We recommend that you start this Route in the late afternoon. Begin at Clarke Quay MRT Station and follow the underground passage to Exit B, emerging at Merchant Road. Use the pedestrian crossing or overhead bridge to reach Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka at King Cheow Street.
Masjid (Mosque) Omar Kampong Melaka
This mosque is built on the site of the first mosque in Singapore. You can probably spot the gold dome of its minaret as you approach. Its main prayer hall is simply adorned, and has a quiet, dignified air. At one quiet corner of the mosque grounds, beside a small, high-roofed pavilion, you’ll find the Cemetery of the Founders. If you happen to visit at one of five daily prayer times, you may hear the bilal or muezzin calling the faithful. You’re invited to enter during more quiet times, but please be modestly dressed (no sleeveless tops or shorts are allowed) and remove your footwear before entering.
Tan Si Chong Su Temple
See those buildings just across the road? That’s Riverside Village. Before heading there, walk to the architecturally stunning Tan Si Chong Su Temple (6897), which is believed to have excellent feng shui (lucu or blessings).
Built in 1878 as the ancestral temple and community centre of the Tan clan in Singapore, this temple once housed a boy’s school. On its pitched roof, you’ll see a blazing pearl at the centre, surrounded by ceramic flowers and dancing dragons, symbols of celestial power and potency. Equally ornate, its richly decorated façade and intricate carvings of lotuses and phoenix are icons for endurance and eminence.
Step inside and you’ll discover more splendour: Gilt-covered decorative carvings, mouldings and murals; a pair of dragons with a gold pearl in their mouth flanking a pair of stone lions; fearsome door gods guarding against evil spirits.
Riverside Village and Riverside Point
After visiting these two places of calm and repose, perhaps you’re ready for some food. The ideal location to dine is waiting for you at Riverside Village and Riverside Point (7308).
Sitting across from Clarke Quay, Riverside Village was once a seedy underbelly of opium dens, brothels and secret societies. Today, it’s no longer the plague-infested squatter’s colony of a hundred and fifty years ago, but has a new lease of life with a handful of squares and malls. Interconnected by a second floor linkway, you’ll find excellent opportunity to shop, wine and dine.
Riverside Point’s highlight must surely be the Singapore History Museum on level 3. Its “Rivertales” exhibit perfectly suits the ambience of the area. Through a showcase of images and artifacts, audio drama and miniature models, the museum explores the history of Singapore through a myriad of stories revolving around the Singapore River, promising you a unique museum experience.
To learn how the nation grew from a small fishing village to an economic powerhouse in a short span of time, you must catch “The Singapore Story: Overcoming the Odds’ a 35min 3D show that traces the transformation of Singapore over time.
If you are game for food, try some of the restaurants here. Or if you’d like to work up a bigger appetite, saunter across Read Bridge to the river’s other bank. You can also use Ord Bridge if you are closer to that bridge. Both bridges will bring you to Clarke Quay.
Once you reach the other side of the river and you’ll find yourself at Clarke Quay, named after Sir Andrew Clarke, second Governor to Singapore. Once a major loading, unloading and redistribution point for cargo, this popular riverside village today thrives with commercial activity of a different nature.
Browse for antiques, old-world curios, gifts and knick-knacks here. Later, dine here and see how restaurants, casual eateries, hip cafes, jazz clubs, blues pubs and more, have breathed new life into the restored go-downs, warehouses and shophouses.
Here your choices are endless: Mediterranean, Thai, Chinese, Indian, American, fusion, continental, and not forgetting, local. Can’t resist the tantalizing aroma of satay? Then dig in to succulent morsels, accompanied perhaps by barbecued seafood and ice-cold fruit juice. Delicious! For something different, moored Chinese tongkangs or junks now revived as a floating pub and restaurant recreate an old-world ambience.
You’ll be mesmerized with an atmosphere made even more magical by the twinkling lights of push-carts laden with traditional goodies like kueh tutu (small steamed cake made of flour dough, with a peanut or coconut filling), herbal eggs and steamed peanuts. Stop to watch vanishing trades like “dragon beard candy” (noodle-like candy) being made - you’ll never see anything like it!
Drop by at the Royal Selangor Pewter Centre at Clarke Quay to see pewter-making by skilled masters. Learn all about the heritage, beauty and versatility of pewter here. Do note that the gifts here may be expensive.
