When my colleague reminded me that there was a public holiday coming up this week, my first response was a wistful staring into the distance, plotting ways 1 day could turn into 3 weeks backpacking around Asia, but more on that later. What I wasn’t at all aware of was the cultural rabbit hole that lay ahead.
It started with a seemingly innocent suggestion, “You should go look at the festival stalls around Geylang Serai before they close.”. Never one to argue overly long I indeed made my to this new area of Singapore that evening, interest piqued.
Highlight 1: A bewildering festival
As with any large city, Singapore has cultural hubs spread out across the board. Easy examples would include Little India and China Town. Geylang Serai seemed the equivalent for Indonesians and Malaysians.
While I’m unsure of the exact area the stalls covered, the initial perimeter was quite clear, as we waited impatiently for the lights to turn and the traffic police to allow us to cross into the world on the other side. Once in though there really seemed little end to it, as the permanent and makeshift stalls blurred along the pavements and into any open space possible.
I’m unclear how much time passed before I emerged again, drenched in mostly my own sweat, sticky from who knows how many different fruits, pastries and other delights, henna melting on my arm. Thankfully the photos and a lighter wallet helped me piece together the journey in retrospect.
Highlight 2: A second ‘Friday night’
Although already said, having an additional holiday in the week was perfect, otherwise where would the time and energy be to dive into all this festive excitement. Back in South Africa for example, some of the potential to enjoy this celebration is lost on the uninformed, who spend the day as mostly any other.
Back to action planet though, the addition of another ‘Friday night’ (And yes, we all know Friday nights aren’t the same as other nights) was well spent. I’m quite a fan of the local band 53A and as their packed weekly schedule would have it they were playing at Timbre @ Substation that evening.
Combining the music, the crowd, some new friends and a nice beer brought tears to my small-when-smiling eyes. Eyes that stayed shut a bit longer the next morning, thanks to having the day off.
Highlight 3: A culture of inclusion
Having had no idea which of the many names I learned for this festival was the right one, or which are names and which are good wishes, had no impact on my luck to get intimately involved in the celebration.
With a big thank you to Crissy, whom I met via Couch Surfing, I was invited to attend the food fare / family time with her extended family on the day. The location of a family’s gathering, I learned later, normally revolves around the home of the eldest member in the family. For them, it was her grandmother.
When a desire to explore the world takes you far away from the ones dear to you, being let into the softer parts of another family’s time together holds a special allure and value. Not only are you privy to the casual comfort of company that knows itself well, but you see parts of another culture you won’t see elsewhere.
And so the night has come and the high levels of excitement have given way to some of my own personal comforts. Within the space of 24h I’ve been blessed with new friends, tastes, experiences and a polished gratitude for the diverse world we live in. Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to anyone and everyone who wishes to receive some good wishes (:
What’s playing: Melody Day – Sweetly Lalala
Where to next: still Bantam (cable ski) – then Rangoon (Yangon)
What’s news: Smiles, laughter, happiness and comfort for any tears ❤