In search of love in the old GPO

14 04 2017

I loved the old GPO. It was a post office like none other in Singapore. Its main hall, which you entered after a climb up a short flight of stairs, was grand and airy. Stretching almost the entire length of the building, the hall was also where the long postal counter was found. That ran along the hall’s length and held the distinction of being the longest in the world.  Like all old buildings, the GPO – now the Fullerton Hotel has its collection of stories, including ones that tell of romantic liaisons.

In search of romance – a civil servant, played by Isabelle Chiam, gets everyone at the Minsitry of Finance involved.

An opportunity to discover the romances of the past, and also the building’s colourful history – in a fun and amusing way – presents itself with “A Fullerton Love Story Tour”.  Led by a resident tour guide, participants are taken on a search for romance – not of their own – but between a love struck postman at the GPO, played by Edward Choy, and his love interest – a civil servant with the Ministry of Finance housed in the same building – played by Isabelle Chiam. Participants also become part of the story as they move through various historic spots that include the Singapore Club, Fullerton Square, the Presidential Suite and the location of the Fullerton Building’s former lighthouse.

The love struck postman, played by Edward Choy.

View from the lighthouse towards what used to be the harbour.

Tours, which will be held from 8pm to 9.30 pm on 29 April, 6 May and 13 May 2017, are available for booking at http://afullertonlovestorytour.peatix.com. Priced at $78 nett for adults and $58 nett for children between 6 to 11, the tours will be followed by desserts at The Courtyard crafted by Executive Pastry Chef, Enrico Pezzelato.

The resident tour guide.

Besides the tour, which is being held in conjunction with the Singapore Heritage Festival 2017, the Fullerton Hotel is also bring back the TENG Ensemble for a showcase of brand new Singapore-inspired works. The showcase, “Where the River Always Flows II”, will include songs by P. Ramlee and Zubir Said and two East-West pieces specially commissioned  by the Fullerton Heritage.  Tickets for the concert, which will be held at the East Garden on 29 April 2017 at 7 pm, are available at $3 each at http://wheretheriveralwaysflows2.peatix.com.  More information on the concert and the tour can be found at the Fullerton Heritage’s website.

Enchanted Garden – one of five desserts guests on the tour will get to choose from.

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The lost waterfront

19 09 2013

The former waterfront at Collyer Quay is certainly one place which exemplifies how Singapore has transformed over the years, discarding much of what made Singapore a Singapore which was full of character and flavour, to the sea of glass, steel and concrete Singapore has become today.

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The waterfront we inherited from our colonial masters was one of wonderfully designed buildings which might have rivaled Shanghai’s Bund. Even in 1971 after the Overseas Union Shopping Centre (see image above) did spoil some of that flavour, it still retained much of its original character. Then, the three “skyscrapers” that came up in the 1950s: the modern looking 15 storey Shell House (1959); the Bank of China Building (1954); and the Asia Insurance Building (1954) (out of picture), still dominated. It was however the grand looking edifices – several of them attributed to architecture firm Swan and MacLaren which designed many notable buildings from our past, which would have been noticed. This included the Maritime Building (former Union Building) with its tower and the HongKong Bank Chambers (1924) next to it. The Fullerton Building (1928) which housed the General Post Office also wouldn’t have been missed.

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The beginning of the end for the old waterfront came at the end of the decade with the demolition of the HongKong Bank building notable not just for its English Renaissance style design, but also for its stained glass skylight over its main banking hall and huge bronze entrance doors, in 1979. The Maritime Building, built originally for the Union Insurance Society of Canton and which once housed the Far East headquarters of the Royal Air Force, soon followed in the early 1980s. What we do see today is a towering skyline of glass and steel against which the surviving “skyscrapers” of the 1950s are now dwarfed. The buildings along old waterfront which did survive are the Fullerton Building (Fullerton Hotel), Clifford Pier (part of Fullerton Bay Hotel), Bank of China Building, Customs House, and the Asia Insurance Building (Ascott Raffles Place).

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Yesterday Once More at the GPO

2 03 2013

Take a stroll through a Singapore we have forgotten about through a series of postcards on display at The Fullerton Hotel. The postcards are part of a collection of 500 that were donated to the Singapore Philatelic Museum in July 2006 by renowned philatelist, Professor Cheah Jin Seng. The postcards date back to the pre-war years and go as far back as to 1893. The exhibition, Yesterday Once More, was officially opened yesterday by Mr. Sam Tan, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

A photo of one of the postcards on display showing the former Orchard Road Market (where Orchard Point is today) in its early days before an extension at the front took away the little square and fountain. The fountain can now be found at Raffles Hotel.

A photo of one of the postcards on display showing the former Orchard Road Market (where Orchard Point is today) in its early days before an extension at the front took away the little square and fountain. The fountain can now be found at Raffles Hotel.

Yesterday Once More which is being held as part of The Fullerton Heritage’s Art in the City Programme. Yesterday Once More and is organised in collaboration with The Singapore Philatelic Museum, not only takes one back in time but also provides an appreciation of the transformation Singapore has seen through the last century. The highlights are the parts of the collection which show how much areas such as Orchard Road and the area around the old waterfront where The Fullerton is located has changed.

Detail of another postcard showing an aerial view of the city. The present National Museum can be seen in the foreground as well as the old YMCA Building.

Detail of another postcard showing an aerial view of the city. The present National Museum can be seen in the foreground as well as the old YMCA Building.

Postcards which were first used as an economical and convenient means to communicate, evolved to the picture postcards which in the days before the advent of the internet, served to document the tales of travellers. In time, these also served to archive places, faces and events. It is probably appropriate that the exhibition is also held at The Fullerton, which older Singaporeans fondly remember as the General Post Office or GPO – a special guest at the launch was Mr Subramaniam, independent Singapore’s very first Postmaster General, who is in his 90s. He was a treat to speak to, having many tales of his time first as the Director of the Post Office, and after separation, as the Postmaster General, to share.

Singapore's first Postmaster General, Mr. Subramaniam who is in his 90s.

Singapore’s first Postmaster General, Mr. Subramaniam who is in his 90s.

Yesterday Once More runs until 30 April 2013 and is being held at The Fullerton’s East Garden Foyer.

More photos from the launch: 

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