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.
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”).
With the opening of the Downtown Line Stage 2, the name “Beauty World” is once again brought into the limelight. Located at the spot where Bukit Timah Road continues into Upper Bukit Timah Road, it seems to have halted at its own crossroads of development. After years of changes, from an amusement park to a market, and finally to a cluster of shopping malls, time seems to have stood still since the 1980s, while the rest of Singapore have since moved on.
Beauty World, just before the completion of the MRT station
With the construction of the Resorts World Sentosa, many attractions familiar to visitors of the 1980s and 1990s have since been demolished (such as the Ferry Terminal and the Musical Fountain), and the rest slipped into obscurity (such as Fort Siloso and the Underwater World). We’ll take a trip down memory lane as we revisit some of these places.
In recent news, the terminus for the high-speed rail connecting Singapore to Kuala Lumpur has been confirmed to be at Jurong East. As one of the regional centres in Singapore, Jurong East has transformed tremendously over the years. It now boasts 5 shopping complexes, a hospital, a hotel, and a network of pedestrian walkways (J Walk & J Link) connected to the MRT station. With the new terminus coming up, the landscape there will be changed drastically. With so much development going on, it is hard to remember how Jurong East was like just 10 years ago.
Jurong East today, with the Genting Hotel Jurong in the background and the temporary bus interchange in the foreground
Pearl’s Hill is one of the two hills located on either side of the Singapore River. It was originally known as Mount Stamford, named after Sir Stamford Raffles. In 1822, Lt. James Pearl, Commander of the Indiana, bought over the hill, which was subsequently named after him. Soil from this hill was used to reclaim the land at Commercial Square.
In 1861, upon the completion of Fort Canning, it was realised that Pearl’s Hill was taller than Fort Canning Hill, and was obstructing the trajectory of the guns mounted on the latter. A simple solution was adopted: shave off the top of Pearl’s Hill.
Today, Pearl’s Hill stands forgotten behind the row of huge complexes and housing blocks along Eu Tong Sen Street. While many Singaporeans flock over to the Chinatown area for the Lunar New Year season, I went on a trip around this piece of forgotten land.