Couchsurfing in Singapore was my first and one and only surfing experience apart from hosting a lot of travelers and meeting locals abroad while traveling. I will not write about the concept of Couchsurfing in this post, since I have previously written about it in my posts and experiences in Bangalore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
It was in January 2014 when me and my friend planned our little Southeast Asian getaway, we included Singapore in our itinerary because none of us had ever been to Singapore then but heard so many wonderful things about the cosmopolitan city. It was only a couple of months before that I enrolled and became a member on the Couchsurfing website/community. So we started looking for a host, I sent out a few requests to look for someone to host us and finally received a positive response from Carine, a French who lives in Singapore with her husband and their two kids. We exchanged several messages prior our arrival on January 17th on a 6 hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur. We arrived her home in the evening at Emerald Hill Road, which had beautiful period homes on both sides of the street that gave a taste of the city’s past and its former residents – the street also happens to be that gem in Singapore’s concrete and glass jungle.
These Chinese Baroque style terrace houses were built between 1901 and 1925 and were homes to the Singapore’s rich and powerful Peranakan community. Much of the street is still very residential, the first few terrace houses on both sides of the street have been transformed to restaurants and bars. The Emerald Hill Road branches off from busy and modern shopping street, Orchard Road. But, once you turn down Emerald Hill Road and have passed the bars, you won’t hear the traffic noise, and its more like you have traveled back in time!
Much of the residents in this area are the expat community today, and a quick search on the internet shows these homes sell for as much as $7 million Singapore dollars, renting one will set you back $12,000 Singapore dollars/month!
Carine stays home looking after the kids while her husband Sebastian goes for work. We were warmly welcomed with a coffee and a little chit-chat to break the ice, we talked about our trip, where we were before our arrival to Singapore, our plans in Singapore and where after that. Carine provided us a nice large room with attached bathroom with clean sheets in the bed.
I was tired and so was my friend, we took off to bed early to rise early the next morning. We were up by 8.30 in the morning and took off to grab some breakfast, and then to the visitors centre located at the mid-point of Orchard Road. They had maps, travel guides, transport information, hundreds of brochures on food, art, music, live events, tours and attractions – and the staff were very pleasant and professional.
We spent a couple of hours checking out the many places around the Orchard Road area and headed to Chinatown for lunch at one of the hawker street food stalls. We had the Tian Tian chicken rice, it was good and the price was cheap relatively compared to other food outlets in the area.
We consumed the rest of our day on the road exploring and got back to Carine’s place by about 6pm to plan visiting Marina Bay Sands with Sebestian. He took us to the popular attraction via MRT, the security line at the entrance at Marina Bay Sands questioned us if we were heading to the restaurant or to the observation deck and Sebastian promptly told them that we were there to dine. It was something tricky, should we have told them that we were heading to the observation deck, they would have charged us each SGD 20/-, but when we mentioned that we were heading to the restaurant for dinner, they did not charge us anything, but we still had to be dressed chic, smart and decent to gain access to the 57th floor.
We had a bus to catch to Kuala Lumpur early next morning and headed home soon. Our stay with Carine and her family was wonderful, it was the finest hospitality a host could ever offer a surfer in the Couchsurfing community. Our two-night stay in Singapore made us realize how expensive the city was while it had endless opportunities for entrepreneurship in Asia.