Singapore’s National Day: Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now? – By Expat Andrea McKenna Brankin

The buildup to SG's annual National Day festivities is exciting. But, as an expat, is it more fun to go on holiday?
12 July 2019


Singapore’s National Day is August 9. You may have already seen the country’s red-and-white flags draped over public buildings as well as flying from most condos and HDBs.

And, why not? This 2018 marks the Lion City’s 53rd celebration of its founding as an independent nation – a great achievement, if you just take a look around at the country’s natural beauty coupled with its architectural wonders.

But, what to do as an expat? We are not allowed to bid for tickets for National Day Parade – it’s only for citizens and permanent residents, and the applications for tickets went on sale in May anyways. So, if you’ve managed to snag tickets, you know where you’re going to be. (Tip: Find out this year’s NDP theme, song and schedule here.)

The build up to the NDP is always exciting, with fighter jets and massive helicopters flying around the skies in formations and carrying a huge Singapore flag. Plus, fireworks show gets tested out every Saturday night for weeks in advance.

That’s why a carefully planned night at C’est La Vie, the Singapore Flyer or 1-Altitude can give you the thrill of the show – well before the actual national holiday. Or, book a hotel room at Marina Bay Sands or Fullerton Bay Hotel for a great vantage point of the NDP fireworks. However, you better get on the horn now, because it’s likely most of those rooms are already sold out!

The other option for National Day is to get outta’ Dodge for a long weekend away from SG. This lets you avoid the crowds, traffic and road closures in the CBD and also prevents the disappointment of having one of your favourite stores or restaurants closed for the two days of the holiday, August 8 and 9.

In terms of travel, the ideal destinations are places like Phuket, Bali, Krabi, Langkawi or Batam – or anywhere within several hours of SG. (P/S: The Finder found nearby, luxury resorts priced at less than $100 a night!)

For myself, I’ve done it both ways: stayed put and left town. Personally, I like a good national holiday, being partial of course to the U.S.’s Independence Day. But, since moving to SG, I’ve also attended parties for Australia Day in January.

During SG50 – Singapore’s big 50th anniversary bash in 2015 – I was, sadly, out of town. Mind you, where I was did not suck: I was at a yoga retreat in Bali. So, Sanskrit chanting and Balinese music took the place of the Singapore National Anthem “Majulah Singapura”.

But, there is something to be said for staying in town.

In a city-state that can be rather stoic, National Day brings out some spirit in Singaporeans. People dress in red and white. They carry flags. They have picnics or get ready to face the heat of the afternoon on Marina Bay for NDP. I appreciate seeing this national pride in such a young and booming country. Every year, I find myself saying, “Yes!” with a fist pump for the Little Red Dot to tally another successful year as a modern country.

The National Day Parade is resplendent with a show of the music, dance and entertainment that highlights Singapore’s national identity – one that is racially and culturally mixed. (Tip: For expats who prefer to watch the festivities in the comfort of their own homes, the NDP is televised on Channel News Asia all day, including the Prime Minister’s annual address.)

My favourite part? The military display – when it does a mock take down of a terrorist attack. They servicemen and women show off their military boats, jet skis and low-flying helicopters to take out the bad guys. It’s a little like an action movie. I like seeing Singaporeans as badasses.

Another highlight for me this year, in particular, will be watching Madam President Halimah Yacob review the troops on parade. I’m psyched to see Singapore’s first female president perform this ceremonial duty.

This year, I plan to watch the fireworks and most of the air show from my balcony on the East Coast. Each of my family members will be wearing a red Singapore T-shirt, too. Though I am American, I’m happy to celebrate this special day with the locals. This is our home, for now.

About Andrea McKenna Brankin

Andrea McKenna Brankin is a journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.


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