Sunday, September 30, 2012

Not-So Grad Trip: National Arts Council Building & Fort Canning Park

Fort Canning Park was again another landmark I did not made for my initial trip list. Even though I have noticed of such place on the map before the trip, I excluded the chance of going there as I thought I would arrange all those parks, gardens or greens in another trip on another day. But in the end, when I reached Singapore National Arts Council building, I reckoned I still have some time to spare for the extra miles and therefore my exploration.

Anyway, let’s start the introduction with the National Arts Council (NAC) building. It could be recognized by its colourful window panes and from the inside was the high ceiling with transparent ceiling. Due to the fact that it was a Sunday that day, the building was rather deserted. For some extra information, NAC is the organization that organized events like Singapore Arts Festival and Singapore Writers Festival. They provided the platform for those who are inclined for these fields to perform and at the same time nurtured these field in Singapore.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

Right next to the NAC building, it was obvious what was that. Yes, it is Fort Canning Park. This park surrounds a hill and supposedly the nearest ‘bump’ to the central of Singapore.  It was known as Bukit Larangan before British colonialism as it was believed to be a palace site for an ancient king in Singapore. Then when Sir Stamford Raffles came in the 1800s the place was explored and some ruins were indeed found. Archaeologist had since did quite some research on it and deduced the existence of some kind of trading hub on the site before. After Stamford Raffles came, the hill was named Government Hill and later Fort Canning as the gate was placed and named after Lord Canning, Governor-General and first Viceroy of India.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

First thing when I enter a park which I had never checked the map before,was to check the map and take a note in case I got lost somewhere in between. Interestingly, the park was designed to lead different routes of your choice. They placed interesting markers along different route to illustrate history of different time and this interested me, seriously.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

After the map, what I thought was to start the tour and guess what started the whole thing better than a flight of staircases after I have missed King Edward VII Hall’s staircase so much. For your information, I do grumbled to myself a bit before conquer the whole stretch, not forgetting the temptation to just walked the other way into another themed trail.

Half Day Trip in Singapore

The last step of the staircases and I ‘Ahh!’ before realizing what was in front of me. It was not a top of the hill kind of scenery. Instead, it was a building with the word ‘Raffles Terrace’ on it. In front of the terrace, it was the flagstaff. This is the place where Raffles stayed of course and hence the name of Government Hill.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in Singapore

On the way, of course, there were greenery and some of the walls of the trail were actually plated with bricks that illustrated history. At some point, you get to see canons somewhere in the middle of the path. This is a fort, right? Well, apparently it is part of the highlight so… yeap. And as I walked along the path, I reached a big building with certain old things displayed inside.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

Next to the main building, were these little ‘animals’ on the ground. At first I thought it was infested by some alien or strange species, but it turned out to be some tiny sculpture for some art project going on. I was particularly attracted by the feathered mushroom anyway…

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

After some time, I walked into the building and found out it was the Fort Canning Centre. There are one souvenir shop kind of thing inside. At the same time, they provided pamphlets in four languages. I had my lunch there, which was my pre-packed sandwiches while enjoying the view and wind from the upper storey.

Half Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

On the other side of the centre, I walked to meet another grassy area. One side was with this giant coin and I could see people do enjoy taking photos with big coins. On the other side was this small shelter-like objects which I checked and found no landmark sign of it. Probably, it was some common shed.


Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

And after a quite long journey, I finally arrived at the real Fort Canning. The heavy doors were still there, still heavy.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

I walked around inside the gate and I found this tiny hole which I can squeeze through somehow. I wondered if it is legal to go in so I checked around before sneaking in and found myself facing this flight of staircase with the width of the stair was barely more than my shoulder width. Brilliant, this adventure was starting to sound like an adventure. So, of course, I continued my hike up.

Half Day Trip in Singapore

Well, if I had wished for some splendid secret passageway, I would be rather disappointed, because it was the roof of the gate and it did not house any treasure (not any that I’m aware of, at least). But the good thing was that I could have the fort by myself and overlook for quite a distance from the gate, which is cool!

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

At one corner of the grassy area, was this building, The Battle Box. Apparently you can get to see many things in there but I skipped it. I will find a day to go back there for a look. It was due to my initial confusion. I thought The Battle Box will be something square-ish or at least something that is small. And I mistook it as the second picture, shame on me, yeah? Yes, I do feel funny when I came to think of it.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

After seeing I have explored the inner ground, I planned to walk over the plains and out to the main road, which enabled me to walk pass James Brooke Napier Memorial. I thought it was some weird decoration in the garden as its style was neither a fort nor a real castle. From there, you could look up to the centre and see how high up it is from below.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

Another part of the journey, and I could see this dome. There was no wonder why I thought the memorial was a decoration because along the same plain, there was another one with a dome-shaped roof. Such inconsistency in design did make me wonder what kind of odd decoration it was. And of course, I was wrong again. That two thing, turned out to have its own meaning. Not that it was for special historical meaning, but it was for resting, the Cupolas was actually designed by George Drumgoole Coleman who was a architectural consultant to Raffles. His work included land reclamation and constructions of landmarks. Being and Irish, Coleman seemed to have a certain affinity to Armenian culture (my own opinion), as he worked on the construction of Armenian Church as well. Check out my trip at the Armenian Church.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in Singapore

Not only that, the staircase at the side of the grass area, were plates commemorating soldiers who have fallen.

Half Day Trip in Singapore

As I walked to the edge, I could see these. First I saw the curious escalator under the sun right next to a small garden roundabout. It was truly steaming hot and it was not working by the way. Down there were some flora, of course and the road led to the museum, how wonderful. But for that day, my adventure stopped thus far.

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore

The Gothic Gate stood next to the green, where the it used to be a Christian cemetery. Of course, IHS stands for Iota Heta Sigm, which is the first three alphabet of Jesus name in Greek. (Well, I guess I did learn something from the history classes – The Fish Story).

Half Day Trip in Singapore

Part of Fort Canning Green, which is basically is just the plain in front of the centre and next to those cemeteries nearby…

Half Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in SingaporeHalf Day Trip in Singapore
Half Day Trip in Singapore

Now, let’s check back with the highlights recommended by Wikipedia and see what I’ve missed:

  • Spice Garden
  • Gothic Gates
  • Fort Canning Green
  • Cupolas
  • James Brooke Napier Memorial
  • Fort Canning Centre
  • Underground Far East Command Centre (The Battle Box): Saw it but haven’t explore
  • Sally Port
  • Fort Wall and Gate
  • 9-Pound Cannon
  • Raffles' House
  • Keramat Iskandar Shah
  • Archaeological Excavation Site

References:

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Canning

2) http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/about_us/history/birth_of_saf/v03n02_history.html

3) http://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/index.php?option=com_visitorsguide&task=parks&id=16&Itemid=75

4) http://www.singaporevr.com/vrs/FortCanning/FortCanningGate.html

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