This Will Sell The Island’s Attractions To Us

A blondie amid our recognisable landmarks, and a plate of chicken rice entice you to discover our city. Really?

By Gordon Goh

It is a truth locally acknowledged, that a man—or woman, or child—in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a holiday. I have Jane Austen to thank for that. Yes, the urge to travel, even within the shores of our 724.2-square-kilometre island, hasn’t been this strong, or relentless. We have the money and we want to spend it: buy more luxury handbags or eat at fancy restaurants. We have the patience and we want to test it: jam hotel lobbies to check in for our staycation. Business owners know this truth, so do statutory boards, and unicorn travel booking companies. Can you resist the “bundle promotions”? Who remembers that a global pandemic is still raging past the cruellest year? Leisure and recreation, usually conducted overseas, must be enjoyed on home turf. Right away.

The year-end holiday season may be over, but there are reminders throughout our island that vacation dollars can still be spent. Or, that the S$100 SingapoRediscovers voucher can still be redeemed and used. One such notice is the Traveloka lightbox dotted across our island. I was walking towards a bus-stop one evening when I caught sight of the illuminated message, featuring a bloom of a model, sticking out like a stamen, in the throes of introducing this city’s delights. Three guys, who looked like they might have just enjoyed a couple of Tigers nearby, was approaching too. One of them stopped and spoke loudly in Mandarin, “诶,这是男还是女啊?” (eh, is this male or female?). He read my thoughts.

Okay, in this era of inclusivity, it could be asking for trouble to pose such a question. If we now consider gender not to be perfectly binary, nor fashion, surely we can think similarly of the advertisements touting our island’s genderless attractions (the Merlion is non-gendered, right?). The three fellas were now debating whether the object of their curiosity was endowed with breasts, or not. While they stared at the lightbox and was not able to come to a conclusion of the gender of the model, I was more curious about how she (the bougainvillea-pink frock was the determinant), was styled: why was an untypical local (assuming), dressed as a cabaret hostess required in this art direction (which seems to share the same symmetry, visual style, and colour scheme of the publicity material of the new season of the game show We are Singaporeans)? Or has there been some seismic shift at grassroots level that I know not of?

What really caught my eye was the white opera glove, worn on the left arm. The other—also gloved—was compositionally blocked by a curl of a fluffy marabou stole and the biggest QR code I ever saw. However hard I tried, I was not able to remember such long gloves as part of fashionable attire here (nor, really, the scarf of feathers). Or was the gloves, conversely, a family member of a PPE? And what’s with the strands of pearls—not seen outside the set of The Great Gatsby? Or, should that be Beauty World? Was what she wore a bustier when it didn’t appear to support no bust? Who was this unnaturally blond character representing, anyway? And was her asking if I was “ready for a roarin’ good time” a tease beyond my ken? In my head, somewhere behind my eyes, I swear, these are confusing times.

Photo: Gordon Goh