With borders slowly opening, leisure travel is possible once again — and what perfect timing as 27 September marks the United Nation’s World Tourism Day. This international observance day was adopted back in 1970 for countries around the world join forces to raise awareness of the importance of tourism and the impact it has on communities.
Among its key priorities are to encourage and promote sustainable tourism policies and practices. It also aims to ensure that environmental resources are used optimally and socio-cultural authenticity is respected, while providing socio-economic benefits to host communities.
While World Tourism Day serves as a timely reminder of the far reaches of sustainability, it is also effective in bringing to mind the joys of travel — and how much we have missed it.
Are you are counting down the days till your next overseas trip? Why not let Mediacorp CLASS 95 DJ and Audi Brand Ambassador Yasminne Cheng share her picks of hidden gems around Singapore that are little representations of places and cultures around the world.
If the name Surrey Hills Grocer sounds familiar, that’s because it was inspired by actual places Down Under: Surreys Hills town in Melbourne and Surry Hills in Sydney. This quaint grocer and café tucked away in Jurong is as close as you can get to recreating Australian road trips and the tranquility of the places it pays homage to. The 3,000 sq ft retail and F&B space houses a marketplace, an al fresco café and artisanal bakery, which is perfect if you need a place to rest your feet after shopping for groceries. The full-fledged menu offers authentic Australian dishes featuring thoughtfully-sourced ingredients, while the marketplace has fuss-free fresh Australian produce. Do remember to do your bit for the environment and bring your own reusable shopping bag!
For a slice of Japan, visit Patch Magic, a hidden gem in Palais Renaissance. Located at the third floor, the charming fashion boutique was founded by Akiko Silva who moved from Japan to Singapore in 1988, armed with a vision of giving intricate kimono fabrics a modern twist for everyday wear. She started off giving repurposed kimono fabrics a new life as ready-to-wear pieces. These days, every item is delicately handcrafted in her workshop using time-honoured Japanese craftsmanship such as the traditional ‘katazome’ technique of stencil dyeing — and no two pieces are alike. If you prefer your kimono fabric as statement pieces to be admired and not worn, Akiko has also extended her product range from apparel to soft furnishings such as fine table runners and other accessories.
If nature is more your thing, a little drive down to Bukit Batok may just be what you need. Nestled in the heart of Bukit Batok Town Park is a natural rock formation that sits within a peaceful lake. This picturesque scene has been dubbed “Little Guilin” by many locals as the serene atmosphere and landscape looks like it can be part of Guilin, a city in southern China famous for its mountains and lakes. While the towering rock formation is inaccessible to public, there is a trail that runs along the lake parallel to it that gives you a 180° view of the quarry and the nature park. And if you want to spend more time soaking up this calming view, there are also two sheltered rest areas situated along the trail.
Did you know that the Alliance Française in Singapore is more than just a language school? The building has its own movie theatre, art gallery, and library. Aside from French language classes, the cultural centre has a slew of activities for the whole family such as French film screenings, cooking masterclasses with top French chefs in Singapore, and art exhibitions that you can join to immerse yourself in all things French. And when you need to take a breather from all the activities, the centre also has its own café where you can treat yourself to some French crêpes and breads. Emily in Paris, anyone?
Time to fill your bellies with a little taste of what you are probably missing from Thailand — food! Tamarind Hill is an oldie but goldy award-winning restaurant that whips up mouthwatering Thai dishes infused with some modern and fusion influences. Aside from its authentic menu, its location is also one of its best features, offering diners a quiet respite from busy city life, secreted away from major roads at Labrador Nature Reserve. The restaurant also has strong sustainable and eco-conscious values in their operations. They are a Carbon Free Dining certified restaurant, and one of their company cores focuses on protecting and preserving nature.
Owing to Singapore’s multi-cultural society, the country is fortunate to have diverse offerings. You needn’t book an air ticket if you’re craving for some hot and tangy tom yum soup or if you want to immerse yourself in the fine art of Japanese fabric — just look in your own backyard and there are many great places waiting to be discovered.
But when it’s time to travel out of Singapore, it’s always good to keep World Tourism Day’s goals in mind and the impact our actions have on the places we visit. Yasminne shared her thoughts on being a mindful tourist: “I believe in the adage ‘Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.’ When we are in another country, it’s truly important to be mindful and respectful of the various communities, people and nature.”