An alternative view of Orchard Road

3 02 2014

The best view one can possibly get of Singapore’s famous ‘shopping mile’, Orchard Road, is perhaps from up above. It is high up above the ground that one does see an unseen side of the street, known more for its gleaming modern shopping malls: that of the cover of trees – something that is quite easy not to notice with the distractions at ground level. It is a view of the street that I now enjoy most, one that takes me away from the madding crowds one now can’t seem to escape at ground level, and one that does seem to take me back to a time, now forgotten, when I did best like the street.

The most heavenly view one can get of Singapore's famous 'shopping mile', Orchard Road, is really from up above. It is from high up that one gets an amazing sight of the tree cover over the street which isn't quite noticeable at ground level.

The most heavenly view one can get of Singapore’s famous ‘shopping mile’, Orchard Road, is really from up above. It is from high up that one gets an amazing sight of the tree cover over the street which isn’t quite noticeable at ground level.

A view of one half of the almost completed Orchard Gateway towering over what will be the new Singapore Visitor Centre and the conservation houses of Emerald Hill.

A view of one half of the almost completed Orchard Gateway towering over what will be the new Singapore Visitor Centre and the conservation houses of Emerald Hill.

Another look at Emerald Hill and part of the area to its right where the first rail line in Singapore ran through to Tank Road.

Another look at Emerald Hill and part of the area to its right where the first rail line in Singapore ran through to Tank Road.

A look across to Mounts Sophia and Emily which once provided commanding views across the city.

A look across to Mounts Sophia and Emily which once provided commanding views across the city. The dome of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Sikh Temple between Mount Sophia and Emily can be seen.

Another look towards Mount Sophia - the buildings once used by Methodist Girls' School are clearly visible.

Another look towards Mount Sophia – the buildings once used by Methodist Girls’ School are clearly visible.

A look down Cuppage Road.

A look down Cuppage Road.

A look towards the greenery surrounding the grounds of the Istana.

A look towards the greenery surrounding the grounds of the Istana.

A look west westwards - distinctive roof of the Singapore Marriott (ex-Dynasty) Hotel can be seen.

A look west westwards – distinctive roof of the Singapore Marriott (ex-Dynasty) Hotel can be seen.

Orchard Road at ground level is dominated by the gleaming new edifices of glass and steel that has risen in the last two decades.

Orchard Road at ground level is dominated by the gleaming new edifices of glass and steel that has risen in the last two decades.

Another look through a glass panel.

Another look through a glass panel.

The roof terrace of Orchard Central from which one gets the alternative views of Orchard Road.

The roof terrace of Orchard Central from which one gets the alternative views of Orchard Road.





A look down the Orchard Road of the early 1970s

20 01 2014

A photograph that would probably have been taken from the top of the Hilton in the early 1970s offers a view of that show how different Orchard Road was back then. The Mandarin Hotel, which was completed in 1971, and the two-way traffic system along the stretch from the junction with Scotts/Paterson Roads provides an indication of when the photograph would have been taken. This was period when I probably enjoyed Orchard Road the most, a time when the crowds we now cannot seem to escape from were non-existent, and a time before the modern shopping malls descended on what has since become a street well-known throughout the world for its shopping offerings.

Orchard Road early 1970s

Of some of the main landmarks seen in the photograph, only the Mandarin Hotel and Liat Towers stands today. In place of Orchard Road Police Station is the Orchard MRT Station and ION Orchard above it. Across the road, the complex that houses Tangs and Marriot Hotel (ex Dynatsy Hotel) now stands in place of the two rows of shophouses and the iconic old CK Tang Building.

Lucky Plaza (1978), one of the first malls to arrive on Orchard Road, stands where Champion Motors (a former Volkswagen dealer) used to be and Tong Building (1978) stands where the Yellow Pages Building and an Esso Petrol Station were, right next to the old Fitzpatrick’s Supermarket.

Fitzpatrick’s went for the Promenade Shopping Centre (1984) to be built. The Promenade, best remembered for its spiral walkway up, has since been demolished for an extension of Paragon (2003) to be built.

The original portion of Paragon (1997) would have been where The Orchard, a shopping centre that was converted from the former Orchard Motors showroom in 1970, had stood. The Orchard would be remembered for its famous Tivoli Coffee House.

Another icon along that old Orchard Road, would be Wisma Indonesia beyond Orchard Road Police Station and separated from the road by an uncovered Stamford Canal and a service road. That housed the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, and was very recognisable for its Minangkabau styled roof. In its places stands Wisma Atria (1986).

Beyond the Wisma was Ngee Ann Building. It was where the once well-known Mont d’Or Cake Shop was located. The site of Ngee Ann Building (and the then empty land beyond it) is where Ngee Ann City (1993) stands today. The canal one had to cross both to Ngee Ann Building and the Wisma, was covered up in 1974 and its is on top of this that the wide pedestrian walkway running down that side of Orchard Road, now runs.

More related to Orchard Road in the 1970s and 1980s can be found in several posts:





The magical sea of light at Christmas

24 11 2013

Every year for the last three decades, Orchard Road is transformed into an enchanting sea of lights in the lead up to Christmas. This year’s light-up, which features the silver tinged twinkle of stars and sparkle of diamonds against the cool of blue lights taking one magically away from the tropics, was launched last evening at Shaw House’s Urban Plaza with President Tony Tan Keng Yam gracing the occasion as the Guest-of-Honour.

The Orchard Road Christmas Light-up is in its 30th year.

The Orchard Road Christmas Light-up is in its 30th year.

President Tony Tan greeting the guests.

President Tony Tan greeting the guests.

Before the launch, colour and entertainment at the launch ceremony was provided by the Super Trouper Choir and the Dim Sum Dollies. The Super Trouper Choir features 14 students with intellectual disabilities from MINDS Lee Kong Chian Garden School, 11 of whom sang at the event.

The Super Trouper Choir.

The Super Trouper Choir.

The Dim Sum Dollies.

The Dim Sum Dollies.

The Dim Sum Dollies, who were their entertaining selves, included the brand new dolly, Denise Tan. Together they will feature in Dream Academy’s CRAZY CHRISTMAS Ting Tong Belles the cast of which will also include the likes of Kumar, Broadway Beng (Sebastian Tan) and Judee Tan. CRAZY CHRISTMAS Ting Tong Belles will play at Esplanade Theatre from 11 to 22 December 2013.

Selena Tan.

Selena Tan.

Pamela Oei.

Pam Oei.

New dolly, Denise Tan.

New dolly, Denise Tan.

Themed “Christmas on A Great Street”, the light up, which will run from 23 November 2013 to 5 January 2014, is sponsored by Hitachi (for the 23rd year) with Mastercard as the Official Card. The light-up which is organised by the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) is also linked with the Community Chest – an association which goes back to the first light-up, serving as a launch-pad for the annual year-end charity drive.

JeromeLim 277A5725

JeromeLim 277A5759

JeromeLim 277A5764

During the launch ceremony, battery-powered candles were also given out to guests as well as members of the public by 100 student volunteers from the Republic Polytechnic with the ORBA donating $1 for each candle lit in front of ION Orchard.

A lighted candle during the launch ceremony.

A lighted candle during the launch ceremony.

The light-up also sees several malls participating in the Best Dressed Building Contest 2013. The contest runs from 23 November to 8 December 2013 with members of the public voting for their favourite building through a mobile @Orchard app – with the chance to win shopping vouchers – $500 worth for each of the six winners, and $250 worth for each of the three runners-up.

