Adrianna Tan

I’m a startup founder from Singapore who has spent considerable amounts of time working and living across India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Bangladesh, with short stints in America, the UK and Hungary.

I started this site in 2002 to document some of the things that occupied me at the time — school, technology, dating, photography, travel. My interests, but for two, remain the same.


So You Want To Be A Startup Founder

I was asked to speak at a local university’s Young Entrepreneur Network event. Sometimes, I say yes to these things.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Nov 26, 2017

Signals and Noise

I’ve been on the internet for a very long time, but my online self really only found its home when I got this domain in 2003. 14 years: enough to see blogs decline into the mushy wasteland that is Medium articles, video in every website we now load, and a million apps to help me connect with everything that we love. I’ve led a hectic online life outside of this blog, but at the end I keep wanting to come back to see what I can do with it.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Aug 23, 2017



Adrianna Tan  ·  Jul 17, 2017

Do What You Don't Know

Like so many people who grew up with the Internet, there have been many incarnations of my online self. To some, I will forever be the queer blogger who started writing about the lesbian experience as a teenager in Singapore in the early 2000s. Some find that courageous; I found it much more difficult to change pronouns than to pretend to be someone I was not. To others, I am a travel blogger who enjoys hiking across Asia on trains, bikes and boats. That is made possible by a blend of courage and stupidity, and it has served me well.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 11, 2017

On The Spectrum

What’s it like to be on the spectrum?

Adrianna Tan  ·  Nov 21, 2016

Wordpress to Jekyll

If this looks bare to you, it’s supposed to be.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Oct 18, 2016

Kolkata Kalling

12 years ago in Kolkata. At the time still much referred to as Calcutta. Now less so.

Adrianna Tan  ·  May 31, 2016

In Small Rooms with Betawi Women

Not for the first time, I found myself in a tiny room on a hot day, the youngest among old women. Each with a different thing to say to me, also the only person not from around these parts. 

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 27, 2016

When I Was Young

I’m seated now by the side of an old vending machine in Jakarta airport, with power sockets so dirty and old I had to think twice about plugging my cables in. Yet in all of Terminal 1, one of the oldest airport terminals in a country not known for modern aviation facilities, there was only this one socket free. Confined to my fate of temporarily sharing power with a giant Teh Botol (not Coke!) machine with no seat within range of my Macbook charger, I am, obviously, on the floor yet again.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 21, 2016

Tan Boon Chye

When I came home (to Singapore) a couple of days ago, I instructed the taxi driver to go to the Caltex station at East Coast. Most cabbies know this place, but he didn’t. He’s 74 years old, so he only knew this spot as “Tan Boon Chye & Co” (brain GPS never update firmware). Tan Boon Chye & Co was the 3rd Caltex station in Singapore, and that was its original name — in 1961.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 20, 2016

Some Updates

  1. I’ve moved to Jakarta to take part in Ideabox with my startup, WoBe
  2. I’m writing more on Medium these days. The blog format is unsatisfactory to me at the moment
  3. Over there, I’ve started two collections which may be interesting to some of you. In “The Java Diaries“, I obsessively track my time in Jakarta in the name of learning. In “Myanmar’s Second Wind“, I write about my year in Yangon and the people I’ve met there, from the tech entrepreneur’s point of view
  4. Know someone fun or interesting in Jakarta? I would love to meet them
  5. What does one do with a blog these days?

Adrianna Tan  ·  Nov 11, 2014

Dumbledore’s Army

I’m finally going to check off on one of the things I’ve told myself I want to do.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Aug 7, 2014

Singapore’s So-Called Moral Majority

Call it what you will — if there are some among us in Singapore who fashion ourselves the conservative majority, the silent majority, the moral majority — that line, and its consequent political implementation, is bound to fail. It is not enough to view what we are currently witnessing as a ‘culture war’, as ‘us vs them’, or even as a fundamentalist Christian vs secularism issue within a solely Singaporean prism. We need to view this as an extension of a larger, global struggle for rights on the one hand, and for bigotry masque ring as 'religious liberty’ on the other, then be appropriately alarmed by what the future holds if this so-called faith-based oppression of minorities goes unchecked. On Singapore's theocrats.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jul 21, 2014

