19 heritage trails have been collated by the National Heritage Board, (beginning 1999) … snapshots of the island’s history and geography. For those inclined to explore, this is a short overview on what’s out there.
Kampung Glam : Easy : 1 hour, 10 minutes
A bit hilly on the Tan Tock Seng side / about 4,350 steps in total
- Masjids : Masjid Malabar (exquisitely blue-tiled and built by Malabar Muslims who migrated here from Kerala, India), Masjid Hajjah Fatimah (one of the few mosques founded by a woman) and Masjid Sultan (with a great golden dome).
- Areas : Bussorah Street, Arab Street, Haji Lane.
- Alsagoff Arab School.
- Istana Kampung Glam (a former palace, and the Malay Heritage Centre, heart of Malay heritage) and Gedung Kuning.
The profusion of eateries and shops in Kampung Glam makes it a buzzing, vibrant neighbourhood around three of Singapore’s loveliest mosques. Walk the streets, check out bolts of cloth, try out scents at the 87 year-old Jamal Kazura Aromatics, browse the shelves of Wardah Books, dine at decades-old restaurants such as Zam Zam and Warong Nasi Pariaman.
Tiong Bahru : Very easy : 1 hour
One ‘tricky’ traffic junction and a pedestrian bridge / about 3,700 steps in total
- Markets : Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre.
- Temples : Former Hu Lu Temple, Monkey God Temple (colourful and over 100 years old).
- Bird Corner.
- Graves of Tan Tock Seng, Chua Seah Neo and Wuing Neo.
- Seng Poh Garden and Horse-Shoe Block.
One of Singapore’s current hipster havens, this area was once dotted with graves. A beautiful, compact trail that begins from, and ends at the Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre. The trail wends its way through charming 1930’s Art Deco flats, from the uncluttered lines and porthole windows of the Streamline Moderne flats to the Horse-Shoe Block curing across Moh Guan Terrace and Guan Chuan Street. Breakfast is recommended, either at any of the hipster cafes or at the Tiong Bahru Food Centre.
Little India : Moderately easy : 1 hour, 35 minutes
Two bus rides of 2 to 3 stops each, a sprawling exploration, needs planning / about 7,800 steps in total
- Masjids : Angullia Mosque, Abdul Galor Mosque.
- Temples : Shree Lakshminarayan temple, Sri Veeramakaliamman temple, Sri Srinivasa Perumal temple, Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman temple, Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya temple and the Leong San See temple.
- Churches : Foochow Methodist Church, Kampong Kapor Methodist Church and Church of the True Light.
- Indian Heritage Centre.
- Former house of Tan Teng Niah.
- Mahatma Gandhi Memorial.
One of the densest heritage neighbourhoods, corner upon corner yields landmark after landmark. Also perhaps the best sign-posted area with colourful and clearly visible (from a distance) markers. The diversity of faiths is evident on a single stretch – the Foochow Methodist Church, the Angullia Mosque, the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple and the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple – each with its own considerable history.
Although a heritage district, Little India is very much a living one. In the mornings the air is heavy with the scent of jasmine and the calls of vegetable vendors setting up for the day, while worshippers stream in and out of many temples.
Foodies are spoilt for choice.
Orchard : Easy : 2 hours
Two bus rides of 4 to 6 stops each / about 7,000 steps in total
- The YMCA of Singapore – formerly the East Branch of the Kempeitai, the dreaded Japanese military police. The ‘fear-drenched’ silence surrounding the building was often broken by the screams of detainees, including World War 2 heroine Elizabeth Choy who compared her torture at the hands of the Kempeitai to ‘hell’.
- MacDonald House.
- Memorial to the Victims of Konfrontasi – in 1965 a bomb planted by Indonesian saboteurs killed 3 and injured 33, marking the darkest day of the Konfrontasi, the period in the 1960’s when Indonesia waged an undeclared war against the creation of Malaysia. Singapore was briefly a part of the new nation. The clean lines and polished black stone of the Memorial is simple and moving.
- Red Cross House.
- House of Tan Yeok Nee – a rare example of Teochew architecture.
- Cuppage Terrace – cheerfully colourful.
- Emerald Hill, with intricate houses.
- Goodwood Park Hotel – built to resemble the German castles of the Rhine.
Not just malls and shopping – the trail showcases lesser-known aspects of the shopping belt and its compelling dark side.
Jubilee Walk : Easy : 3 hours, 30 minutes
A bus rides of 2 stops / about 7,000 steps in total
- Fort Canning Park – the jewel in this crown, with a centuries-old hoard of treasures such as the Javanese Majapahit gold ornaments from the 14th century, Yuan dynasty stoneware and Indian glass bangles. Besides the kings of Temasek, British governors’ residences were at Fort Canning Hill. At the foot of the hill, a pedestrianised Armenian Street houses a recreation of the First Botanic Garden from 1822.
- National Museum of Singapore.
- Esplanade Park, accessible from Connaught Drive offers a mix of old and new monuments. The Tan Kim Seng Fountain, bulging with Victorian cherubs commemorates pioneer philanthropist Tan’s donation towards the first public waterworks. The Rising Moon is a modern work in granite which reinterprets national symbols like the five stars and crescent moon. Gor zhang chiu kar is a spot where 5 angsana trees stand, and it means ‘under the shade of 5 trees’ in Hokkien.
The Jubilee Walk was created in 2015 to mark Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. The walk can also include the Fullerton Waterboat House and Old Hill Street Police Station, the National Gallery of Singapore and Gardens by the Bay. But this would take a couple of days – or more – to experience fully.
Singapore River Walk : Moderately easy : slightly less than 3 hours
Many bridges spanning the Singapore River / about 9,500 steps in total
- Cavenagh Bridge – don’t miss the notice prohibiting cattle and horses.
- Art by the river – in The River Merchants, a sculpture by Aw Tee Hong, the coolie has his pigtail wound around his head, perhaps to keep his hair out of the way as he lifts heavy cargo. First Generation by sculptor Chong Fah Cheong sits outside the Fullerton Hotel.
- Tributes to famous visitors – busts and placards – are found on the opposite side of Cavenagh Bridge beside the Asian Civilisation Museum, commemorating visitors such as Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, British author Joseph Conrad and Filipino hero Jose Rizal who was executed at age 35 by colonial authorities.
- River House.
An area of contrasts and colour; the vibrant, loudly colourful Clarke Quay stands in contrast to older, paler architecture further down the river.
- Dress comfortably (and for the weather), and carry sunscreen and an umbrella.
- Be mindful about dress and photography in the areas you visit, especially religious sites.
The content of this post is derived from the 6 December 2020 article in The Straits Times.