JeromeLim 277A5804

JeromeLim 277A5814

The very useful @Orchard app which is free and downloadable to mobile devices, also includes a underground navigation function with an ORBA Walking Map which works below ground.

JeromeLim 277A5799

JeromeLim 277A5817

The period of the light-up also sees performance and activities along Orchard Road to look forward to including a mass carolling event on Christmas Eve and a Grand Christmas Concert on Christmas Day. More information can be found at the Christmas on the Great Street website’s events page.

JeromeLim IMG_3541


Participating Malls for the Best Dressed Building Contest 2013

  1. Forum the Shopping Mall
  2. GrandPark Orchard
  3. ION Orchard
  4. Mandarin Gallery
  5. Ngee Ann City / Takashimaya Shopping Centre
  6. Orchard Central
  7. Paragon
  8. Tanglin Mall




A world apart

26 09 2013

A look down Orchard Road at its junction with Killiney Road close to 40 years apart. The view in 1975 was dominated by the towering Mandarin Hotel which opened in 1971, but it was probably Cold Storage, the longest established supermarket in Singapore, which would have served as a landmark. Across the road from the Cold Storage was what became known later as “Gluttons’ Square”, a car park which would be transformed as night fell, into a sea of pushcarts, tables and stools – a food lovers’ paradise of local hawker fare which was popular with many. The area did in fact feature more than just the car park, but also across Cuppage Road from Cold Storage – with many popular hawker stalls found around the old Orchard Road Market area at Koek Road and Koek Lane.

The junction of Orchard Road and Killiney Road some 4 decades apart, as seen in 1975 and today (source of 1975 photograph: Ray Tyers' Singapore Then & Now).

The junction of Orchard Road and Killiney Road some 4 decades apart, as seen in 1975 and today (source of 1975 photograph: Ray Tyers’ Singapore Then & Now).

Another landmark in the area was of course the Specialists’ Shopping Centre which opened in 1972. That housed the main outlet of a retail institution, Robinson’s, after a huge fire on 21 November 1972 had destroyed its main premises. Intending initially to open a branch on a single floor at the Specialists’ Centre in late 1972 / early 1973, the long established departmental store opened on two floors on 11 December 1972. The Specialist Centre Robinson’s would be remembered for the St. Michael’s (a brand name used by Marks and Spencer’s) outlet within it on the ground floor which was popular particularly for its biscuits.

The old Cold Storage on Orchard Road.

The old Cold Storage on Orchard Road.

The area now sees huge developments taking place, dominated by new shopping malls such as Orchard Central and 313 @ Somerset. One that isn’t completed which will certainly add to the clutter will be Orchard Gateway which will straddle Orchard Road with a tubular glass pedestrian link bridge between its two parts positioned diagonally across from each other.

The stretch now sees many new retail developments such as Orchard Central on the left and under construction Orchard Gateway with its link bridge which will further alter the area's flavour.

The stretch now sees many new retail developments such as Orchard Central on the left and under construction Orchard Gateway with its link bridge which will further alter the area’s flavour.

Orchard Central as seen at the corner of Orchard and Killiney Roads.

Orchard Central as seen at the corner of Orchard and Killiney Roads.

The competition from the new malls has also seen one which has seen its popularity wane in its three decades of existence. Centrepoint, to which Robinson’s moved its fashion departments into in June 1983 – which then became its flagship store after it shut down its outlets (including John Little’s keeping only the St. Michael’s outlet) at Specialists’ Centre in June 1984, underwent a recent makeover. It will soon also see its anchor tenant moving out – Robinson’s has announced it would be moving to The Heeren next year, ending what will be a 30 year association with Centrepoint.

One side of Orchard Gateway with part of the link bridge. The conserved shophouse seen below it is fronting Orchard Road where a new Singapore Visitors' Centre will open.

One side of Orchard Gateway with part of the link bridge. The conserved shophouse seen below it is fronting Orchard Road where a new Singapore Visitors’ Centre will open.

The changes that are taking place, are ones which will render the area unrecognisable even from what it would have been like a decade ago. For me, however, it will always be the gentler times of four decades past I am taken back to, times of the old Cold Storage with its deli counter which never failed to interest me – times when our shopping went into brown paper bags and used cartons rather than in the non environmentally friendly plastic bags we use too much of these days. They were also times when not only having a malted milkshake in the cool comfort of the vinegar scented air of the Magnolia Snack Bar was as much a treat as a bowl of beef noodles at Koek Lane or a plate of oyster omelette at the car park would have been. It is that simpler world I often wish I can return to, a world unlike the one I find myself in today in which the a lot more than we have does somehow seem like a lot less.





Celebrating Orchard on National Day

10 08 2013

Celebrating Orchard is an exhibition of photographs I helped the National Heritage Board (NHB) put together for a National Day event. The one day exhibition at the Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza offers perspectives of Singapore’s well known shopping district, commonly referred to as ‘Orchard’ through  a series of photographs – those of eight individuals including myself who have made first impressions of the street and its environs at different periods of its development, post-independence.


Photographs I exhibited:

Reflections

Jerome-8251-2

I love how reflections can sometimes offer interesting perspectives such as these reflections I captured off an Orchard Road shop window, which does represent how I see Orchard’s transformation over the years since my first impressions were formed. The street is now one that is rich in flavour and colour. Full of excitement, it now has an appeal which goes far beyond the shopping and dining venues it is known for and is very much where Singapore comes alive.


The Motor End

JeromeLim 5224

An early impression I had of Orchard was of its car showrooms. Several were found at the ‘Motor End’. It was where my father was to purchase the first five cars he owned from. Three were from Borneo Motors (two Austins and later a Toyota), as well as one from Universal Cars (a Ford) and another from Malayan Motors (a Morris). The building which housed Malayan Motors is one which has survived and is currently occupied by MDIS.


Runway Orchard

JeromeLim 1244

Orchard has always been one to celebrate fashion. Back in the 1960s it became home to trendsetting designer and hairstylist Roland Chow when Roland’s opened on the street. The internationally recognised fashion hub now celebrates in a big way, shutting itself to traffic one evening a year when it transforms itself into a fashion runway for Fashion Steps Out @ Orchard.


About Celebrating Orchard

Orchard Road or ‘Orchard’, as the street and its surroundings is commonly referred to, has over the years offered very different experiences to its many visitors. Lined with car showrooms and several memorable places to shop at the point of Singapore’s independence, it has become a focal point of the new and exciting Singapore. It is where the heart and soul of Singapore can perhaps be found.

Celebrating Orchard explores the famous street through the eyes of eight photographers, who having had their first impressions of the street made during different periods of its development, offer a different take on Orchard Road.

JeromeLim-9031-2

JeromeLim-9021

JeromeLim-8977

JeromeLim-9011

JeromeLim-8970

Other photographers who exhibited:






The shortlived French invasion of Singapore

8 02 2013

I was looking through some of my old (and rather badly taken) photographs of Chingay when I stumbled upon a sign which brought to mind events of the 1980s. The decade was a time when the world around us was very much in transition and a time when the French decided on an invasion of Singapore. The invasion was one not involving any form of military force, but by forces of an entirely different nature – those of two of their well established retail giants, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps – department stores which are landmarks on one of Paris’ famous shopping streets, Boulevard Haussmann (it was a photograph with the Printemps sign that brought this to mind).

