Three dollars and you get a seat on the hourly shuttle bus from the Kranji train station to Kranji Countryside. I chose to drop off at Bollywood Veggies, a 10-acre farm featuring huge varieties of plants. This was only matched by the handwritten signs educating visitors on the crops they were looking at.
The air was fresh but tinged with a light fecal stench. Walking was inadvertently slow in this quiet refuge from city life, though the quiet also owed to families preferring refuges from the hot sun at the on-site restaurant.
It is clear that this “countryside” in Kranji is no rural remnant, but an urban construct. In Singapore, the natural can only be found in isolation, whether in hills or in inaccessible outskirts of the island. Most of what exists as rural experiences are touristic artifacts.
Bollywood Veggies, for instance, is run by two affluent Chinese locals as a purposeful alternative to retirement. The crops represent not a means of livelihood; but a rustic lifestyle that appeals to both foreign and local tourists.
The Rural’s Role in Singapore
Whereas villages and their clan-like networks are retained in Shenzhen by resistance and adaptation (Bach 2010), the “rural” in Singapore is largely an extension of the urban fabric. It provides respite from everyday life, where streets predominate and populations concentrate.
The complete subordination of the rural to the urban places Singapore in the critical zone of Lefebvre’s (2003) axis of urbanization, a disjointed state where urban reality modifies the relations of production without transforming them.
The “rural” now produces experiences rather than goods. As the image of the city loses its uplifting quality in increasingly urban societies, it is the image of the village which becomes uplifting. This is what I mean by “rural” (with the inverted commas); a physical image that belies the urbanization that has already occurred.
The countryside’s detachment from everyday realities makes it an ‘other’ experience producing little more cultural meaning than a trip across the Causeway to Malaysia. It no longer symbolizes backwardness. Instead, the “rural” gains currency as a style, available in scarcity to urban dwellers who can afford the time and money for it, whether within Singapore or elsewhere.
This is not necessarily good or bad. It’s just the way things are.
Not all of us can afford a plot in Singapore, but surely we can spare three dollars for a day trip (unlimited rides) around multiple stops at Kranji Countryside? Other locations include the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, the Hay Dairies Goat Farm, and the Jurong Frog Farm. Check out more photos of Bollywood Veggies here!
Contrast this “rural” peace with the urban buzz I captured in the CBD:
Bach, Jonathan. ““They come in peasants and leave citizens”: Urban villages and the making of Shenzhen, China.” Cultural Anthropology 25, no. 3 (2010): 421-458.
Lefebvre, Henri. The urban revolution. U of Minnesota Press, 2003. Chapter One “The City to Urban Society.”