A Quirky Spa in Singapore
Project info

The Sembawang Hot Spring was discovered in Singapore in 1908. It was subsequently exploited commercially to sell drinking water. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore from 1942 to 1945 thermal baths were built by the Japanese for recreational use by their officers. After a bombing raid the spring was damaged and left unused. In 1960, when water from the spring began flowing again, it enjoyed a rejuvenation of sorts. In 1985 the land of the spring was acquired by the government for military use. The spring was then covered with a concrete base, with the metal pipes channeling the water. Since 2002, after a neighbourhood petition, it has been open to the public free of charge. Sembawang Hot Spring is the only hot spring in Singapore.

This year Singapore celebrated 50 years of Independence. These 50 years of development transformed Singapore into a rich and vibrant city best known for its financial hub, modern architecture and luxurious shopping malls. This small piece of land in the middle of a military reserve area is a melancholic memory of what 'Singapura' used to be - a small tropical island of fishermen living in kampongs.

What attracted me to this tiny place known by few in Singapore is the contrast with a spotless modern Singapore. There is a strong sense of identity, which many times is missing in Singapore. People are warm and genuine. They often visit the spring because they strongly believe in the healing power of the sulfur. Visitors come to soak their feet and body in the boiling water full of sulfur. The smell of sulfur is strong but people rather like it. Sembawang Hot Spring is a public spa for the body and for the mind. People shamelessly bathe and meditate, with no privacy and no fuss. A sense of tranquility and simplicity is shared by all. The true spirit of people in Singapore comes to life. It is beautiful to see.

All the images in this series are candid. None of the photographs were staged, they were taken as they occurred, without any collaboration from the subjects being photographed.