Through the Water Fairy Gate

Along the Singapore River lies an area known as chui sien mng (水仙门), translated as either “Water Fairy Gate” or “Narcissus Gate”. It refers to the area roughly bounded by North Bridge Road, Hill Street, Coleman Street, and the Singapore River. Chui sien mng was the alighting point along the Singapore River back in the 1800s, and was thus the “gateway” into Singapore back then. The colloquial name possibly as a reference to the customs located at the gate of the same name, in ancient Quanzhou city, China. Today, chui sien mng is straddled in between the youthful vibes of Clarke Quay, the rich history of Fort Canning Hill, and the vibrant arts and cultural scenes of Bras Basah Bugis and the Civic District. Overshadowed by its neoughbours, the Water Fairy has faded into obscurity.

Water Fairy Gate 01
Chui sien mng today

The two roads flanking chui sien mng, North Bridge Road and Hill Street, were also known as chui sien mng jit ke (水仙门一街; “first street of Water Fairy Gate”) and chui sien mng ji ke (水仙门二街; “second street of Water Fairy Gate”) respectively. The few streets that run horizontally in between, such as High Street, Hock Lam Street, Chin Nam Street and Coleman Street, were all referred to as chui sien mng hing ke (水仙门横街; “horizontal street of Water Fairy Gate”).

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The MRT Stations of the West

Singapore’s MRT system began operations in November 1987, with only 5 stations (from Yio Chu Kang to Toa Payoh). Today, there are 5 lines in operation, and over 100 stations serving Singaporeans every day. In June 2017, 4 more MRT stations along the Tuas West Extension will open, extending the East-West Line (EW Line) into the Tuas industrial area, and bringing the total number of MRT stations in operation to 106.

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Orchard Road (part 3) – the Sandwiched Zone

”Sandwiched” between Orchard and Somerset MRT Stations, the developments along this stretch of Orchard Road have yet to be integrated with the sprawling underground and aboveground networks extending from the 2 stations. While it may be years before the physical integration takes place, they are definitely well-integrated into the overall history of the Orchard shopping district, which pre-dates the MRT network. Each of these developments has a history to uncover, and a story to tell.

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Orchard Road (part 2) – the Underground City

In 2012, URA unveiled the underground master plan for Orchard Road as well as other parts of the central area. Before the master plan was drawn up, underpasses between developments were constructed on a more ad-hoc basis, usually by including the construction of underground pedestrian links as a requirement for the development of specific land parcels. An incentive programme was also launched by URA in 2004 to encourage the construction of underground links. However, today the underground network is still restricted to the areas near the MRT stations. The network around Orchard MRT Station, in particular, allows shoppers and visitors to reach 7 different malls without being exposed to the weather.

Orchard Road 03
The busy junction of Orchard Road, Scotts Road and Paterson Road – an underground network has grown beneath its surface

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Orchard Road (part 1) – the Overlooked Upper Stretch

Most Singaporeans would be familiar with the history of Orchard Road as an area filled with orchards and plantations (hence its name), and its subsequent transformation into a shopping belt since the 1960s. But its transformations did not end there. New malls sprung up every few years, while older ones gave way or were refurbished. Today’s Orchard Road is a far cry from the Orchard Road ten years ago, and even more so from twenty or thirty years ago. How much has changed? How much has stayed the same?

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Orchard Road 01
Orchard Road

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