After our brunch at Simply Bread on Sunday, we headed west along the river, away from Robertson and Clarke Quays. I have done this walk before and enjoyed it as it is a quiet stretch without the commercialisation of other parts of the river. It is also a good route to cycle,but beware of the $1000 fine for cycling through the underpass.
Someone told me once that you can actually walk the whole way along the river/canal from Clarke Quay to Holland Village. I'm not sure if this is possible as I've tried following the canal with my finger through the pages of the street directory and loose it around Tanglin Road. I would be very interested to hear if anyone has done this walk. Of course there are a few roads to cross along the way, but someday I will see how far I can get.
Anyway, saying this stretch of river west of Robertson Quay is quiet isn't strictly true any more as there is a lot of construction of high rise condominiums just before Kim Seng Road and Great World City. Nevertheless you do pass some interesting old warehouses with the new condos visible behind, as seen here:





This section of the river would once have been busy with sawmills, ricemills, engineering workshops and boat repair shops, so it is fun to imagine the days when these last few remaining buildings were in use.

I also noticed this sign along the way:


It made me realise that there must be an interesting history behind the shopping mall that we visit for the cinema and shopping and take for granted.

As it turns out Great World Amusement Park was one of three "Worlds" in Singapore during the 1950s and 60s. The other two were the New World located at Jalan Besar and Gay World at Geyland Road(originally Happy World). Obviously the connotations of the word 'gay' were slightly different back then.

The Great World Amusement Park had very humble beginnings in the 1930s, with 150 wooden shacks. Free films and Peking Opera as well as wrestling and boxing matches were shown to mainly British servicemen and the upper class.

During the Japanese Occupation the park sadly became a prison for Australian POWs and many suicides occurred due to the harsh conditions.

After the war, the Park resumed its cultural activities and the 1950s saw a major upgrade, with fountains, carnival rides, a carousel, Ferris wheel, mini-rollercoaster and the Ghost Train. There was also 4 cinemas, cabaret at The Flamingo Nightclub, many hawker stalls and two Cantonese restaurants famous for their suckling pig and sharks fin soup.

Television, discos and supermarkets brought all three "Worlds" to their knees in the 60s and 70s. Great World closed down in 1964, although the cinemas and restaurants remained open until 1978.

The history of these iconic centres mirrors the way that Singapore is changing generally. Great World Amusement Park is now a large shopping mall; the site where New World Park sat is being developed into a condominium and shopping mall, and Gay World was demolished in 2001 and is zoned for 'housing'. It is a little sad that nothing remains of that time, just a few photos and of course people's memories. For interesting stories told by people who visited these Worlds in the 50s and 60s, go to http://www.goodmorningyesterday.blogspot.com/


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