Singapore’s Raffles is one of the icons of the colonial hotel where travelers got together and met with local high society and expatriates. Having been restored a few years ago, it still gives a feeling of luxury and excellence, a time travel after a busy day crossing Singapore numerous shopping centers. Drinking a Singapore Sling on the patio of the billard room is part of the trip, as well as visiting the nice little Raffle’s Museum. It would be a great source of inspiration for the team in charge of renovating the Cathay Hotel (today’s Peace Hotel), another legend in the world of colonial hotel.
Singapore race towards progress has left little colonial feeling apart from the central district North of the Singapore river. The colonial administration center development into museums has managed to keep the atmosphere, though only for a small part of the old city. Having not been to Singapore for many years, it is clear that a lot of efforts have been put into preservation of the remains, maybe trying to recapture the soul of the city after so much transformation.
In the middle of it, the Singapore crickets club is a reminder of old time, looking over sports fields similar to Old Shanghai’s recreation ground (today People Square). The facade of the club house has a shape similar to some of the mansions in old Shanghai.
Apart from colonial architecture that is typical from the remains of the British empire, Singapore also has a specific old architecture shared with Malacca, though in a much commercialized and much less peaceful version. Peranakan culture has Chinese culture from the early Chinese traders in Malaysia, Malaysian culture and western style all mixed into an architecture cocktail. The architecture mixing Western and Chinese style is also quite similar to the Kaiping area in Guangdong province (see pictures of Kai ping area) and in parts of Fujian province, in particular Xiamen and Gulangyu. Since a lot of the Chinese people in Singapore have Guandong and Fujian origin, it is not so surprising.
One of the nice surprises was Emerald Hill Road just off Orchad Road. This last bit of terraced houses near the city’s shopping mecca is like a time travel to the straight settlement. Although the houses at the bottom of the street have all been turned into bars and restaurant, the terraced houses with a Peranakan style of the upper part of the street have a feeling similar to some of the Shanghai’s lilong, giving a little peace and quiet. There is also an interesting mix of various period with typical Peranakan houses mixed with a few examples of Art Nouveau or even Art Deco houses. Unfortunately, only one street like those remains in the area… hopefully Shanghai will keep more of its small streets, while still managing it rise to modernity.