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  • Can't decide which hawker centre to go to, and which hawker food you want to eat?

    A few taps on your phone will lead you to the good ones close by. What’s the first thing you do when you step inside a new mall or building? You check the directory. (At least that’s what I do, and what I would do.) From there you figure out where you are, and where you want to go next. “I believe that directories help a lot when you need direction,” says Akiyasu Takaseki, the chief operating officer of digital creative company Futurek SG. “When I come to a shopping mall, I will find a directory to assist my decision and guide my way to the shop.” But what if you’re at an unfamiliar hawker centre? 🤔 A directory would certainly help, but is there one that’s easy to spot, and easily accessible? One that has loads of information on it? Enter Wak Wak Hawker – a comprehensive database and directory of Singapore’s hawker centres, which diners can access online. Founded and built by Aki and his team, Wak Wak Hawker was launched in February 2021. It includes a Search function for people to conveniently find and discover hawker stalls and meals. They can leave a rating and review too. What else makes a directory great? “The filter is one of the factors that makes a directory easy to use, and effective,” Aki answers. “You can choose the intended category rather than idling. A well-structured filter helps users save time and find things easily.” Recommendations, too. No easy feat Can you imagine researching and listing down all of those hawker stalls and foods? Yikes. “We commenced work on the project in December 2018. Our highly skilled engineers in Japan were gathering and discussing the website, logo, target users, etc. After thousands of meetings and aborted ideas, Wak Wak Hawker came up at the end,” he recounts. It certainly tested Aki and his team. “One of the issues we faced was how to decide the ways in which to do research. There are plenty, so we needed to decide our target users as the first step. “After I took a lot of time to do some in-depth studies, I found that tourists like to search for nearby eating places when they come to an attraction,” he continues. “So I took it as user behaviour to consider and we finally decided on ‘nearby landmark’ and ‘cuisine categories’ as the research keywords. “We also aim to make more people visit more hawkers to have fun. So Wak Wak Hawker helps you find other hawkers near a hawker. Actually, we named the directory ‘Wak Wak’, which in Singlish means ‘walk around’.” On to the favourites Fortunately, Aki and his team did all the “walking” for us. But in case you still can’t decide, and need a nudge or some inspiration, here are five hawker stalls and meals that Aki only recently – and happily – discovered. Then work your way with Wak Wak Hawker from there. 😊 #1 Zhen Zhen Porridge at Maxwell Food Centre “It opens only early morning, so whenever I reach the office early and I can get their porridge, I feel very happy.” #2 Weng Pancake at Maxwell Food Centre “Their you tiao goes very well with porridge. They’re mandatory for working from morning!” #3 Ringo Handmade Fishball Noodle at Redhill Food Centre “Whenever I drop by this shop, the uncle there talks to me and gives me some of what he cooks. He explains how he cooks, what his signature is, and how ‘deep’ hawker food is. I love talking to him.” #4 Good Duck at Yuhua Village Market and Food Centre “The duck is succulent and very well-seasoned. I strongly suggest the yam rice for the aromatic scent of the yam.” #5 Tong Sheng Bak Kut Teh at Pandan Gardens “This was the first time I tried a Malaysian bak kut teh, which is different from most eateries’ in Singapore. The broth has a clean herbal taste.” And here are his five favourite hawker stalls and meals of all time. (Well, since he moved from Japan to Singapore in 2018.) #1 Boon Curry at Redhill Food Centre “Uncle here is my first best friend in Singapore. He has taught me a lot about the hawker culture in Singapore. This is the biggest reason why I decided to develop this hawker centre information platform.” #2 Shun Li Ah Ma Lor Mee at Redhill Food Centre “Their lor mee is not only quite delicious, but also beautiful enough to post on your Instagram! The variety of ingredients gives you a special feeling that you might never feel in other stalls.” #3 Tai Liok Claypot Chicken Rice at Alexandra Village Food Centre “A famous claypot chicken rice shop you must try! It’s better to make a reservation before going as they usually have long queues and take some time to cook.” #4 Dessert Station at Toa Payoh Lorong 5 Food Centre Their traditional black sesame soup is not to be missed. It’s nutty, additive-free, and “surprisingly delicious and nutritious”, he says. #5 Kallang Cantonese Live Prawn Noodle at Old Airport Road Food Centre According to Aki, the sizes of the prawns are impressive, and their freshness guarantees a tender and fresh dish. An order can range from S$6 to S$12. So if a visitor asks Aki for his most highly recommended hawker centre, what would it be and why? “Lau Pa Sat is one. It’s one of the well-known hawker centres in Singapore. There’s a variety of local stalls and foods gathered here, like satay, seafood barbecue, beef noodles… Definitely have the one you like! “I believe some local people may say that it’s not a ‘hawker centre’. I agree with that opinion, though it’s suitable for tourists who have never visited a hawker centre before. It should be a proper place to make that first step into hawker culture.” Well, are these suggestions enough to get you started? You can always use Wak Wak Hawker if not. 