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By: Nessa Anwar
InstaScram celebrates our country’s alternative skyline, bringing you the thrill of enjoying Singapore from high vantage points, coupled with the adrenaline from the perspectives of these riders of their very, very fast motorcycles.
Motorbike prices have risen in Singapore for high capacity bikes, with the introduction of the Additional Registration Fee (ARF) in early 2017. Needless to say, this adds a heavier financial commitment to Singaporeans who are big bike owners, or those who dream of owning a big bike.
Our very own Avengers team assembled to ride, mounting motorcycles over 1,000 CC, of different makes and models, representing the subset of Singaporeans who are unwaveringly passionate about riding big bikes every day. Be it for touring, track sessions, joyrides, or just in their daily commute to work.
We celebrate the nation’s birthday by riding to two carparks in Singapore with high vantage points. One of the architectural cityscape, and the other that combines a park and a sea view.
The People’s Park Complex is a 31-storey building located in the heart of Chinatown, with six levels of a shopping centre, which opened to the public in October 1970, before the 25 residential floors above opened in June 1973. Back in the day, it cost a cool $16.5 million.
It was first built with the purpose of providing a permanent, urban and modernised alternative to the People’s Park Market, which was established in the 1930s in Chinatown. During the period between 1930 and 1967, the People’s Park Market was a testament to the multi-racial hustle and bustle of street shopping that is synonymous with Asia. But, it was wrought with various problems. From gangsters, to electrical short-circuits and fires, shops and stalls were destroyed, and the public called for improvement.
Thus, the People’s Park Complex plan was set in motion. This was the first building in Singapore that housed an atrium to accommodate sellers, and a spacious rooftop carpark, the very one InstaScram explored in this episode. The iconic slab-block tower, with its bright yellow and grimy green colour combination, stands out from the low-level architecture around Chinatown.
The rooftop carpark has seen a resurgence of interest on social media due to the numerous genres of photographs taken there, from fashion to vehicles and the Chinatown architecture. And not forgetting, the alternative social space, Lepark, which opened in 2015. A new generation of youths and adults flock to this F&B hangout, for a number of reasons: the Asian fusion style food, craft beers, live music gigs, pop-up events, and even outdoor movie screenings.
One wonders if people still visit the People’s Park Complex for the travel agencies, beauty parlours, jewellery shops, and textile stores? With the newer malls of Orchard Road and the streets of Bugis just a few train stops away, it would be interesting to see what the future holds for the grungy, classic walls of People’s Park Complex. Even if it’s for different reasons from the past, whether it’s the efforts of Lepark, the appeal of this photogenic carpark, or for a general sense of nostalgia, it’s pretty clear that this building still remains fresh in the minds of the people.
Next, we ride to another carpark tucked away in the west of Singapore, which presents a unique vantage point like no other. A short walk from this carpark takes you to Jurong Hill Tower, with an expansive view of Jurong Island and the port on one side, and the district of Jurong on the other.
It is not coincidental that Jurong was built with its own shipyard and port. Jurong was originally a large swamp with small plots of land, and home to the indigenous ‘sea people’ of Singapore, or ‘orang laut’. They would row traditional Malay boats, or kolek, to get from one island to another. With the industrialisation of Jurong beginning in 1961, the government relocated the residents, before levelling the hills and draining the swamps. Shortly after, the shipyard was established and started operations in 1964.
This 3-storey lookout tower opened in 1970, costing $100,000, a hefty price tag back then. It was built in the Jurong Hill Park, to be use as an official ‘scouting’ location for foreign dignitaries and investors, to offer them a bird's-eye view of Jurong’s industrial potential. In fact, the place was visited by so many well-known people, there is actually a Garden of Fame right outside the tower, consisting of 30 trees planted between 1969 and 1984. Queen Elizabeth II, then Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau, and Spiro Agnew, Vice-President to President Nixon of the United States, are among those who have planted trees.
And many locals might remember the Hill Top Japanese Restaurant, located at the base of the lookout tower. Unfortunately, the eatery closed sometime in 2014, and the lookout tower now provides a breezy, chill-out spot for romantic couples, and the “westies” in Singapore.
These vantage points show a different side of Singapore, other than the skylines of our tourist spots and central business district. Interesting nuggets of history can be learnt, from Jurong’s booming industrialisation, to the heyday of street shopping during the 1970s in downtown Chinatown. And if Singaporeans can’t bring you to the best views in Singapore, who else will?