Water has been a significant influence on Singapore’s history in commerce, historical and social settings that interweave with the lives of Singaporeans. As the country progresses and one’s preoccupation with the city becomes entrenched, city-dwellers tend to forget that we are living on an island surrounded by water. Like gazing into vast skies, seas and lakes are places we pause and reflect on our lives. Thus today, Singapore Snaps would like to slow our pace and take a breather with our readers by sharing images that evoke carefree memories of moments that we enjoyed with our friends and families, playing by the water.
Top photo: After a day of play, Meng Wong captured the delight of friends sharing hot satay right off the charcoal grill, and ketupat (hanging on the horizontal pole), both signature Malay food in Singapore. Photo: Meng Wong
Be it an excursion with primary classmates or family weekend outing, a good number of us would have spent some warm, sunny afternoons by the beach with friends or families. Along the East Coast and Changi beaches, families can be seen swimming, cycling, picnicking and cooking by the barbecue pits. Photographs are usually used to capture good fun times. Many of our contributors’ photos depict the activities enjoyed in the 60s and 70s, like having a dip in the warm water, enjoying the home-made food and playing along the shore. These are actually not far from what modern Singapore families enjoy till this day as well.
Have you ever glide down a long water slide, almost flying horizontally and ending in a big splash in the pool at the bottom? Some of you might remember the huge and colourful slide at Big Splash. The waterpark was built in 1976 and had a 7-storeys water slide consisting 5 separate lanes of different heights. That slide was even visible to drivers along the East Coast Park highway. The owners had revamped Big Splash a number of times, and the slides had ceased operations. Today, Big Splash has transformed into a lifestyle hub, which hosts family-friendly activities and houses several food establishments and shops, continuing to bring families together.
One of the popular spots that appeared in many of the photos contributed at SG Snaps was the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the oldest tropical botanical garden in the Straits Settlement. Families were seen enjoying the serene views, strolling along the lake and feeding the swans. The Swan Lake was given its name because of the swans inhabiting the lake, with the first pair of beautiful mute swans imported from Amsterdam. The photos above shows a black swan (Cygnus atratus). This lake is considered to be the oldest ornamental water feature in Singapore, constructed in 1866. Early this year, in February 2014, the Singapore Botanic Gardens submitted a nomination dossier to the UNESCO World Heritage Board, in hope of receiving Singapore’s first UESCO world heritage site. The decision could be announced in June 2015. It will, perhaps, be an acknowledgement of our rich heritage, a gift of nature, during the nation’s 50th anniversary as Singapore comes of age.
Kelongs, shown in the above photo, are a romantic reminder of Singapore’s beginning as a fishing village. Kelongs are wooden platforms built with nibong palms, primarily for fishing purposes although bigger structures serve as houses for families. With a net secured in the centre of the platform, batches of fish would be caught simply by raising the net. Families could enjoy a hearty seafood meal for a weekend dinner. You could even stay overnight at a kelong, fishing with your own fishing line, and sleeping under the stars! During the late 2000s, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) led a reformation to increase the supply of fish for local consumption in the local fish farming industry. Well-educated and young urbanites were drawn to life by the sea. They redeveloped some of the remaining kelongs into fish farms with new knowledge and skills from the AVA. Some of the new kelong owners happily re-named themselves as aqua entrepreneurs and fulfilled their dreams to live by the sea.
The river brings life. Sir Stamford Raffles established Singapore as the first free port in the region, allowing free passage of ships through the Strait of Singapore, thus attracting trade activities between India and China, and the British. Businesses developed around the quay in 1823 and subsequent developments continued up-river along the banks of Clarke Quay, Robertson Quay, and further upstream. Around the 1970s, the river was carrying the debris of the increasing settlers who were living around the water, as well as from businesses and developments around it. Pollution levels could be detected by the whiff of the nose! The government conducted extensive cleaning to restore life to the waters. By the 1980s, the old quayside commercial enterprises gave way to recreational activities such as popular al fresco dining and “live music” entertainment. Merging in the scenery of the trading boats of the past, happy paddlers could be seen riding in the colourful paddle boats along the waters teeming with life.
We have captured snapshots of life by the water. Hopefully, it will refresh your memories like the way water refreshes your body on a typical hot and sunny day. When was the last time you played by the water?
Written by Gracie Teo
Edited by Tan Wei Keong