Place of Interest – Orchard Road

Orchard Road; Singapore

Orchard Road by Edwin Thumboo
(Taken from Angelia Poon, Philip Holden & Shirley Geok-lin Lin, WRITING SINGAPORE, Page 255) 

Free and easy. He walked as if following

A sentence unfolding in his head.

Perhaps he did, the way he paused, fingered

His chin, puckered brow, turned for second looks,

Chatted with a stranger, refused brochures,

Opened a can of sweating Tiger for a swig,

Then folding the city map, his stride lengthened

Sliding smooth and cool beneath angsanas,

He had reached a junction of sorts, perhaps … a

Semi-colon, no more, no less, keeping grammar

Hungry, ready for enjambments, byes, neat touts,

Undulating clauses, metaphors, branded goods.

The day offered its little comforting intimacies

As he started stitching memories, yet un-named,

Then afternoon sun lit a compassionate face

My sentence stopped. 

Orchard Road is definitely one of the key attractions in Singapore for both tourists as well as for local residents. The Orchard district is well known for having a lively and vibrant atmosphere, continuously bustling with human traffic. Orchard Road itself stretches 2.2 kilometers, however more commonly referred to by local Singaporeans, the term Orchard tends to encompass Orchard Road and its vicinity including locations like Tanglin, Somerset, Dhoby Ghaut with iconic buildings such as the PARAGON, ION Orchard, Ngee Ann City, Plaza Singapura etc.

2002 12 05 Orchard road in Singapore(Image taken from
A crowded area at Heeren, one of the many popular shopping places in Orchard Road

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A picture displaying the local area map meant for tourists’ navigation. Although only occupying a small land area, Orchard Road is packed with numerous dining and entertainment facilities as well as hotels and shopping boutiques.


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A signage at part of the Orchard Road stretch

Orchard is a bustling street, often packed with both Singaporeans and visitors to the country, where shops are abundant, ranging from traditional small pushcarts to large-scale sophisticated branded boutiques. It is also probably one of the best-known shopping districts in Singapore.

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Couple making a living, setting up a mobile cart selling traditional ice cream and waffles cones

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ION Orchard; one of the newly established malls located in Orchard with levels of luxury brands and boutiques

As seen in Edwin Thumboo’s poem titled Orchard Road where he draws attention to the popularity of the Orchard Road being a tourist attraction. Orchard Road “Free and easy” seems to indicate a particular type of tour that people can opt for, free and easy, at their own time and pace as an alternative to being part of a guided tour group.  “A sentence unfolding in his head” would be a representation of the tourist’s state of mind, somewhat uncertain, yet looking forward to the events unfolding. The anticipative mindset with a tinge of apprehension experienced by an individual in an unfamiliar background while travelling in Singapore, as seen in the lines of “the way he paused, fingered his chin, puckered brow, turned for second looks”.

Thumboo then moves on to describe the scene happening in Orchard Road, with communications between of the tourist and other passersby, “chatted with a stranger, refused brochures”, which are common day-to-day occurrences such as the advertisements after given out in the form of flyers along the streets or presence of tourists sightseeing in Singapore. Friendly greetings are exchanged and affable relations are established between tourist and the locals. As the tourist familiarizes himself with the situation, his courage and inquisitive nature allows him to open up and take in his surroundings. “Folding the city map, his stride lengthened “ “hungry, ready for enjambments, byes, neat touts” indicate his readiness to explore Orchard Road and experience new sights.

As the day progress and the tourist comes across different events, he picks up valuable insights, “Then afternoon sun lit a compassionate face” shows the delight of the traveler has towards his new impending experiences. “Stitching memories, yet un-named” displays the unique memories that one can obtain from his travels, which is difficult for another to experience the exact encounter.

Overall, Thumboo’s representation of Orchard Road in Singapore might be one that is extremely dynamic, in a fast paced environment. The lack of full stops throughout the poem creates a sense of fluidity in reading, bringing out the feeling of continuity and endlessness, similar to the actual occurrences in Orchard Road, Singapore. The encounter experienced each individual from his travel is likely to be truly understood only by himself, as each experience is distinctive. Thumboo’s description of Orchard Road as a location where time stops for no one, where every individual is actively caught up with their activities with no intentions of pausing.