The Printemps Store along on the ground level of Hotel Le Meridien at Orchard Road.

The Printemps Store along on the ground level of Hotel Le Meridien at Orchard Road.

The entrance of the two stores into the local retail market came at the start of a decade in which Singapore was too see massive changes. Much of the resident population of the city centre had been or was to be moved out, and once bustling districts of shophouses which coloured much of the urban landscape was over the period, reduced to rubble. The 1980s also saw Orchard Road establishing itself as Singapore’s main shopping street and the economic success of Singapore – one of the four “Tigers” of the Asian economies, provided for the rising affluence among Singaporeans and with that a greater awareness of fashion trends. This influenced shopping habits and preferences and many overseas based retailers saw an opportunity to gain a foothold into the Singapore market, with two Japanese based retailers having by then already established themselves. Isetan came in 1972 and Yaohan in 1974.

It was Galeries Lafayette which lead the French charge, opening a 5574 square metre store in out-of-town Goldhill Square (since renamed United Square) in December 1982. Printemps followed soon after, taking up 4000 square metres of space on Orchard Road on the ground floor of the newly constructed Hotel Le Méridien (now Concorde Hotel) in September 1983. It was Printemps which perhaps had the greater impact – projecting an image not so much of Parisian chic but one of being hip, colourful and affordable – it was Printemps which introduced the colourful canvas espadrilles which for a while seemed to catch on with Singaporean shoppers (trendy as they might have been, they unfortunately were not the most ideal form of footwear for the local climate). Printemps colourful and cheap polo-tees were also rather a hit with the young.

Despite the apparent popularity of some of what the stores had to offer, both did have great difficulty in making inroads and were making losses. Galeries (as it was referred to by Singaporeans) closed its Goldhill Square store in May 1986. The news of that did not come as a shock as it had been plagued by rumours of its closing for several months before that even as it had expressed interest in taking up a space either at Crown Prince Hotel or the space previously occupied by Mohan’s at Orchard Shopping Centre. It was perhaps a poor decision made to open their store at a location far from the main retail scene in Singapore. The closure did turn out to be a temporary move. Some ten months after closing the Goldhill Square store, Galeries opened a 4460 square metre store at Liat Towers on Orchard Road and not long after that, a smaller 400 square metre outlet at Raffles Place. In spite of the problems the two stores faced in what was perhaps becoming a saturated retail market, the two did last a little longer. Printemps operated ntil December 1989 when it shut its doors. Galeries after its second coming lasted a little longer – it was in March 1996 when they did finally close again.

Galeries Lafayette's second coming which was at Liat Towers, seen here in the 1990s, in March 1987 (source: http:// a2o.nas.sg/picas/).

Galeries Lafayette’s second coming which was at Liat Towers, seen here in the 1990s, in March 1987 (source: http:// a2o.nas.sg/picas/).





Where dogs, politicians and the postman once met

6 11 2012

One of the quieter stretches of today’s Orchard Road has to be the less trodden path that takes one from Killiney Road towards what is today a four way junction with Buyong Road, across from where the Concorde Hotel (ex Le Méridien Hotel) is. Walking down it I am often taken back to a time when Orchard Road was a very different place, a place lined with car showrooms, the odd supermarket, and lots of old shophouses that lined both sides of what has today become a sea of malls, and when the stretch that I speak of was where the headquarters of the ruling political party, the People’s Action Party or PAP, had been located.

Orchard Circus in days when Orchard Road was a much quieter place. To the left of the clump of palm trees is where the entrance to the Istana is.

Map of general area today with overlay of road layout in 1978.

Besides the PAP having their headquarters there until 1978 (when they moved to another of their former HQs at Napier Road), the stretch was home to headquarters of the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The SPCA occupied a premises the entrance of which was by the side of a building that was the former Orchard Road Post Office (across from where Buyong Road met Orchard Road) – a sign over its entrance could not be missed. The former Orchard Road Post Office which was built in 1902, had by the time I got to see the building, long moved out when the Killiney Road Post Office (which opened in 1963) was built to replace it when that magnificent building it occupied proved too small (there were initial thoughts to expand the building – but due to limitations of the site, a new building was instead planned).

The shophouse lined stretch of Orchard Road is seen between Specialist Centre at the top of the picture and United Motor Works (building seen with the AC Spark Plug Advertisement – with words “Hot Tip”) in 1974 (source: http://picas.nhb.gov,sg). The gap in the buildings just beyond United Motor Works is where the SPCA / former Orchard Road Post Office was.

The former Orchard Road Post Office building in 1982, with the entrance to the SPCA next to it (from the Lee Kip Lin Collection. All rights reserved. Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board, Singapore 2009). The post office closed in 1963 when the Killiney Road Post Office was opened.

Another photograph of the SPCA on Orchard Road from the SPCA’s website.

The premises of the SPCA were used since the organisation moved to into in 1965 (although they had maintained kennels behind it since 1954 when it was still the RPSCA), paying a nominal $1 in rent per year. The kennels were one that were regularly visited by student volunteers including some of my classmates in primary school – I recall my mother dropping me off at the premises on a few occasions in 1976 when I did accompany a classmate who helped out at the SPCA. The SPCA’s premises was acquired for redevelopment in 1983 and the SPCA moved into their current headquarters at Mount Vernon built at a cost of $1 million with money obtained from the organisation’s fund raising efforts.

The area where the SPCA / Orchard Road Post Office was.

Approximate position of the former post office building / SPCA seen against what the area is today (image of Orchard Road Post Office from the Lee Kip Lin Collection. All rights reserved. Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board, Singapore 2009).

The stretch today bears little resemblance to the stretch back when the SPCA was there. Cleared completely of the buildings that had occupied it as well as with the realignment of the roads in and around it, it is hard to imagine what is today a relatively quiet and pretty green stretch, lined with shophouses all along to where its junction was with Clemenceau Avenue (where the Orchard Circus, which went in 1967) had once been.





The synagogue at Belle Vue

19 10 2012

One of the wonderful things about Singapore is the diverse cultural and religious practices, some modified with time, some influenced by the environment, but many that remain distinct reflecting the many lands far and wide from which immigrants to Singapore have arrived from. Besides the myriad of festivals that seem to go on all year around, this diversity is also reflected in its architectural heritage – some 28 of its 64 National Monuments are places of worship which are very much in use today.

A page from religious diversity of Singapore – a Sefer Torah at the Chesed-El Synagogue.

Two of the 64 that I had an opportunity to visit during a recent Preservation of Monuments Board (PMB) walking tour were the Hong San See Temple and the Chesed-El Synagogue. The Hong San See or Temple on Phoenix Hill is one that I already am familiar with from a previous visit. A magnificent and beautifully restored example of Fujian Lam Ann (Nan’an) religious architecture, its last restoration effort from 2007 to 2009 earned a UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2010. More information on the temple can be found in my previous post The Temple on Phoenix Hill.

The Chesed-El Synagogue at Oxley Rise was one of two religious monuments I recently had an opportunity to see as part of a Monumental Walking Tour organised by the PMB.

The main motivation for my participation in the tour was more for the opportunity it provided to visit a synagogue as I had never in stepped into one. While there are two such places of worship in Singapore, such opportunities are rare, especially due to more recent security concerns and this provided me with a look of what it was like behind the façade of a religious building belonging to a small and sometimes lesser known local community which has made a significant contribution to Singapore.

