Seeing the City with Local Eyes
22.05.2015 - 25.05.2015
Prior to arriving in Singapore, I had planned to stay all the days doing couchsurfing. Looking back now, it was better to split up the time I had in the city. The first half was over and I had seen all the sights, must-sees and cool places in the greater downtown region. The second half of my time in Singapore I spent all the way up north in the Woodlands district. Only a short drive away from the bridge that separated Malaysia and Singapore lived Marcus and his family. I was excited to stay with them for a couple of days.
The day I left the hostel, I had some hawker food again before I got on the train that took me all the way from the south of Singapore to the north. Considering the small size of the world's only island city-state it didn't take too long, but I was still on the train for about an hour. Marcus and his dad picked me up from the train station which I appreciated a lot since I wasn't used to it that the host would even pick up the couchsurfer. Having just been to Singapore downtown with its unique buildings and touristic vibe, Woodlands district was more focused on housing people than. It seemed like a pretty modern suburb consisting of high-rise condominiums, lots of playgrounds, communal gardens, barbecue-pits, recreational facilities and you could find trees and greenery nearly everywhere.
We got to their apartment complex and I was welcomed by his sister and mom as well. All were so nice and friendly from the very beginning. There wasn't much time for chatting though, as we headed to Marcus football practice. It wasn't actually a proper practice like I know from back home. We got to the sports grounds, multiple football fields, basketball courts, etc. Marcus told me that the kids of the neighborhood try to meet up as much as possible for some street football in the evening. We made up the teams and surrounded by high-rise condos, loud motor highways and also some green parks we played football. Not having played in years since I switched from football to basketball had its downside. After a while though I got back in the game and even got to score a goal. Me being one of the tallest among the large group of kids, teens and young adults might have been an advantage there. No matter the score, I enjoyed the game a lot. The group was interested in my travels and Germany so we stayed for a bit longer after the game ended to talk to the group. Marcus sister Joscelyn picked us up to drive us back to their apartment. After a refreshing shower and getting the air mattress pumped up so we wouldn't bother anyone later, we headed out to meet up with some of their friends for dinner. I wasn't surprised when we got to a hawker food center. For a long time we sat, ate, drank and talked until it was time to head back and get some sleep.
The next day Marcus family went to church. As I wanted to see the city from the local perspective as much as possible, I asked whether I could join them. So we all went to church the next day. Before the church service began, there was a chance to talk to other community members, buy some food for charity purposes and get to know each other. Then the service was about to start and we took our seats. It was interesting to see how the service was ministered over there. I was glad Marcus family let me join them for this experience.
For the rest of that day we hung out at their apartment complex. For all occupants to use, there were a fitness center, a hot tube and a large outdoor pool. And of course I wanted to do some sports again. Marcus and I worked out in the gym, did some laps in the pool so I could get back in shape for swimming practice back home and relaxed in the hot tube. That evening, Marcus and Joscelyn wanted to show me a local market. Strolling around the various food stands, we came upon on which offered Durian. The edible flesh emits a distinctive odor that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the Durian as having a sweet fragrance. Others find the aroma overpowering and disgusting. Finally I understood what the "No Durian fruit" signs on the train meant! Since I had never tried Durian before I asked whether I could have a sample and with a smile the store owner handed me a piece. It actually tasted great! The strong odor was something I had to get used to but it wasn't unpleasant or so. I wouldn't consider it sweet either though. Then we were off for dinner in another food court. Marcus ordered after I told him I'd eat anything.
The last day we had before I flew back home to Germany was rather relaxed. More swimming, working out and driving around the area. Woodlands is a quite the typical expat neighborhood. As I mentioned before that the district is modernly structured, it also features the American School and is close to the Malaysian border. Therefore we took a drive around the wealthier expat part of Woodlands so I could see the cool houses and the mix of Western and Asian architecture. Back at the apartment, I had to start packing and Marcus had to as well. Only a day after I left, he flew to Rome. Luckily he didn't fly earlier as I think I just got the best local experience of Singapore I could have imagined. His dad took us out for dinner at the same place we were the night before and we had a feast of tastes and smells and the one or other beer wasn't missing either.
My time with Marcus and his family flew by like nothing, but I am grateful that he they let me stay with them. The mix of a few tourist days followed by a couple of days from the local perspective completed my Singapore experience. I couldn't believe that the next day I would fly back home. The entire year raced past me in no time. All the adventures beginning in Dubai, then Australia, New Zealand and finally Singapore were experiences I will never forget and always cherish. The people I met and friends I made are a valuable part of those adventures. Singapore was for sure a strong finish of my year of traveling around the world.
Micheal Phelps once said: "You can't put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get." and I think the last year I had gotten further than ever.