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Strange how people can have such different experiences of a place. On the bus yesterday I overheard an American young woman conversing with two tourists. Apparently she’d been in Singapore for two years, and in her own words, couldn’t wait to get out. The tourists were on their way to a well-known hawker centre, which the young lady hadn’t been to despite living nearby. She flatly declared that the food there wasn’t good, and I found her certainty odd seeing as she’s never tried it herself.

I felt sorry that her life in my homeland so far has been unpleasant, but at the same time I do wish she’d make a greater effort to expose herself to new experiences. Of course, I’m making a lot of assumptions here. Many people confine their visits to tourist haunts like Orchard Road, when in fact the country’s true character comes alive in the heartlands. And honestly, if you haven’t eaten at a hawker centre, you haven’t tasted Singapore food. It’s that simple. Can you tell that I’m in love with the hawker culture here and elsewhere in Southeast Asia? There’s really nothing like it. The food is cheap AND good- what more can you ask for?

I just wish she had someone to show her a different side of this place, one she’d find irresistably appealing. I wish I could somehow change her mind. Having been to numerous countries and witnessed various cultures, I recognize that every place has its own merits and faults. However, I always try to focus on the positive aspects and explore beyond the surface for a better understanding of the people and their history. That, to me, is part of the fun and sense of fulfillment gained through travel.