The Freedom to Love

Ten years ago the Internet was a different place. Singapore was a different place. While it wasn’t exactly the sort of pitchfork-wielding, gay-vilifying environment you would imagine, you certainly did not feel like people understood. You felt, at that time, at odds with large swathes of society, as though it would never accept you. Worst of all, you felt doomed to forever be avoiding the marriage question at Chinese New Year. It did not seem like your Asian relations would ever stop asking you intrusive questions about your personal life, when there was none to share because your chosen pronoun would cause you to be thrown out of the house, ostracised, prayed for, or otherwise politely ignored.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jun 27, 2014

All In

I turn 29 in a couple of months. T-W-E-N-T-Y-N-I-NE. This is doubly a shock because in my head I feel forever young, partly as a function of always having been the youngest person in every single circle I have run in, from friends to career to everything else really. I started blogging when I was 15 — nearly 15 years ago! — at a time when was a hosting provider, content management systems transmitted your passwords in plain text, and leaving a message on a ShoutBox was a valid way of engaging on the Internet.

Adrianna Tan  ·  May 6, 2014

Gyanada 2014

As you may know, I set up The Gyanada Foundation last year. We’ve spent the past year building the organisation and learning as much as we can.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 10, 2014


BSG Tattoo

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 5, 2014

What I Learned

Two years ago I found out I have an autoimmune disease. I will always have it. It changed everything about my life from what I do for money to where I live. It prompted a reinvention of myself which was at turns painful, but ultimately necessary. This is what I learned.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Mar 16, 2014

An Open Letter

On February 21, I wrote an open letter to the Health Minister, CC-ing the Prime Minister and the Law Minister. This was prompted by the Feminist Mentor’s own open letter. I found LoveSingapore’s pro-377A guide very helpful for this purpose — it gave me everyone’s email addresses in a single page!

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 27, 2014

Culture Kitchen 2: Little Myanmar

If you are anything like me, you’ve walked by Peninsula Plaza all the time and perhaps even entered it when you’ve needed to buy cameras and stuff. You’ve probably also wondered about all the wondrous things there. What is the paste they are mixing, what is this delicious-looking food and how can I have some of it, if only I knew what to order?

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 24, 2014

The Geography of Hope

At 18 I certainly believed I knew everything. I did not know just how much it’d hurt this boy’s heart if I told him the inevitable: that I was in love with someone he could never be—a woman. We went to our favourite bar and sat glumly while he tried to drink away his pain and anger.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 14, 2014

Don’t Lugi Be Happy

In peninsular Southeast Asia there is a word of Malay origin, bastardized by Chinese pronunciation that perhaps best describes the prevalent mindset of the middle class in everything from career to politics: lugi.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 11, 2014

An Indian Decade

As a wee child in Varanasi before I threw away my backpacker wardrobe.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 3, 2014

Back in the SL

I have become one of those people.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jan 12, 2014

Little India Urban Renewal Plan

I believe an urban renewal and community reorganization of the Little India precinct can achieve the following: (a) the creation of public spaces to be shared by Singaporeans, residents, tourists and transient workers alike (b) the improvement of law and order without the draconian hand of law (c) lead to an increase in utility and happiness among the residents and voters who live there and the workers who make it their home every Sunday.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Dec 12, 2013


I posted this on Facebook. Cross-posting it here for posterity.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Dec 10, 2013

A New Way Forward, Fists Forward?

Update: About 20 minutes after posting this, news erupted that this had happened. I will be posting a second part to this piece shortly.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Dec 8, 2013

Living with Graves

A year and a half ago, my friends sent me to a local emergency ward in Singapore when I moved in and out of delirium in the middle of dinner. I had been unwell for a long time, but there had been no suitable diagnosis or treatment. I lost nearly 20 kilograms, had the shakes, became insomniac, and most of all, emotionally and mentally unstable. Once diagnosed, it isn’t a terribly awful disease; but the number of adjustments one has to make is astounding. Friends and loved ones too, struggle with dealing with the external impact of your disease, and will have to do so for a very long time.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Nov 19, 2013

Life Is Short. Have A Kit Kat.

