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Singapore Festival 2018: Celebrating the Best of Singapore in Myanmar

Showcasing Singapore’s finest cuisine, arts, and culture scene, the Singapore Festival in Yangon, Myanmar, was met with a roaring success – receiving over 120,000 visitors in three days.

Singapore Festival: Bogalay Zay Street

From 30 November 2018 to 2 December 2018, the festival took place right at the heart of downtown Yangon – at the upper block of the Bogalay Zay Street of about 250-metres long – offering the visitors of Yangon an experiential taste of Singapore.

Crowds were streaming in even before the official opening of the Singapore Festival. With the wide-eyed curiosity of a child, Yangonites were seen crowding around photo opportunities and excitedly fishing out their phones to interact with the augmented reality functions of the art installations. Families and couples arrived at the street festival in droves, earnestly curious about the exciting line-up of never-been-seen activities that were specially curated for them.

The first of its kind in Yangon’s events calendar, the Singapore Festival 2018 aims to increase mutual awareness of the tourism possibilities between Singapore and Myanmar, thus maintaining the excellent level of mutual travel and discovery between the two countries.

Singapore Festival: Launch Ceremony
The launch ceremony of Singapore Festival 2018

Launched in 2016, the Singapore Festival is an annual celebration of Singapore in Myanmar, which saw the two previous editions being held indoors at shopping malls. Inspired by Myanmar street festivals, this year’s festival offers a unique experience with its outdoor street party for the very first time.

“Singapore Festival 2018 is designed in Myanmar, with Myanmar and for Myanmar,” explained Chang Chee Pey, Assistant Chief Executive, International Group of the Singapore Tourism Board. “I’m encouraged by the positive public response we’ve received and would like to invite all Yangonites to come and savour Singapore cuisine, experience our never-before-seen tech-driven art showcase, learn about our iconic attractions and contemporary culture, and build a deeper connection with Singapore.”

Targeted at key consumer “tribes” – such as the foodies, culture shapers, and explorers – the festival ensures that there is something for everyone. Comprised of four key activity zones, the expanded range of programmes allow Yangonites to be inspired by the transformative travel experiences that Singapore has to offer, and to inspire individuals to pursue their area of interest and passion.

For the Foodies: Myanmar’s first-ever 500 kyat street food fair

Singapore Festival: Hawker Chan
Hawker Chan’s Soy Sauce Chicken Rice was among the popular dishes that sold out quickly

Inspired by Singapore’s very own 50 Cents Fest, visitors are invited to sample 20 different Singaporean and Myanmar street food dishes – for just 500 kyats (~S$0.43) per dish. On the festival grounds, a Singapore food stall is strategically paired next to a similar Myanmar dish. Not only did this highlight the similarities between the two countries’ street food culture, it also encourages Yangonites to try a foreign food that they may not have ever tried before.

According to John Conceicao, Executive Director of the International Relations and Marketing Planning of Singapore Tourism Board, there were “several Singaporean dishes that were sold out before (the) end of the day”. Over the three-day festival, several food operators recorded sales between 4,500 to 5,000 portions, such as the Soy Sauce Chicken Rice by Hawker Chan, Otah by Pan Pacific Yangon, and Char Kway Teow by PARKROYAL Yangon.

Selling a total of 4,500 curry puffs, Isaac Wang of Royal Puff said: “Singapore Festival 2018 was a wonderful experience and the crowd was overwhelming! The visitors we met were friendly and they found the food very yummy.”

Singapore Festival: Food Crowd
With the variety of local delicacies made available at the Singapore Festival, it’s hardly surprising that Yangonites would jostle for multiple servings

With a recorded sales of 2,565 for its Bak Chor Mee (minced meat and noodles), Daniel Lee of Ruji added, “We were overwhelmed by the response and did not expect the turnout to be so good. We are glad that they (the visitors) were so willing to give Singapore food a try and we noticed some came back for a second and third serving. Overall, we felt that the event was very successful as the locals enjoyed the good food, music, and performances.”

