enclave — this is Block 795, where my babysitter Auntie used to stay. I thought she used to stayton the 5th floor, so my mind was blown when I actually went up to the 5th floor and found it completely unrecognizable. Like the layout and everything was different. There were also now two elevators in the building, which I don’t remember.. and the elevator stopped on every floor, which I don’t remember… argh. What part of this was renovations and upgrades and what part was faulty memory?

However, I DID find the floor layout that I remember.. instead of the 5th floor, which was a long floor that went from one end of the block to the other, it was one of the other shorter floors that I remembered instead. You can kind of see this in this picture — the 5th floor, 9th floor, etc are longer than the others, and the other floors are half-length, separated by some empty space, with an elevator on the left end of each half. The floor number 5 was significant for me, so our babysitter (and the house we spent so much time in) was likely the 4th floor or the 6th floor or something like that, and we probably just climbed up or down a level to use the elevator back when it only stopped on the long floors. This did evoke a dim memory or two, though I’m not sure if it’s my brain making up stuff to try to justify and reconcile its memories. It just, well, floored me and shook me to the core that she didn’t actually live on the 5th floor.

I don’t remember which floor she lived on for sure so I just went to the very top and walked down the length of the corridor of every floor to be certain that I passed the house at some point.

I then went behind Block 795, to look for the kindergarten that I attended. I -think- it was this one,

Although it’s been rebranded as Sparkletots now, if it’s the right one. What a fun name. I wish I could say that I was a Sparkletot. There were tons of these government-sponsored Sparkletots kindergartens everywhere. There were other ones owned by other chains though, and even in this Khatib Vale collection of 5-6 blocks alone there were two competing kindergartens located on the ground floors of two of the buildings, in comparison to (only) one coffee shop, one mom-and-pops minimart next to the coffee shop, and that police box that I passed on the way in earlier.

Walking past the kindergarten to the next set of flats behind it, I also chanced upon what looked like the reception lunch for a Chinese wedding, located underneath a HDB flat:

Well, it was some sort of event at least. Everyone dressed so casually that it was hard to tell.

I then crossed back through the Vale and went over toward my old primary school, Peiying Primary School, located across the road and down a side path. On the way, I passed Naval Base Secondary School, which has been used as a model in my dreams on the rare occasion that I “pass a school on my way to another school”, like on Mar 01 2022 and May 12 2022. My school itself was locked and there was no way in since it was the weekend and the security table was unmanned. Oh well. Oddly, there was an unlocked side gate into that Naval Base Secondary School that led to a sports field and probably the rest of the school from there, but I have no particular attachment to that school and didn’t care to enter.

I then went backwards to the minimart that I had passed on my way to Peiying (and pointed out in one of the gallery pictures above). It was a little Mom-and-Pop’s convenience store. I chatted to the owner briefly, since he was sociable and spoke English, and he said he had been there for 6 years, so he definitely wasn’t around when I was going to school here. The name Sukitei Minimart sounded

I bought some ice cream while I was there to support him, especially since he had a little girl running around the place clutching her school homework in hand as well. This was a Xiaomei Dasheng Vanilla Ice Cream Roll, and it cost $2.10. There was an actual ice cream cone inside the cup that I had to pull out.

This somehow caused the skies to open up, and it began pouring while I was at the minimart exchanging niceties with the guy. A horde of players that were playing soccer on some nearby court or something flooded in to the void deck next to the minimart to wait out the rain, so I gave him and them some room and moved along.

I ducked and weaved my way across a series of HDB flat void decks and new-to-me roadside pathway shelters and wielded my trusty new pink and black Mustafa umbrella (which was worrying me — some of the umbrella frame tips seem oddly out of shape and the handle and cord thing comes off if I “unscrew” it — and I twirl an umbrella around a LOT while using one so it got unscrewed several times).