Place of Interest – Singapore River

Singapore River

1Singapore River before the late 1970s where it was highly polluted
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2Singapore River after the clean up from the early 1980s-today
(Image taken from

Singapore River by Lee Tzu Pheng

The operation was massive;

designed to give new life

to the old lady.

We have cleaned out

her arteries, removed

detritus and silt,

created a by-pass

for the old blood.

Now you can hardly tell

her history.

We have become

so health-conscious

the heart

can sometimes be troublesome.

Singapore River by Koh Buck Song

there was a time

it could be said

the old subject

stretched its rule

in the empire

of the easel

now, refreshed,

the lady revels

in another reign,

clear, iridescent

fresh winds have carried

the old tang away

and in this revival

a new mirror

re-projects, rules

the new imagery

Singapore River is definitely a place relevant to Singapore’s literature as it has always been a valued location since the founding of the country. Dubbed as the city’s heart in Singapore, the Singapore River plays a very important role in sea routes contributing to the economic prosperity of the country. Singapore River flourished port city, where its trading ports were crowded with heavy human and sea traffic. However, with increased human flow, Singapore River gradually became a dumping ground to traders, street hawkers and passersby alike. Singapore River was massively polluted till the late 1970s.

In the mid 1970s to early 1980s, the Singapore government decided to take action to remove the litter, curbing the pollution issue and improve the standard of living of the citizens. The government implemented better sewage and drainage system cleaning up the highly polluted waters, refurbished riverbank walls, initiated to conserve surrounding architecture, provide a source of leisure (e.g. dining and water activities) and even as a tourist attraction.

The poems by both Lee and Koh highlights the changes made to the river and the effects of the clean up. Both poets personified the Singapore River as a female; an old lady in Lee’s Poem and a lady in Koh’s poem. The message brought across in both poems by enlarge are also parallel; the movement to clean up the river definitely has its benefits, however the transformed Singapore River would lose the uniqueness and perhaps its former lustre as well.

Mentioned previously, in Lee’s poem, she uses an “old lady” as a personification of the Singapore River, where “her” revamp was done so well and thoroughly that Lee pens “now you can hardly tell her history”. It was hard to imagine or picture the initial state of the river; the dumpsite, dirty and congested yet bustling with diverse activities. The overhaul of the river displayed positive effects, especially to improve Singapore’s standard of living and eliminate health problems associated with polluted waters (such as gastrointestinal diseases and malaria etc). Akin to a heart surgery, Lee describes the clean up as the unplugging of the river’s “arteries”, “creating a by-pass for the old blood”.

Similar in Koh’s poem, where he describes the Singapore River clean up, removing clutter and as “the fresh winds have carried the old tang away” appearing to be “clear and iridescent”. This illustration of the old Singapore River where the new waters are clean and glistening after the facelift given to the river, giving “her” a new image and new-found pride.

With a major reforms and change to the existing infrastructure, there will a wave of fresh perspective but irreversible changes will also be made. Lee mentions, “We have become so health-conscious the heart can sometimes be troublesome” possibly indicating her worry that the extremity of changes might pose a threat to the distinctive society and that could be almost entirely absent in Singapore today. Some features, in this case of the old Singapore River will become a matter of the past such as its dynamic liveliness and spirited area, turned into a sophisticated neighbourhood, prim and pristine. In Koh’s words, “a new mirror re-projects, rules the new imagery” indicates a redefined Singapore River, giving a whole new paradigm shift. Similarly mentioned in Singapore Places, Poems, Paintings, many poets and painters are indeed lamenting the loss of vibrancy, personal touch unique to the local culture.

