Adventures of a Wocket

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Pu Luo Chung (蒲 罗 中) to Singapura. (Island at the End to Lion City)

on 04/29/2014

You’d probably think that for such a tiny island, 710 km² to be exact, there wouldn’t be much to talk about. You would be wrong. Now I have met quite a few people over here ranging from expats to locals and people just passing through and everyone has an opinion on Singapore. There’s dislike, resignation, apathy, enjoyment, pride as you would expect from any country’s inhabitants and visitors. For me, I like history and Singapore’s past is rich and filled with toils and troubles. This on its own doesn’t really set the country apart from other countries but it is something to be proud of. In my humble Wocket opinion of course.

There have been written records about this tiny island since the 3rd century and since then it has been invaded, settled on, been a base for pirates, been fought over by warring nations, invaded again, turned into a trading center, had its settlement burnt down by Portuguese raiders and disappeared into obscurity. This was all before 1819, when Sir Raffles established a British trading post on the island and modern Singapore was founded.

There are a number of historical sites to read up more about this if you want to.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_history_of_Singapore

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Singapore

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founding_of_modern_Singapore

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Singaporean_history

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/History/Singapore-history.htm

http://www.yoursingapore.com/content/traveller/en/browse/aboutsingapore/a-brief-history.html

http://meridian103.com/issue-7/history/merlion/

There are loads! It is a fascinating read too, if you enjoy ancient history, mythology and politics that surround being an island nation.

Late last year I decided to go sight seeing. I’d been in the country almost an entire year and I hadn’t delved into the history or memory of the place. Coming from a country with a full, rich history, not all of it to be proud of, I always find it connects you to a place more to learn about its past, where it came from, how the people settled and built it up into the country they call home. I’ve not had much chance to do this in the past. Most of my historical wanderings are done from a computer. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the old west of America and some of the older parts of Europe in my travels but I’ve never been in another place long enough to go explore its history and just be a tourist there for a while. Living in Singapore is all go go go so it was nice to just wander for a day, taking pictures and enjoying the sights.

The place to go to find Singapore’s historical sites is City Hall. There are others I intend to explore but this is where I went for my first adventure.

First stop was St Andrew’s Cathedral. There’s always a cathedral isn’t there? This is an Anglican cathedral and the largest in Singapore.

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Here’s some history if you like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Andrew’s_Cathedral,_Singapore

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It’s a very pretty church.

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Here are some skyline pictures. I do enjoy a varied skyline. This is the skyline near Marina Bay as you can see by the big ship on top of a sky scraper 😉

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This is City Hall. Undergoing refurbishment for the most part. It was built in 1929. The Japanese conducted political business from the building during their occupation of Singapore during WWII. It was also where British POWs during WWII were rounded up in front of the building before marching to Changi prison by the Japanese. In 1963 Lee Kuan Yew read out the Malaysia proclamation and declared Singapore no longer under British rule. The first national day parade was held here in 1966.

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These are the war memorials. The one on the left is the Cenotaph war memorial. The writing on the front states; ‘Our glorious dead’. The one on the right is the Lim Bo Seng memorial. This was erected to serve as a reminder of the price Lim Bo Seng and other war veterans, paid for Singapore to become what it is today; free and independent. Here’s a little more detail for you: http://comesingapore.com/travel-guide/article/313/lim-bo-seng-memorial

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The first is a totem pole representing Asian civilisation museum and the second is the Dalhousie Obelisk. These are at Empress Place near the museum. The obelisk was built to commemorate the second visit to Singapore, of the Marquis of Dalhousie, who was the Governor-General of India in 1850. It was also built to remind succeeding merchants of the benefits of free trade.

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This is a picture of the Fullerton Hotel taken from across the river. The Fullerton Hotel was originally known as the Fullerton Building, named after Robert Fullerton, the first Governor of the Straits Settlement. It was commissioned in 1919 to commemorate the centenary of the British Colony but was finally opened in 1928. During WWII before the British surrendered to the Japanese (1942) here it was used as a hospital. It subsequently became the headquarters of the Japanese military administration n in Singapore. Redevelopment began in 1997 and it was finally reopened in 2001 as the Fullerton Hotel.

The bridge in front is the Cavanagh Bridge, which is the only suspension bridge and the oldest bridge in Singapore that exists in its original form. It was built in 1870 and was originally called the Edinburgh Bridge after the Duke of Edinburgh to commemorate his visit to the country.

