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.

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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.