Opportunities to visit a synagogue are rare especially with more recent security concerns.

A look beyond the Chesed-El’s façade. The wooden pulpit or bimah is seen in the centre of the hall with the ahel or ark at the end.

The Jews in Singapore have certainly made a huge contribution to its development with many notable names through Singapore’s history, members of the community. One of its prominent members in the early days of Singapore was a certain Sir Manasseh Meyer, a highly successful businessman and property owner, who counted among his properties, the Sea View Hotel and the Adelphi Hotel, lending his name to Meyer Road. It was also Manasseh Meyer who built the Chesed-El, Singapore’s second synagogue (after Maghain Aboth in Waterloo Street).

Participants on the walking tour had a chance to look at the second of two synagogues in Singapore.

The Chesed-El completed in 1905 on Manasseh Meyer’s sprawling estate in Oxley Rise, Belle Vue, was designed by Regent Alfred John Bidwell of architectural frim Swan & Maclaren (which was responsible for many of the monumental works of architecture in Singapore) in the Palladian style. What had prompted Manasseh Meyer to build Chesed-El, which translates as the “bountiful mercy and goodness of God” were differences of opinions which members of the community from differing backgrounds had at the Maghain Aboth, which was built as a private synagogue.

The synagogue was completed in 1905.

The building was built in the grand Palladian style.

Besides providing the opportunity to have a look into the synagogue, the visit also allowed a better appreciation of the layout of a synagogue. Placed in a westward facing direction to Judaism’s eternal city, Jerusalem, a wooden pulpit rises at centre of the hall. The pulpit or bimah, is where prayers where the rabbi leads the prayers, and where the Torah scrolls (Sefer Torah) are placed and read during services.

The entrance to the synagogue.

A closer look at the bimah.

The entrance and the balconies on the upper gallery.

Inside the lower gallery.

A reminder.

The visit also allowed us a peek at the upper gallery where the women are kept separated from the men during services. The balconies on the upper gallery feature iron work that we were told were imported from Scotland which provided an appreciation of the effort taken in the building of the house of worship for the greater glory of the Maker.

The balconies on the upper gallery, reserved for women, feature beautifully crafted ironwork imported from Scotland.

The staircase to the upper gallery.

A view through an arch on the upper gallery.

The women’s perspective.

A quiet room on the upper gallery.

Another view from the upper gallery.

The upper gallery.

The highlight of the visit was a close-up look we had at Sefer Torah as well as a look into the holiest part of the synagogue, the ark or ahel – a room where the Sefer Torahs are stored. The sefers or scrolls are made from specially handwritten parchment and are ones donated by members of the congregation, and includes one that is a hundred years old.

The ahel at the front end of the hall is behind three curtains.

A rabbi opening a Sefer Torah.

A hundred year old Sefer Torah in the ahel.

Floor tiles.

The ahel’s entrances are covered by a curtain or parochet.

Ironwork above the ahel.

The look at the synagogue was one that provided not only an insight into the religious practices of a small but important community in Singapore, but also one which offered a window into the role the many successful immigrants who came from far and wide played in building and supporting their respective communities. It is these communities which have provided the foundation on which Singapore’s success is built and which makes Singapore that wonderful celebration of cultures and religions that it is today.

The grounds of the synagogue.


Resources on the Jewish Community, Sir Manasseh Meyer and the Chesed-El Synagogue:

Jewish Community in Singapore (on The Jewish Community of Singapore)
Jewish Community in Singapore (on The Jewish Times Asia)
Sir Manasseh Meyer (on infopedia)
Chesed-El Synagogue (on infopedia)
Chesed-El Synagogue (on The Jewish Community of Singapore)
Chesed-El Synagogue (on PMB’s website)






The ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 Award

22 08 2012

The Martell Cordon Bleu Heritage exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the celebrated name in Cognac and the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 Photography exhibition drew to a close this evening. The closing of the exhibition at the Timeless Capsule , a temporary art gallery outside ION Orchard, also saw an awards ceremony during with the winners of the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 awards were unveiled. Besides the top prize which was won by Edwin Koo, there were Discernment Awards given out to two photographers, Jeremy San and Ernest Goh and for the first time, an Eternal Discovery Prize based on public voting created for the centenary celebration, awarded to Wesley Loh. The title prize brings with it $30,000 in cash, a trip to Cognac, France and the chance to publish a photography book of his works, the Discernment Awards carries a cash prize of $8,000 each, while the Eternal Discovery Prize is worth $1,000 and an exclusive Centenary Limited Edition set of Martell Cordon Bleu.

Edwin Koo came prepared with a speech …

The winners were selected from nine nominees and picked by a jury of international and local judges who looked at the strength of the photographer’s portfolio, a body of work that shows a coherent vision, unique points of view as well as skillful and well-developed artistic expression. This year’s jury consists of Madame Agnes de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, photography curator and writer; Mr Ian Berry, Magnum Photographer; Ms Emmeline Yong, Partner, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Filmmaking; Ms Bridget Tracy Tan, Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Arts & Art Galleries, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Ms Charmaine Leung, Director of Marketing, Pernod Ricard Singapore.


About ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu

Organised by Pernod Ricard Singapore, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu is an annual photography award that recognises Singapore’s most outstanding photographer. As part of Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary celebrations and to pay homage to this celebrated cognac that has given its name to the award, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 was organised around the centenary theme of Eternal Discovery. New elements were introduced to the third edition of ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu.


About the winner Edwin Koo’s portfolio

Edwin Koo (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Edwin Koo’s three series, Dreaming of Phayul, Paradise Lost and We Would Be Heroes, shares an overarching theme of “A Strange Place Called Home”, where the concept of home and homeland is explored. Dreaming of Phayul examines the hopes and dreams of Tibetan exiles yearning for a “fatherland” that is no longer theirs, while Paradise Lost, set against the backdrop of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, is an investigation into the notion of physical paradise as home. Meanwhile, We Would Be Heroes dwells on the heroic ambitions of young Nepali men and women to free their homeland from feudalism, only to end up estranged from home as the civil war ended.


A selection of Edwin Koo’s works (images provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu):





A timeless capsule

3 08 2012

Step outside ION Orchard, it would be hard not to notice a temporary structure that has made an appearance close to the corner where Orchard Road and Paterson Road meets. What will probably draw one to it would be the name ‘Martell Cordon Bleu’ – which celebrates its 100th anniversary with an exhibition which traces the history of the celebrated cognac to its origins in 1912 as well as featuring old shipping invoices and newspaper advertisements which provide a link to its presence in Singapore that dates back to the 1930s at the structure named The Timeless Capsule which will be opened to the public from 3 to 22 August 2012 . It isn’t however just the celebration of Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary that makes it worthwhile to visit what has been touted as Singapore’s largest art gallery, but also another joy – one that celebrates the works of nine nominated ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu photographers – in an annual photography award organised by Martell Cordon Bleu for which the nine will vie for the top prize of $30,000.

Mr Paul-Robert Bouhier, Managing Director Pernod Ricard Singapore introducing The Timeless Capsule.

