Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Revisit Singapore’s Colorful Past at Fort Canning

Fort Canning Park is one of the most prominent parks in Singapore. It is widely regarded as the cultural and artistic hub in the industrial city-state. Previously called Bukit Larangan, which means “Forbidden Hill” in Malay, the park is reminiscent of Singapore’s rich colonial past. Remnants of ancient fortresses and other relics have recently been unearthed, affirming earlier suggestions that the hill used to serve as a final resting place of Malay kings. In World War I, Fort Canning was used as a strategic military base.

The tiny patch of land that is Fort Canning Park offers tourists relaxation and interesting discoveries amidst the busy and modern city-state. With a history dating back up to 700 years, a day’s tour in Fort Canning is sure to leave visitors awestruck and nostalgic of the not so distant past.

Aside from interesting historic sites like the 14th Century Walk, the Fort Gate, the tomb of revered Temasek leader Iskandar Syah, an archaeological site, and Parit Singapura (“Moat of Singapore”), tourists can also enjoy relaxing views of Singapore River, which used to be an important trade channel for ancient Singapore and where the Singapore Stone once stood.

Other must-see places at Fort Canning Hill include the Spice Garden, a botanical garden proposed by Nathaniel Wallich in 1882. The Raffles Terrace, which housed a long line of governors, provided magnificent views of the township in the 19th century. The Battle Box is another place sure to rouse the interest of bold explorers. Found nine meters underground, it used to be a big military operations complex operated by the Malaya Command Headquarters.

Fort Canning Park allows for various activities like bird watching, dining, exercise, and guided tours. It is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna – a true sanctuary for the city dweller. The park also forms a sloped bowl for outdoor events like concerts and cultural shows. Bands like Muse and Beastie Boys have given performances at the park, which has also hosted Singfest and WOMAD, the largest music festival in Singapore. The venue can accommodate up to 10,000 people.

The park has also become a popular venue for garden weddings. It is located close to the Registry of Marriages so the sight of ceremonies and receptions is also commonplace at Fort Canning Park. The hill also houses the Singapore Dance Theater and Flutes at the Fort. Park management hosts the Heritage & Nature Guided Walk to accompany tourists in revisiting Singapore’s colorful past. The free guided tours begin at the courtyard, Fort Canning Center, and last for one to two hours.

Visitors wishing to establish closer communion to nature, culture, and history also have the option to reserve accommodations within the complex. One accommodation provider is the Fort Canning Lodge, which also gives access to the commercial district along Orchard Road. The hotel offers mid-priced yet elegant accommodations to leisure and business travelers. For more information on Singapore accommodations, visit www.ywcafclodge.org.sg.

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