Singapore is such a crossroads of cultures – Chinese, Malay, Indian and elsewhere, former British colony, port city and now a powerhouse Asian financial center – and the neighborhoods and shops reflect that heritage. Russian sailors have pawned goods at the docks and immigrants of all types have made their mark on the cuisine and culture. To get a taste of that diversity we headed out for Arab Street and Little India earlier this week to do some serious market shopping and to visit a friend’s favorite junk store.

Arab Street was about 2 blocks long, a rainbow of color with scores of dealers selling Indian sari and dress fabrics as well as Indonesian batik. I loved the batiks and this photo doesn’t begin to do them justice, but they weren’t exactly what I was looking for..

I had one of the first of many “can’t carry that now” moments upon seeing these kilim footstools and ottomans. They were actually light as a feather and I thought they would be perfect in the back bedroom at the beach house for extra TV watchers.  I had been planning on the ubiquitous Moroccan leather poufs seen everywhere right now, but now I’m not so sure.

Imagine my chagrin at opening the April Elle Decor a few days later and seeing them used in Antonello Radi’s 16th-century Umbrian Palazzo. Yet another reason to wish I wasn’t currently a nomadic evacuee!

Sorry about the poor photo quality but give me chops for inventiveness as I have no scanner available. I simply took a photo of the pages!

I was actually on the hunt for some Indian fabrics and cushions. There were only 2 dealers on Arab Street selling block printed cloth and other goods. Browsed the tablecloths and found some actual print blocks for a DIY that I have planned this summer. Didn’t buy the elephants but the small flowers on the right hand side of the picture came away with me.

The selection of pillow covers, tablecloths and place mats was tremendous. I was happily browsing when I got the call from my husband that he was leaving a day early for the airport and taking our wonderful Philippina helper and all her sisters to the airport with him. I had to smile for a moment at the thought of him traveling with a gaggle of women. But his leaving, while making me happy that he would be safe, also represented our last stand in Japan for now. So while many people are often overwhelmed at markets and I never am,  all of a sudden I couldn’t focus or even think about which cushions I might like to buy. Everything felt irrelevant. Shortly afterwards another friend called with the news of the US Embassy evacuation notice. I cried.

I have since regretted leaving this behind…

After a restorative and yummy lunch of Muslim-style Indian food we headed to Little India to a friend’s favorite antique store, although calling it an antique store may actually be a stretch. You have to love the name – Dinky Di – as it so perfectly describes it! She warned us in advance that this was truly a junk shop, with almost no room to even turn around and things piled haphazardly everywhere! Just my kinda place…

The interior lived up to its description. But with patience comes rewards, and we slowly but surely picked through what must be a lifetime of accumulation.

I loved the vintage mahjong set, but didn’t think I needed it.  On the other hand, this pair of mounted butterflies would look perfect in the back guest room at the beach house…

Currently I have 3 antique hand-colored book plates hanging, but have been stashing some other butterflies to add in there. This is the same room that I wanted the kilim footstools shown earlier for and I have been looking for a dhurrie or Bessarabian kilim for the floor for quite some time.

I am kind of bummed that butterflies have become the trendiest thing lately, as I have loved them for years and helped my sister-in-law acquire a little collection of wonderful  prints. But they have been everywhere, from the New York International Gift Fair to Angel Dormer’s apartment in the January 2011 issue of Lonny

…to the Myra Hoefer designed house in the current issue of House Beautiful, of which I don’t have a photo, so here is a shot of her store instead. If I was back in Tokyo, I’d want to pull out the pages of her apartment in Paris that I have been obsessed with for years. This will have to do for now.

My friend found a tidy little collection of small cloisonné vases, probably from the 1970s.  She also scored an amazing leather-cased collapsible telescope for her husband’s anniversary present. You can just see it behind the vases.

Now on to my purchases…Notice a theme to my haul? My ongoing prediliction for aged brass has clearly not abated. These need a little clean-up but I love the lines on the candelabra and the old betel nut holder will be perfect for soaps on the bathroom shelves. The paperweight stopwatch will look lovely on top of a pile of books on the coffee table. And I couldn’t leave the butterflies….

Our stay in Singapore was truly wonderful due to the incredible hospitality of our friends. I cannot thank them enough!

We are now in Thailand, and once again the Mac is dead, so my dream of blogging from the road is fairly curtailed. The kids need the R & R so off to the pool we go.

Before I sign off, I wanted to mention that the design community is kicking off ways to help Japan as well, from Lonny to Design to Help Japan at Elle Decor. Take a look and do what you can!