The photographers have been shortlisted by an expert panel that comprises Ms Kelley Cheng, Creative Director of The Press Room; Mr Russel Wong, celebrated Singapore photographer; Mr Milenko Prvacki, Senior Fellow at LaSalle College of the Arts; Mr Edmund Wee, managing and creative director of Epigram books, and ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2011 winner, Mr Sean Lee. They are Mr Albert Lim, Mr Edwin Koo, Mr Ernest Goh, Mr Jeremy San, Mr Roy Zhang, Mr Sam Kang Li, Mr Tristan Cai, Mr Wesley Loh and Mr Yian Huang. Their works are being exhibited in non print form – through the use of a multimedia format. In addition to the cash prize, the winner of ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu will also receive the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu trophy, a trip to Cognac, France and an opportunity to publish a book of his photographs. The two runners-up will each be honoured with the Discernment Award and cash prize of $8,000. In addition to this, a Eternal Discovery prize worth $1000 has also been introduced this year for the centenary, which will be awarded to the photographer who has obtained the most support through public voting. Votes can be cast online at www.icon-martellcordonbleu.com or at the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu exhibition in The Timeless Capsule.

Shadows of guests at the opening of The Timeless Capsule each with a glass of Martell Cordon Bleu in hand.

I did not have the time to view all the exhibits by ones that caught my eye immediately the most were the works of Edwin Koo and Yian Huang both of which I found to be extremely evocative. Edwin who has been using photography to tell stories since 2002 had previously worked in the local press before leaving for Nepal in 2008 where pursue his interest to document human displacement and political turmoil. His series, Dreaming of Phayul, Paradise Lost and We Would Be Heroes, features marginalised groups during his time based in Kathmandu, Nepal. In 2011, his works on the Swat Valley was exhibited in the Angkor Photo Festival. His works on the Tibetan exiles were also shown in Photo Quai, in Paris in 2011.

Refugees wait for tea at Sheik Yasin camp, Mardan, Pakistan by Edwin Koo (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Edwin Koo (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Yian Huang on the other hand had a background in management consultancy before obtaining his Masters degrees from Columbia in International Affairs and Journalism. He covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while in the Middle East and has been exhibited at Galerie Steph at Helutrans in Singapore, the Palais du Louvre in Paris, the Singapore Art Museum, and in galleries in Russia, Italy and the US. He has also been published in the Economist, Newsweek, the Peak, and Sports Illustrated; and worked for the Newark Star Ledger based in New York City, and as an intern at the Magnum Photo Agency in Paris.

Work of Yian Huang (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Yian Huang (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

An interesting display in The Timeless Capsule is a specially crafted, one-off piece of the iconic Martell Cordon Bleu cognac bottle by the renowned House of Boucheron. The unique bottle – The Ultimate Jewel which captures the houses’ passion for transforming the finest and rarest of raw materials into either exquisite blends or beautiful, timeless jewellery. The Ultimate Jewel will make a few stops on its international circuit before it is to be auctioned in China at the end of the year.

The Ultimate Jewel (image provided by Martell Cordon Bleu).

The centenary celebrations also sees Martell Cordon Bleu embarking on a charity drive. This would be to raise funds for the beneficiaries of Community Chest. The Martell Cordon Bleu Centenary Charity Drive aims to raise a minimum of $128,800. For the drive 100 exclusive Martell Cordon Bleu Anniversary Gift Sets consisting of a Limited Edition Centenary Bottle, Standard Edition Centenary Bottle autographed by cellar master, Benoit Fil, a Limited Edition photo print and photography book by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2011 Winner, Sean Lee, will be given in appreciation to contributions of a minimum of $1,288 each with all proceeds going to Community Chest.

The light show during the opening of The Timeless Capsule.

Several fringe activities will take place in The Timeless Capsule during the period, including a photography talk, An Eternal Discovery Revealed, on 6 August by the nine nominated photographers; a cognac and chocolate pairing session called Cognac & Chocolate: A Timeless Taste on 8 August (chocolate desserts prepared by the Singapore National Pastry Team will be paired with Martell Cordon Bleu for the public to sample the timeless taste of the cognac at the session). A photography book by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2011 winner, Sean Lee, will also be officially launched on 16 August. All fringe activities are free to the public but registration is required as places are limited. The Timeless Capsule is open everyday from 3 to 22 August between 10am and 10pm. For more information about The Timeless Capsule, please visit www.icon-martellcordonbleu.com.

Claressa Monteiro performing at the opening of The Timeless Capsule.


About ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu – The Exhibition

3 Aug – 22 Aug, 10am – 10pm

The Timeless Capsule, Outside ION Orchard

Admission is free

ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu returns for its third year to recognise Singapore’s most outstanding photographer. In conjunction with Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary celebrations, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu will include new elements as part of this 100th year milestone. Curated around the centenary’s theme of Eternal Discovery, the photography exhibition will be presented in a multimedia format, thus taking photography appreciation to a whole new level. ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu will also be awarding the Eternal Discovery prize to the photographer with the most votes. The public can vote online at http://www.icon-martellcordonbleu.com.

The exhibition will be held in a specially constructed gallery called The Timeless Capsule outside ION Orchard. The Timeless Capsule will also host an exhibition on the heritage of the legendary Martell Cordon Bleu cognac as well as fringe activities involving art and gastronomy.






Vertically unchallenged

20 06 2012

Trying to find a world I once knew in one that I can no longer recognise, I stumbled on a scene at the end of Cuppage Terrace I could not resist taking a snapshot of that could well describe the nonchalance with which we in Singapore have allowed a vertically unchallenged and two-dimensional world to bury the multi-dimensional world which made us who we are …





The next face of Asia

15 05 2012

The six-week long street fashion festival, Fashion Steps Out at Orchard 2012 (FSO 2012), which began with the first time a 600 metre stretch of Orchard Road was closed and used as a fashion runway, saw another first – the first time a cinema hall at Shaw Theatres Lido was transformed into a fashion venue with a catwalk built over the cinema seating for the closing party on 27 April 2012. The closing party marked the end of the festival and also saw the Next Face of Asia 2012 selected from 12 finalists representing six Asian countries – China, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Next Face of Asia which aims to discover Asian models and be a launch platform for Asian faces internationally, involved a regional search to identify potential talent from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, HK, Taiwan, Indonesia, China and India. The deserving winner, who walked away with $10,000 worth of prizes and who will be the Face of FSO 2013, was 25 year old Indonesian model Paula Verhoeven, the tallest model in the finals at 1.82 metres in height.

A cinema hall at Shaw Theatres Lido was turned into a fashion runway for the first time for the closing of Fashion Steps Out at Orchard 2012.

The closing party also saw the finals of the Next Face of Asia 2012 which picked a winner from 12 finalists from 6 Asian countries.

More Photographs from the Next Face of Asia 2012

The deserving winner, 1.82 metre tall Paula Verhoeven from Indonesia, who was the tallest model in the finals.


About FSO

Fashion Steps Out @ Orchard (formerly known as Fashion Season @ Orchard) aims to bring fashion to the man on the street. From 16 Mar – 29 Apr 2012, the Orchard Road shopping belt of nearly 800,000 sq. m of retail space will be heralding the Spring / Summer fashion season with exciting events and promotions that will spice up everyday fashion and thrill shoppers. FSO 2011 brought 5.2 million visitors, drew $3.9 million in receipts (an 18% year on year growth in sales***), and generated $2.035 million worth of publicity. FSO 2012 aspires to attract even more visitors and higher spend.

