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Meandering Along the Banks of the Singapore River, Singapore

25th of October 2013

My final metrotrek in Singapore. Along the Singapore River I find plenty of bridges and bad Karma. But I do have a lucky face.

  • Location: Singapore River, Singapore
  • Start or End: Loop Walk. Most obvious start from transportation is Clarke Quay Train Station.
  • Length: 4.5km (2.8mi)
  • Grade: Easy. Paved the whole way. A nice flat stroll along the river.

After my walk around the Civic District this morning I am starting to get hungry. I will definitely need some sustenance before a walk along the banks of the Singapore River. Luckily for me, I am currently walking along Boat Quay (southern bank of the Singapore River) where there are plenty of alfresco dinning opportunities and also many touts attempting to lure me into their establishments. I am sucked into one restaurant on the bank of the Singapore River, not by the tout, but by the pictures of delicious prawns (aka shrimps). As this is my last walk in Singapore I really think I should treat myself, so I do ...

I am usually not one to take pictures of meals, but this was definitely the most expensive meal so far, so I thought I better capture it. A plate of prawns, prawn noodle and a Tiger Beer to wash it down really hit the spot. It was really nice to enjoy a good meal in the shade while watching the tourist bumboats chug along the Singapore River. My wallet is lighter than I expected though.

After the prawns settled I set out on my walk upstream along the southern bank of the Singapore River. After the many restaurants and bars of Boat Quay the first points of interest are the Elgin Bridge, which I have visited previously, and the Coleman Bridge, which sits in front of the Old Hill Street Police Station (which I also visited previously).

As this is a walk along a river I dare say bridges are going to be most common points of interest. Some of these bridges will be interesting, while others not so interesting. I think the Coleman Bridge falls into the latter category. The only picture I took of the bridge is below.

Notice that the Coleman Bridge isn't even the subject of the photo, but the Old Hill Street Police Station is? Probably because the Old Hill Street Police Station is cool, while the Coleman Bridge is boring in comparison. Even though I wasn't blown away by the Coleman Bridge it does have some interesting history. The first Coleman Bridge dates way back to 1840, with successive bridges built in 1865 and 1886. Some of the features of the 1886 bridge such as the lamp posts, arches and iron railings are preserved in the current Coleman Bridge constructed in 1990. The Coleman Bridge is also the junction between Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, my next destination.

Clarke Quay has a history dating back to the early 1800's when it developed as a busy seaport. The area became packed with a godowns (warehouses) and shophouses, some of which have been restored and given a retina burning paintjob.

Clarke Quay is known as a retail and entertainment district with many bars and restaurants to choose from. It must get much busier at night because at lunch time there is hardly anyone around, just a few tourists getting about in the restored bumboats. As I walk along Clarke Quay I come to the next bridge on the Singapore River, the Read Bridge, also known as the Malacca Bridge. The Read Bridge is named after William Henry McLeod Read, a Scottish businessman who was responsible for the organisation of Singapore's first public library and first regatta. Regatta .. Sailing .. Water .. Bridge? Maybe that is why he had a bridge named after him? Too many degrees of separation maybe. Not sure if too many sailing boats would fit under the Read Bridge though. Possibly he was into rowboat regattas or racing bumboats along the Singapore River? I would definitely go on a tourist bumboat if it had a V8 outboard motor stuck to the back of it. Maybe I should suggest this brilliant idea to the Singapore tourism board.

The next bridges on the list are the Ord Bridge and the Clemenceau Bridge. But before reaching these I have to navigate around a large construction site on the southern bank of the river. The construction is due to the new Fort Canning MRT Station and the Downtown Line. I am all in support of new train infrastructure, but it definitely was not the most enjoyable part of the walk.

Because of the construction a section of the southern bank is not accessible and therefore the next bridge, the Ord Bridge, cannot be viewed unless I go through the temporary pathway through the construction work. I will check out the Ord Bridge on my way back then. So I walk away from the river, around the construction and meet the river again at the Clemenceau Bridge, the start of Robertson Quay.

Robertson Quay is the largest of Singapore's three Quays and another retail and entertainment district. And I thought Clarke Quay was quite. In Robertson Quay I could hear a piece of felt pressing lightly against a cotton ball. There is absolutely no one around. Robertson Quay must be like Clarke Quay, pumping at night but nothing during the day. However, there is definitely something "loud" in Robertson Quay ... the Alkaff Bridge.

The Alkaff Bridge is colourful to say the least. I think they stole the colour scheme from the Clarke Quay shophouses, or is it vice-a-versa? Originally the Alkaff Bridge was just a bridge shaped like a tongkang (a light boat once used along the Singapore River) and painted a battleship grey. However, when Filipino artist Pacita Abad gazed upon it from the close-by Singapore Tyler Print Institute, she saw a blank canvas. And Singapore’s ArtBridge is the result. Definitely my favourite bridge so far.

Further upstream along Robertson Quay are the Pulau Saigon Bridge and the Robertson Bridge.

