An insider guide to Singapore: Joanna Dong recommends a list of things to do while you're in town for the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix
Making a name for herself in China by coming in as the second runner-up in talent competition Sing! China 2017, Joanna Dong is Singapore's jazz pop treasure. After holding her first solo concert post-Sing! China at the Esplanade Concert Hall (a major venue for any Singaporean musician), she made headlines again by being part of the singing cast in the 'We Are Singapore' remake for National Day. In September, she'll share the stage with her mentor Jay Chou at the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix concerts, where she'll hopefully perform tunes from her EP, So Here I Am.
Music spot: "The Esplanade. I really appreciate the diversity and quality of live music performances available at the various locations. From international stars to local talent, community choirs to experimental acts, the Esplanade calendar is always filled with thoughtfully curated music."
Gallery: "I do like the National Gallery — the collection is proof that Singapore is not the cultural desert that people sometimes criticise us for. Even though I am not a visual artist, I felt a strong sense of pride and connection to the legacy of those artists who paved the way for future generations who dream of practicing the arts in Singapore. I also enjoy the architecture of the National Gallery, and sometimes visit just to walk around and take in the space."
Supper haunt: "I have a soft spot for Swee Choon — even though dim sum is traditionally breakfast or brunch food, they serve dim sum from till 6am in the morning! The classic dim sums there are serviceable, but a few novelty items stand out for me: their signature Mee Suah Kueh has an awesome texture, and the Onion Pancake is like a fragrant roti prata that has been torn up into bite-sized pieces, perfect for lazy supper babies. I also am in love with the fried Hor Fun with shrimps. Most people don't think to order Hor Fun at a dim sum place, but this one is really pretty good."
Neighbourhood: "I grew up in the east in Siglap, and even though we moved away when I was 11, I later attended Victoria Junior College (VJC) and spent two of my favourite schooling years in the Siglap, Katong and Marine Parade neighbourhood. I remember sneaking to Parkway Parade for bubble tea between lectures and the long scenic bus ride home on bus 76. Even though I hated jogging, our PE teacher would sometimes have us jog from VJC to the adjacent East Coast Beach, and that would make it so much better. Junior College was also when I had my first boyfriend, so that neighbourhood will always be associated with the charms of first-time romance."
Anything alternative: "I would recommend a visit to Bukit Brown while it is a still intact. There is a tour (organised by a group of volunteers called All Things Bukit Brown) that takes visitors through various sites that include significant battles which happened leading up to the Japanese Occupation. Through examining some of the gravestones of the earliest settlers in Singapore, the guides share insights to otherwise under-documented life before modern Singapore. Every tour is a little different — the one I attended even had someone who was there to visit the grave of a recently identified ancestor."
Joanna Dong will perform at the 2018 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, taking place from 14 to 16 September. Book tickets.