As Ashley Madison, the world’s leading extramarital dating website, announced its plans to expand to Singapore, our minister for social and family development Chan Chun Sing was roused into making the following proclamation on Facebook:

Adrianna Tan  ·  Oct 27, 2013

Why I’m Hosting Culture Kitchen

This is a project which has been on my mind for some time now. We’ve been planning it for a while. A part of this is a response to a worrying trend of anti-foreigner sentiment (c.f. the responses to a drive to raise funds for victims of last year’s Downtown Line accident: here and here).

Adrianna Tan  ·  Sep 19, 2013

Love, Singapore

I wrote a small piece for Elle Singapore (Sept 2013) about what it's like to be lesbian in Singapore.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Aug 21, 2013

We, The Citizens is the first part of a side project of mine, which aims to combine technology and activism.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Aug 21, 2013

Before & After The Fire

A "poem" about my family during the Great Fire of 1961.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jul 31, 2013

A Weekend Getaway

Still scratching the surface of my favourite country in the world, this time by going to Coorg.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jun 8, 2013

Gyanada Foundation Soft Launch

Announcing the launch of a new non-profit that aims to improve girls' education in four states of India.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Mar 12, 2013

From the Fringe

450 likes on Facebook. This may offend your political sentiments, but I'll stand by this.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 18, 2013

It Was All New

Some say Orientalist. I say tomato.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jan 28, 2013

Five of Each

A list of places and things

Adrianna Tan  ·  Nov 26, 2012


63 random things from the past 3 months (inspired by Michael Ruby’s “Fleeting Memories“)

Adrianna Tan  ·  Nov 5, 2012

A Public Service

Recently, a friend from Bangalore messaged me on Facebook and asked me for some help. Her family friend, who was not very educated, had paid a lot of money to an agent in Bangalore to get work in Singapore. He had his work permit issued, and was told to leave for Singapore as soon as possible. There was a gap of a week: he had to leave immediately, they told him. She found this a little dubious, and asked me to help verify if the work permit was real, if he was being taken for a ride.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Sep 9, 2012


National Day came and went. I haven’t written any of those essays I promised to. Sheepish. I will write them, I just need a little bit more time.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Sep 6, 2012

Departing Thoughts

  1. I must watch too many scifi movies. I’d rarely been convinced of the malleability of time, but these days I measure out everything in two-week units. Time seems to race ahead of me. It always has, now more than before.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jul 2, 2012

This Site, Now On Steroids

Those of you with elephant memories will remember what this site was 7 years ago. The web was a very different place. This blog was a different blog, I was a different kind of kid (19 years old! Yowch), and the ecosystem was other sites like this with no Facebook, Twitter, not in the ways we now have them anyway. The only external outlet we all plugged out to was Flickr, and we know how that went down. It’s hard to believe we once lived in a world when Yahoo! was still important.

Adrianna Tan  ·  May 19, 2012

Did you hear the one about the Swedish chocolate cake?

I’m home now of course, whatever home means, and I’ve been retelling a couple of stories. The same ones, but many of them, just because I’ve had such a crazy time in the Nordics.

Adrianna Tan  ·  May 10, 2012

Wilderness TV

I go off to be one with nature, and all that jazz.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 8, 2012


Helsinki in some Instagram pictures.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 2, 2012

Chocolate, Nudity, Helsinki

I have seen some places in my short travelling life, but rarely a place that offers me chocolate and naked women within two hours of arriving. Helsinki turned out to be such a place.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Mar 27, 2012

Four Hours Light

Helsinki, Tallinn, Stockholm, Skinnskatteberg, Malmö, Copenhagen. Once in a while, I enjoy diving deep into places I know nothing about. I have a good feeling about this trip. (Also, is this the start of real-time travel blogging for me?)

Adrianna Tan  ·  Mar 20, 2012

I Hate Cabbage Soup

White cabbage is death. If there is a Creator, it is one of his less glorious moments. The only thing worse than white cabbage is white cabbage soup. I am a soup maniac, but white cabbage soup I do not touch with a ten foot pole. I cannot even sit at the same table when it is being drunk. The sight and smell of it makes me want to throw up. Because of these vile leaves, I am unreasonably opposed to all food that is white in colour but is not a carbohydrate or dairy product.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jan 20, 2012

Is This Defunct?