*** According to MasterCard’s tracking in USD






When fashion and Fever closed Orchard Road

19 03 2012

One of the busiest stretches of Singapore’s Orchard Road was closed to vehicular traffic for a few hours last evening – all for the sake of fashion. The closure was to allow a 600 metre stretch from ION Orchard to the Mandarin Gallery to be used as a runway for the launch of Fashion Steps Out @ Orchard 2012 (FSO 2012), a six-week long shopping extravaganza that promotes fashion for everyday use. Dubbed “The Day when Fashion Stops Traffic”, the launch saw more than 170 models showing off creations from both international and local designers, including Vivienne Westwood, walking down road turned catwalk. This is the first time here that a busy road has been closed and used as a fashion runway – a brilliant idea that has definitely put the festival in the spotlight as well as allowing the festival to achieve its aim of reaching out to those on the street.

Fashion and Fever on Orchard Road. Alicia Pan entertained with a rendition of Fever right in the middle of the road.

A 600m stretch of Orchard Road was transformed into a fashion runway for the launch of Fashion Steps Out @ Orchard 2012.

One of the busiest stretches of Orchard Road from ION Orchard to Mandarin Gallery was closed to vehicular traffic on what would normally be a busy Saturday evening.

The a downpour prior to the opening and the inconvenience of the closure of the road to vehicular traffic did not at all deter those who came to watch the opening of the event – a large crowd had already lined the barricades well before the show started. The fashion show started with host Junita Simon strutting down the street accompanied by bare-chested male models which must have set the hearts of many in the crowd racing.

A large crowd gathered by the barricades set up well before the show started.

Host for the evening, Junita Simon, struts along the road runway to open the festival.

Over the hour-long show, a steady stream of models showing off collections from Vivienne Westwood, Dsquared2, Dip Drops, Rosebullet, iCB, J.Press, Robinsons, Marks & Spencer, Just Cavalli, Paul & Joe and Maria Grachvogel took to the road turned catwalk. The show also featured the appearance of singer/songwriter Alicia Pan – who seemed to have caught everyone there by surprise with a rendition of Fever on the road right in front of Paragon.

The fashion parade down Orchard Road begins with a collection from one of the participating international designers, Vivienne Westwood.

It wasn't just the models who attracted the attention of the cameras. A glamourously dressed photographer has a camera trained on her.

The opening of fashion festival was certainly one to remember and one that has set the tone for six weeks of activities and deals, including those from MasterCard – the Official Credit Card. More information on the festival which runs until 29 April 2012, can be found at the FSO 2012 website, or the FSO 2012 Facebook Page.

Some highlights of the Fashion Show:





Following the star down Orchard Road

25 12 2010

Every year now, as part of its campaign to draw in the tourist dollar, Singapore transforms what is its main shopping street, Orchard Road, into a wonderful sea of lights in anticipation of what actually is a religious celebration, that as a nation, it has somehow embraced. So with an old classmate who now resides halfway across the world in town for a few days, a few of us decided to join the crowds thronging Orchard Road and take in the bright lights and snap a few photographs along the way. The light-up, now very much a feature of Christmas in Singapore, has been an annual affair since the very first street-wide light-up was organised in 1984 by the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (STPB) as the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) was know then. That initial light-up had lasted for just 20 days, being launched on 13 December by the then Chairman of the STPB, Dr Wong Kwei Chong, and running up to New Year’s Day. Following the initial success of the light-up, it was extended to 37 days the following year, becoming the annual affair it now is, and this year, the light-up runs for 44 days from 20 November to 2 January. I guess that initial light-up was in keeping to what Christmas was being transformed into in Singapore (and many other parts of the world), a celebration that transcends religious and cultural boundaries, one that sparks a frenzy of shopping and feasting that makes it an annual season of joy for the retailers and restaurateurs, and one that has perhaps taken on a nationwide importance.

It wasn't three wise men but five wise guys who decided to follow the star(s) down Orchard Road.

Walking down Orchard Road and taking in the lights, it is hard to imagine what Orchard Road might have been like some three to four decades ago, and much less what Christmas was about back then. That was a time when Christmas was a simpler, quieter and perhaps more personal affair. While, gift-giving, a tradition that in fact dates back to pre-Christian pagan practices (which Christians adopted together with the time of the year when the birth of Christ, the central figure in Christianity, is celebrated), and now is maybe seen to be associated with the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh that the three Magi, the Wise Men or Kings of the Orient brought with them when they followed the proverbial star to the east to the manger where the newly born Christ Child had lain in, was very much being practiced, it was mainly between relatives and close-friends, and was never really the expensive affair that it is these days. That was a time of course when even decorations were simpler and a lot more modest than they are these days, with only simple cut-outs and other decorations mounted on the façades of the large department stores – certainly not the elaborate decorations and lightings that we see these days.

A walk down Orchard Road offers a peek into the window of the Commercial side of Christmas in Singapore.

Christmas Decorations from a Simpler Time - Robinson's at Raffles Place, 1966

For us, taking a walk down wasn’t so much for spiritual reasons (other than to partake in a few glasses of spirits at the end) or to reminisce about Christmases of the past, but to take in the lights and action of a city that has left simplicity behind and to catch up with each other. After all, that is what Christmas is really all about! With this I would like to wish one and all a very Happy Christmas! May peace, joy and glad tidings be with all!

Every year in the lead up to Christmas, Orchard Road is transformed into a wonderland of lights.

The appearance of new malls such as ION with lighted façades has added to fairy land of lights.

Shaw House was one with relatively modest decorations.

ION Orchard.

A shop display at ION Orchard to entice the Christmas Shopper.

Not everyone could wait until Christmas to open their gifts.

Street vendors were doing a roaring trade.

In the lead up to Christmas, entertainment was also provided for the crowds on Orchard Road.

Silhouettes of the crowd of people thronging Orchard Road against the back drop of the best dressed building, Tangs.

There was even a procession of floats to add to the bright lights.

Christmas trees came in all shapes and colours. Sizes were mostly XXL.

All that glitters is the gold of Ferrero Rocher. A close-up of the Christmas Tree outside the Heeren.

Signs of the times!

The writing's on the wall this Christmas!

More of the lights over the Stamford Canal ...

Roman gladiators descended onto Orchard Road ... together with angels and a few Wise Men!

Not a case of too many cooks spoiling the kebabs ...

On the blocks to be the new kid on the block next year? Construction activity at the former Orchard Emerald site.

On the rocks this Christmas ...

A red light district off Orchard Road ...

An inevitable end to our walk ... a search for a watering hole ...





When Sands wasn’t at Marina Bay

24 09 2010

There is a lost world that lies where the Central Expressway (CTE) passes under Orchard Road cutting Clemenceau Avenue into two, what is now referred to as Clemenceau Avenue North and Clemenceau Avenue. This world was in the area just where the CTE passes in between the Istana and the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre, revolving around an approximately one kilometre stretch of Clemenceau Avenue that is now part of the CTE Chin Swee Tunnel (from where the Istana Park is) and the stretch that extends to part of the Kampong Java Tunnel. It was an area that included some pre-war houses, including a row of walk-up terrace houses that faced Clemenceau Avenue at the end of which was a unit that my best friend in kindergarten, Eddie, had lived in. What is probably left of the pre-war houses these days is perhaps only the Sian Teck Tng Temple at the end of Cuppage Road with the rest of the area altered by the modernisation of the Orchard Road area that began at the end of the 1970s and the construction of the CTE at the end of the 1980s.

The area which has been altered by the construction of the CTE just by where the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre is.

Cuppage Road now ends at a new section of Cavenagh Road … further to the right of this on the CTE was the junction of Cuppage Road and Clemenceau Avenue.