I was headed over to Yishun 723, my second childhood home in Yishun and third home overall. This involved retracing my route to the earlier crosswalk, and following either side of the road away from Yishun 799 to a 4-way junction, and then either going straight or turning left from there as the road more or less loops around onto itself. I crossed the road back over to the 799 side because there were sheltered building I could dodge under there as I made my way north, and I went straight at the 4-way because it was the route I remembered less (plus the other route was visually boring).

This next set of pictures feature the Yishun 723 block, as well as its neighbour, 724, and the surrounding vicinity. I went upstairs to look at the house at some point, and then came back down, and was stunned by how little I remembered. I remembered the corridor outside my house — our house was in the middle of a long corridor, and the corridor (and the ability/importance of being able to look down both sides of it) has been occasionally featured in my dreams, like on May 20 2021. But I didn’t remember most of the rest of anything I saw, especially the ground floor area of the surrounding vicinity. The playground in the middle of the two blocks was a mystery to me, and there was a kindergarten under both blocks now — the kindergarten was split across two discrete, unconnected buildings even though they were the same Sparkletots kindergarten, which was odd.

This meant that neither building had a full-length open void deck any longer. I kind of remember running across the entire length of the void deck under one of the buildings on my way home from a Peiying school bus that would drop me on the other end of the block from my elevator. And possibly when I was going to school in the morning, as well. This would have been when I was in Primary 3.

I also remembered the two Roads Leading In to the little ring road that encircled blocks 723 and 724, though the boom barriers are new (they guarded virtually all residential carparks that I saw in Singapore though, together with a sign that showed how many parking spots were left in that carpark and what toll it would cost to park there — a greedy change from the Singapore I left 24 years ago which had none of these boom barriers/gates). I also remembered that there were two schools outside the two Roads Leading In, but I didn’t remember the name of the primary school, Jiemin Primary School, at all. The school website claims it has been there since 1985. I don’t remember it. The other school, Yishun Secondary School, I do remember. Why would I remember one school but not the other? Must be another tear in the fabric of the fake reality planted in my memory!

I then walked out of the smaller ring road (that encircled blocks 723-724) and back to the larger ring road (the one that culminated in the 4-way intersection from two galleries ago). I followed it the other way from where I came in, toward where I would have come from if I had turned left at the 4-way intersection instead of going straight. I remember that that road split off at a 3-way junction with a third road that led to a row of outdoor shops that I dimly remember visiting with either Mom or Dad. I wanted to see these shops because they’ve also vaguely featured in dreams before, as “shops a couple streets away from my house that I could visit if I spent some effort to walk there”.

This was a complete lie. I visited the row of shops but not only did they not look individually familiar, there would have been no reason why we would have gone to any of these shops in the past. There was another market nearby, the one that I could see down a side road that I had no recollection of (but that I point out in the gallery below), and this one had an actual market with mom-and-pops shops, a food place, an overhead bridge that I sort of remember, and would have been something that we might have visited, but it’s not where it was placed in my memories, which were apparently all lies. But there was still one more house to visit, and surely, since that one was our most recent house, I would remember more of it, right?

Anyway, while at that fake row of shops, I saw a fancy ice cream parlour and stopped in for a bite, as I have had previous positive memory-making experiences with specialty ice cream shops in both Calgary and San Jose. I like supporting ice cream parlours. But this one was not so good, possibly partly because it was boring and indoors rather than outdoors, and partly because the staff were all in some back room and only came out to take my money before retreating back to socialize with each other. The staff member who served me was friendly and did give me some recommendations, and also took my cup from me to dispose once I was done when I was going to leave with it due to seeing no way to dispose of it inside the shop, but they also missed a couple of people who came in while I was having my snack, looked frustrated at the lack of visible personel at the counter, turned around, and left.

This ice cream shop was called The Daily Scoop, and I had a double scoop of ice cream — Salted Mister Brown, and Surprising Coconut, which were two of their more popular/interesting flavours. It was okay. They were generic ice cream flavours. It also cost $8.50 in total for both scoops, and didn’t come with enough café ambience or unique taste or volume of ice cream to be worth it. The random vanilla ice cream I had from that other minimart by Peiying was worth more than this one.

