A lot changes in a little time in Singapore – coming back after a 6/7 year hiatus, it is very much same same but different. For one thing, hipster is now mainstream. Counter culture has arrived in a vintage dress, holding a granny’s handbag, dating a skinny bloke in a daft hat.
Emerging from Bugis MRT, a shopper has a stark lifestyle choice: enter the mainstream world of Bugis Junction or escape into the indie land of Haji Lane.
I don’t remember Haji Lane being a ‘destination’ during my previous Singapore life (2004-6, though I might of course be mistaken and stand to be corrected), so we just ‘discovered’ it for the first time.
The colourful shophouses are gilded by street art of the kind I recognise from hipster corners of London like Hackney – good graffiti is like a sign post to hipsturbia the world over.
Haji Lane’s murals are far from edgy – we are still in Singapore – but the whole street offers an alternative reality, which feels like an escape from the air-conned malls and timed street crossings.
The boutiques at the Bugis end of Haji are a quick lesson in how to do hipster Singapore-style.
I’m a good decade too old, of course, but a floaty tea-dress and tiny bag with a wrist strap would be a start.
Then I could progress through beribboned shoes to a fluorescent bicycle and, eventually, a dog dressed up as a superhero.
All the way down the other end of the lane, at the CAD cafe (which the chatty Aussie owner says is for Coffee, Art, Design), we stopped for a restorative long neck and discovered bar stools covered with jute coffee sacks from my husband’s company. Volkopi Blue Batak.
Just goes to show – behind even the most hipsterish hangout, there’s a multi-national lurking in the carefully-grunged shadows.