For the Culture Shapers: Art Exhibition ‘Atypical Singapore’ Brings Singaporean Artists’ Works To Life With Augmented Reality (AR) Technology

Curated by Khairuddin Hori, curatorial director and partner at Chan + Hori Contemporary, Atypical Singapore features the works of seven contemporary Singaporean artists: Muhammad Izdi, anGie Seah, Eugene Soh, Amanda Tan, Daniel Yu, Speak Cryptic, and Gerald Leow.

The interactive and multi-sensory showcase was presented in Moscow earlier this year, and Yangon would be its first stop in Asia. The exhibits are installed across various locations along Bogalay Zay Street, and are accompanied by AR technology and on-site event assistants to guide visitors through an unprecedented multi-sensory and revolutionary way of experiencing the artworks.

Preliminary research was done to ensure that technology adoption in Myanmar has great potential for the exhibition to do well. Recognising that Facebook is a “popular platform that everyone has on their phone”, Khairuddin said that scanning the QR code from each exhibit would direct users to Facebook’s AR camera effects functions, thus eliminating the hassle of downloading a new mobile application to access the AR functions.

Speaking to an audience during a panel discussion held at Pansuriya Cafe, Khairuddin also shared that he deliberately chose to work with emerging artists who are mostly hidden in the “underbelly of the arts scene in Singapore”.

Singapore Festival: Atypical
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Singapore (2014) by Eugene Soh

He added, “It is curated in context of the event, because I know that (Atypical Singapore) is travelling and this would go to places where people are not familiar with art; maybe, not just the artist. I mean, if you look at Atypical Singapore’s video in Moscow, there’s the girl who said that she didn’t even know that there’s this country called Singapore, let alone the artist and the art… I’ve always been interested in mentoring and seeing that our artists have certain professional progression. Being exposed to opportunities like this, they can see that it’s not just about the art – it’s about the people, the communication, and the exchanges.”

For the Socialisers: THELIONCITYBOY and He’Lay’s Exclusive Collaboration Is the Talk of the Town

Singapore Festival: Music Performance
The duo’s exclusive performance of “Where There is Love” during the Singapore Festival

Singapore’s strong friendship with Myanmar is also demonstrated through Singaporean rapper THELIONCITYBOY and Myanmar celebrity He’Lay’s musical collaboration for “Where There is Love” drama’s theme song and music video. Both artists worked closely over a period of four months to develop the song lyrics and filmed the music video in Singapore in August 2018 earlier this year.

This is in line with the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) partnership with Myanmar’s leading entertainment group, Forever Group’s MRTV-4 television channel, in the first-ever drama collaboration between a national tourism organisation and a Myanmar television channel.

Co-produced by STB and MRTV-4, Where There is Love is a 20-episode drama series set in Singapore and Myanmar. It follows the inspiring journey of two young Myanmar people who pursue their passions and realise their dreams in Singapore.

The series will be aired on primetime television in the first half of 2019, and more details about the drama cast and synopsis will be announced at a later date.

For the Explorers: Interactive Exhibits of Singapore’s Favourite Attractions

Singapore Festival: Kids Zone

To bring across the spirit of STB’s ‘Passion Made Possible’ to the visitors in Yangon, STB engaged with numerous Bogalay Zay Street residents and business community, along with more than 18 Myanmar partners. As part of the festival design and planning, STB also worked alongside with Myanmar-based social enterprise, Doh Eain (“Our Home”), to engage and involve Singapore and Myanmar-based partners in its collaborative efforts.

Interactive exhibitions of popular Singaporean attractions such as Resorts World Sentosa, Gardens by the Bay, Sentosa Island, and the Singapore Zoo were a part of the festival. Attracting a large number of families who gathered around the exhibits to find out more about what’s in store for their future visits to Singapore, visitors also had a first-hand experience of what it is like to play in Singapore through these interactive photo stations, while designing their future Yangon through fun activities led by Doh Eain. For example, in partnership with MoMoPlay, families engaged themselves at the modular play space with activities including face painting, heritage games, and design workshops.

Singapore Festival: Play Zone

Through its communal efforts and line-up of events, the Singapore Festival drives home the message that the Yangonite’s interest and involvement in communal efforts and personal interests are all it takes to make passion, possible.

Photos courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board

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Stacey Lim

Professional feminist and self-proclaimed emo queen (it is not a phase, mom). She also never fails to spend her birthday wishes on world peace and a global boycott on animal-tested products.

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