“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.”
― Claude Monet
While modern Singapore is a marvel with the contemporary architecture of the areas surrounding Bayfront, I found it less interesting than the older side of the small Southeast Asian nation.
Prior to my trip, I wasn’t sure what remained of colonial era structures — whenever I saw pictures of Singapore, it was of those modern skyscrapers reiterating the city’s claim as a global financial center. Every now and then I recall seeing photos of a few scattered historic buildings — the few that remained after the destruction of World War II.
As I wandered through streets on long walks in the tropical heat, I encountered another side of Singapore. I began to see those colonial-era houses that were familiar from my trip to Malaysia; that same style I saw in Malacca and Penang years ago. But here in Singapore, those same buildings were refurbished — cleaned up and painted, though a few were in disrepair. These buildings showed life, a life that was busy and beautiful.
This isn’t the same as finding those wonderful colors along quiet canals in Burano; this was boisterous and somewhat chaotic. This was no laid-back, relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle. This was Little India.
I wound up in Little India a few times during my short stay — it wasn’t far from my hostel and there were more affordable dining options. As I was invited to eat and drink with some locals after a long day of sightseeing, I was asked about my stay in Singapore. They were surprised it was my first visit — they didn’t expect a first-timer to wander through the Indian section of the city because it’s not on the popular tourist itinerary. That’s exactly why I was there.
I showed my haphazard itinerary to my new acquaintances — they were curious what I planned to see around their home. They told me to avoid a few things that they considered dull and laughed at my other choices because they were simply the official tourist destinations — of course, you have to go to the Raffles Hotel for a drink, but don’t expect to find locals there. They were also bewildered by my encounter with renovations at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve — “How could nature be under renovations?” they laughed.
Despite calling the major attractions nothing but garbage, they encouraged me to still visit the destinations on my list. “It’s what you have to do,” they told me.
“Next time, you can see the other side of Singapore.”