One of the expected instances that occurred during my trip to Singapore were the usual minor arguments with the travel bestie (as with Blair Waldorf would frequently argue with Serena van der Woodsen) such as “where do we eat?” (with my undermined intention to explore Michelin-starred restaurants or even, artisan cafes, for both gratifying my taste buds and #forthefeed purposes, and the bestie opting for more familiar and less expensive spots such as McDonald’s, or anywhere that serves rice) but it always ends somewhere halfway
through and both parties are satisfied, anyway. (Concluding with us eating separately at our desired restaurants. Disclaimer: Dan’s preferences were out of practicality anyway; mine, however, was credited by the fact that I’m a white girl who loves their 5 shot, half-caf, no foam, pumpkin spice latte; trapped in a delusional Asian’s body) But that’s what besties are for- to tolerate each other through thick and thin- in exchange of taking each other’s photographs; this generation’s testimony of solid friendship.
Another argument would be where do we go to next? After all, our itinerary was based on a Rappler article published earlier and other social media starlet’s Instagram feed that either one of us admired (#MillennialKidProblems). Although Dan did suggest we travel all the way to Sentosa Island and get photographed with Universal Studio’s entrance installation- I strongly disagreed to be photographed with a common fixture that could be found in just anyone‘s account who gets to travel to Singapore. Further to the spectacle, I actually avoid most tourist spots (with the exceptions of the ones most European countries, Dubai, New York and Los Angeles– and perhaps even, possibly, Cape Town, Sydney and Havana, have to offer) to avoid the dreaded invasion and eventual death caused by selfie sticks. On one note, we did visit the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, only because A.) it cost only $38 as entrance fee for both and B.) it wasn’t as terribly touristy, photographically speaking to say the least, than that of the Merlion and Universal Studios- and I needed something in the color green to photograph that day- but only to be greeted by hundreds of other tourists, armed with their mobile phones and accompanying accessory of mass destruction, and left me with one question left unanswered in my head: why on earth would you use a selfie stick to take a photo that’s not even using the front camera of your mobile phone?
We did manage to survive, and live through that experience- where other tourists even photographed water dripping from the man made waterfall at the Cloud Forest, as if a drip of water couldn’t be found at the comfort of their own kitchen sinks- and found ourselves in more culturally immersive spots around Singapore: Arab Street 阿拉伯街 and the surfeit of restored houses that sell textile, intricately detailed retail and Arabic Tea that speaks volumes of its heritage and the 200 year old Masjid Sultan Mosque at the heart of it all. Nearby Haji Lane 哈吉车道 has artisan cafes that spade across the predominantly hipster area, full of vibrant murals that could give a young ‘grammer a heart attack in an instant. We also found ourselves lost in China Town (although all of Singapore’s MRT stations do provide a map that I find easy to decipher; but no one managed to give us directions to the Art Museum) we found ourselves captivated in the Lapis Lazuli walls of the Sri Maryamann Temple ஸ்ரீ மாரியம்மன் கோவில்; and even witnessed the sacred ceremony of Puja- as the temple’s Pujari rings bells, release smoke and washes the Hindu deity with milk- as an Indian man who spoke fluent English explained everything to me. “Fascinating to see you here, at one of the least common tourist fixtures in Singapore” he said. “There’s nothing more fulfilling than to actually, or at least try, to understand the various cultures of other religions. It can be both eye-opening and overwhelming- to appreciate the complexities in the context of it all” I replied. After all, as I did mention here, I do get along quite frequently with foreigners because I do assimilate their respective culture (apart from being a total history and culture nerd, often plummeting down during late nights of insomnia reading Wikipedia articles about other countries and their practices)
Perhaps, my original intention of avoiding common tourist spots was quite shallow, although logical: to avoid the dreaded selfie sticks of other tourists, to avoid having the same photograph with a hundred other people (I think when you’re a blogger/vlogger/influencer/digital personality or whatever the eff; you’re supposed to be innovative and surprise your audience rather than giving them content that’s predictable) and probably even because some spots don’t even match the visuals that I usually have an affinity for. But somehow, in the midst of my ka artehan, I found myself appreciating and understanding what Singapore is truly for, and not just the novelty edifice mass media and good PR has made it into. Rather, a financially rapid country designed to be the Asian counterpart of the U.S. of A (or pre-Trump administration America, rather) where immigrants are warmly welcomed to the extent that three of its major ethnicities each have a section dedicated for their culture & their beliefs. I do frequently travel and I do often see that Tumblr post of how one should travel to know themselves ,retweeted every other time. In my case, I know I’m able to appreciate a country, or a foreigner, for their history, culture and beliefs and not for some common novelty fixture I managed to bump into from scrolling down on Instagram.
Over and out.