story Rachel Lim Cheng Woon

Japanese Cemetery Park

A walkway of bougainvilleas on a beautiful afternoon at the Japanese Cemetery Park. (Teo Xiao Ting)

Whenever she seeks some peace and quiet, Teo Xiao Ting ’18 can be found sitting on the pavilion steps of the tranquil Japanese Cemetery Park, with a book and a cup of bubble tea in hand.

“I stumbled upon it because I was looking for a quiet place that is chill, without any humans,” Teo said. Nestled within a quiet neighbourhood in Hougang, this cemetery is said to be the largest and best-preserved Japanese cemetery in Southeast Asia. She dismissed the notion that the cemetery is creepy, as the cemetery is well kept with lush greenery and a beautiful pavilion. “I don’t know the spirits there so they don’t have any reason to do anything to me,” she added.

She visits this hideout regularly to also catch up with the caretakers of the park, who have become her friends over repeated visits. She said, “I go there to read, or literally do nothing. There was this particular grave I passed and saw that its death anniversary was the next week, so I brought a flower the next time I visited.”

Teo is one of the many students who takes time to venture out of campus to explore Singapore’s many hidden gems that reveal exciting food finds, tranquil hideouts and culturally rich areas.

With the dining hall, seminar rooms and sports facilities a little more than an elevator ride away, many students have found themselves comfortable staying on campus. But this has not stopped many from exploring beyond the campus and finding their own favorite spots in Singapore.

Hunter Shaw ’18 said his favorite area in Singapore is the Arab Quarter. There, vibrant streets are packed with shops selling all kinds of textiles, carpets and jewelry. “I get my fabric [for tailoring] off a man in the Arab Quarter, so when I feel like working with textiles, that would be my favorite place,” he said.

Shaw enjoys the process of designing his own clothes. “I like clothes, and in the United States it would be far too expensive to have things custom-made. So [tailoring clothes here] is more affordable. I also have the ability to pick out the exact fabric I like. It is a lot of fun searching for the material and going to my tailor and saying, maybe I want a double-breasted, or with three buttons…”

While some students may be inclined not to leave campus, Shaw said, “I definitely need my sort of space. Every once in a while, I start being crazy just being around campus all the time so I go out and walk around.”

Foodies may want to visit River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodles, a favorite of Dylan Ho ’17. Ho, a self-proclaimed prawn noodle connoisseur, said, “It’s super good. I think it is the top of the top three prawn noodles in Singapore.” He visited the eatery frequently in his childhood, but admitted it is inconvenient to go there without a car. “I went there from school once and it took one hour to get there and one hour to get back. So it’s a two hour payoff to eat prawn noodles.” However, he said he will and does go back there when he goes home for the weekend.

Nothing beats having a place to escape the stress and insularity of student life. Too often we remain solely focused on our academics, commitments and friends here. Taking a physical step back can also give one a mental break and clarity of perception. Despite its relatively small size, Singapore offers a variety of places where one can indulge an interest, make memories, or just relax. All it takes is an adventurous spirit to explore beyond RC4.

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