Sustainable Tourism Singapore Series #3
United Nations had declared 2017 as the International Year Of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Here is the third post of my 4-post Sustainable Tourism Series on Singapore. You may read the first post HERE and the second post HERE.
Want to experience Singapore’s traditional culture by dining with a Singaporean family? Do grab the opportunity, as it would also give a boost to a local’s determined attempt to provide its youth with a glimpse of the city-state’s rapidly vanishing lifestyle.
One Kind House – A Zig and a Zag
Calvin Soh spent nearly two decades in advertising, helping sell toothpaste and tourism, televisions and technology, theatre and therapy. Heck … he even pitched in to sell condoms. His job was of creating dreams and selling them. He played with words and painted little rainbows. He even drummed up demand for igloos amongst Eskimos. In a nutshell, he was quite successful in building brands for others. That was his past…
A few years ago, the time came for him to bid adieu to all this hype. Considering options, he chose to veer towards an unlikely one – open up his ancestral home to guests who were strangers. And in the process, he has ended up building a brand for himself and his family!
As I walked along a culvert towards Calvin’s East Singaporean home, I was breathing in the neighbourhood – clean sidewalks, playgrounds and palatial houses – some albeit converted into builder apartments. The locality was serene, exuding traditional Singaporean charm.
One Kind House – First Brush
Among the now imposing structures brazenly proclaiming CCTV surveillance, Calvin’s ancestral home was a modest 2-storey structure with a 20-yard driveway and a front lawn. Instead of cars, the driveway had a few tables and benches for the guests to chill.
Going in, I was warmly greeted by a young girl. I was to find out later that she was there to learn ‘art’. Waiting for Calvin to return from his chores, I soaked in the ambience, taking in the strange mishmash his house was. The front lawn was not really a lawn but a kitchen garden. A cursory inspection revealed drip irrigation, hydroponics and more cool stuff like tiered beds to maximise space for growing vegetables.
One Kind House – Having a look
And then Calvin walks in. Showing me around the house, Calvin candidly revealed he had grown up in a traditional middle-class family, had enjoyed his childhood engaging in family-centric activities, and was pained to see these activities slowly vanishing. When it was time for him to take a sabbatical from advertising, he opted to dedicate a chunk of his life providing the younger generation with a deep peep into that fast-disappearing mores that he had enjoyed during his growing-up years. And the result was ‘One Kind House’.
The ground floor comprises three rooms in a row – the first an artist’s studio, the next an informal café and the third a kitchen-cum-dining room. A rear exit from the kitchen leads to yet another kitchen garden. The house is simply an epitome of an urban farmhouse!
One Kind House – Meeting the Soh Family
Calvin’s uncle, Ng Yak Whee, was giving finishing touches to his newest work of art in the studio. Considered an accomplished artist in Singapore, he runs painting classes at the One Kind House.
The kitchen was Mommy Soh’s kingdom. Here, along with her helper, she was preparing Singaporean delicacies for a diplomat’s family that had made a dinner reservation for 10 people at S$40 per head.
There are three rooms on the first floor. While two are being used as living quarters, Calvin’s son and his nephew were making model planes in the third. Sewing and embroidery machines also lined this room. Calvin told me his wife and 10-year old daughter taught the traditional craft of sewing and embroidery to neighbourhood youth and even grown-ups. Upon checking about his 14-year old son Dylan, Calvin mentioned that besides studying, he also gave TEDx talks!
While Calvin and I were chatting, Mommy Soh had drummed up a refreshing lemongrass drink. Sipping it with his family, I learnt that even Calvin gave TEDx talks!
As I bade goodbye to the talented, loving, openhearted Soh family, I was taken in on how urbanisation the world over has gobbled up local mores, traditions, and lifestyles. Deep within, I was also filled with admiration for the Soh family – for disrupting their usual lifestyle to keep the flame of that tradition alight!
One Kind House, 136B, Lorong J Telok Kurau – 425966. Nearest MRT Kembangan on Green line. You could make your reservation by calling +65 9682 5186.