The Sian Teck Tng Temple at the end of Cuppage Road is the only reminder of the past still left in the area.

The Sian Teck Tng Temple’s structure is very typical of the houses in the area before it was modernised.

Looking at what’s there today, it would be hard to imagine what the area had once been like. It had been the back door to the area of Orchard Road that my parents had frequently visited, coming through Cavenagh Road f to get to the likes of Cold Storage for supermarket shopping, and Glutton’s Square and Koek Lane which provided some of the best hawker fare around. My first impression of the lost stretch of Clemenceau Avenue and the area around it, however, was shaped very much by the rides home in the minibus that delivered me to my home in Toa Payoh from the kindergarten I attended in Cambridge Road. That involved a detour via Cavenagh Road to Clemenceau Avenue to drop Eddie off, before heading north towards Newton Circus and on to Toa Payoh via Thomson Road.

The lost Section of Clemenceau Avenue and the lost roads around what was the back door to Orchard Road.

The recessed part of the CTE between the Chin Swee and Kampong Java Tunnels and part of the tunnels runs below what had been Clemenceau Avenue. Looking north to the area where the Chao Yang Chinese School and the Highway Inn was towards Newton Circus.

Clemenceau Avenue back then besides being the back door to Orchard Road, was also associated with the Scouting and Girl Guides movements in Singapore, Guide House, the home of the Singapore Girl Guide Association being at the stretch that is now Clemenceau Avenue North, and Sands House, the headquarters of the Singapore Scout Association, in the area that is now the CTE, just by where the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre is. Sands House was a two storey purpose built building standing at the corner of Cavenagh Road and Clemenceau Avenue that was opened in 1959, replacing the original Sands House (the former St. Andrew’s House) which was on Armenian Street. Sands House was a popular destination not just for Scouts, but for many shopping for camping and outdoor gear (camping being a relatively popular activity in those days) such as ponchos, ground sheets, tents, gas lamps and stoves, and even compasses and maps at the Scout Shop which was in a bright and airy room on the ground floor of the building. The headquarters of the Scout Association moved to a temporary premises in Tanglin Road, when Sands House was acquired in 1987.

Looking at the area where the south section of Cavenagh Road met Clemenceau Avenue. The junction lay where the CTE runs today, just by where the northbound slip road runs into the CTE. Sands House stood just to the right of the gantry.

Looking down at what used to be below Clemenceau Avenue towards the grounds of the Istana … Sands House was on the right of this area.

Along with Sands House, quite a lot of property along Clemenceau Avenue was also acquired, including the Highway Inn, a hotel which I somehow imagined to be a popular nightspot. The construction work on the tunnels and the CTE began in 1988, and by the time this section of the CTE was completed in 1991, the area had completely been transformed, leaving no trace of the lost section of Clemenceau Avenue that had existed some years back. Along with Clemenceau Avenue, the area that had served as the back door to Orchard Road had itself been transofrmed. Gone were the pre-war shop units and houses, the old Cold Storage building, and also the former Orchard Market and the food stalls along Koek Road and Koek Lane (the lane itself has also disappeared), moving to Cuppage Centre which was a mixed use development at the end of the 1970s. Cuppage Centre included a wet market on the lower floors and a food centre on the upper floor, with offices above it. Then, there was such a stench from the wet market housed in the centre that many referred to it as “Garbage Centre”. The building has since been refurbished and is now Starhub Centre – the market and food stalls moving out in the late 1990s. Part of Cuppage Road is also now a pedestrian mall, and the portion of Koek Road that joined with the lost stretch of Clemenceau Avenue has also disappeared, buried under the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre, leaving very little to remind us of what had once been around the area.

Koek Road now stops short … it used to run through what is now the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre on to Clemenceau Avenue.

Where the junction of Koek Road and Clemenceau Avenue once was – right in front of the main entrance to the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre.

Starhub Centre was once the Cuppage Centre which housed a market on its lower floors and a food centre above the market.


Picture of Sands House from a pack of cards posted in Facebook Group “On a Little Street in Singapore” on 9 October 2011 by David Donnelly:

Sands House

A photograph of the Highway Inn from 1983 (from the Lee Kip Lin Collection. All rights reserved. Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board, Singapore 2009).

Highway Inn  general view





Singapore underwater

16 06 2010

Oopsie, I guess I may have been a little premature in celebrating the rain this morning – the rain does provide a welcome respite from the sweltering heat that has seemed to engulf us of late, but today, there was some serious flooding that occurred in parts of Singapore. Channel NewsAsia reported that the areas affected included Bukit Timah, Newton Circus and Scotts Road. It does seem that the junction of Scotts and Orchard Roads were hit pretty badly with stalled vehicles causing chaos at the junction which resulted in a friend of mine being stuck for 3 hours! There were some pretty amazing scenes looking at the pictures he took.

The thing about today’s flash floods was that it coincided with the low tide. What we may also recall were the floods which occurred in Bukit Timah last November which were said to be a once in 50 year event. It would be interesting to see what the authorities say over the next few days.

Flooding was quite a regular occurrence in Singapore at one time and I recall that the area where the primary school that I attended was, had been quite flood prone and we regularly had to wade through flood waters. The home of a classmate staying opposite the school in Lincoln Road was regularly affected. Keng Lee Road and Cambridge Road nearby, where I went to kindergarten was also prone to the Rochor Canal that ran along Kampong Java Road overflowing, and there were occasions when I had to be carried over the flood waters. Whatever it is, I am thankful that the drainage system has improved to the extent that flooding isn’t what one expects whenever there is a downpour.

Photos of the Scotts Road and Orchard Road junctions on 16 June 2010 (courtesy of James Tan):









My big, strong, and maybe a little less than friendly experiences at the corner of Orchard and Scotts Roads

16 04 2010

There was a time when the prospect of a visit to the bank would fill me with terror. That was during the time when I was a boy of four, perhaps five, and would dutifully accompany my mother on her many errands, shopping trips and visits to the hairdresser and the like. I accompanied her on her banking trips as well, including those that she made to the branch of The Chartered Bank at the bottom of Shaw House on a fairy regular basis. The visits to the bank, which was then touted as being “Big, Strong, Friendly”, somehow never seemed friendly for me. Big and strong maybe. It would always mean that I had to come face to face with the tall burly guard who also served as a doorman, who, wearing the stern look of a bearded and turbaned Sikh, would always open the doors for us. For some reason, I never did take notice of the warm smile my mother tells me that he would usually flash, choosing to focus instead on his imposing appearance which heightened my irrational sense of fear of policeman and security personnel, which was perhaps brought about by having been constantly reminded during my bouts of misbehaviour, that a figure of authority would soon apprehend me. Such was the terror that I felt that I would chose to forego the opportunity for childhood adventure that being outside the stuffy confines of the Austin 1100 would have presented me with, opting to remain in the parked car with nothing to do except stare impatiently out of the partially wound down window. There were actually a few occasions when I did have to overcome my irrational fear, venturing into the banking hall once I remember, to get my hands on the brightly coloured Donald Duck coin box that I so craved. I must have trembled at the sight of the guard, while keeping a tight hold on my mother’s hand as I followed on her on the far side of the guard hoping that her skirt could obscure me .

Lido and Shaw House at the corner of Orchard Road and Scotts Road, seen in 1960 on an old Postcard.