As I had arrived from Khatib MRT Station, I took the bus from here to Yishun MRT Station, which was the other (and more northern) MRT station in the Yishun residential town, and the one actually named after it. The Khatib area is also considered part of Yishun though. (There’s apparently a 3rd MRT station in the Yishun area now, connected to another train line, but I’m not familiar with it and never went that way while on my visit.)

While at Yishun MRT Station, I visited a mall called Northpoint, which apparently has seen major renovations and multiple expansions since I last visited it. I shouldn’t have to mention by this point that absolutely nothing about the place was even remotely familiar.

While in Northpoint, I also stumbled upon a KFC and decided to have some whipped potato (basically mashed potatoes with gravy) there. This is a snack that I can’t get in our pathetic Canada KFCs for some reason. They had a small and a medium size helping that I could order, but no large size bowl anymore. I ordered a medium for $3.80 and got…

Excuse me? This tasted correct, but it was so disappointingly small that I laughed. KFC is so pathetic now if this is all they have. The large bowl (which definitely used to cost less than this $3.80 nonsense) had a *radius* of slightly less than the diameter of this skimpy little bowl, and was big enough for two scoops of potato and a healthy dollop of sauce. And the potatoes aren’t even handmade or anything (they’re apparently made from a powdered mix to save time) so it’s not like the cost of this dish is that high. And if this is medium, how small is small?? Maybe I was given the wrong size for my order?

Next up, I went to Tampines, the site of our last home, Tampines 294, before we moved to Canada. The usual route here, and the one Google suggested, was to take the North-South line from Yishun MRT Station down to the central nexus at Raffles Place/City Hall MRT Station, and then east along the East-West line to Tampines, which would be about 23 stops or so. But I knew there were alternate lines now with all the additional lines that Singapore had built in the past 20 years, so I did some train hopping and arrived there about 15 minutes ahead of schedule from what Google had suggested. For some reason, Google Maps in Singapore doesn’t give good suggestions that utilize the Circle and Downtown lines, among other side lines.

The train passed this body of water just south of Khatib MRT Station, which is called the Lower Seletar Reservoir.

I’m just going to leave this here for now but will talk about it in my Memory Snippet of the Week segment in this upcoming week’s weekly blog entry, just so I have something easy and memorable to get back into the swing of things with.

Anyway, I decided to go one extra stop from the usual Tampines MRT Station stop, and went for the Tampines East stop instead, which was only accessible via the blue Downtown line. This was closer to the Tampines 294 home, but didn’t exist when we were living here before. The entire Downtown line didn’t exist, in fact.

It’s a testament to how much this place has changed that I couldn’t even pinpoint my first photo of the Tampines 294 block in my carousel of photos without using an external site to check photo GPS coordinates. But the following pictures are apparently of Tampines 294, and surrounding area:

I was marvelling, by this point, how the area looked strange and foreign to me. It was like I was entering a new generic area for the first time. There were at least four (if not five!) different elevators in the building leading up to different parts of the block, which were unconnected on most floors. I remember none of this. Having to go up/down to our front door was a memory that I had completely lost, although I was able to reconcile the direction of the front door with one of my memories. The view was unfamiliar. The neighbourhood was wrong. There was a bus stop that I remembered, and an overhead bridge just beyond that that I remembered, but I thought there was a field between our house and the bus stop, right by where a friend (Gillian) used to stay, and a nearby coffee shop bordering the field as well, but all that was missing. There were also large trees blocking the bus stop and bridge from being seen from our block, whereas I thought we had a clear view before.

Everything was an illusion. My whole childhood life was a lie.

