Tag Archives: Lost

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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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 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?

Orchard Road 02
Orchard Road 01
Orchard Road

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East Coast Park

East Coast Park should be a familiar location to all Singaporeans. This man-made beach has been a popular recreational destination for locals and visitors alike, ever since its completion in the 1970s. However, beyond the bicycle rental shops and the barbeque pits, how much are we aware of the other landmarks in this 15km long park?

East Coast Park 04
East Coast Park

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The HDB Complexes of Sio Poh

Housing in the central area, including both tua poh and sio poh, had always been a problem in post-war Singapore. The Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) attempted to tackle the problem by building a handful of new housing estates, such as Outram Hill, Winstedt Court and Stamford Estate (mentioned below). In 1960, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) was established in 1960, taking over the role of tackling housing shortage problems from the SIT. With the establishment of the Urban Renwal Unit in 1964 (renamed URD – Urban Renewal Department in 1966) and the kickstart of the urban renewal program, a number of complexes were constructed to house the people and their businesses. These complexes usually include a large number of housing blocks “weaved” together by a commercial network on the lower floors (examples include Outram Park and Beach Road Garden). With the departure of URD in 1974 (to form a separate entity, URA), the subsequent housing complexes became more inward looking. The commercial podium becomes more substantial in scale, while shrinking in footprint, creating a commercial “hub” that serves the residential towers that sit over it. This is the predominant design model adopted by HDB in sio poh.

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