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.


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

Stay Me, Stay You at the Holiday Inn

7 09 2010

I seem to have had some wonderful experiences of late, first a trip to Hong Kong courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and more recently, a night’s stay in the deluxe suite at the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre. This latter was most kindly provided by the Holiday Inn, as part of their global marketing campaign which revolves around the theme of “Stay You”, which is all about staying you while staying at the Holiday Inn. The 319 room Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre is one that has already been quite well established in Singapore, having opened in 1985 (that’s 25 years ago already!) as the Holiday Inn Park View, and has had a refreshing makeover at a cost of S$25 million as part of a global re-launch of the already well established Holiday Inn brand. The refurbishment, carried out with the aim of putting the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre alongside the top hotels in the Orchard Road area, has given a refreshingly new look and feel to the entire establishment. What I really liked about it is the excellent location which brings one close to the action on Orchard Road, Singapore’s main shopping street, but yet is set just off where the hustle and bustle is across from the lush greenery of the Istana which provides a sense of being in a world away from the madness of the city – a perfect location to recharge.

The Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre: right close to the action on Orchard Road, and yet in a location in which one can easily forget where one is ...

Spending a day in the very comfortable and expansive suite certainly allowed me to “get away”, something that I guess I needed to do for some time, whilst certainly allowing me to just “stay me”. The view from the suite was really wonderful, looking across the Central Expressway (CTE) and Cavenagh Road to the wooded grounds of the Istana, not only provided me with a sense of calm, but also with a trip back in time to the area now disfigured by the construction of the much needed CTE, that I had known from the journeys on the school bus which took me from kindergarten in Cambridge Road to Toa Payoh. The bus would take a detour via Cavenagh Road turning right into Clemenceau Avenue, before heading to Toa Payoh to drop a kindergarten mate, my best friend Eddie at a row of terrace houses along Clemenceau Avenue, close to what had been its junction with Orchard Road. Much has changed with the CTE cutting a swath through a Clemenceau Avenue which had the likes of Sands House, the home of the Scouts Association of Singapore, and the Highway Inn among its well known landmarks. I guess I should really devote another post to this.

he gorgeous deluxe suite from which I was able to take in the excellent view of the lush Istana greenery, as well as take a trip back in time.

The calm setting of the Holiday Inn Orchard City Centre ... just a stone's throw away from the busy Orchard Road but yet far enough from it and set amidst the greenery surrounding the Istana that makes you feel that are in another world.

What I guess made it a really great stay were the personal touches that were added all around: a green rubber ducky for the bath (green as part of the Holiday Inn’s branding image); a bowl of candy coated chocolates; the arrangement on the coffee table which included a luxurious looking fruit basket, a bottle of red wine, a plate of chocolates and a book with photographs of old Singapore (I guess going with the main subject matter found in my blog).

Nice touches were all around ... a rubber ducky for the bath ...

Candy coated chocolates to satisfy those with a sweet tooth ...

and personal touches to enhance the entire "Stay You" experience ...

As part of the overall experience, I had also had the privilege of dining at the two food and beverage outlets that the hotel has, the Tandoor North Indian Restaurant, as well as the Window on the Park Restaurant, and along with this, I had Club Privileges extended to me allowing me to make use of the wonderful Executive Lounge on Level 3. The Executive Lounge provides a cosy area where one can relax, surf the net, have faxes sent, and best of all, indulge in before dinner cocktails which can be supplemented by a selection from the excellent spread of finger food, which all in all is an excellent concept for the man on the move. Breakfast is also served at the lounge if one chooses to have breakfast in a private and exclusive setting, or alternatively, at the Window on the Park Restaurant, which provides a wider spread in its breakfast buffet.

The Executive Lounge on level 3 ...

offers finger food and cocktails in the evenings for those with Club Privileges and is popular with executives staying at the hotel.

The highlight of the dining experience for me was at the Tandoor where I had dinner, which offers an excellent selection of breads and well marinated meats cooked in the tandoor as well as some delectable Northern Indian curries. For those who are at a loss for a choice from the menu, set menus are also offered which provides a selection of the best dishes served in thoughtfully sized portions, which for me was completed by a serving of the not too sweet (as is often the case) serving of nutty and creamy Kulfi. To top it all, the service provided by the very attentive staff was excellent. Lunch the next day was a buffet at the Window on the Park, which provides excellent views of the greenery surrounding the Istana. While the restaurant was small, and inadvertently crowded due to the ongoing one-for-one buffet promotion, it was an experience I enjoyed for the excellent attention and service provided by the staff in the restaurant.

The Tandoor provides a wonderful setting for a North Indian culinary experience ...

The set dinner menu offered an excellent mix of North Indian breads and dishes in well thought of portions.

While staying at the hotel, I also had a chance to chill-out by the roof top swimming pool out. The pool was really nice and doesn’t just offer a refreshing dip to the hotel’s guests, but a wonderful place to relax and recharge. Set in the well landscaped private and quiet setting of what is the secluded roof top of the hotel, it takes one away into a world that seems far from the madness of nearby Orchard Road. Next to the pool, a gym also provides a wonderful place in which to work out – something I might have thought about doing if not for the call of the very comfortable suite.

The seclusion of the roof top swimming pool offers a quiet setting to relax and recharge.

A view of the roof top pool with the wading pool in the foreground.

The view from the comfortable poolside chairs ...

Even the little creatures found the pool a wonderful place to stay themselves.

Overall I must say that my stay at the Holiday Inn was certainly a “Stay Me” experience, one in which I was able to catch up on rest, relax by the pool, and feast on the flavours and aroma of spices of Northern India right in the heart of the city. Best of all, I was able to also take a trip back to my childhood as well as do one of my favourite things – catch the glorious sunrise from the window of the suite!

Even with the rain clouds that had gathered, mother nature obliged with a glorious sunrise ...

As part of the global re-launch campaign the Holiday Inn is running a photography competition with some fantastic prizes. As the rebranding as mentioned revolves around the theme of “Stay You”, i.e. about people “being themselves” when they stay at the hotel, the Holiday Inn, is looking for pictures of people being themselves any place. The grand prize is a trip to Bali for 4 (winner + 3 friends/family members) and US$1200 spending money. Hurry to submit you entries – the contest ends on 12 September 2010 at 11.59 pm.