I still had one last stop I wanted to visit on my pilgrimage, and it was right by Tampines MRT Station, or at least about a 10 minute slow walk north of it. This was Sun Plaza Park, and it was a somewhat significant place that I had talked about before in a previous blog entry. It was significant as one of the last places I remember visiting, and a place that I had basically said goodbye to Singapore from, and thankfully THIS memory was still correct enough (i.e. the park was still around and the plaza hadn’t been changed into an octagon or something) that I easily found the old star on the ground again. I stood in the middle of it, mindful that I had thought 24 years ago that I would never come back to this place again. Well I did, and I said hello to my old self and reclaimed that memory/laid that memory to rest. It was a nice bit of closure.

I could have had dinner here, but I remembered how much I liked the soup from that Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre from a few days ago, and that was just one MRT Station stop away, so I decided to head on that way for what I figured was my last dinner in Singapore proper. I took a walk around the Pasir Ris station area before I did so, as I contemplated heading for some nearby mangroves and a nature hike and possible fireflies, then decided it was a bad idea due to tiredness and impending nightfall and potentially tons of other bugs that would torment me. I went for some nice cloud pictures instead and then headed for the hawker centre.

Dinner

So for dinner, I went back to Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre, and specifically the Jun Yuan House of Fish, which I had visited for dinner on May 29/Day 4. I was contemplating trying the exact same dish that I liked again, but I decided to try another dish from their repertoire instead, their Herbal Seafood Soup, with rice, for $7.50. The guy working at the counter was friendly and said he’d give me a little bit of extra rice as well, but it looked exactly like the same amount as what I had gotten last time.

And it was.. okay. I disliked one of the new ingredients in this soup, so it turned out to be kind of disappointing, and the loss of the Chinese spinach really hurt the soup as well, though I think there was still some wolfberry in it. I think. I definitely should have just stuck to the other dish that I really liked. Oh well!

After this, I headed home. I was still trying to wash out the taste of that seafood soup from my mouth, so I stopped by the Eunos Central Hawker Centre for a drink from this Whampoa Soya Bean stall that was still open late:

I ordered a Rose Soya Bean drink from them for $1.60, which was a combination of rose syrup (bandung) and soya bean milk (tau huay chui), but was really, really bland, and the rose syrup was squeezed in from a bottle to the very bottom of the cup and didn’t mix well with the soya bean milk at all. In addition, when I was trying to pay the guy, I accidentally dropped a 20 cent coin into one of four lidless plastic containers of liquid he had at the front of the stall, and he looked in it, shrugged, told me not to mind it, and… just continued serving the next customer. Without bothering to removing the coin that was still in the liquid!

What was he doing! Did he think that was a wishing fountain?? Was that the 20 cent coin I had dropped back at the Pasir Ris Hawker Centre that had rolled around on the floor??? Ugh. I know it was my fault I dropped the coin in there while trying to give him the payment for the drink, but he probably shouldn’t have containers of uncovered liquid (that he scooped out for customers depending on what they were ordering) there in the first place where money and drink containers were being passed over it regularly, and maybe should find some way to try to scoop something that drops in there out ASAP. Dirty stall with terrible drink.

My night was saved by the parade of animals I saw on the way home after this though. Firstly, this dog being pushed around on a cart:

Then, this cat that assailed a passerby, running up to him and mewling around his ankles, causing him to stop and then get waylaid by a spokesperson for some skills learning centre trying to sign people up for some classes. Obviously an accomplice cat, hopefully one that receives commission from the school, and I had a good chuckle over it. (The representative had approached me too, and then wished me a safe flight home when I had mentioned that I was a tourist and was leaving the next day).

And finally, this black cat, not far away from the previous two animals:

I was not sure about the second cat, but I had definitely previously seen the first cat before, on Day 1. Nice to see the cats still around, but I also felt a pang of sympathy for the cats that have to survive this way because they were unlucky enough to not get adopted or born into a forever home with owners to care for them. Singapore had so many stray cats that hung around their various communities. There’s nearly none at all in Edmonton (for weather reasons).

Lastly, I saw this being set up and had no clue what it was:

It had been a long day, so I filed that memory away and went home to take a nice long shower and promptly fall asleep to process everything I had seen that day.

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