A Different Time, A Different Place

8 12 2009

To many today, the Esplanade is the theatre complex that stares at you with, as the pair of insect eyes it resembles would appear to, at the North West corner of Marina Bay, near the mouth of the Singapore River. Locals also refer to the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay complex as the “Durian”, its exterior resembling the skin of the thorny pungent smelling fruit, which like the theatre complex aesthetically, is somewhat of an acquired taste.

The Esplanade of today: Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay

The Esplanade that Singaporeans of a generation and more ago would have related to would be the area now known as Esplanade Park, part of which was called Queen Elizabeth Walk, named in commemoration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Back then, it was a seaside promenade which provided Singaporeans with a view of the harbour that stretched from the mouth of the Singapore River near Anderson Bridge to the area near where the modern theatre complex stands today.

Postcard of the Esplanade of Yesteryear

The View of Esplanade Park today. The buildings of modern Singapore have outgrown the trees that line Queen Elizabeth Walk.

The Esplanade of yesteryear was a much quieter place, where it was common to see families out on a leisurely evening stroll. A pedestrian tunnel connected the Esplanade with Empress Place, which had enough parking lots then to accommodate visitors to the Esplanade. The Esplanade was also well known for the Satay Club, which had been relocated from its original location off Beach Road (I think it was on a street between the end of what was the Beach Road Camp and what is now Shaw Tower). The Satay Club, was a hawker centre, located at the end of the Esplanade, close to where the Theatres now stand and had a collection of Singapore’s Satay stalls. Adjacent to the Satay Club, there was an extension which Chinese food stalls were located where you could get arguably Sinagpore’s best Chendol, a dessert originating from Indonesia, which is a concoction of cocunut milk (santan), palm sugar (gula melaka), grass jelly, green coloured worm shaped jelly-like pieces of flour and red beans topped with shaved ice. Thinking about it makes my mouth water! The hawker centre made way for the construction of the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay in the mid 1990s.

The View from the Esplanade towards the open sea at the mouth of the Singapore River in 1976. The Merlion in the background, is seen at its original location at the mouth of the river.

The View in 2009. The Esplanade Bridge obscures the view which now looks out to the Marina South Area, land since reclaimed, on which the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort is being developed.

View towards the Singapore Harbour of Connaught Drive and the Esplanade in 1930 before the land reclamation on which Queen Elizabeth Walk now sits. (Source: Postcard from Mr Low Kam Hoong's collection)

The Merlion in its present location at Merlion Park on the seaward side of the Esplanade Bridge.

I have some memories as well of the original Satay Club along Beach Road. The street on which it was located was lined with low tables and stools and with the satay sellers barbequeing the satay over a flickering fire with a straw fan in one hand, occasionally fanning the flames. The stall holders back then, would keep piling sticks of satay on a plate in the centre of the table as you ate, counting the sticks only after the diners had finished eating their fill to work out how much to charge. There was once when some of us children decided to have a satay eating contest, and one of the boys consumed over a hundred sticks of satay at that one sitting – incurring his father’s wrath immediately after his father realised how much he had to pay for the meal!

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7 responses

13 12 2009
peter

Not sure whether u can remember this building at the Elizabeth Walk. It was semi-circle in shapre, one storey and perhpas the fore-runner of our foodcourt concept. The stalls were “compartmentalized”. In front of this building were the tables and chairs. The flooring were tiles made up of different colours; red, beige and oragneg like a chessboard. Last saw that in 1970, then we had the new SATAY CLUB.

13 12 2009
The wondering wanderer

Peter, I guess from what you described, that could very well be the hawker centre where the chendol stall was located at. I remember it being laid out in a sort of semi-circular fashion as well as the building being white in colour. Another thing I remember about the chendol stall – the chendol was served in bowls as opposed to the mugs that most stalls serving chendol then would use.

24 03 2010
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