He may have been born and bred in Singapore but singer-actor Leon Jay Williams says he felt like a tourist when he returned last week for a filming project.
It is little surprise, though, for the 36-year-old has been based in Taiwan and China for the past 10 years, and his last visit home was six months ago.
"The Taiwanese crew and actors asked me to recommend places to visit or dine at and I said I had no idea," recalls Williams at a press conference on Thursday.
"In fact, I got lost in the carpark of Resorts World Sentosa when I was trying to find my way to the film set."
Aptly, he plays a visitor to Resorts World in a promotional micro-film series titled Cupid's World Of Happiness. It also features popular Taiwanese star Tiffany Hsu, 28, and eight-year-old Benny Wen, the Taiwanese child star also known as Hsiao Hsiao Bin.
In the series, Williams visits the attraction to make good on a promise he had made to an ex-lover and meets Hsu's character and Wen, who plays a child in search of his parents.
Williams jumped at the chance to take part in the $1-million production by Resorts World and Chinese travel Web portal Qunar.com as it was the first time he would get to film in Singapore.
"I was supposed to take a break for two months, but I'd anticipated working in Singapore for so long that I didn't mind cutting short my holiday," he said.
He was in the Maldives last month for a six-day holiday with Joyce, his Taiwanese girlfriend of eight years, who works as a designer in a publishing firm.
Williams, who is of English, German, Japanese and Chinese descent, left for Taiwan in 2004 to further his career and has been travelling regularly to China for projects and events since 2008.
He is known for his roles in Taiwanese and Chinese productions such as My Sassy Girl 2 (2010) and Green Forest, My Home (2005).
He has garnered a huge fanbase in China, which Resorts World is tapping on to market itself to the Chinese audience.
Each 10-minute episode of the four-part film series will be released every Friday from Sept 6 on two websites, RWSmovie.com and YouKu.com.
Many Chinese tourists recognised him when he was filming at Resorts World in the past week. But what surprised him was a group of Singaporean fans, who waited for him one night at his hotel lobby after a long day of filming.
"I was really touched because I don't meet Singaporean fans that much. They took out merchandise based on my old dramas and asked me for autographs," he says.
"Many people here think I am Taiwanese and don't realise that I am Singaporean."
He studied at Gan Eng Seng Secondary School and obtained a diploma in business administration at a private school before leaving for Taiwan to pursue acting.
On this trip back, he also spent more time with his family - he has an older brother - and his mother has been staying with him at his hotel for the past week.
"She really missed me a lot and has been getting clingy," he says with a laugh.
He leaves Singapore tomorrow for Beijing to promote his new period romance, Time Travel Lovers. The movie co-stars Chinese actress Jacqueline Li and is slated for release in China in September.
His biggest reward on this visit was uncovering several romantic locations by the beach on Sentosa.
"I can bring my girlfriend here next time as she has hardly been to Singapore," he says with a smile.
This story was originally published in the Straits Times on July 27, 2013
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