A couple of weeks ago, I did my usual “one-Wednesday-a-month” routine: I left work early, got to the wakeboarding park before sunset and set myself a goal to nail a new trick.
So there I was, minding my own business… and I spy with my little eye, a very beautiful chick with a dazzling smile. I looked a little closer and realized “Holy three-sixty, it’s Cecilia Cheung!” I turned to the people around me, unable to contain my excitement, and to my disappointment, none of my friends knew who she was. Then it hit me (of my friends) one of them is Malay, one is English, one is South African and even the cable operator was a Japanese girl who had no idea they were in the presence of a star! But she was well taken care of, with her little own fan-club of people making sure she had water, her board was retrieved, etc.
Existential Qn: If no one recognizes you, are you still a star?
Now it turns out that, with these celebs, the more you treat them as normal people, the more they reveal what truly makes them a star… it didn’t matter that none of us knew who she was or went out of our way to be star struck, she initiated a conversation with us – That’s star quality right there, total class act.
She saw that I needed help and offered it – (as anyone should!) I gave her a warm smile and said
“Cecilia Cheung right? I recognize you! What brings you to Singapore?”
“This” she replied, gesturing to everything around her.
The rest was history. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t fawn over her, or we did some serious wakeboarding for a couple hours, just my superb personality, or that I was the token local person – she decided I’d be her new friend. Meanwhile, I don’t know if it’s my love for Singapore, or just intrigue to hang out with a celeb-tourist, or the excitement of making a new girlfriend, I decided I’d play tour guide.
We hung out for the duration of her short stay here and here’s what a tourist has taught me to love about being local:
1. Our Summer-All-Year-Round Weather
Cecilia told me it’s getting hazy and starting to get cold in HK, and when that happens, most of them do little or no outdoor sports and someone like her who loves the outdoors will wanna get somewhere where the sun’s shining – like Singapore!
2. Our Intelligent Urban Planning
So we are 2 girls lugging our wakeboarding bags all around, and I can see how appreciative she is of ramps and sheltered stairways, and escalators, and the ease of cabs, and I gave a look like “yeah, this shit is easy when you’re local and know your ins and outs and got the right apps on your phone.” Haha.
3. We still celebrate little things in life
I brought her to my family restaurant on Changi Road, a little, casual, kid-friendly suburban modern European eatery called Rice&Fries and it was so nice to see that people, chef and wait staff included were excited to photograph her and tell their friends. We had a free taxi ride, a big discount when we bought fruits, and the kitchen crew of a known seafood restaurant practically all took 10 minutes off work to get a photo taken. And when we posted some pictures of her at my family’s restaurant, our Facebook traffic went up, and we had phonecalls from customers asking if she is still there and if we can hold her back for them?!?! Haha. Really, people.
4. At the same time, we always maintain our cool
Yet, no one went OTT, maintaining a no-big-deal, life-goes-on attitude. Even the guys at the restaurant and passers-by thereafter at the fruits stall all came up and politely asked if she was who she was and whether they could have a picture taken. Cecilia said “Singaporeans are so nice, so friendly, and so polite! If this was some parts of North Asia, I’d get grabbed for a picture like an object, no asking for permission.”
5. Our Unconditional Brand of Hospitality
In one evening, I tried to cramp a locally-owned family restaurant, a roadside fruit stall, the streets of Geylang and late night beers – all the things I as a local does not usually do in one night. – She now thinks it’s normal for a durian-hater to take someone to eat durians.
As if that’s not enough, the next day, I took her to Batam, Indonesia to check out their wakeboarding facilities only to discover again how amazing our local immigration counters are compared to other countries. When we arrived at immigration, some fellow tourists had realized she is who she is, and a little photo-taking frenzy took place, causing the immigration officer to yell at everyone like kids get yelled at by bullies. Not cool.
I’m all tour-guided out! Need a week’s rest, before I go star-gazing again.