Singapore, often synonymous with its tall skyscrapers and giant shopping centres, also has a rich tapestry of culture and history that is sometimes overlooked. However, to fully appreciate present day Singapore, it is essential that we look back to the past and appreciate the firm foundations on which our future has been laid. It was an honour for me to help put together and attend a curated tour of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, called the Insider’s Guide to Singapore, especially designed for Capella Singapore’s guests.
The tour began with a visit to Singapore’s oldest temple, Thian Hock Keng temple. While at the temple, I learned how Taoists and Buddhists worship together, side-by-side. Thian Hock Keng temple, built in 1841, is also significant because, prior to land reclamation, it sat right at the shoreline allowing Chinese sailors to pray to the gods the moment they came ashore. As sea sojourns in the past were often perilous and fatal, sailors risked their lives to come to Singapore in search of a better life and were so overwhelmed with thanksgiving when they arrived that they donated money and goods to the temple, allowing it to continue operations until present day.
After the temple visit, I had a personalised tour of Little India where I walked through the busy streets taking in the sights, sounds and scents. The tour shares much about the importance of gold in Indian culture and includes a visit to several old family-run goldsmiths. Gold, which signifies purity, prosperity and fortune, is still a form of dowry and savings among the Indian people. But gold wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye in Little India! I also had the opportunity to choose and wear our very own traditional Indian flower garland.
Lunch was the next stop. I could choose between a Muslim Malay lunch and a Singaporean Chinese lunch. The Muslim Malay food option allowed me to dine in an authentic Minang-style house. Minangkabau, an ethnic group indigenous to Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia, has people scattered throughout the Indonesian and Malay peninsular cities and towns, including Singapore. The Chinese option gave me the chance to eat my favourite, Bak-kuh-teh, a rich herbal soup brewed with pork bones. This soup is popular with Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia. I decided to go with the Muslim Malay lunch and dug into a plate filled with rich flavourful curries.
After my belly was full, my walking tour through Kampong Glam and Arab Street began. One of the most interesting experiences was being able to create my own perfume at Muslim perfumery Jamal Kazura Aromatics. Minyak Attar is a natural oil based perfume derived from organic sources. The owner, Jamal Kazura, gave me the opportunity blend scents, creating a one-of-a-kind perfume that is unique to me. Jamal Kazura Aromatics traces its origins back to the early 1920s.
After a culturally rich day, it was time to head back to Capella Singapore. It was truly a unique experience being able to walk through history with my very own personal guide and one I would recommend to others.
This tailor made Insider’s Guide to Singapore can be enjoyed by booking the Capella Experience package or directly through your Capella Singapore Personal Assistant.