Jackson Wang raves about bak kut teh and kopi during week-long Singapore trip

Jackson Wang has been in Singapore since Aug 2 for a series of travel vlogs as part of a collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Fans and passers-by whipped out their smartphones and took photographs when they spotted Hong Kong-born K-pop star Jackson Wang grabbing bak kut teh in the foodcourt at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) recently.

"It was so good," the 28-year-old star enthuses about his meal during a group interview with local media on Aug 10.

Sitting in a newly renovated MBS suite with his artfully styled dyed hair, tiny hoop earrings and a patterned jacket with sheer sleeves, Wang looked every part the star, one who had made history earlier this year as the first solo Chinese performer at American music festival Coachella.

Despite the attention he attracted, he still managed to have a peaceful lunch. He says: "Honestly? People are there for lunch, they don't care that much. They have their own lives and are busy with their own things."

A member of boy band Got7 who has carved out a successful solo career for himself with variety appearances in China and several English-language music releases, Wang has been in Singapore since Aug 2 for a series of travel vlogs as part of a collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). He is expected to stay until Aug 14, before flying to the United States. These vlogs are slated for release around the end of the year on STB's social media channels.

This is not the star's first time in the Republic. He came as a teenage fencer competing in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and even sneaked out to visit the Night Safari then.

Speaking in a mix of English and Mandarin, he says the STB collaboration has opened his eyes to parts of Singapore he did not know about. He says: "I've been to many countries but a lot of times, it feels like it doesn't even count because I'm going from the airport to an event venue to the hotel. And sometimes when I do get to venture out, it's to touristy spots that locals might not actually go to that much.

"This time, I discovered places I didn't know about. I went to places such as Sentosa and Universal Studios Singapore, but I also got to go to Kusu Island and St John's Island, which I hadn't heard about. It's very refreshing."

Singapore's coffee culture also left an impression.

"I went to Nanyang Old Coffee. I tried the kopi here with the gah dai (extra sugar) and siu dai (less sugar) versions. It's like the coffee is custom-made."

Unfortunately, Wang missed a quintessential Singaporean experience - the National Day Parade's fireworks show - despite being in the Marina Bay area. He laments: "I heard the noise. I was asking my team, 'Where can we see it? Can anybody tell me anything?'"

SPH Brightcove Video
Got7's Jackson Wang was in town to host an event at Marquee Singapore nightclub within Marina Bay Sands. Within a day of the event being announced, online tickets for the event had sold out.

His trip here coincides with promotions for his upcoming album Magic Man, slated to be released in September.

Wang, who has opened up about his mental health struggles in recent interviews, says he is the most "raw he's ever been" in the album.

He adds that he has not been living a life true to himself in the last few years. "I want to show the not-perfect side of me. A lot of people support and have heard of Jackson Wang, but there's another side to me too. I want to show whoever's watching the true me," he says.

"At the end of the day, you just can't have everything, you can't have everybody liking you. People will like you, people will hate you, people will talk a lot of different stuff about you, but I just want to be honest with my audience and try my best to do the things I believe in."

Wang is deeply involved in his musical output, putting together his own team to prepare his solo releases.

"My vision and dream are in my head. Everyone else can understand what they are only to a certain degree. If I want something to be done the way I envisioned it, I just have to do it myself."

The multi-hyphenate also opened a concept space at Voco Orchard for his streetwear label Team Wang Design's latest collection while in Singapore. Juggling so many projects has made him feel the passing of time more acutely.

"In the blink of an eye, I'm 28. In the past, wherever I went, I was the didi (Mandarin for younger brother). I called everyone 'ge' and 'jie' (Mandarin for older brother and older sister). Now, I'm starting to hear that used on me and I realise, wow, time is passing and I have to grab it," he says.

Jackson Wang Wang is deeply involved in his musical outputs, putting together his own team to prepare his solo releases. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Asked what he does in the little free time he has, Wang talks about his efforts to stay in shape.

"I go to the gym. It's something I both enjoy and have to do. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and check my phone to go through my photo shoots and so on. Then I'll put down my phone, look in the mirror and get a shock. The person in the pictures and in the mirror are so different. Like, man, I've put on weight. I got to go for a run," he says with a laugh.

But perhaps what Wang wants most of all in his personal time is just that - personal time. The singer says he could not recall the last time he went on vacation.

To guffaws from his staff, Wang jokes: "If I had the time, I'd want to cut off ties with my team and just not communicate with them. I'm so tired of them. I just want to wander somewhere, breathe the air and not stay in a hotel.

"I have homes in Shanghai and Seoul, but they're like hotels to me. And hotels are like my home at this point. It's been that way for seven or eight years. Enough is enough, you know?"

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