Monday, February 01, 2016

The Jubilee Walk Exclusive Tour

National Museum of Singapore.

Created to mark Singapore's Golden Jubilee in 2015, the Jubilee Walk is a specially curated trail of iconic sites. The Jubilee Walk recalls Singapore's history, her path towards nationhood and presents Singapore's present and future as a global city.

Thanks to the invitation of the National Heritage Board, I had the opportunity to attend the Jubilee Walk Exclusive Tour on 30 Jan 2016. The exclusive Jubilee Walk guided tour treated us to a tour of various sites of the Jubilee Walk led by Jubilee Walk Researcher, Marcus Ng. This exclusive Jubilee Walk covers more sites than the normal upcoming Jubilee Walk tours which would cover five sites.

The National Museum of Singapore is starting point of the Jubilee Walk. This building is Singapore's first purpose-built museum. Our guide, Marcus Ng, shared with us the history of the building, weaving in a few of Singapore's key milestones since 1823.

One of my favourite locations of the Jubilee Walk is the Fort Canning Park. Being close to Nature and listening to our guide traced a glimpse of Singapore's history to as early as the 14th century had brought a lot of delight. Be prepared for an adventurous and intriguing walk. I was reminded that the current Fort Canning Hill was the site of the first Botanical Gardens in Singapore.

Flower-head of Parkia timoriana.

Our knowledgeable and eloquent guide led the group to more sites along the Jubilee Walk. Along the way, the markers of the Jubilee Walk marked the trail. These Jubilee Walk's markers reminded of the brick markers of the Freedom Trail in Boston, United States of America.

The Jubilee Walk Exclusive Tour brought us to learn about sites such as the current Singapore Philatelic Museum and the Peranakan Museum. Participants also learnt about the influence of the Armenian community as the tour led us nearby the Armenian Apostolic Church of St Georgy The Illuminator.

Singapore Philatelic Museum to the left.

It was interesting to listen to a few of the participants in the tour group sharing their personal anecdotes of their experiences growing up nearby sites of the Jubilee Walk. I felt I was being transported to a moment in the past as I listened attentively to their personal accounts.

Hill Street Fire Station.

After the Old Hill Street Police Station, the participants of our tour group were greeted by the Singapore River. The Singapore River was yet another favourite sites of the Jubilee Walk of mine. As we strolled along the Singapore River, our tour guide reminded us of the critical issue of water survival for Singapore and highlighted the sites along the Jubilee Walk that present the significance of water issue for Singapore.

Singapore River.

Fullerton Building.

During the tour, our tour guide revealed that the overall themes of the Jubilee Walk were that of change and continuity. He pointed us to examples that demonstrated these themes. My mind pictured how people from all walks of life have worked together to transform Singapore and to ensure its continuity. As I walked along the Jubilee Walk, I reflected what have changed and what have continued over time.

The Jubilee Walk Exclusive Tour will be a 2-hour walk that is worthy of consideration for anyone who is interested in celebrating the milestones that Singapore has achieved over the years, and to gain a sense of Singapore's present and future.

For more information of the Jubilee Walk Exclusive Tour, please visit these links:

In addition, you can download Singapore Timewalk on IOS and Apple Store prior to the tour. It is best to download Singapore Timewalk (178MB) using wifi. For a preview of the app, please visit:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A tour of the Singapore Conference Hall

This year, the year of 2015 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Conference Hall. The Singapore Conference Hall (then called the Trade Union House) was completed in September 1965 and opened by founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 15 October 1965. On 28 December 2010, it was gazetted a national monument and is now the home of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Conference Hall, several events have been organized. For more information, please visit:

On 31 Oct 2015, I had the pleasure to participate in the SCH Building Tour, in essence, a tour of the building of the Singapore Conference Hall.

When I was a teenager, I had visited the Singapore Conference Hall at least once a year to attend music concerts at the then auditorium. I even had the privilege to perform at least once at the Singapore Conference Hall before it went through a major renovation that was completed in 2001. The Singapore Conference Hall was also the place where I took part in at least two Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) competitions.

The tour, was an avenue for me to recollect my memories of Singapore Conference Hall and for me to learn more about the history of this building. I valued the opportunity to explore the Concert Hall and the backstage.

I learnt that the Singapore Conference Hall which was formerly known as the Trade Union House, was the first modern building on Shenton Way. When I saw a photo of Shenton Way before the Singapore Conference Hall was built at the SCH Photo Exhibition, I felt in awe how much Singapore has progressed over the decades.

One of the most impressive design features of the former Trade Union House was that it was designed for our local tropical climate. Cantilevered roof and terraces were used to provide sun-shading and a natural ventilation system was used to keep the interior cool.

A part of the SCH Photo Exhibition.

During the tour, I learnt from our tour guide and a few of the tour participants that there used to be a famous Teochew Restaurant that used to operate in the Singapore Conference Hall. Does anyone know its whereabouts now?

The mosaic tiles that were placed near the entrances to the Concert Hall have been there witnessing the changes that have taken place to the Singapore Conference Hall. The mosaic tiles are inspired by the Malay mat pattern. Looking at them reminded me fondly of my past memories of the Singapore Conference Hall.

Before I knew it, the tour led me into the Concert Hall. Strangely, I prefer the previous design of the auditorium of the Singapore Conference Hall before the completion of the renovation in 2001. Somehow, while I did not like sitting on any of the seats that were on the slope of the auditorium, I like the idea that the space could be flexible to changes to cater to multiple functions. Possibly, familiarity with the previous auditorium made me more biased in preferring it over the current design of the Concert Hall?

