By Heidi Sarna
Visitors and newcomers to Singapore often make assumptions about the city-state. That just because it’s urban, modern and bustling it must be bereft of history, nuance or depth. I’m here to tell you that there’s much more to Singapore than meets the eye.
As a travel writer and a curious person by nature, when I moved to Singapore from NYC in 2006 with my family, I started exploring straight away. I joined heritage and culture tours with the legendary Geraldene Lowe, and then later with Jane’s Singapore Tours. I walked and cycled around as much as I could, and spent time surfing Singapore history blogs, the likes of Jerome Lim’s Long and Winding Road as well as Remember Singapore. I poked around the online files of the National Heritage Board and photo collections from archivists like Lee Kip Lin. It quickly became clear just how many layers of history and culture were all around us, a wonderful and quirky melange of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences. A tale of immigrants, near and far. Of peace, war and prosperity.
When I stumbled upon the Secret New York guide by Jonglez Publishing, on a visit there a few years ago, I was hooked on the book and immediately became obsessed with writing a Singapore version. After some back and forth with Jonglez, this dream came true. A labor of love, Secret Singapore comprises some 125 secret, little-known and/or forgotten places and things in Singapore. From the remains of a mid-19th-century coastal fort and an often-overlooked row of colorful Chinese baroque shophouses on the edge of Little India to a century-old brewmaster’s house hidden amidst the sprawl of a modern condo, there are stories to tell and treasures to see.
Research for Secret Singapore entailed lots of poking around on foot, by car and often by bicycle, my favorite way to travel. Robin has joined me on many research rides to check facts and take photos, and at some point it occurred to us to combine Robin’s amazing mapping and route design prowess with my love of history and Singapore’s quirky secrets. And so, we present you with Secret Pedals, a series of Bike-a-Local DIY rides that take you to some of the secrets covered in the book, and a few that aren’t.
C’mon, we’ll show you the way!
by Heidi Sarna & Jerome Lim
Jonglez Publishing (2020)