My Unique Home

Commended entry: "My Unique Home" by Ashley Tay from Singapore

This article was submitted in the Kids World Travel Guide Essay Competition 2020 in the Senior Category 12-15 years.

My Unique Home

Singapore is my country and my home. Legend has it that a Srivijayan prince named Sang Nila Utama saw a majestic creature resembling a lion when he first came ashore, inspiring him to name the island 'Singapura', which means 'Lion City'.

This Lion City is the smallest country in Southeast Asia. It still amazes me that I can walk from the east to the west of Singapore in 11 hours, and from the north to the south in half the time! Yet, Singapore overcame its lack of size and natural resources, transforming from a rural village at the time of its independence in 1965, to the modern and breathtaking city state it is today. All this, in just 55 years, the life span of an eagle!

Modern Singapore is a city that never sleeps. There is something for anyone, anywhere, anytime. At dawn, one can stroll through any of its 350 parks to relax before starting the day. In Singapore, no matter where you are, it is never too far away from the pockets of nature. I stay in central Singapore and regularly enjoy watching wild otters frolic in the Kallang river, which winds its way from my doorstep to the vast oceans of the Singapore Straits. In the afternoons, attractions throughout the island throw open their doors to welcome you.

There is the Singapore Flyer, a gargantuan ferris wheel that whisks you into the clouds to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the country, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the first and only tropical botanic gardens on the UNESCO World Heritage List and Universal Studios Singapore, a theme park where you can zip, scream and eat your way through ever-changing worlds made famous in books and movies. At midnight, night-owl visitors can wander beneath glowing, iridescent man-made trees the size of skyscrapers in Singapore’s Gardens By The Bay. Someone fittingly named it "Gardens of the Galaxy", partly a pop-culture reference to the Marvel superhero group, and partly a homage to its surreal intergalactic atmosphere.

While exploring Singapore, many will find themselves savouring the rare quiet sense of security and order throughout. Locals often leave belongings casually unattended and have little qualms strolling around at nightfall.

Our multi-ethnic culture, stemming from Singapore’s origins as a trading port is another thing I love about my home. Here, although each community retains its own practices, we come together to celebrate each other’s culture through designated public holidays.

The delicious delectables accompanying each festival are a huge bonus that I look forward to, from pineapple tarts during Chinese New Year, to fried shankarpalis during Diwali (Hindu Festival of Lights), to colourful triangular dodols during Hari Raya (a celebration marking the end of Muslim fasting). Similar to our ethnic tapestry, our unique culture has led to a smorgasbord of cuisines, resulting in food international in nature, yet uniquely Singaporean. For example, our famous chilli crab and the ever popular chicken rice. These dishes and many more are found at hawker centres all around Singapore.

In many hawker centres, Singaporeans speaking English interspersed with local dialects is not uncommon. This culture is fondly referred to as 'Singlish', a local lingo produced by Singapore’s culture and ethnic diversity. It is also one of the easiest ways of identifying a Singaporean travelling overseas! Just another thing unique about my home.

Singapore is truly my country and my unique home. It holds many fond memories for me, and I am sure you will make many of your own on our sunny shores. As we Singaporeans like to say, come and have a "shiok" (Singlish for 'wonderful') time!

Thank you for your insightful essay "My Unique Home", Ashley. We want to hop on the next plane and come right to Singapore to not only enjoy the many attractions but taste the hot and spicy chilli crabs at the East Coast! Your essay definitely gave us a shiok time to revel in old memories too! Well done!

Ashley Tay attends CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls School in Singapore.

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