Singapore Historic District

British Pomp Goes to An After Work Party




The Singapore Historic District, located along the Singapore River just off Marina Bay, is today a mix of cool colonial architecture, chic museums, restaurants and a lively party scene that Sir Thomas Raffles would probably never have envisaged - although with all the opium flowing around Singapore in those days, who knows?

The District is easily walkable in a few hours - if that - and is made doubly interesting by the fact that the towers of the central business district soar over the area and look down upon the footprints of history...

Sorry, getting carried away here.


View Walk the Singapore Historic District in a larger map

Take a Walk on the Colonial Side

Raffles Hotel

A good place to start a tour of the Singapore Historic District is the world-famous Raffles Hotel which is worth a visit just to see the facade and the liveried attendant in the gravel courtyard helping guests from their cars.

The hotel was opened in 1887 by the Armenian Sarkies brothers clan and sat by the shoreline at the time. It took on its look only at the end of the 19th century and today is a luxury hotel with boutiques, restaurants and a museum that highlights the hotel's history

Raffles Hotel Arcades

and sells tasteful souvenirs.

Go to the Long Bar where the Singapore Sling was invented and simply walk around the public area for the grandeur and tranquility of it all. This is the place where Michael Jackson had breakfast with Singapore Zoo's legendary icon, the orangutan Ah Meng back in 1993 - I wonder what the buffet looked like after that.

Leave the Raffles Hotel and head towards the Padang, a large open field with the St. Andrew's Cathedral and the Old Supreme Court buildings on one side, the Esplanade on the other and the Cricket Club on the third.
Singapore Padang

Singapore Padang

Raffles himself designed the area, and it was the place to go back when women wore long skirts and guys had collars up to their ears while playing cricket.

Today it is - well - a mostly grassy field. Sometimes it is also a concert venue, or a place to put stalls during F1 races. And because of all the work going on, it is often a pretty mess.

Anyway, after imagining a Sunday afternoon round of British Bowling in 1839, head over to St. Andrews's Cathedral,yet again sitting on a site laid out by Sir Thomas, and have a look at the stained glass windows and the kneeling cushions. Each one is a bit different, and all embroidered.

So that's where grandma went all those Sunday afternoons....

The cathedral is nice, no doubt, but don't expect serene, dark contemplation with a chant coming from the ceiling.

The doors are open to the heat and the traffic from outside, so walk around and look at the wall memorials - they really take you back. St. Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore The Church was built by Indian convict labor, and struck often enough by lightning to be rebuilt and reconstructed a few times. Maybe because they used convict labor?

It was also originally grey - today's white was added after WW II.

The bell tower once hosted a bell made by the foundry of Paul Revere's father in law. How far the American Revolution cast its shadows - or shall we say peals?

Once you have had your theological fill, go back to the Padang and follow St. Andrew's Road (the Padang grassy-muddy area is on your left) along City Hall and The Old Supreme Court.

This is where the big and minutely orchestrated National Day Parade

City Hall, Singapore

takes place with dignitaries sitting on the steps, viewing tanks and troops marching by, then enjoying the evening spectacle across the street in the Padang with dancers, singers and floats celebrating Singapore values and history.

Fighter jets pass overhead and helicopters fly a huge Singapore flag above, a few parachutists landing below.

This also the one of the prime viewing areas for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix, City Hll, Singapore which snakes its way around the Padang and over to the Flyer.

But, back to the Singapore Historic District.

The two buildings are being refurbished and will become the National Art Gallery by 2015.

Where It All Began

Move along through the Singapore Historic District on to the Singapore River and have a look at the Asian Civilizations Museum housed in an old government building, the Empress Place.

Empress Place, Singapore

The museum is worth a visit for its various Asian themed exhibitions.

Check the staircase landings for colonial architectural drawings of the floor plan referring to colonial officers and their staff and walls to be added or taken out.

Raffles Statue Singapore This part of the river is the heart of the Singapore Historic District, with a colonial footbridge - Cavanagh Bridge, no cattle or horses, please, bronze statues of Singapore river people and finally, a bit further on, the Singapore Historic District - Raffle's Landing Site where Sir Thomas is said to have landed and gotten things moving.

His statue is quite imposing - those folded arms and the no-nonsense demeanor.

I am sure the Dutch were quaking in their boots and ready to cede the island, the opium trade and their world empire had he demanded it.

Enough of the Singapore Historic District - Let's Party!

Had enough of all things Singapore Historic District?

The simply walk up the Singapore River to

Clarke Quay, Singapore

Clarke Quay where night becomes day and the young women and the not so-young white guys come to party.

The area is centered around a covered courtyard and many clubs, bars and restaurants have set up shop here.

Saturdays will find things going well into the wee hours with the attendant intoxications and weary-looking partygoers piling into taxis queuing two blocks.

Go a bit farther up the river to Robertson Quay for a quieter experience in dining and living and check out the Alkaff Bridge, Alkaff Bridge, Singapore painted by a Philippine artist and her crew that spans over between two nice pedestrian walkways along the river.

I want to have what they were smoking....

Finally, go back downriver to Boat Quay, just across the river from where you met Sir Thomas Raffles, and walk along the quay to be accosted by a dozen seafood restaurant owners selling crabs, lobsters, fish and varieties of seafood fresh from the tank.

These three quays in the historic district were all - back in the days - the commercial docking and warehouse areas and pretty disreputable places to live and work.

The have been conserved well, but you can find nicer ones in Chinatown and Little India if that is your thing.



Ice Cream, Singapore

Finish up back at the colonial bridge and have yourself a local ice cream at one of the roving carts.

They take a slice of ice cream (you'll understand what I mean when you see it), sandwich it between two thin waffles and charge you a buck, or a little more. Really good, actually.

If you're the adventurous type, try the same ice cream sandwiched between two slices of real, sweetened bread - heh, heh.

Back to more Singapore attractions....

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