Saturday, February 27, 2016

Farewell to yet another kopi tiam ...

It takes us a while to discover a place where we would feel comfortable enough to decide that that would be our "watering hole". A place to sit, have a cuppa, and watch the world goes by. And yes, the occasional (or even often) chance meeting of friends, neighbours or "comrades in crime", people of all kinds whom we would meet.

Identifying such a place takes take, adopting it takes even a longer time. More often than not, it is always an introduction and recommendation. A little far away from the maddening crowd would be ideal. And then, how about the boss and his/her staff. Would they be flexible enough to accept the idiosyncrasies of people like us? 

If we were to take time to find, adapt and adopt, imagine the challenges of anyone who wants to start a small kopi tiam from scratch. A franchise only helps that much to kick start. The rest is up to the owner. And so, it took Good Morning Nanyang Cafe at Pagoda St some 4 years to build up the business, where other than tourists or the occasional visitor from out of town, every face was a familiar face. The boss becomes the conduit to share messages and telling friends of friends if they had been to the cafe lately or only minutes ago. The traditional and certainly better way than the facebook alerting you of a friend nearby.

We thought we have found our ideal place where we could go and have a cuppa kopi (great kopi he makes), relax and enjoy the crowd. Observing how the tourists looked at the pictures hung from the project "Picturing Chinatown" which became a topic of discussion. Locals too. I loved to share with the out of state friends about project Chinatown. Here was a good start. 

That 4 years quickly came to an end on 26 Feb 2016. Regulars who knew came to have their last cuppa and wished the boss the best of luck in his search for the next space. A space that would be challenging to find where a watering hole could be established. A place where relationships are built and grown, a common sharing of the bigger space around it. No, the money spinners are going to make more money, oblivious to the more lofty hopes and ambitions. A sad moment as a staff bade the boss farewell, thanking him for taking care of her in the past 4 hours. How many grateful and loyal staff can you find? How many great bosses can you find. Working in a kopi tiam needs long hours and the ability to interact with different customers, old and new, flexible and demanding, and in this case, from different cultures which need gentle introduction and education. To enjoy the wonderful Nanyang kopi, uniquely in Nanyang, and yes, the half boiled eggs that you thought the Chinese would know? Nanyang ones again? :)

Come Monday, many more regulars might came in for a shock if they have had not heard about it. Many young and old Thai tourists would be disappointed as this seemingly hard to find kopi tiam was featured in their guide books.

Accepting the rush of the tides, rising or ebbing, we could only sat there till the official closing time, and still reluctant to leave. But the time had come, and with heavy hearts and great memories of the past, we bade the good folks of Good Morning Nanyang Cafe at Pagoda St goodbye and hoping to see them again. Would there be a re-incarnation? Only time will tell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Victor

I am a producer with the radio station 938LIVE. I'd appreciate it if you could contact me about an interview. My email address is

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.