Staycation Of SG50’s Biggest Fan: Tay Zhi Wen Transported back to 1960s Singapore

Last weekend, Tay Zhi Wen, 24, and her family were transported back in time – to 1960s Singapore.

Zhi Wen (2nd from right) and her family holding up the guestbook at the Esplanade.

Zhi Wen (2nd from right) and her guests having fun flipping through the guestbook at the Esplanade.

This was because Tay, a student at NIE, had emerged as the winner in a week-long SG50 contest organised by Airbnb and the Esplanade – to find SG50’s Biggest Fan. Tay had submitted a creative 15-second video wishing Singapore a happy birthday.

And as her prize, the student had won a staycation at the Esplanade – which had been refurbished into a 1960s style mansion complete with old and authentic pieces of furniture from that era, that have been lovingly restored.

A look at Zhi Wen's staycation home. Photo Credit: Esplanade.

A look at Zhi Wen’s staycation home on the Esplanade stage.
Photo Credit: Esplanade.

Mind blowing and overwhelming experience

To Tay, the entire experience had been completely mind-blowing and overwhelming. She explained, “Everything about the decor, down to the finest detail was replicated to the style of the 60s. They even had sound design of noisy ‘neighbours’ talking and artificial moonlight streaming into our room at night.”

The house resembled a 1960s style mansion. Photo Credit: Esplanade

The staycation house resembled a 1960s style mansion.
Photo Credit: Esplanade

Added the NIE student, “It was truly a very surreal experience being back in time. So much effort and love was put into the set, and I honestly believed at points in time, that I was transported back to the 1960s.”

Had never expected to win

Tay admitted that she had never expected to win this surreal experience for herself and her family. She explained, “I honestly thought that I had lost, especially since there were many other creative entries in the contest. I was so elated when I found out that I had won, that I was jumping with happiness while I was out at a shopping centre – it must have been very embarrassing!”

Zhi Wen jamming with singer-songwriter Ng Ling Kai.

Zhi Wen jamming with singer-songwriter Ng Ling Kai.

She added, “I did not know what the judges were looking out for, so there was still a sense of uncertainty when I submitted my video. Till now, it still seems pretty surreal for me.”

Enjoyed a myriad of activities during her staycation

Throughout her staycation, Tay enjoyed a myriad of activities ranging from a behind the scenes tour of the Esplanade to a rooftop dinner and seats at the National Day Parade 2015 – all of which she thoroughly lapped up with relish.

Chapteh on the Esplanade stage before breakfast - just like in the old days.

Playing Chapteh on the Esplanade stage – just like in the old days.

She said, “The programme was absolutely packed and we were in for so many surprises! It was a lovely experience with our host, Ooh Shu An by our side, as well as our ‘housekeeper’ Alex Tan (Ah Seng), who graciously introduced our home to us.”

Zhi Wen (right) catches the very first NDP - in 1996 - on TV.

Zhi Wen (right) catches the very first NDP – in 1996 – on TV.

Continued Tay, “We also had the opportunity to perform a dance with the Main Wayang company at the Esplanade Concourse. I also particularly enjoyed mealtimes, from the yummy Peranakan food served in Tingkats at the staycation home to the magnificent rooftop dining experience while catching the fireworks.”

Struggled to name some highlights of her experience 

In fact, everything had been so enjoyable to Tay – that she struggled to give two highlights of the whole experience. She said, “There were so many things I really enjoyed! I must say that I really loved the National Day Parade (NDP) at the Padang and of course, the experience of staying on the theatre stage itself. The most important thing, however, was the entire opportunity to bond with my family – who have been so supportive of me all these years.”

One of Zhi Wen's staycation highlights was catching the NDP at the Padang.

One of Zhi Wen’s staycation highlights was catching the NDP.

Tay also felt that her previous experiences at performing on the Esplanade stage together with the Singapore Youth Chinese Orchestra and the Chung Cheng High School (Main) Chinese Orchestra, made her staycation even more memorable.

She explained, “Having performed at the Esplanade before, I know just how good the hall is, but during one of the staycation activities (the backstage tour), we actually had a chance to witness and experience the engineering marvels behind what makes the halls so great, including crawling into a small area to look at the soundproofing architecture beneath the theatre itself.”

All dressed up for her mini Peranakan dance item with the Main Wayang Company .

Zhi Wen was all dressed up for her mini Peranakan dance item with the Main Wayang Company .

Thankful to everyone who made her staycation a possibility  

And Tay is very thankful to all those who had made this dream-like staycation a possibility for her. She added, “I’m grateful to the organisers who made this staycation at the Esplanade possible for me and my family. It will always be a fond memory in my heart.”

Zhi Wen and her guests at the NDP.

Zhi Wen and her guests at the NDP.

She added, “I’m also very thankful to the organisers and performers who put in so much hard work and dedication to put up a spectacular show at the NDP – for the nation. I’ve tried many times to ballot for NDP tickets, but to no avail. My family and I have thus been faithfully catching the NDP on TV from home every year. This year, I was finally offered the opportunity to catch the show live, and in such a significant year in Singapore’s history.”

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