😊 Immersed in the culture What lessons has Aki learnt from experiencing Singapore’s hawker scene and culture? “Most of the stalls sell homecooked dishes,” he observes. “Singaporeans like to gather at hawker centres for weekend meals, and hawker centres become places to tie up family members and friendships. Look at the whole picture: Hawker culture contributed to the diversity of Singapore’s multicultural society.” And what has it taught him as a diner? “A dish for me is just for eating and rating. When I have a chance to talk to the uncles and aunties, I find that the story behind one dish is not that simple. Hawkers selling cooked food have to wake up early in the morning, like 4am, to prepare the food. Some of them will work till night. A simple plate of char kway teo is hard work.” So let’s be open and a bit more discerning. Online reviews are useful, but it’s not the only measure of a good hawker stall or meal. “Jump in and get your feet wet. That’s what I think, because one man’s meat might be another man’s poison. I have to go to the place and try it, so I’ll know if the dish is to my taste.” Eat away! Follow Wak Wak Hawker on Facebook and Instagram. Want to support them? You can also provide photos or articles, and your feedback: email contact@wak-wak-hawker.com or send a message through WhatsApp at +1 208 314 3315.

  • How to dance like nobody’s watching

    You just have to start moving. “Dance like nobody’s watching.” It sounds simple and easy to do, at least in theory. Because who cares what other people think? Just let go, move to the beat (so to speak), and leave them to deal with it. (I’ve actually written a post about this before: Read it here. I think I’m revisiting the topic because I need someone to tell me to go for it, to not hold back… and that everything’s going to be okay. It’s a sign and a wakeup call. I’m pretty sure I’ll have another post like this in the future.) But what if you “dance” terribly and get easily embarrassed, though? 😬 What if it’s not “you”? What if it’s something that feels awkward to you? “I suppose this quote is about being free in your body, and not being self-conscious,” muses Bernice Lee, a dance artist, choreographer, theatre performer, teacher and writer based in Singapore. “These were things I felt especially strongly about when I was younger, and what motivated me to care about dance as a practice and an art form.” So what happened? 🙂 Well, she plodded on. “Dancing was always important for my sense of self. I do it primarily for myself, for my sense of freedom and joy, to just be present, to learn something and to create something,” she answers. “I find that dancing has helped me grow beyond self-awareness, into other-awareness – that by learning to feel more grounded within my body, I’ve also been able to pay better attention to the people and situations around me.” That’s good to hear – and a good example for us to follow, too. She does have this to say about the above quote, however. “This quote also signals that oftentimes dancing is about what the dancer looks like – that dancing is something people look at,” she ponders. “So in a sense, for me, when I teach and create and perform, ‘Dance like everybody’s looking’ is also useful. I think we can be just as un-self-conscious and free if everybody’s looking. When everybody’s looking, all that is different is that our attention of self and other is heightened.” Besides, “I went to look up the origins of this well-known quote, and learnt that it’s often misattributed – and that it most probably surfaced in 1987 when the songwriters Richard Leigh and Susanna Clark wrote in in ‘Come From The Heart’,” she reveals. “I thought it was quite telling that a quote so well-known can have its origins be so unknown. It’s quite easy to forget that things don’t just appear out of thin air? Someone had to come up with it.” It all fits Bernice has been tapping into her talent, positive energy, and love of dance ever since, exploring different means of self-expression at various venues. She is the co-director of Derring-Do Dance, an arts company in Singapore that runs dance and body-based programmes for diverse children, families and the wider public. Meanwhile, Rolypoly Family, a division of Derring-Do Dance, creates dance experiences from their artists’ intuitive and responsive movement practices. And together with Chong Gua Khee, Bernice also co-directed the performance project Tactility Studies, wherein they encourage participants to “open up their bodies” and let go through workshops and performances. Audiences find themselves entranced when they witness the many ways in which Bernice improvises and expresses her emotions and messages. Just check out her Instagram: She looks so free and at ease with herself, and how she moves. It’s cool to see. 