During the tour, I had the privilege to visit the backstage of the Concert Hall. Our tour guide also shared with us an interesting story about the Steinway piano. If you are curious, this is one reason to join this tour.

One of the interesting aspects of the building tour was to have the privilege to take a good look at some of the gifts that were housed in the Singapore Conference Hall. The Seiko time-piece that comes with life-time warranty drew my attention because it immediately resonated with me because I had seen it before at least more than a decade ago before the Singapore Conference Hall became home to the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

This is one tour that I was glad that I had signed myself for. It gave me an hour to reminisce the positive memories of the past and I learnt a lot more about this building which is a gazetted National Monument.

SCH Building Tour
Daily: 26 October to 31 December 2015
Tour timing: 10.30 a.m. - 11.30 a.m., 2.30 p.m. - 3.30 p.m., 4.30 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.
Write in to to register
SCH Building tours are available on a first-come-first-served basis by registration only.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

I bid farewell. Goodbye 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive.

Seven blocks, Block 74 to 80 at Commonwealth Drive have been vacated for the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS). The replacement flats for the residents are located across the road, at Blk 50 to Blk 54 Commonwealth Drive.

A long queue to collect the goodie bags and to register.

Yesterday, on 3 Oct 2015, from 1100 to 1900 hrs, there was a commemorative event "Goodbye 74 - 80 Commonwealth Drive" to bid farewell to this estate before the blocks of flats are demolished.

Photography exhibition at Commonwealth Drive.

During the event, I had the privilege to gain access to the ground, second and third level of Block 74. At the second level of Block 74 Commonwealth Drive, visitors were treated to a photography exhibition by Nicky Loh Photography and Erwin Tan. I was intrigued by the privileged access to the flats more than the photography exhibition. I suppose the artists would forgive me for this.

Photography exhibition at Commonwealth Drive.

I did not get the coupons to the event so I decided to give free ice-cream a miss. I felt a sense of sadness in the air. Could the people queuing for the ice-cream and the tidbits be at the event because they would like to relive their experiences of the estate that will be demolished? Maybe the ice-cream and the tidbits could be excuses for their presence? It would be easier to tell friends that one was there for the ice-cream than to tell that one had braved the haze and heat, to bid farewell to Block 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive. Yet, everyone who was present at the event had a good reason and a story to tell.

The queues for ice-cream and tidbits.

My story was that I had wanted to be a part of this shared and collective memory of a community of people who bid farewell to Block 74 to 80 Commonwealth. I was curious to find out how the estate had looked like before it was physically demolished.

My eyes were fascinated by the design elements that I could see every step that I stepped on at this to-be-demolished Block 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive estate. The design of the stairway, the design of the doors, the symmetry found on the metal gates, an occasional unlikely find of a withered plant and the lines formed by the pillars of the void deck. Nearby the estate was the Green Corridor. There was a time when the KTM trains travelled near the estate and literally became everyone's daily alarm clock? Were you one of the residents who miss the sound of the trains, or even the sound of the crickets at certain moments of the day?

Peering into one of the units.

Did you notice the lines and the symmetry?

A withered plant along one of the corridors.

The Green Corridor.

Visitors to the event were also treated to free movie screenings of "Singapore Dreaming", "Taxi Taxi" and "7 Letters". For the people who prefer music more than movies, they had the option to listen to the performances by White Ribbon Live Music, ShiGGa Shay, Tay Kexin and the Switch.

We have the organizers (My Community, Queenstown Citizens' Consultative Committee) to thank for organizing the event. The community obviously welcomed the opportunity to come together to grieve and yet commemorate an estate that will be demolished.

May the visitors who had came to this event with a heart as heavy as gold feel better after bidding farewell to the estate with their presence. Together we grieved and mourned the loss of a place that was part of our collective memory. May we forge more meaningful ones by integrating our memories from the past with our present and our future.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Goodbye 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive Carnival

Image courtesy of My Community and Queenstown Heritage Committee

In the year 2008, it was announced that seven blocks at Commonwealth Drive has been identified by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) for the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers). These blocks are 10-storey blocks. By early 2014, all the residents had moved out. The replacement flats for the residents are located across the road, at Blk 50 to Blk 54 Commonwealth Drive.

On 3 Oct 2015, from 1100 to 1900 hrs, there will be a commemorative event "Goodbye 74 - 80 Commonwealth Drive" to bid farewell to one of Singapore's most iconic housing estates. The farewell event includes final access to the blocks before they are demolished.

Programmes on 3 Oct 2015 include:
1) Screening of "7 letters"
2) A photography exhibition, Forget Me Not, by Nicky Loh and Erwin Tan
3) Performances by Tay Kexin and Shigga Shay
4) Free flow of drinks and ice-cream

Endearing places, 7 blocks of public housing at Commonwealth Drive, will be demolished.
In our hearts, they will be remembered.
They are replaced.
Yet they are irreplaceable parts of our shared and collective memories.
It shall be with ambivalent feelings of loss and commemoration that I shall attend this event.
Goodbye 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive...

Photo courtesy of My Queenstown.

Image courtesy of My Community and Queenstown Heritage Committee
Goodbye 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive Carnival
3 Oct 2015, Sat
11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Blk 74 Commonwealth Drive Carpark
Nearest MRT station: Commonwealth MRT station
Organized by My Community, Queenstown Citizens' Consultative Committee

Please also visit:
Tanglin Halt Estate, posted on Singapore Lost and Filed