By Joke Karibo
As I reflect on my travels in 2013, my trip to Singapore in July 2013 really stands out. It was eye opening and surprising. To be honest, I was nervous. I was nervous about travelling as a black girl to an Asian country. How would people react to me walking on the street, getting on local transport etc.? I had these questions and wasn’t sure what to expect. Here’s how I ended up feeling at home in this faraway asian land.
If you’ve heard about Singapore you might have heard about its cultural and ethnic diversity. Singapore is made up of Chinese, Indian and Malay communities. So we’re talking about people with different shades and complexions living together, marrying each other, etc. Add a massive expat community and you get a very interesting mix of things going on. There’s such an eclectic mix of people that you can’t help but fit right in. My exploration began in Little India, an area with traditional Indian shops selling colourful Hindu garlands and jewelry shops with rows of sparkling Indian wedding bangles on display. The streets are lined with brightly coloured shophouses and the scent of sweet incense fills the air as you walk along the streets. All the colours and smells of Little India are intoxicating so it’s no wonder I got lost. Next up was Chinatown, busy, loud and full of strange medicinal concoctions like alligator powder, which was a cure to some unmentionable ailment. My highlight in Chinatown was the breathtaking Buddha Tooth Relic temple which houses a tooth relic from Buddha himself. Down the street from the temple was a Hindu temple and next to that a mosque. Religions and cultures coexisting side by side for centuries showcase the diversity and tolerance that Singaporeans are very proud of.
My favorite thing about Singapore is the food. Singaporeans are the true foodies of the world. They love eating out and trying new things. The city/state is full of food/hawker centres packed with specialties such as Chili crab, Hainanese chicken rice, Laksa and Kaya Toast. The choices are overwhelming and it is truly hard to make a decision on what and where to eat. From sitting in a food centre to dining at a Michelin star restaurant, the choices are endless and the food here is deliciously good. Lau Pa Sat and Maxwell Road food centres are the best ones. I also loved the fact that grabbing some freshly squeezed juice was available on almost every corner. I tried sugar cane, watermelon, and dragon fruit, all freshly squeezed right before my eyes and with the sweltering heat of those July days, it was a relief.
The city centre of Singapore is like a futuristic vision of what cities might look like years from now. I loved walking around Singapore at night when the skyscrapers put their best foot forward. The best views are by the Marina Bay. As I wandered around, I could see the Singapore Concert Hall lit up like a Christmas tree and shaped like a durian, a fruit you’ll see everywhere around Singapore. Be sure to look out for the ‘no durian’ signs in the metro, a nod to the strict rules surrounding Singaporeans. Walking further along the Marina Bay is the Marina Bay Sands resort that looks like an enormous boat resting on three towers. The views from the deck (the boat shaped part of the building) are amazing. From the traditional shophouses to the grand buildings of former British colonialism, the impressive architecture is always present everywhere you go. Singapore is not your ordinary Southeast Asian country. It’s ambitious, bold and daring and this is reflected in its architecture, food and in the diverse ethnic groups that make it a great starting point for anyone thinking of traveling to Southeast Asia.
Joke is a globe-trotting, foodie, 'Scandal' obsessed Afropolitan who speaks five languages. Working in the publishing industry in the city of London, she travels the globe as often as possible looking for new adventures.