Following are two paintings of artists illustrating the Singapore River too, at different points of time. Lim Tze Peng’s Bygone Bumboats completed in 1982 is likely to be representation of the Singapore River before the movement to stop pollution and the attempt to clean up the area. Hua Chai Yong’s Skyline completed in 1981 most probably represents the state of Singapore River after the revamp.

Lim Tze Peng, Bygone Bumboats (1982)

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An artist illustration of bumboats, traditionally used to ship goods and supplies. The date of drawing could indicate Lim’s reminiscence of the old bumboats before Singapore River was revamped.

Hua Chai Yong. Skyline (1981)


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Hua’s painting could exemplify Singapore after efforts of the clean up was made; less polluted rivers, more ordered waters and a generally more sophisticated Singapore.

In general, from abundance of material, be it in the form of poems or paintings, it could be seen that Singapore River is definitely a place of interest in the literary circle.

Other References:

Place of Interest – Void Deck

Void Deck by Alfian Bin Sa’at

Where the neighbourhood wives,
After a morning at the wet market,
Sit facing the breeze
To trade snatches of gossip
About leery shopkeepers,
The local louts,
(Like that fella who’s always drilling his walls –
Gives me migraine)
And that mad woman
Who throws things from her window.
With careful put-downs they
Fashion boasts, about stubborn sons,
Lazy daughters, who by some miracle or mistake
Always score well in class.
When words falter,
Gestures take over: pursed lips, rolling eyes,
Animated hands adorned by bangles of
Gold, jade, steel, string.

And children orbit around them
Laugh without diction –
Their games of tag a reassurance
That there has been no hothousing
Of who is unclean, unwashed,
Untouchable. When they break out
Into some kindergarten song,
One almost believes in a generation
Cleansed of skin-deep suspicions,
And free from the superstitions of the tongue –

And old folks sit like sages
To deploy chess pieces with ancient strategies.
In a corner, a caged bird bursts
With the song of its master’s pride
And wrinkled women breathe, through
Tai-chi-tuned windpipes, the operatic melody of the air…

All a wanton fantasy.

Eyes reveal a meeting-point
For loners and loiterers:
A sense of things reduced-
Conversations that trickle through
Brief noddings at lift landings,
Teenage rhetoric scrawled, in liquid paper,
On the stone-table chessboard,
(Where the king used to sit)
The grandiose house-selling dreams of residents
Compacted in anonymous letterboxes;
As an afterthought, an old man pees
Under a public phone.

A place to be avoided, this,
How in its vastness it devours hours.
Little wonder then,
Why residents rush through void decks
Back to the cramped comforts of home
As if in fear of what such open space might do
To cosy minds.

tpy hdb

(An early HDB flat in Toa Payoh where the ground floor was occupied with residential units instead of a void deck in 1968)

During the 1960s, the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) priority was to provide sufficient and affordable housing for the local population. Consequently, many of the HDB blocks built during that period were filled with either residential or shop units. Around the 1970s, HDB has been freeing up ground level spaces and the term “void decks” was introduced in local newspapers. According to a report in The Straits Times, the oldest void deck in Singapore was built in 1963 at Block 26 in Jalan Klinik.

Void decks are known to be a shared common space for leisure, recreational and cultural activities, so as to create opportunities for residents to interact and bond. They are found under the HDB block on the ground level consisting of historical and heritage significance that holds many different types of memories, thoughts, and happenings for different Singaporeans.


The poem establishes a Singaporean identity by mentioning “stone-table chessboard”, “letterboxes” and “public phone” and evoking a familiar sight of a typical void deck in the past. The poet introduces the many uses of void deck for the different age groups of Singaporeans. From “…children orbit around them/ Laugh without diction –Their games of tag a reassurance”, we can see that void decks serve as a sheltered playground for kids, where kindergartens or childcare centers are usually located at void decks too.


Also from “…old folks sit like sages/ To deploy chess pieces with ancient strategies” brings to mind that the elder men usually engage in Chinese chess on “stone-table chessboard”, or bird enthusiasts would bring their bird for singing competitions “in a corner, a caged bird bursts/ with the song of its master’s pride” at the bird singing corners of the void deck, which is more commonly found in areas of Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Jurong West, Woodlands and Yishun.


