I first visited Singapore as a 19 year old in the early 1970’s when it was a regular flight stopover en route to Britain. As a youngster from the Australian island State of Tasmania, I was very raw when it came to travel. Melbourne was the big smoke to me back then! So Singapore overwhelmed and delighted me – definitely the most exotic and exciting city I could imagine. It’s safe to say that I was so enthralled with Singapore that it put me on the path to my many subsequent travel adventures. On that trip, and a subsequent trip a few years later, I stayed in Orchard Road, searching out China Town, Bugis street and many of the other famous Singaporean attractions of the ’70’s. Singapore back then was very hip! I have a photo of myself on the balcony of my hotel with a beehive hairdo and wearing a fringed leather waistcoat over a roll neck jumper, a fringed leather skirt and boots. I thought I was very cool. Oh dear! The young can deceive themselves!
A lot has changed since then. It’s still a fabulous city, but many people who knew it in the distant past feel Singapore has lost a lot of its old charm. I disagree. Singapore for me is still an exhilarating city with its blend of old and new, its cuisine, nightlife and its mixed cultures.
I love the modern innovative architecture in Singapore. I love the buzz of the city. But most of all, I love that you can still find old Singapore if you get away from the high rise buildings and the main tourist places and search for treasures lesser known! It’s a matter of doing your research before you leave home
2017 AND A HISTORICAL LOW RISE HOTEL NEAR ORCHARD ROAD
In 2017, I was back in Singapore looking for a hotel that had some of that old Singaporean character and history. I didn’t want to stay in a modern high-rise hotel. I found what I was looking for at the historical Goodwood Park hotel, close to Orchard Road. It’s a building that goes back to 1900 when it was the Teutonia Club for the expatriate German community.
It changed hands in 1918 and renamed Goodwood Hall after the famous English racecourse. By 1922, it had become a restaurant entertainment centre. In that year, the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova performed there.
By 1929, it had become the Goodwood Park hotel, one of the best known hotels in Singapore by the end of the 1930’s. The Duke of Windsor stayed there when he was still the Prince of Wales.
During WW2, the hotel was converted to a residence for high ranking Japanese soldiers. After the War, it was home to the British War Crimes Court before returning to hotel service. It was the first hotel with a swimming pool in Singapore.
You can’t get too much ‘old Singapore’ than that! It’s expensive – but not in the realm of other ‘old’ hotels like the Raffles, especially if you look out for a good deal! I got one dealing directly with the hotel, but it’s also worth checking other booking sites.
They do a high tea here if you can’t afford to go to Raffles!
2019 and KATONG
In 2019 I returned, still on the lookout for ‘old’ Singapore. So I took to the ‘suburbs’ in the eastern part of Singapore, settling in at an upmarket hotel in the heart of the historical Katong district. Katong was home to the Peranakans (Chinese or Straits born Chinese), and popular with Eurasians. It was home to the wealthy elite in the late 19th century through to the mid 20th century. Today there are a mix of cultures, wonderful preserved old buildings, and narrow lanes to wander where you’ll find Peranakan crafts and cuisine. It is famous for its Katong Laksa (coconut curry rice noodles). I didn’t actually get to try the Laksa – I believe it’s quite spicy – but I did enjoy some great food there.
I enjoyed roaming the streets of Katong, soaking in beautiful old buildings, ancient shops, and a great community atmosphere. A taste of Singaporean history and culture worth seeking out.
Katong is only a 15 minute drive from the central city, and about the same distance to Changi Airport.
HOPE YOU ENJOY SOME OF MY KATONG PHOTOS BELOW