By Chern Huan Yee (22S06A), Chung Thong En (22S06N) and Jason Sutio (22S06U)
Ann Siang Hill and its neighbouring Telok Ayer Green Park allow you to take a breather from the stresses of the future… by escaping to the past.
The Chinatown-Telok Ayer area might be more well-known for its markets and food, but you should not miss the two parks it contains that preserve the old Singapore in the middle of urban development.
The first of the parks, the aptly-named Ann Siang Hill park, is built on the last hill of Telok Ayer still standing—the hill escaped from being levelled for land reclamation efforts in the 1800s, and eventually came to house the park.
Upon entry, we were first greeted with a crossroads (shown above in red arrows). Taking the path of the leftmost arrow first, the first thing that caught our eye was the wall art.
The metal structures jutting out from the wall depicted stories of early immigrants who once lived in the houses surrounding us, which added meaningful depth to the buildings we were looking at. Beyond that, the area was left preserved as it was, showing only the backs of the old houses, allowing us to focus on the artwork.
Progressing further and nearing the end of this stretch of the road, we saw the Chinese Weekly Entertainment Club. This club started operations over a century ago, and is apparently still going today. Regrettably, it was private property and we were not allowed to go in.
From there, we doubled back to go down the other path of the crossroads. This path winds through the park’s main trail, featuring a roofed brick walkway that eventually leads to a spiral staircase going downwards.
Along the way, we appreciated the view from the hill—which consisted mainly of conserved houses and AC boxes. There was, however, an interesting architectural juxtaposition with the older shophouses in the foreground and more modern buildings in the background.
The staircase eventually brought us to the foot of the hill, where we found Singapore’s last water well.
This well served as a precious fresh water source during the 1800s for the traders and residents of Chinatown. They would draw their water supply from the wells at the hill and take it home in ox-drawn carts.
By now, the well is a century old, fitted with a protective cover. Water is still visible deep down in the hole, though now obscured with plants that have grown through its long history.
After looking into the well and reading the history on its placard, we began to head to our next destination, visible also on the map —Telok Ayer Green.
Telok Ayer Green
Our next destination was just a few minutes away, across the road. Or so Google Maps said; we almost got lost on our way there, walking through the busy, winding street. Eventually, we arrived across the street from Thian Hock Keng Temple. Tourists were milling about, as were a few cyclists resting before the next leg of their journey. All of us alike took a few seconds to admire the beautiful mural spread across the wall.
Telok Ayer Green was right next door. Some would recognise it as the location used in filming Raffles Got Talent. One glance was all we needed to take in the entirety of the small park, statues, water and all.
Each statue in the park depicts a snapshot of the life of our ancestors in colonial history, from a Chinese street procession to a transaction between Indian settlers. Fallen leaves crunched under our feet as we passed through the quiet park.
The park was simple, but sometimes that is all you need for a quick rest. You even get a free (admittedly niche) history lesson to boot. After the long walk up and down Ann Siang Hill, we enjoyed the opportunity to catch our breath.
The Telok Ayer and Chinatown area as a whole is teeming with historical significance, from the shophouses to the temples and museums. A stroll through the bustling streets is bound to give you some insight into the everyday hustle of the immigrants living in the area during Singapore’s colonial history. The historic town has far more to show besides the pockets of nature we visited, through its buildings and murals.
If one does not mind crowds and sweltering heat, and wants to step into Singapore’s history, come to Telok Ayer.