Today, the void deck no longer confines to the few uses of hosting weddings or solemn affairs, but towards holding of social and communal gatherings and activities, for example, art exhibitions, bazaars and book fairs. Appeared in the 1980s, painted pillars and walls showcased artworks and convey educational messages.

However, in 1990s, the launch of Design and Build Scheme resulted in less spacious void deck layouts, one of the reasons lies in the acceptance of Community Children’s Libraries (CCLs) in the early 2000s. Communities are segregating and people no longer use the void deck to engage in bonding activities, and resulting in the misuse of the properties such as vandalizing the tables instead of playing chess, “Teenage rhetoric scrawled, in liquid paper, On the stone-table chessboard”, and “As an afterthought, an old man pees/ Under a public phone” portrays the public phone to be abandoned with the increasing use of mobile phones.

Thus in the recent years, the newer and modern HDB flats are differently designed and constructed, where void decks are becoming smaller than before. As a result, people use less of the common shared space and being held up at home in their activities. “Little wonder then, Why residents rush through void decks/Back to the cramped comforts of home/As if in fear of what such open space might do/To cosy minds” thereby shows that as people have less interactions, they break away from social communities that used to form when people engage in like-minded activities at the void deck.


National Heritage Board. COMMUNITY HERITAGE SERIES III: VOID DECKS. 2013. (accessed March 27, 2013).

Place of interest – Pasir Ris Park

Pasir Ris – Sunset by Margaret Leong

Pasir Ris – Sunset


The clouds drew sunset from the sea

For palettes of cerise and aquamarine,

Drew mountainous heapings of blue aside

And piles of spindrift green;

But the spun-foam aerial colours

Were left on an ebony beach,

Till an indigo black opaqueness

Stretched as far as waters could reach.


(Taken from Writing Singapore, pg 183)

Pasir Ris refers to ‘beach bolt-rope’ in Malay which means a narrow beach (National Parks). Pasir Ris, located in the east of Singapore, was originally an underdeveloped area with kampongs and villages. It was well-known for several of its plantation estates such as the Singapore United Plantations and Loh Lam Estate. Pasir Ris beach was a popular attraction for water skiing, picnics, or gatherings in the 1950s, to 1970s.

Today, the new landmarks there include the NTUC resort, Pasir Ris Beach Park, its MRT station and the shopping mall, White Sands. The NTUC resort is popular with the locals for gatherings as it is one of the first luxury resorts fully equiped with the amenities of a country club made affordable for the ordinary Singaporean. The Pasir Ris Beach Park is along Elias Road, is popular for family outings with a playground for the children to play at.  The 35 ha park is cut through by Sungei Tampines and spans between the end of Jalan Loyang Kechil and the NTUC Pasir Ris Resort. It offers a wide range of activities such as water sports, cycling, inline skating and barbeque pits rental. In the park lies a 6-ha mangrove forest for people to explore. Broadwalks are built to bring visitors closer to this mangrove community. Further, another feature of the park is the 3-storey high Bird Watching Tower located within the mangrove forest.


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Pasir Ris Park
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Mangrove in Pasir Ris Park
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In the early 2000s, Pasir Ris Beach was being polluted with bacteria, making the beach water unsafe for people to come in contact with. The bacterium is found in animal and human faeces which may cause gastro-intestinal illnesses like vomiting and diarrhoea if swimmers come into contact with it. This problem is due to the smaller sewage system in the area as well as possible leakages of the untreated sewage into the water. However, with several measures implemented and the massive cleaning up of the beach, it was announced safe for people to swim in Pasir Ris Beach again in 2012.

