Singapore: From Fishing Village to World Port City

Downtown with Fullerton Hotel. Photo by Richard Varr

Raffles Landing. Photo by Richard Varr

National Gallery Singapore. Photo by Richard Varr

When Singapore founder Sir Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company first landed on the small fishing village’s shores in 1819, he probably never imagined that Singapore would be the world port city it is today. In the city center, cross the Singapore River and span more than a century in history. The 19th and early 20th century structures of colonial Singapore – the Old Parliament House, iconic and historic Raffles Hotel, St. Andrew’s Cathedral and Chapel of the Chijmes, for example, sit on the river’s north bank. Cross a bridge to the river’s southern bank and stand under ultra-modern glass and steel office towers.

Photo by Richard Varr

Super trees of Gardens by the Bay. Photo by Richard Varr

Leaving Gardens by the Bay. Photo by Richard Varr

Singapore Botanic Gardens. Photo by Richard Varr

Long before Singapore’s skyscrapers took root, primary rain forests and mangrove swamps stretched across the island nation. Today, that raw environment remains in nature reserves including the Jurong Bird Park with more than 5,000 birds, the Singapore Zoo, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Botanic Gardens. In the city, Gardens by the Bay features a rainforest and waterfall inside one giant dome, and flower and plant gardens in another colossal domed structure. A ring of 16-story-high garden structures that generate solar power and collect rainwater dot the grounds, while a skywalk connects a few of these so-called super trees. The skywalk offers great views of the imposing three towers of the Marina Bay Sands hotel and mall complex.

High in the super trees. Walking along the skywalk, Gardens by the Bay. Photo by Richard Varr

Inside the Cloud Dome, Gardens by the Bay. Photo by Richard Varr

VIDEOS: Waterfalls inside the Cloud Dome at Gardens by the Bay, and the finale act of one of the bird shows at Jurong Bird Park.

Little India. Photo by Richard Varr

Arab Street store. Photo by Richard Varr

Whether haggling in a Chinatown market or stepping into an ornate Buddhist temple, Singapore’s Chinatown and Little India have a feel of the mother countries. Chinatown bustles with eateries and markets in the so-called shophouses, while golden-domed mosques and Buddhist temples topped with colorful figurines of Indian gods embellish the neighborhoods’ ethnic skylines. Arab Street is a must see for those who love to shop in a souk-style setting, with shops selling everything from sarongs and Islamic prayer mats to jewelry and perfume.

Bassorah Mall pedestrian street and Masjid Sultan Mosque, Kampong Glam, Singapore. Photo by Richard Varr

Clarke Quay at night. Photo by Richard Varr

Shophouses in Kampong Glam neighborhood. Photo by Richard Varr

Singapore’s unique shophouses, adorned with pastel hues, large shuttered windows, balconies and ochre roofs, are two- and three-story houses sharing sidewalls like row houses – Singapore style. Typical of the city’s unique early architectural style, they house markets, shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. Shophouses line the

Chinatown with shophouses. Photo by Richard Varr

bustling waterfront streets in both Clarke Quay and Boat Quay. They come in five or so different styles of shophouse architecture ranging from early 19th century traditional design to later art deco and ornate styles.


Outside ION Mall, Orchard Road. Photo by Richard Varr

What might look like a downtown boulevard or a business district with office towers is actually a megalopolis for shopping. Those skyscrapers and large buildings on Orchard Road are actually home to atriums lined with shops, seven-story malls, department stores and specialty and antique shops. The twin towers of Ngee Ann City, for example, house 30 restaurants and more than 120 stores. The Centrepoint has six floors and a basement of household goods, while Paranakan Place is lined with Baroque Chinese shophouse facades.

Photo by Richard Varr


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