My father was having a conversation with one of the students at the university where he works. Apparently one of them was a frequent visitor to this site. He told my dad as much and said I don’t write anymore, that this site is pretty much defunct.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Sep 6, 2011


Surprising thoughts on Singapore's 46th birthday. I spent many years doubting my future as part of this nation, for good reason. I always wanted to leave. I left, but as I returned I found the city's transformation to my liking.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Aug 8, 2011

A Drinkable History of My Family

In the tumultuous year that was 2009, I moved all my life's possessions around the world several times, and then came home to find my grandfather was going to die. Michael Jackson died. Everybody seemed to, that year.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jun 26, 2011

A friend says, “you just need an excuse to get another blog”.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jun 26, 2011


A crash. A breakdown. 200 kilometres in the opposite direction. Andrew and I were left without our native son, and we screwed it up in as many ways as it was possible to. Yercaud more than made up for it, though.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 15, 2011

Private Islands for Everyone

There comes a point in every traveller’s life when the experience of going to a foreign place no longer feels the same, nor as exciting as it used to be when she first began. Cities blur into similar skylines, restaurants and bars. Non-cities remain precisely that—good in small doses but rarely more. The magic of travel fades into a succession of airports, suited executives and boring business hotels, or a kaleidoscope of lobster-red package tourists and concrete bungalows on dirty beaches. Even I could not avoid that fate.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 13, 2011

The Great Southern Trunk Road

If you looked on a map, the holy southern Indian city is merely 185 kilometres from Madras. If you took a bus, it would take just under five hours. If you travelled by car, perhaps three and a little bit. Since we took an autorickshaw, our estimated travel time was something like eight hours. Or before nightfall; whichever came first.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 21, 2011

We Have No Dungarees, Saar

There are slower ways of seeing India. On a buffalo. On a "two wheeler", a motorcycle, stacked to great heights with assorted luggage until you can't see what's in front of you. Or on foot, "by walk", like a sadhu with no clothes on. We travelled by autorickshaw.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 13, 2011

Southeast Asia for Lovers

There I was, sipping my welcome drink in a posh Ubud resort, when I almost choked on it. I was accompanying friends as they sought the best wedding venue in Bali. Concerned about the monsoon, they asked the hotel manager why it hadn’t rained at all in the week we were there. Without batting an eyelid, she informed us there would be no rain for the entire month. “You see, Julia Roberts is in town.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 13, 2011

Crazy, Delicious Love

[The Last Polka V Day Special](
Chocolate chilli and strawberry cream cheese

One of the projects that’s been super fun to work on has been the birth of the Klang Valley’s first homemade ice cream outfit, The Last Polka. M and E run the ice cream empire, I help out with the other bits, like the… tasting of the ice cream. And the copywriting.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 10, 2011

Be Kind, Reboot

[The Beach](
Sunset in Nikoi island

It’s no secret I’ve lost interest in writing a blog — I’m not sure when that happened. It just did. Uni came and went. Life and love took me places. I got caught up in my projects, and soon the fun that blogging once was paled in comparison with real life.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 9, 2011

You Asians Have Two Stomachs

Some friends from Turkey came to visit this past weekend. I had a great time hanging out with Melissa and Emirhan in Antalya when I stopped by en route to Istanbul (from Damascus), so I naturally returned the favour and put them up at my place. After three dinners (not at the same time, albeit the same night), Emirhan gave up at the sight of three relatively small Asian girls chomping away at their 20th meal of the day and said it must be that we all have two stomachs, the other one being the one that leads straight to refuse.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Nov 26, 2009

Ah Gong and I

Let’s just say I don’t do death.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jun 24, 2009

And All The Roads That Lead You There Were Winding

I came to the Middle East to do just one thing: see a part of the world that I felt I needed to learn more about. Its language was alien, but familiar – many Malay and Hindi words have roots in Arabic. Its customs and food strange, but not dissimilar – much of the Indian subcontinent that I love and call home was influenced, for the better and the worse, by centuries of Mughal rule. Dubai and Singapore had many things in common, and then not at all.