Signboard to warn people against gong in the water
(Image taken from )

The Pasir Ris park is a popular location for people to enjoy the magnificent view of sunrise. This is significant in Margaret’s poem, Pasir Ris – Sunset, as she name the poem with the opposite, seemingly in a seemingly mocking manner, to mislead her readers.  She started off the poem with ‘The clouds drew sunset from the sea’ to create the imagery of a beautiful sunrise at the sea. She also tried to create the imagery of the Pasir Ris Beach Park by mentioning ‘heapings of blue’ and ‘piles of spindrift green’. However, she ended the poem by analysing on the filth of the beach. Pasir Ris beach is easily classified as one of the dirtiest beach in Singapore. Margaret’s mention of ‘an indigo black opaqueness/Stretched as far as waters could reach’ clearly refers to the pollution of the waters. This spoils the beautiful imagery created in the early section of the poem and acknowledges the reality of dirty waters in Pasir Ris Beach Park. In my opinion, this is done intentionally to reflect her mocking of the beach, by creating a beautiful imagery and spoiling the impression by bringing up the pollution problem. This is similar to her chosen title of ‘Sunset’ in Pasir Ris which is clearly in contrast to the reality of Sunrise instead. Thus, I feel that instead of glorifying the beach, Margaret was mocking at it.

Sunrise at Pasir Ris Park
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Another view of Sunrise at Pasir Ris Park
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Dirty waters and trash being washed up the shore in Pasir Ris Park
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Other References:




Place of Interest – Tanjong Katong

Tanjong Katong by Cyril Wong

Across the street from where I live is a pub
where dance-hostesses backed up against
middle-age drain the excess years from their
skin with make-up and bad lighting. A murder
was committed there once, involving the knife
of a heart betrayed and heated dialogue still
heard in popular drama-serials on television.

This church is probably the tallest building
this corner of the street, its rooftop crucifix
like someone with arms open and ready to
hug heaven. Repainted the same colour, walls
hide their age and windows stained a deeper
shade of opacity darken now to the density
of irises, as time turns the page of an afternoon
to start on another about a dream-stained quiet.

In another pub, there is a karaoke-corner
with a billiard table draped in smoke but
held down by the leaning bodies of men
hitting tarnished balls into holes as women
watch the games with cigarettes holding up
their fingers, bitching in Hokkien, while
Cantonese pop songs with American beats
spill out onto the road when a door opens.

Nearby, two schools wait for demolishment,
their vacant fields slowly tenanted by weeds.
My mind replays ghostly episodes of soccer
matches or sleepy rows of uniformed children
waking up reluctantly to the muted recording
of their newly-orchestrated school song
nobody can ever remember the words of.

from Below: Absence

TK 1

An old picture of Tanjong Katong in the past

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In the past, Tanjong Katong used to be located near the sea side. At this area, it had more wealthy migrants and they were mainly the English, Portuguese, Anglo-French and Chinese. In the late 90s and mid 20s, Tanjong Katong was a wealthy suburb where there were beach side retreats, mansions and boathouses. After Singapore gained independence, there were lots of issues needed to be taken care of. One of it was the shortage of housing and land. As Singapore is developing, it needed to construct more housing and recreational facilities to cater to the needs of the growing population. Due to the shortage of land, it had to reclaim land all the way to East Coast Park. As Singapore has migrants from different parts of the world, the marriage of the Chinese and Malay created the Peranakans. At that time, Tanjong Katong had more Peranakans which led to the strong Peranakan’s culture being infused into the Tanjong Katong district. Hence, till today Tanjong Katong is still known for its Peranakan culture and cuisines.

TK 2
Shop houses along Tanjong Katong streets

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From Cyril Wong’s poem, it illustrates the things he saw in Tanjong Katong. The night life in Tanjong Katong is very happening. The pubs play loud music with many people inside drinking and playing billiards. This district seems to be dangerous as conflicts and fights often happened. Till today, many of the old infrastructures in Tanjong Katong still remained such as the pubs, church, coffee shops and schools. In this district, there were no tall infrastructures except of shop houses. Thus, the ‘tall’ church seems to stand out in this district. With the old infrastructures in Tanjong Katong today, it brought back the memories of the past. However, due to the advanced development and technology, most of these infrastructures would have to give way to the skyscrapers and shopping malls.