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The first two pictures speak for themselves. The next two are pictures of the Raffles statue, built to commemorate Sir Thomas Raffles landing in Singapore on the 28th January 1819. He is credited with founding the city of Singapore as it is known today and also London Zoo 🙂  Raffles was named as “Agent to the Most Noble the Governor-General with the States of Rhio (Riau),Lingin and Johor”.

“While in Singapore, Raffles established schools and churches in the native languages. He allowed missionaries and local businesses to flourish. Certain colonial aspects remained: a European town was quickly built to segregate the population, separated by a river; carriage roads were built and cantonments constructed for the soldiers. Otherwise, however, no duties were imposed and confident that Farquhar would follow his instructions well, he sailed for Bencoolen once again on 28 June.” – Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stamford_Raffles#Singapore_.281822.E2.80.931823.29 

In 1823 Raffles drew up the first constitution of Singapore outlawing gaming and slavery, as written into the constitution was a specific regulation for there to be no crimes against race. He left for England on the 24th August in 1824 and his longest stay in the country during those years was only 8 months. He died in 1826 of apoplexy in England at 44 years old. He is credited with being the founder of modern Singapore.

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I really liked this building. This is a fire station. The Central Fire Station to be exact. It’s the oldest existing fire station in Singapore located in the center of the business district. It was completed in 1908. Since then the fire service has been intergrated into Singapore’s Civil Defence Force and is no longer a separate entity but the station is still in use today. It serves as museum now show casing the history of fire fighting in Singapore and of the developments of the Civil Defence Force from the 19th century to the present day. I mostly just thought it was really pretty 😀

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The first picture is Elgin Bridge which links the Downtown core to the Singapore River Planning Area in the Central district. It was completed in 1929 and named after the Lord Elgin the Governor-General of India. It is believed to have existed as a footbridge as early as 1819 and was the only bridge to cross the Singapore River, linking the Chinese community on the Southern side to the Indian merchants on the Northern side. This was replaced by a wooden draw bridge named Presentment Bridge or Monkey Bridge as it was narrow and so required some agility in getting across.

The next picture is Parliament House. The Presidential Council for minority rights meet in this building. This is a non-elected government body established in 1970 to scrutinize the passing of bills by Parliament to ensure that they do not descriminate against any racial or religious community. The building itself is a public building and a cultural landmark. It was completed in 1999.

There are so many other sites and buildings and cultural heritage monuments that I haven’t shown you and haven’t seen myself. Singapore has a varied, packed history. Upon gaining its independence the country pulled itself up from 3rd world conditions to become one of the world’s most prosperous nations. It suffered a great deal following the Japanese occupation and the British lost their credibility as the infallible ruler when they failed to protect the country from the invaders. Even now there’s still resentment towards us British from survivors of the war, who lived through the occupation, (some still love us) but the resentment is understandable for the others. It became an independent crown colony in 1947. In the 1960s it underwent a merger with Malaysia but due to racial tension, federal conflicts and bloodshed on both sides, Singapore was expelled from the federation in 1965. Only a few hours later (efficiency has always been their thing), the Parliament of Singapore passed the Republic of Singapore Independence Act, establishing the island as an independent and sovereign republic.

“For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories.” – Lee Kuan Yew 1965

As my Singaporean friend tells me often; Singapore is probably the only country who gained its independence unwillingly.

There is, as with all countries and governments, things wrong, policies and leaders that could do things differently or better but to build a nation up from violence, poverty and being cast out by its neighbour, to being a country that is ranked as the 3rd most competitive, with the best business environment in the world and in the top 25 for education (I could go on but here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_rankings_of_Singapore), is definitely not something to sniff at.

I am only a visitor here, staying for a while, maybe I’ll set down roots, I don’t know but I know that even I am proud as a human being of what Singaporeans have achieved for their pocket-sized country. It just shows what people working together can do.

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Here let’s end with a picture of modern Singapore fronted by older shop houses and buildings along the river bank. It seems fitting. 🙂

 

 

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2 responses to “Pu Luo Chung (蒲 罗 中) to Singapura. (Island at the End to Lion City)

  1. rachieb1807 says:

    Love the architecture. (I like buildings lol). xxx

  2. Raquel says:

    Thanks for the interesting read and nice photos. x

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