👏 The “un-self-conscious” approach worked to her advantage. “I think at some point as a dancer I became less concerned about expressing myself, and more interested in all the things that my body can experience, feel, create. Self-expression became the wonderful byproduct of artistic exploration. When dancing and rehearsing, it’s all about holding on to specific feelings/sensations/intentions, and trying to rediscover them each day.” Can she give us some tips then, on how to not be so self-conscious and self-critical about our movements, our bodies, and our facial expressions – and to an extent our perspectives and perceptions of ourselves, and the people and things around us? (Whew. That was long.) #1 It’s okay to be self-conscious and self-critical “I think it’s part of learning,” she remarks. “But once our self-talk starts to hold us back, then yes, it’s good to work through our emotions and self-perception.” #2 Affirmations are helpful “Tell yourself one thing you like about yourself, your body, your life. Say it out loud, or write it down. Or if affirmations don’t work, maybe radical acceptance will. For instance, say: ‘I don’t like how my voice sounds, and I accept that I don’t like it, and I accept that this is how my voice sounds.’” #3 Dance in a context and community you feel good in “Get moving in your body any chance you get. Do silly movements. The sillier I get, the less self-conscious I find myself feeling.” Look around you And be inspired by people, moments and experiences too. Bernice counts her mum as a huge influence (among many). “Maybe I’ll only mention this: My mother was always performing creative acts at home,” she recalls. “She is a homemaker and has never retired. She MacGyver’s all kinds of improvised solutions at home, and the meals she cooks are always somewhat improvised. And she would get inspired once in a while and make craft things, for kicks. “This kind of daily curiosity of ‘What happens if I do this?’ had a profound influence on me and continues to this day as she grandmothers my baby.” (Yup, Bernice is a new mum.) Can she also share with us then, the ways in which we can use both standout and everyday moments or experiences to lift and improve how we “move”? 🙂 #1 Play “I suppose just playing with an image or colour or feeling, and allowing that thing to infuse your sense of your body, can create new opportunities for movement? It’s more about what it feels like on the inside, to the imagination, to the body.” And… #2 There’s no right or wrong “It’s all feelings. And I suppose when the imagination is free, a person might also move on, find new things to do with themselves and with their lives.” #3 Get unstuck How does the way we move affect our overall physical and mental well-being? “I think the way we move reveals something about how we live in our bodies, how we inhabit our bodies – and I think that affects how we inhabit this planet and relate to each other, and to ourselves,” she observes. “If we always move in one way, then that sets us up to live in one way. Sometimes we can’t change the way we live in our bodies without changing the way we move. A simple example would be: ‘I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders, and if I don’t release it regularly, I might start to feel even more stressed just because my body is telling my brain that something is not right.’” The solution Start experimenting with different means of self-expression, dance or movement, and creativity as soon as you can. That’s why there’s Derring-Do Dance and Rolypoly Family. 😊 “It’s never too late to start experimenting with dancing! I think dancing can create the space for better self-ownership, self-awareness, and other-awareness. Of course, this depends on the environment we’re dancing in,” Bernice states. “For Rolypoly Family/Derring-Do Dance, we’re very specific in that we set up a learning environment where children and grown-ups feel comfortable and confident in their bodies. It’s not easy to feel comfortable in your body; at some point every child is told to ‘control’ themselves by sitting still, as if there’s something wrong with the body wanting to move (there isn’t). “And anyway, what we want for the body isn’t necessarily ‘control’ – it’s awareness and health and pleasure,” she stresses. “For Rolypoly Family, we want people to come dance with us and feel a sense of liberation – that dancing is an act of caring for your body, and caring about what your body has to tell you, what it can create.” The results “A teacher told us that a toddler who’s usually in their own world transformed during just an hour’s dance session with us,” she says. “The toddler became engaged with us, and with other people. That delighted our hearts! Because it gave that teacher a chance to connect with her young charge. “More generally, I love seeing people leave my dance classes feeling refreshed and recharged.” And sometimes, at the end of the day, that’s all you could ask for, especially during these tricky times. “We have been sharing daily dance sessions!” Bernice tells us. (Head on over to Rolypoly Family’s Instagram.) “It was to warm up for home-based learning, but we’re continuing it this week.” And hopefully for more weeks to come. They also have a four-day holistic dance camp, in case you’re interested. “It nurtures the dancers’ overall artistry and technique, while introducing them to the essentials of health and wellness for dancers,” she explains. “This contemporary and creative dance camp is open to young dancers of all levels. Dancers will have room to strengthen their foundational movement, and to tap into their creative confidence through improvisational and compositional studies. Each day of the camp centres on a Dance Mission, supplemented by activity packets that dancers can work with offline. There is room on the final day for our camp facilitators to spend time individually with each dancer, working on their solos before the closing show and party.” But if you can’t make it and are at home, take a leaf out of Bernice’s book and check out what she’s done in Tactility Studies. They make use of improvisation, durational performances and experiential installations. “Durational performances are events where people gather, sometimes coming and going, for a longish period of time. Things unfold over time,” she points out. “Experiential installations are spaces where people are invited to not only use their eyes, but also their other senses, and to put their whole selves into it.” It could be just the ticket for you to finally practice and “dance like nobody’s watching” – with or without your loved ones present. 