Other References:

Place of Interest – Merlion (Esplanade Bridge)

Merlign by Alvin Pang

Even though there are more
websites on you than verses
Even though you evoke
cameras more than pride
postcards more than praise
Even though your titan child
is now terrorising history and
small children on Sentosa

Still you seem to have a face poets love
to woo. There was the old gentleman,
windswept, seablown, wandering home
with a suitcase of dreams, who
treated you like a queen, hoping
to press you for secrets.

And then the lady with the thick glasses,
who thought she saw Ezekiel’s cherubim,
the sign episteme of higher forces
forever barring the way to paradise.

And that young man, himself half lion,
with barbed tale raised, his words coiled
like a fist. Eyes louder than silence.

Still others, perplexed
as much by your blank stare
as their maddening need to know,
burden you with the fret
of lost causes and years of waiting

Become now the need
to apostrophise what is rock
to make it bear weight.
How we wallow in metaphors!

As a child I walked through a garden
to gawk at the back of a giant too tall
for a child’s mind
to wrap around. Risking the simplest
of pleasures: a closer glance, a furtive stroke,
Pitting heights with the dwarf twin, long since gone.
Reaching for scale and contact,

And now, as a man, forever measuring shadows.

No need to go on with this pretense,
these riddles and voices. This is a heap
of fashioned stone, too light to carry souls.

Rough beast, you are neither idol nor ideal.
Your heart is hollow, cold, and open
for admission, but we have nowhere else
to hide our dreams. Take what names
we have to give, and hold our secrets well
Keep what matters and what counts
The rest you can spit as spray.

(Taken from

 The Merlion is a mythical creature that represents a Singaporean identity. ‘Mer’ means ‘sea’ in French, hence Merlion literally refers to sea-lion. This explains the creature with lion head with a body of a fish, or mermaid.  The lion is a reference to a tale whereby Sang Nila Utama reportedly encountered a lion when he first stepped on the shores of this island, leading him to name it Singapura. The fish body reflects Singapore as a port city dependent on the maritime trade. In addition, it also represents the origin of Singapore as a fishing village.

The Merlion was designed in 1964 by Fraser Brunner for the Singapore Tourist Board (STB) and functioned as its corporate logo from 1966 to 1997. The Merlion was a popular symbol for tourist souvenirs. There are five Merlion statues in Singapore, with the most popular ones located at the Merlion Park, adjacent to One Fullerton at the Marina Bay waterfront. One of them stands at 8m tall, weighing 70 tonnes. The other stands at 2m tall, weighing 3 tonnes. However, with the completion of Esplanade Bridge in 1997, the statues were relocated to a new pier on another side of the Esplanade Bridge, as they could no longer be seen clearly from the waterfront.  The Merlion statue faces east, which is believed to be a direction that brings prosperity as dictated by the guidelines of Chinese geomancy.

Unfortunately, on 28 February 2009, the larger statue was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm, causing a crack in the Merlion’s mane, and a hole at the base of the statue due to falling debris. The statue was repaired and restored for public viewing by 18 March 2009.

The Merlion tower at Sentosa is completed in 1995. on a hill 23m above sea level and stands at a height of 37m. It is an 11-storey building, excluding the uppermost observation deck, which allows visitors to enjoy commanding views of the Singapore skyline. Made of cement, the tower is also externally reinforced with a thin shell of concrete fitted with 16, 000 lights that, when switched on after dark, trace the outline of the statue. The eyes of the Merlion are also installed with equipment that enables them to project multi-coloured laser beams.

Another Merlion statue is located outside STB’s office at Tourism Court, standing at 3m tall. A similar statue can be found on Faber Point at Mount Faber. It is owned by the National Parks Board and was installed in 1998, following the redevelopment of the park.