Across the road from Clarke Quay, you will notice a large area of greenery. Not just any garden in the city, it’s Fort Canning; a sacred area where ancient Malayan royalty once lived and were laid to rest; commoners were barred from it. Perhaps its earliest name of Forbidden Hill is appropriate.
In the 14th Century, the hill became the ceremonial and political centre of the ancient kingdom of Temasek, and was believed to house the keramat or holy shrine of Sultan Iskandar Shah. Raffles later built his own bungalow here, Singapore’s first Government House, and stayed on until 1859, when the British began constructing an arms store, barracks and hospital. This possibly led to its final name of Fort Canning. Today, the area is a public park and popular venue for the arts – and a lot more inviting – enticing many with its historic Spice Garden and Battle Box attractions.
In the 1822, Raffles established his Spice Garden upon these hillsides, to cultivate commercially important spices. Explore this small replica, or better yet, learn the secrets of cooking with them at lessons held by “Academy At-Sunrice”. Then you can recreate a little piece of Singapore once you get home!
The Spice Garden that Raffles established upon the hillsides of Fort Canning in 1822 was Singapore’s first experimental and botanic gardens, and quite possibly the inspiration for the lager Botanic Gardens set up much later.
This is the former bomb-proof World War II bunker that was the underground nerve centre for British Military Operations in Southeast Asia; the very spot where Lt-Gen Percival made his decision to surrender to invading Japanese troops on 15 February 1942. Relive the event through an exhibit of robotic wax figures and actual footage of events. The site is open 10am to 6p, daily; last admission is at 5pm, at SGD 8 per adult, SGD 5 per child.
Max Reverse Bungy Jumping
Looking for truly panoramic view of Singapore with some action? Then the G-Max Reverse Bungy Jumping is for you. Catch this wild ride at the end of Clarke Quay towards Coleman Bridge. Its adrenaline-pumping action, heart stopping fear and mind-numbing speeds of up to 200km/h…all rolled into one extreme adventure. Definitely not for the faint-hearted! Each ride cost at S$30 from 3pm till late Monday’s to Fridays, and 12pm till late on weekends.
However, if it’s tranquility that you’re after, board the River Cruise (29613) from Clarke Quay as dusk is falling, and you’ll be treated to some of the best views of the Singapore River, radiant with the reflections of neon lights from along its banks.
As you head upriver, see the area change from commercial to residential, with spanking new condominiums taking the place of kampongs (villages with houses built on stilts). Many old go-downs have now been refurbished and turned into pulsating nights spots like Zouk, an award winning entertainment spot.
You’ve two routes to choose from: A shorter 30 min ride, or a longer 45 min one. If you can spare the time, the longer route will give you a good insight into the changes on the Singapore River.
As you sail upriver, mesmerized by the gentle sway of your bumboat, you’ll pass
- Robertson Quay.
Amid crumbling warehouses, restoration is beginning to take hold here, and life is slowly reviving the area, as crowds start to fill new restaurants and nights-spots.
- Hill Street Building
On your return journey, you’ll cruise past Hill Street Building (5779), housing the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA). This former Police Station building has 911 rainbow-coloured windows! Don’t believe it? Count them! These multi-hued windows reflect Singapore’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural heritage and of course the number to call in case of emergency. The building’s former main courtyard has been converted into an ARTrium, for – you guessed it – art activities including exhibitions and performances. An ideal way to spend your free day.
When it was constructed in 1934 to house the island’s police force, the six storey Hill Street Building was actually considered a Sky-Scraper!
- Boat Quay
You can’t miss it. You can shorten your cruise and ask the boatman to let you off here for drinks (or dinner if you didn’t dine at Clarke Quay). Alternatively, enjoy the whole cruise to scenic Marina Bay and back, alighting here on the return leg.
Indulge in a riverside dinner. If life music is more your thing, pop into one of many pubs like Penny Black, or saunter along to Jazz@South Bridge, a popular hangout, with a nightly live jazz band. The club is closed on Mondays; drop by any other time.
If, however, you haven’t had your fill of exploring, make your way to Circular Road, a similar stretch of shophouses just behind Boat Quay. Its transformation has not been off the scale as that of Boat Quay, so you might still see a trading house of old, right beside a spanking new karaoke club! Whichever you choose, enjoy yourself at night long.
Do note that there are many touting in Boat Quay and sometimes it gets quite frustrating. Otherwise, Boat Quay should be a nice place though most of the crowd seems to be going to Clark Quay.
You have ended your Singapore River Route 2.