😊 Although there are other methods as well. For Bernice, “Going into nature has helped. Also deep breaths, and bearing witness to my own life and to those of the people around me,” she admits. “I also dance a little bit, and stretch my limbs, every day.” It’s a start! Find Bernice on @bleelly, @rolypolyfamilysg and @tactilitystudies – and for more examples of how her “life regularly transforms her art-making”. Try her moves, make your own, find your own release, and be free. 👍

  • 5 easy ways to change the look of a room

    You can even do these yourself. What’s the first thing you notice when you step inside someone’s home or personal space? Me, the layout – if there’s lots of room to move. Next would be the windows, and how much natural light is coming in. And then probably the furniture. I guess I’m no designer then, because apparently the observations happen way before that. 😁 “I observe the front first, regardless of whether it is a home or a commercial space,” says Allan Chee, the founder of Space Editor and manager of The Design Team. The first impressions too. “The cleanliness and tidiness of the area tells me a lot, from the front and when I step into the space.” And he believes he is able to absorb it all in just a few seconds. “Any space, the front, it’s like us, if we are well-dressed to impress, or don’t care. The inside will tell me the personality and character of the owners, even all the way to their physical, mental and emotional health. It’s a professional hazard,” he jokes. Although before he leaves, he does get curious and asks about the person’s design choices – but that’s about it. “Personally, if I am at a friend’s or anyone’s space and it’s not for work, I always keep my opinions and suggestions to myself.” However, “If it’s for clients who seek my help and advice, I am totally transparent and straightforward, as I want to give them the most accurate (information) and the best of my knowledge and experience,” he states. “Sometimes, a minority couldn’t take the truth, but overall this is what most of my clients want – honesty and someone who is out there to help them.” It makes sense Allan describes Space Editor as an interior design and architecture company in Singapore that specialises in building and renovating residential and commercial spaces. “We’re identified with timeless design, and with providing good, warm and straightforward service,” Allan asserts. “We always empathise with the client – with who they are, how they want to live and resolve their needs with flair. Our belief is ‘Everyone deserves to live in designer homes’, and we always say ‘transforming spaces as if it’s ours’.” But what if we have budget constraints? It’s still possible, he answers, “As long you are open to our suggestions and advice when we lay (everything) on the table, and weigh which things to do and to give up, or what can probably be added in the future.” I suppose we have to be realistic as well. 😊 All is not lost, however. We can change or update the look of our homes if we do things step by step – or room by room, more like it. We can go slow, and not totally renovate everything for now. Allan suggests five easy ways: #1 A fresh coat of quality paint #2 Change the lighting #3 Replace or move furniture #4 Declutter #5 Tidy and clean up We can add more, if your budget allows. Here are some that I’ve seen that could work for you: #6 Get plants or flowers #7 Decorate your walls Hang artwork, framed items, photos, ceramics or mirrors. Use wall decals. #8 Change your window treatment Shades, blinds, drapes… even a switch of simple curtains might help. #9 Install floating shelves Display books and other fun pieces. Use them as open storage. #10 Lay a carpet and some throws Don’t forget the details In the meantime, though, find what you love. Go online for photos and design ideas. What are you a fan of? Allan is into modern luxe concepts, and the Japanese aesthetics of kanso, wabi sabi and shibui. These encourage you to think about “simplicity” and “finding beauty in imperfection”. With the help of the right designer (please choose wisely and get references from satisfied customers), you could incorporate the design approaches you admire later, when you’re all in for that renovation. “Follow your heart; don’t follow trends. Something is timeless when it speaks to you and to others,” he remarks. “There will always be someone out there who’ll appreciate it and have tastes similar to yours.” Emphasis also goes to tips #4 and #5 – because no matter how incredible your furniture is or how well-laid-out your space is, it still won’t leave a good impression if it isn’t clean and organised. First impressions may last and may be important, but isn’t your opinion the one that ultimately counts? 🙂 But we still hope the above information can help tide you over as you stay patient for a space that suits you and your personality, and contributes to your well-being (and is not too hard on your wallet). Find Space Editor on Facebook and Instagram.

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