Singapore at Random

Ever wished there was a book to sum up all the quotes, legends, statistics, and insider knowledge of Singapore? Well there is. This book, titled “Singapore at Random”, offers a quirky selection of trivia related to anything Singaporean. Of course, this book, which is first published in 2011, is slightly outdated (strange stuff pops up every now and then) but is still largely relevant. I still cannot proudly say that I’ve read the entire book, even though I started doing so 3 years ago, because I have a penchant for reading non-fictional books in a random order (just like the title suggests). Even so, I find myself re-reading parts again and again — since the book bandies around so many interesting facts. Apparently, this book is part of a series on South-East Asia. I think there’s a Malaysia and Thailand volume which I am keen to get hold of as well.

Things I like…

I like the illustrations inside — just as I expected of a book of this genre. Also notable is the wide range of themes covered, from religion to ice cream, to drugs juxtaposed with Chilli Crab. This colourful mix reflects our multi-cultural heritage, all written with a sharp sense of humour.

… And not that much

One major problem is that the author sounds like a tour guide rambling on to clueless tourists who are more interested in snapping photos at every direction and angle. But it’s targeted at expats or what not, you say. Maybe it really is, but nevertheless the examples given are somewhat stereotyped and do not quite resonate with a local like myself. For example, the book highlights the international fame of the Singapore Sling, a cocktail served at the Raffles Hotel. What’s the big deal anyway? It’s hardly a national drink and at S$30 each, it is certainly not priced within the reach of many. I’m sure the locals prefer their Kopi-O (traditional black coffee) from the Kopitiam (local coffee shop). Besides, the kucinta or Singapura cat (formed using an amalgamation of the Malay words for Kuching-cat and cinta- love) is all made-up nonsense.

My suggestion for this book? Why not ask more local folks for advice or suggestions?

This book evidently gravitates toward the intrepid tourist, and still is within the “OK” range. I’m sure many of us can relate to this — if we go overseas on a holiday the most locals would think it’s just the same old pesky tourists squeezing the streets and seeing the plain ol’ sights (again). While I’d think similarly too, I wouldn’t say it’s fair for the editors to churn out less-than-accurate information. I’m sick of local facts repackaged for outsiders.

Published by Thomas Rettig

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