Adrianna Tan  ·  May 12, 2009

Bombay Burning

I don’t have to tell you what happened in Mumbai. You already know it. I wasn’t there that day, and although I may at some point in the future, I have never lived here. Not in the real sense of ‘living’ somewhere, with bank accounts and rented residences, or jobs. But Mumbai is my city, my friends are Mumbaikars, and I feel every bit one myself: I still call it Bombay, because Bombay is romantic and real and Mumbai isn’t; I love the city, have my favourite haunts in Bombay, both north and south, and know the city well.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Dec 1, 2008

My City

My city is often made out to be a boring business city, sterile and lifeless. Not entirely. No amount of protestation at how we’re really unique, though, is effective in driving home the truth about (some parts of) my city — how there are bits you can really love, if you look hard enough.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 22, 2008

Chasing the Monsoon

Where I dig through my archives and repost the stuff I like. This is from 2007.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Feb 10, 2007

Sudder Street

Reposting stuff I like from the archives. This is from 2007.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jan 19, 2007

A Bus and Chai Story

Reposting stuff I like from my archives. This is from 2006.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Dec 5, 2006

Portraits Unphotographable

Whether it’s a long-haul transatlantic flight or a regional short hop, or even just a trip out on a local bus, the process of meeting and eventually talking to strangers, can lead one to use quick heuristics in sizing them up. Perhaps it’s our automatic mechanism to do so in order to pass the time, while travelling and moving, or that in the restricted space of train carriages, cars and buses, the lack of activity means we entertain ourselves by making up stories about other people, knowing we will never meet them again after you shared space and shared experience has passed. The woman across looking down — maybe she’s broken up with her boyfriend, lost her job, or is having a bad week, you begin. Before long you find yourself elaborating stories about these people, in your head, and these random strangers: soon you start to believe the girl in the school uniform at 11 am, when she should, by all accounts, be in school, is a truant. The inconsistency that is her presence in a school uniform, in public place which is not a school or school-related venue, leads you to draw upon what you already know, what you’re already familiar with, the joy of truancy. It develops further; she becomes a truant perhaps because she has problems at home, or maybe she’s just come from a doctor and found out she was pregnant, and perhaps the person who made her pregnant is a junkie and soon you ponder upon the incongruence of her presence at a place unrelated to what she is supposed to be. Then you catch yourself thinking this whole enterprise going on in your head is ridiculous.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Oct 20, 2006

Amar Shonar Bangla

Where I dig into my archives and repost stuff I like. This one’s from August 2006, when I’d spent some time in both sides of Bengal.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Aug 28, 2006

Why I Am Still A Feminist

Reposting stuff I like from the archives. This is from 2006. It has also been republished in print in GASPP, A Gay Anthology of Singapore Poetry and Prose.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Mar 15, 2006

Other Mornings in Other Places

What I have noticed about being away, and still can’t shake off, is how mornings in each foreign place are so strikingly different from what one is used to; how different they are from each other — how foreign the word foreign sounds after a while. I like to believe it never hits you you are away until you wake up feeling displaced. Or that you haven’t really made a place your home until waking up comes so naturally and matter-of-factly there is nothing to it; until what was not your bed now feels like yours, and is even adorned with your peculiar smell.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jan 16, 2006

Art and Lies, And

Reposting stuff I like from the archives. This one’s from 2006.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jan 8, 2006


Reposting stuff from the past. This one from 2005.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Dec 10, 2005


Where I post stuff from the archives, the stuff I like. This is from 2005.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Nov 26, 2005


Where I dig into my archives and repost stuff I like. This one’s from April 2005.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Apr 11, 2005


Where I dig into my archives and repost stuff I like. This one’s from 2005.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Mar 3, 2005

The Eight Ages of a Woman

Blast from the past: digging into my archives and republishing the stuff I like. This was originally from 2004, and reposted again in 2005. And again now.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Jan 21, 2005

Two Weeks

Some weird poetry from 2003, when I was a wee child.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Dec 26, 2003

X Weeks of Not Missing You

Reposting stuff from my archive. This one from 2003, when I was a wee child.

Adrianna Tan  ·  Oct 10, 2003