Merlion at the Merlion Park
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Merlion after relocation at esplanade bridge
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Merlion at Sentosa
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Merlion at Sentosa at night
(Taken from )

Alvin Pang wrote ‘Merlign’ which plays a pun on the word Merlion as they have the same pronunciation. He started this poem with ‘there are more /websites on you than verses’ and added on with it evoking more ‘cameras more than pride’ and ‘postcards more than praise’. This seems to highlight the superficiality of the Merlion as a representation of Singapore, and a Singaporean identity. When one mentions the Merlion, one think of Singapore. However, do Singaporeans really associate themselves with the Merlion as an identity? The first stanza thus questions the significance of the Merlion to Singaporeans. Alvin seems to point out that the Merlion creates more attraction towards the tourists rather than the locals.

Towards the end of Merlign,  ‘No need to go on with this pretense, /these riddles and voices. This is a heap /of fashioned stone, too light to carry souls’ seems to imply the lifelessness of the Merlion. This points out that the Merlion is merely a statue, without any life given to it. In my interpretation, Alvin seems to imply that the Merlion is just an inanimate object with not much significance attached to it, to the Singaporeans. Furthermore, he calls it a ‘Rough beast’ and thinks it is ‘neither idol nor ideal’. This implies the redundancy of it as a Singapore icon. Lastly, Alvin also wrote that ‘Your heart is hollow, cold, and open/ for admission’, again implying the superficiality of the statue as an icon and place of interest and attraction. The ‘coldness’ implies the lack of bond between the locals and this icon.

Thus, Alvin seems to question the Merlion being an icon of Singapore. He feels that it is merely a statue to boost the Singapore tourism, rather than having the Singaporeans feel themselves linked to the Merlion identity.

Other references


Place of Interest – Toa Payoh

A Brief History of Toa Payoh by Kok Buck Song


they say
there is no history
made in Toa Payoh,
that Economy, Polity, State
are major tenants
in Significance’s estate

but this being,
whose amniotic fluids,
swamp and swill,
were channelled seaward
through monsoon drains,
instant rivers,
was once a brave new world
of giant pigeonholes sky looking,
rigid under morning sun,
a pioneer in its time,
so should not earliness and vision
receive, as in Sentosa’s museum,
decorum, grace
and privilege of place?

the pride and self-sufficiency
of early settlers
town centre, bus terminal, the first SEAP Games,
the emporium’s sacks of fragrant rice,
children’s playgrounds, the garden’s lake and town,
the Queen’s lookout
excite no more
and the children of Toa Payoh
are the mothers and fathers
of Woodlands, Pasir Ris,
distant orbits of the new satellites

this town delivered so fast,
labour pains
now claim a second strike:
this time, cranes and the wrecker’s ball
strip the old town
colonise once more
this, one of Modernisation’s
first ports of call

in our History’s eye,
growth is so swift
rebirth also
gets short shrift

TP 1

Toa Payoh Village in 1963

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Toa Payoh is located in the center of Singapore. It was once an undeveloped area full of farms. There were many squatters living in this area. In 1962, Singapore was developing thus it needed more land for development and to construct better facilities and housing for the growing population. At that time, the people living at Toa Payoh had to move to other places. Over a few years, Toa Payoh had slowly developed and it was one of the earliest area with public housing estates.

TP 2

Toa Payoh New Town

(Image taken from,_Aug_06.JPG)

Currently, Toa Payoh has been developed into a new town where the housing and facilities within this new town could fulfill the needs of the residents living in this area. From Kok’s poem, it illustrates the development of Toa Payoh from the past to the present. Kok might have felt that the changes of Toa Payoh from the previous swampy area to the fully developed new town happened all so quickly that no one could remember Toa Payoh’s past. In the past, Toa Payoh was once a swampy area with low living standard. Developments occurred due to the economy growth, policies and government. Over the years, upgrading works were constantly done in Toa Payoh to keep up with the changing demands of the population so that the living conditions and standards could be improved. Soon, Toa Payoh is developed into a town filled with the necessary facilities and transportation that could cater to the needs of the residents living in this area. Due to the advancing economy and technology, the government also started developing Woodlands and Pasir Ris into new towns just like Toa Payoh.

Other References: