They say that travel broadens the mind but how many of us simply pass through our holiday destination without really getting to know a little bit more about the people, the culture, the sights and of course the food.
If you’ve been to or live in South East Asia, you’ll know precisely why this part of the world is so popular as a holiday destination. But by spending a little time learning to eat and live like a local, you’ll uncover a hidden part of the culture that tourism alone can miss entirely.
Take Singapore as an example. So many of us use this island city as a brief stopover on the way to and from Australia that it’s often somewhere you see for only a day or two before jetting off again. If your lay over’s particularly short, you may not even make it out of the famous Changi airport with its cinemas and rooftop swimming pool.
While this country is a great travel hub and has flights going over all the world, there is so much more to it. In this article we take a look at the hidden side to Singapore and how you can get to know it that little bit better.
Eat Like A Local
If there’s one thing that Singaporeans love in a big way, it’s food and you can see why. Sure, you could book a table at the hundreds of experience Asia or European restaurants across the island and in particular the areas most densely populated by expats, or you could go to a Hawker.
When the Singaporean Government decided to bring all the street food stalls under cover and in one place, they created Hawker Centres. At these food courts you’ll find stalls selling everything from the ever popular Laksa to the famous Hainanese chicken rice. You’ll also find food from all around Asia including India and Korea, so browse around until you find a cuisine that gets your taste buds tingling.
At the vast majority of Hawker Centres, you won’t wind up paying more than $3 or $4 Singapore dollars for your main meal and around $1 for a fresh juice to go with it. This is where the vast majority of locals eat so lunchtimes and dinner times are often very busy.
You’ll need to obey the local custom of choping if you don’t want to fall foul of the ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ patrolling the halls.
If you do come across a tissue or a packet of tissues on a seat, then you know straight away that the place is reserved. The practice of choping is highly respected and you won’t find people moving tissues out of the way; you should do the same and maybe do your own chope if you want to fit right in.
Ride Like A Local
Like many other places in the world, Singapore has its fair share of Uber and local taxi options but if you want to get a feel of a place and see a little more of the island, grab a bus.
Grab a travel card at a bus or train station and use it to swipe on and off as you traverse the island. You’ll weave in and out of housing developments, shopping malls and past all the great sights and all for the fraction of a cost of taking a taxi.
If you’re going far, jump on the MRT, the island’s underground train network and speed from stop to stop in air-conditioned comfort. Fast, clean and used by workers, students and tourists alike, the MRT is a great way to people spot as well as getting from A to B in the quickest way possible.
Singapore is so much more than Super Trees and a strange looking, yet iconic hotel. From its colonial past to its position as an economical force to be reckoned with, the island still retains its roots and distinct culture.
Take a walk through some of the distinctive neighbourhoods to get a real feel for the place and take your time to look around at some of the less obvious sights and sounds.
But eating and travelling like a Singaporean is going to be what really gives you a fresh insight into this unique island. With influences from China, Malaysia, Indonesia and of course the past, Singaporeans are rightly proud of their national and local dishes. If you haven’t tasted Singaporean Chilli Crab, make it your first stop and see why so many people are making Singapore more than a stopover.