Downtown Singapore in 30 minutes

I was inspired.

So I plugged in my earphones, passed the commuting crowd of Tanjong Pagar and started a stroll down Singapore CBD.

The streets of Singapore CBD are very different at night. As I pass the Starbucks round the corner, I saw executives loosening their ties and shirts, slinking down to chat with friends over a frappe. The work day is over, whatever battles won and lost is a no brainer now.

At McCallum Street, the usually hectic lunch crowd at the corner coffeeshop is replaced with a relaxed group of white collar workers who are slowly chowing down their dinner contemplating if they should go home and rest or try to finish up just one more management paper.

Cecil Street is almost deserted. I am joined with a few other executives who are probably also deciding to take a leisurely walk down to Raffles Place, probably to get some food or drink at Boat Quay.

At UOB Plaza, the hungry crowd is replaced with a more health conscious group of people who are doing yoga while facing the Singapore River. I see a few more executives clad in sweat shirts and shorts enjoying an evening jog along Boat Quay towards Cavenagh Bridge.

These people look right at home. It is ironical that the suburbs of Singapore is now where the tired and stressed workers return to while those who have the luxury will take time to enjoy the cooling, toned down and actually pretty scenic CBD rather than squeeze with the thousands of other commuters on the sardine packed trains. No wonder Singaporeans don’t want to have children and commitments.

Crossing the Cavenagh Bridge is like crossing a time warp. From the glitzy skyscrapers in the commercial and financial hub of Raffles Place and Marina Bay Financial Centre, one is suddenly thrown back into the British colonial times, flanked by the Asian Civilisation Museum and Victoria Concert Hall guarded by Sir Stamford Raffles.

Passing the old Supreme Court with its distinctive emerald dome, I came upon Connaught Drive and the Esplanade Park. The road is rather quiet but I was not disconcerted. From the white collar executives, I now meet young undergraduates after a day of lectures and tutorials. They are probably students from SMU or the other educational institutions found along North Bridge Road.

What caught my eye about this park is how much it resembled parks I have seen in France and Australia. The park is adorned with a World War I memorial and a very unique classical fountain which apparently was made in memory of a Tan Kim Seng who was a Straits Chinese merchant who spent a lot of money to ensure that Singaporeans in the 19th century had clean water.

I had the same feeling finding this fountain out of nowhere like when Theo and I found The Green Cathedral in Myall Lakes. This is a piece of my heritage and I didn’t even know it exists until I chance upon it here!

The Padang, or big open field was on my left and I could make out St Andrew’s Cathedral in the distance. It was like this used to be a central park where the British spent time shading from the sun and playing cricket, which probably explains the nearby Singapore Cricket Club.

I left the historical part of Singapore and entered the underground link to City Hall. The open area here is a gathering place of an entirely different nature. Young and old come here to practise the arts – be it acting, vocalising, dancing or displaying some kind of acrobatic act. It is like the next door Esplanade has evoked a kind of artistic charm to this place.

Then I entered CityLink Mall which is the epitome of modern society. We have such a love for shopping and consumerism that we have to line every possible corner above ground and underground with shops and boutiques calling out for our hard earned money.

Westin Stamford is the tallest hotel in Singapore. I once thought it was the tallest building in the world but even if it was, the title now goes to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I can never understand man’s fascination with outbuilding each other. What’s the point?

Across the road is Raffles Hotel and is also the oldest hotel in Singapore. Raffles Hotel receives international accolade as one of the 1,000 must see places before you die. Westin Stamford and Raffles Hotel shares the same junction with CHIJMES. I don’t really know what it stands for but it an old church whose courtyard is now surrounded by pubs and restaurants.

In my travels, I am always amused at the ways we are able to juxtaposed modern civilisation next to historical buildings. The Romans do it really well making use of ancient architecture to support modern day homes, the Australians make a joke of it – converting their old Treasury Building into a casino and the Singaporeans… well a pub next to a church?

I continued my way down from City Hall to Bugis which is personally my favourite stretch of road for two simple reasons – the National Library and Bras Basah Complex. Bras Basah Complex is home to a multitude of book shops selling old, used and new books. Simply put, it is the place to come to if you’re looking for a book.

I ended my walk in Bugis Junction another shopping centre. Not too long along, it used to be called Parco Bugis Junction and its anchor tenant was Seiyu. If your were into Japanese products, this would have been the place to go.

Today Seiyu has become BHG (Be Here for Good things) but it still carried the Japanese style of  transforming its basement into a indoor street market boasting a really good selection of north Asian cuisine – Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese. And if this doesn’t whet your appetite, there’s always the good Old Chang Kee.

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