The Neighbourhood Explorer The Neighbourhood Explorer

22 Jul 2016

The Neighbourhood Explorer


Everyday Singapore can be interesting if you take the time to stand and stare. Meet Medha Lim, 33, an explorer of sorts who enjoys rediscovering the new in old Singapore neighbourhoods and the seemingly mundane that people often tend to overlook. Eager to share her knowledge of hidden gems and inspire Singaporeans to be more curious, she initiated a pet project ‘Jalan Medha’, where she takes people on weekend walkabouts weaving in food, heritage and good old conversations.

By Yang Huiwen

How did you develop your love for these walkabouts?

Everything started from when I was working as a teaching assistant in a village in Japan back in 2008. It caused my concept of life to mature because we were plunged into a very backward world. The people there understood what it meant to really live, observe and just be aware of their environment. It encouraged me to appreciate the very basic, mundane things in daily life. It dawned on me that there is much more to life than material achievements. I started taking more photos of everyday Singapore and realised that I can actually tell stories and an audience who wanted to learn but do not know how to go about getting information.

Who are the people who join your walks, and what kind of person would enjoy them?

Curious, Singaporean or interested in Singapore. I think that they are willing to go out of their comfort zone and leave it to me to bring them around Singapore for that few hours. People on my walk usually know me through Instagram, so I think they’re all very visual people. They appreciate what I photograph and also want to visit the same places. That’s perfectly fine because I don’t see why we should be selfish to keep good sights away from people. You tell them, they tell more people and eventually it develops a larger overall appreciation for Singapore. That is the main purpose - to understand Singapore, to reflect on what we have and what we had and hopefully not to forget these things.

The Neighbourhood Explorer

The Neighbourhood Explorer

The Neighbourhood Explorer

The Neighbourhood Explorer

What role does heritage plays in Singapore’s future?

I think that the strongest stories and the most memorable ones are the ones passed through conversations. Perhaps through this transmission of stories, people remember better and can share what they know with others in the long run. Even if people don’t retain these stories, such conversations keep the history in our heads. They can also foster new discussions and encourage reflections.

Out of all the places that you’ve walked at, which are your personal favourite spots?

Balestier and Joo Chiat are really my top two, I would say. Balestier is my favourite because that was where my mum worked when she was alive and I have memories of visiting her at work and fetching her home. It also has my favourite tau sar pia place, so it really ties in all my memories with her. As for the other locations, I usually find my way around things. I’m very familiar with Chinatown because it’s near my workplace. I’ll walk through the small lanes in Chinatown which helps me to figure out which angles are good, or which stalls are interesting and worth a stop at.

Describe your state of mind when you go on your walks.

During the walks, we tend to keep moving with clear motivation, from point A to point B. We don’t give ourselves time to consider longer routes and deviations. The destination can always be the same but I think we need to cut ourselves some slack. Sometimes it takes some time to get to the destination. While I have my route mapped out, I’m open to discovering special places in-between. For example, during my Golden Mile walk, I brought my participants to see this lovely old-school cake shop, and suddenly one participant directed us to a retro barber shop. You don’t need to be the one to find things because people can tell you about things as well.

What is your hope for Singaporeans, especially the younger ones who might not have such strong ties to these older places?

I hope that they stay curious. I think many youths stopped being curious a long time ago because everything is already laid out before them. They search through Google whereas our idea of searching means that we physically go out and look for new things. We cannot help the invasion of technology into young kids’ lives but we can make it a point to bring them out, look at life and learn how to observe without already pre-judging. Because if you don’t know what’s going to happen, then you can learn something new. If you only assume, you’ll never learn anything.

“I think that the strongest stories and the most memorable ones are the ones passed through conversations.”

– Medha Lim

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