Ok ... I have had enough bridges for today. The quietness around Robertson Quay is deafening and I doubt I will find anything that interesting if I head further upstream. I could be wrong, but I think it is time to stop my journey inland and head back down the Singapore River on the north bank.

As I made my way back along the Robertson Bridge I was amazed how quite it was for a built up area. Multi-story buildings are everywhere but there isn't a single person in sight, that is, apart from a Sikh Indian guy standing alone on the other side of the Robertson Bridge. As I walked past he said hello in a very happy tone, so politely I said hello back. Then he said "You have lucky face". What the hell is a lucky face? I have had plenty of people say things about my face, mostly derogatory, but "lucky" has never been an observation. I guess it is a compliment. Not knowing what to do I just smile, say thank you, and walk on, but he continues repeat "You have lucky face" as I walk away. Weird? He stops when a tall Sikh Indian guy with a blue turban exits a nearby building and instead talks to him in another language.

Anyway, it is decided ... I have a lucky face. With my lucky face I head down stream along the north bank of the Singapore River. I am starting to get a bit tired so I have a rest on a park bench under the shade of a tree. As I sit relaxing, watching the Singapore River I notice out the corner of my eye the tall Sikh Indian guy with a blue turban coming down the path I just walked. Wonder if he thinks I have a lucky face? Well guess what? Yes, he does think I have a lucky face and for some reason sits beside me and starts analysing my face and head. What the hell is going on? He starts babbling on about how the wrinkles in my forehead will bring great wealth and some other part of my face indicating that I will soon find love. What is this guy on about? Out of politeness I just smile, nod and say “Oh really, I hope your right”. He had a very strong accent so I couldn't understand half the things he was saying ... something about good Karma I think. This guy has to be either a screw-loose, a religious nutter or a scammer.

Then it got even weirder, he took out a piece of paper and then asked me to write down my age and my favourite colour. This is definitely odd, but I will play along. I wrote down 32 and blue. Both true. He then asks me to scrunch up the piece of paper and give it back to him. He then gives me back the scrunched up piece of paper and guesses my age and favourite colour after asking a few basic and unobtrusive questions, like where I am from, what I do and how many in my family. Neat trick, but not that amazing, the majority of my clothing is blue and getting my correct age is good, but really just an educated guess.

The tall Sikh Indian guy with the blue turban, and now mind reader, then asked "Now I would like a piece of paper in return". Fair enough, so I give him back the scrunched up piece of paper that I wrote on. He didn't look impressed. That wasn't the paper he wanted. He wanted paper money. So it is official, this guy is a scammer. I don't dare get my wallet out, but ferret in my pocket for a few coins, probably about 20 cents, and state "This is all I have, and this is worth much more than your little trick". Now he is definitely not impressed and suddenly my face isn't so lucky. As he storms off he shouts at me "Bad Karma! ... you have bad Karma!". Great that's all I need, I'm catching a plane tomorrow. What a dickhead.

Astonished by what just happened I continue to sit at the park bench and wait awhile. I am a quick walker so I don't what to catch up to Bad Karma guy.

As I am now walking along the same stretch of the Singapore River, just on the other bank, the view is a little different but the sights are still the same: the Pulau Saigon Bridge; the Alkaff Bridge; and the Clemenceau Bridge. But this time I get to see the Ord Bridge. Unfortunately, due to all the construction around the Ord Bridge I need to cross back to the other bank via the Clemenceau Bridge, around the construction (yes I get to enjoy that section again) and through a temporary bridge which leads finally to the Ord Bridge. For some reason I didn't bother to take a picture. I guess I wasn't that impressed after having to deal with construction and people saying I have a lucky face, then taking it back and giving me bad Karma. Maybe it's the heat and humidity but I have had enough of the Singapore River. I think it is almost beer o'clock.

Downstream of the Ord Bridge is the north-side of Clarke Quay and a staggering about the restaurants and bars. This place must be swarming at night, but at mid-afternoon there are very few people about. Mainly just restaurant staff setting up for tonight's crowd. From Clarke Quay the walk takes me past the Old Hill Street Police Station, the Read Bridge, the Elgin Bridge and Parliament House, all sights I have seen today or on previous walks. But my final destination, Raffles Landing Site, is new for me.

As the name suggests, Raffles Landing Site is the point where Sir Stamford Raffle, the "Father of Modern Singapore", is said to have first set foot on Singaporean soil on the 28th of January 1819.

Is it a little ironic that I finish my metrotrekking in Singapore at the spot where modern Singapore began? Actually, I'm not sure if that is irony or just a coincidence? Anyway, I have finished metrotrekking Singapore at the geographical location where many of the sights and history I have experienced all began.

It is also a bit of a coincidence that on both my first and last walk in Singapore I experienced the worst of the Singaporean people. On my first walk I was called stupid and spat at and on my last walk I was given bad Karma. But apart from those two episodes the people of Singapore were all very pleasant to me.

And that ends my adventure in Singapore. Sure I only scratched the surface of Singapore, but I think I have experienced as much as my legs could handle. Hope to be back one day and hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventures.

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