A Conversation Between 2 Tourists at the Padang Unesco World Heritage Site
Top image: Bing Hui Yau / Unsplash

This conversation takes place after the Padang has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (only if Singapore’s proposal is accepted)

Tourist 1: Okay we’ve taken 50 pictures of Marina Bay Sands and let that mermaid lion thing pretend to spit in our mouth. What’s next on the agenda? 

Tourist 2: Hang on, Google Maps says we’re almost there. 

Tourist 1: Where? 

Tourist 2: Just wait, it’s going to be great. It’s our first UNESCO site on this trip! It’s something called the pay-dang and it has (reads off phone) hosted many historic colonial and national events.

Tourist 1: Ooh finally some history and culture! Are you sure we’re almost there, though? We’ve been walking across this patch of grass for the past five minutes. 

Tourist 2: Okay, fine. You take over navigation duties. (Hands phone over

Tourist 1: It says… we’re here???

Tourist 2: Yeah but it doesn’t make any sense. We’re right in the middle of a field.

Image: Ajnclde / Instagram

Tourist 1: Oh. I think this is it. We’re not just in a field. We’re in the field. Did we really walk 20 minutes in the heat for… this? 

Tourist 2: Okay watch that tone. We’ve already talked about deconflicting last night when our budget got blown at that overpriced Chinatown food place. I’m sure this is a UNESCO site and a national monument for a reason.

(Both pause in the middle of the field to feverishly Google ‘the Padang’)

Tourist 2: Okay, so pay-dang literally means ‘field’ in Malay. I guess we should have known. But to be fair, it’s not just a random open space. I’ll have you know, this is where a victory parade was held to commemorate Japan’s surrender in World War II. 

Tourist 1: Interesting. And do you know when the war was? 

Tourist 2: Shut up. This is also where this super important guy—

Tourist 1: Raffles? 

Tourist 2: No, Lee Kuan Yew. This was where he announced Singapore’s merger with Malaysia. Then they held a bunch of parades here too.

Tourist 1: I still don’t see why this patch of green is a historic attraction. I mean aren’t most of these events just a few decades ago? 

The famously rainy National Day Parade of 1968 held at the Padang.
(Image: Yusof Ishak Collection, National Archives of Singapore)

Tourist 2: Beats me. It wasn’t that long ago. 

Tourist 1: But I guess it’s significant to Singaporeans. But it just looks like some grass to me. Where’s the ‘outstanding universal value‘ I was promised?

Tourist 2: Oh you want to take it all the way back? (Scrolls vigorously) Prince Sang Nila Utama spotted a lion, also called a seen-ga, on this here land in the 13th century. That’s how this country got its name. 

Tourist 1: Ugh, sure. I guess we can just grab a selfie with this field and go. But make sure those rugby players don’t get in the shot. 

Tourist 2: No wait. The Padang Civic Ensemble heritage site also includes these other buildings. That’s the National Gallery over there, and the Singapore Cricket Club, Singapore’s second-oldest sports club, is right in front of us. Let’s take pictures closer to there instead?

Image: National Gallery Singapore/Facebook

Tourist 1: Oh, you mean those generic British colonial-looking buildings? 

Tourist 2: …Nevermind. I guess this stop is a bust. Let’s hope the other UNESCO heritage thingy here is actually worth visiting

Tourist 1: At least we got to see the Crazy Rich Asians church today. Should we just look for lunch now? There’s this place in Google’s related search about a traditional Singaporean dish called nay-si pay-dang.

Image: Can Eat! Hawker Food / Facebook

Tourist 1: Looks good! Apparently, it’ll cost us anywhere from $5 to $20.

Tourist 2: Wait, how much is that in our currency again? Actually, never mind. How expensive can rice and a couple of side dishes be?

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