In the later years, a Chartered Bank advertising campaign actually had another burly Sikh security guard as the face of the “Big, Strong, Friendly” slogan, opening the doors to a banking hall with a big cheery smile. I would often then look back in amusement at my own personal experiences as an anxious young boy of the big, strong and maybe a little less friendly banking experience I had in my younger days.

Another view of Shaw House with Lido next to it c.1960 from an old postcard.

I was indeed sad to see the old Shaw House being demolished when that happened sometime in 1990, having been a prominent landmark at the corner of Orchard and Scotts Roads since it was unveiled in 1958. Along the way, it also housed several embassies, consulates and national trade bodies, including the Swiss embassy and also the South Vietnamese embassy until the fall of Saigon in 1975 when it was abandoned. Another landmark next to Shaw House, Lido Cinema, went with it in 1990. I too have a few fond memories of Lido. That was where I had watched many movies with my parents, including my very first visit to the Cinema for the screening of Jungle Book. Lido was also where I watched the first movie unaccompanied by my parents. I went with a few older neighbours in 1975 for the screening of The Pink Panther Returns.

The new Shaw House now houses the Lido Cineplex.

Looking at the area where the new Shaw House has come up over the old, you wouldn’t see anything of how it was all those years ago. In place of the block of offices and a small open car park in front of it where I would often wait in the parked car, and the a cinema next to it, the new Shaw House stands tall, housing the new Lido – a cineplex popular with Singaporeans, as well as Isetan Department Store and several popular eating places. Very little is left behind to remind me of the big, strong and friendly experiences that I had there … maybe only the successor to The Chartered Bank – a branch of Standard Chartered Bank which moved from the old Shaw House to neighbouring Shaw Centre in 1985.





The magical world of the Tivoli that was on Orchard Road

7 04 2010

Mention the name Tivoli today, and what probably comes to mind to most of us is that magical gardens set in the heart of Hans Christian Andersen’s Wonderful Copenhagen where we can be immersed in the fantasy world that Hans Christian Andersen conjured up in the many tales he told, of which at least one, his most famous, the Nightingale, was inspired by the gardens in which he was said to have been fascinated with. The beautiful setting of the amusement park, with its theatres and restaurants, and wonderful gardens, best seen in spring when one is greeted by the multitude of colours that the flowers that delightfully decorate the gardens bring, served as an inspiration not just to Andersen, but also to a certain Walt Disney for his own wonderful fantasy land. The gardens had apparently also provided the inspiration to Singapore’s own Tivoli in Orchard Road, and it was this Tivoli that would have come into the minds of many of us back in the 1970s.

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is a magical fantasy world that served as the inspiration for Hans Christian Andersen's the Nightingale as well as Disneyland.

The Tivoli Coffee House, was apparently also inspired by the Tivoli Gardens and was located at the left hand corner of The Orchard, and had a sidewalk cafe atmosphere as well as a beautifully and elaborately decorated interior.

Singapore’s own Tivoli was a fantasy land of a different kind, one that transported us into a world that amused us in other ways – with a delightful menu inspired by the cuisines of Denmark and the continent, an array of beverages – including alcoholic ones, as the parasols that provided shade on the tables that spilled onto the sidewalk testified to, pastries and desserts. Tivoli in Singapore wasn’t so much there to amuse us in the way that the gardens from which it got its name would have done, but provided amusement to our palates. It was a coffee house, what would today be called a cafe. Back in the 1970s, coffee houses were everywhere, appealing to young and old in search of a banana split, a vanilla milk shake, or perhaps an iced coffee, which could be savoured in the cool comfort of the air-conditioned premises that attracted many. The Tivoli, which opened in 1971, perhaps drawing on the inspiration that its name provided, was the coffee houses of all coffee houses, serving its selection of food and beverages twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. By day, it drew couples on an outing, families out shopping, and by night it was a popular watering hole, attracting a regular crowd of locals, expatriates, and the boisterous men serving with the Australian and New Zealand forces in Singapore. The Tivoli Coffee House was then located in a two storey building, one that was purposed built as a car showroom that housed Orchard Motors, the distributor for the General Motors (GM) brands such as Vauxhall and Chevolet, converted into a shopping complex around 1970 and named The Orchard. Located at the corner of Orchard Road and Bideford Road, on which the original wing of the Paragon now stands, the shopping complex was right next to Fitzpatrick’s supermarket and housed some upmarket shops including Charles Jourdan, The Elizabeth Arden Salon, Diethelm Furniture, Jade Palace Restaurant and Thong Sia, as well as a branch of Robina Department Store, which made an unsuccessful attempt at breaking into the local retail scene in the 1970s.

The Paragon stands in place of The Orchard which was torn down in 1980.

The Orchard Shopping Complex seen in the mid 1970s.

The area where The Orchard stood as seen today.

Since I am on this area of Orchard Road, I would also touch a little on what the rest of the area would had been like back then. Moving down towards Scotts Road from The Orchard, which was demolished in 1980, along with neighbouring Fitzpatrick’s which was fronted by a opened car park. The Promenade Shopping Centre was built on the land occupied by Fitzpatrick’s, and was later torn down to accommodate an extension to the Paragon (this clarifies a comment posted by a reader, JC Carino, who lived in the area on a previous post on my impressions of Orchard Road of the 1970s). Right next to this was a petrol kiosk, which can been seen in the photograph labelled “Photo 4″ on Peter Chan’s post on on the petrol stations in Singapore’s CBD on the Good Morning Yesterday blog. This was in front of a squarish looking building which housed the Phone Book Company, which published the telephone directory and the Yellow Pages.

Fitzpatrick's Supermarket (Source: http://www.singas.co.uk)

The new wing of the Paragon stands where Fitzpatricks and later, the Promenade, stood.

The Tong Building which houses the Rolex Centre stands where a petrol kiosk and the Phone Book Company once stood.

Next was the road that was Mount Elizabeth and Champion Motors in a building that was similar to the car showroom that became The Orchard, which later also housed Orchard Motors together with Champion Motors (I think both were owned by the same company) which was the distributor for Volkswagen then. Where Champion Motors stood, Lucky Plaza now stands. Right next to this was of course the distinctive Chinese architecture inspired CK Tang building, home of CK Tang, which then opened six days a week and never on a Sunday. Here now stands part of Tang Plaza, which occupies the entire stretch up to Scotts Road, also displacing the old curved row of two shop houses that stood at the corner of Orchard and Scotts Roads.

Lucky Plaza stands in place of a car showroom Champion Motors - a dealer for Volkswagen cars in those days, as well as also housing Orchard Motors after it shifted out of the building that was converted into The Orchard.

The part of Tang Plaza where the distinctive CK Tang building stood.

Orchard Road at Scotts Road Junction: The curved row of shop houses next to C K Tang can be seen on the left. On the right side we can see the former Wisma Indonesia (short white building) on which stands Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann Building (where the Mont D'Or Cake Shop was) on which stands Ngee Ann City and Mandarin Hotel under construction (Source: http://www.singas.co.uk).

The Singapore Marriott Hotel and the Tang Plaza occupies the corner of Scotts and Orchard Roads where the curved row of two storey shop houses stood.

Looking down the area today, we see a totally different Orchard Road, one dominated by the cold modern steel and glass fronted shopping malls that have sprung up in place – it amazes me to think  that it wasn’t really that long ago that Orchard Road had a very different and perhaps more homely feel about it …








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,313 other followers

%d bloggers like this: