The first time J and I stumbled across Haji Lane was many years ago one lazy afternoon. We had wandered to look at the old Istana Kampong Glam and do our bit for domestic tourism. Then, the tourism board's misguided efforts to "revitalise" Arab St and its rows of carpet and textile shops had glaringly failed (thank goodness). When we stepped onto the narrow Haji Lane, with its mostly abandoned hobbit-scale shophouses, there was a ghostly calm. Nothing creepy - but in a cliched sort of way, of time having stopped. And for Singapore, that's saying a lot.
Two years ago, we found ourselves at Haji Lane again. This time, we were lured there by the Commes des Garcons guerilla store, which had just moved there from its first location in Chinatown. It was still mostly deserted, though a record shop (or was it a recording studio) was next door and a little boutique (with a guy who customised chandeliers on the upper floor) was across the street. That was about it. No ghosts, maybe some open secrets thrust upon indifferent listeners - a test.
Just this weekend, having heard that for months now that Haji Lane is all abuzz with new boutiques and stuff, J and I made our third trip to Haji Lane. And so it is. The entire lane is now mostly inhabited by these vintage clothing stores and a few fancy places stocked with pricier imported labels ). It was a just a little like Daikanyama in Tokyo - the sort of place you would want to, but would hesitate eventually from saying it had character (but I confess I happily succumbed to a top from billet doux). It still felt, as it did years ago, like another place, another island - but not another time. Haji Lane today is set squarely in the present, its offerings are of the moment.
The next day, I found a beautiful book of photographs by Guido Mocafico called Medusa - it had these incredibly detailed images of jellyfish. These ancient creatures, their stomachs and often their reproductive organs exposed in their translucent bells, are everywhere in our oceans. As with most beautiful creatures, many jellyfish species are highly venomous. in these photos, they are the loveliest of alien forms, suspended in black, a world onto themselves. I spent the most of Sunday afternoon in that book.