Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Singapore: A little trip around Singapore town

Wow! Talk about digging out albums from the baul! And talk about tedious too since I had to scan every photo!

I was lucky then since I still had remaining miles on my United Mileage Plus account for a free ticket to Singapore. The plan was for me to attend the 2003 SSEAYP reunion (SIGA) in April but that didn't work out since it was postponed to 2004 due to the SARS scare. So I had to rebook my ticket to a later date and I chose instead to visit when the M/S Nippon Maru was docked in Singapore and Malaysia in September. It was still risky since if the SARS situation didn't improve, SSEAYP could have been cancelled. But to make the long story short, the trip pushed through.

September 12: I arrived in Singapore late in the afternoon on a Singapore Airlines flight. I can't remember what I did that night but eating Singapore hawker food was definitely on the list. We had dinner in Holland Village if I remember it right. I stayed at the flat of my SG-mate Leon in Ang Mo Kio while in Singapore.

September 13: For lunch, I met up with the family of my mom's classmate. They took me to this great Chinese restaurant which served chili crab. In the evening, I attended the reunion on board the ship. It was great meeting old friends and munching on Nippon Maru food again.

September 14: I spent the morning walking around Chinatown. I visited the Chinatown Heritage Centre. This museum is actually several old shophouses that were refurbished to show the early days of Chinatown. In the Philippines, we now have Bahay Tsinoy.

Anyway, walking around the brightly-painted colonial shophouses in Chinatown sure shows how much Singapore loves its architectural heritage. According to one account, "Singapore's Chinatown was slated for demolition. However the government, recognizing the people's desires and the historical importance of the area, canceled plans to raze Chinatown and are now in the midst of reconstruction."


According to the Visit Singapore website, "Singapore's Chinatown evolved around 1821 when the first Chinese junk arrived from Xiamen, Fujian province in China. The passengers, all men, set up home around the south of the Singapore River which is known today as Telok Ayer. Chinatown’s local name - Niu Che Shui (Bullock Cart Water) arose from the fact each household at that time had to collect fresh water from the wells in Ann Siang Hill and Spring Street, using bullock-drawn carts.

"Not all parts of Chinatown are Chinese though. The Al Abrar Mosque along Telok Ayer Street, and the Jamae Mosque and Sri Mariamman Temple along South Bridge Road lay witness to the harmonious racial and religious atmosphere in Singapore."

Singapore has other ethinic quarters which include Little India, Geylang Serai and Kampong Glam. In the afternoon, we relaxed at the beach in East Coast Park. Located off the East Coast Parkway, the beach and landscaped terrains in the park are a weekend favorite for Singaporeans. I also got to visit CHIJMES, a heritage landmark of Singapore.

For dinner, we attended a birthday celebration and met even more PYs there. And for an evening snack, we went to Lau Pau Sat, another Singapore landmark, for some satay. Stalls open only at night when Boon Tat Street is closed from vehicular traffic since the stalls and tables occupy the street.

September 15: Lunch was with my SSEAYP host sister. The highlight of the day was a boat trip along the Singapore River. I paid SG$12 for the guided tour. It came with a great map which showed the highlights of Singapore River, from the restored shophouses and imposing colonial structures, the many charming bridges, to modern-day skyscrapers.

Of course, you couldn't miss the Merlion. A half-fish, half-lion beast, it is a fitting symbol of Singapore. The singa or lion is said to represent the animal that a Sumatran prince saw when he rediscovered Singapore while the fish is a tribute to Singapore's history as Temasek, the ancient sea town.

After the brief tour, I strolled around Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. Now that is adaptive reuse! The old shophouses and warehouses in the area were restored and converted to chic bars and restaurants which come alive especially in the evenings. If Mayor Atienza had some political will and love for heritage, he could do this rehabilitation and urban renewal in San Nicolas for example.

For the evening, it was a visit to largest fountain in the world at Suntec City. Made of cast bronze, it was built in 1997 costing an estimated US$6 million.

September 16: Traveling to Malaysia from Singapore is very easy since you can do it by land. I took a six-hour bus to Kuala Lumpur for SG$25. I was met at the Puduraya Bus Station by another SSEAYP batchmate and we had dinner for a while at KFC. But I was leaving for Penang on an 11:59 p.m. bus so not much time to chat.

Check out this song called
Singapore Town.

Heritage watch
More endangered fish found inside boat of arrested Chinese

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