Saturday, 13 May 2017

Fort Canning Park, Singapore

Parks, parks, parks. Is this all I write about now? Well, no, but this post is all about a park. Fort Canning, to be precise! 
There are several entrances to this particular park, but the one closest to Bugis is located behind the National Museum and features a set of escalators. How very modern. The escalators weren't actually running when we visited, so they were more like a pair of futuristic staircases. If anywhere in the world would have an escalator leading up to a park, it's Singapore, where there is an abundance of both escalators and parks.

On our way up to what in my estimation looked like "the main bit", we saw an architecturally interesting building, which turned out to be one part of the Singapore Management University (SMU for short). Imagine having lectures in what seems to be an observatory inside a park. Already we were noticed a steep increase in the number of butter- and dragonflies that were flapping around here in comparison to the busy city streets, and apparently the plants chosen for the park help insect life thrive.

Next to the behemoth Arts Centre that dominates the park, we followed a little moss-covered brick path and scanned some of the gravestones embedded in the wall.

The history of the park goes back centuries, as it was a hill and therefore a handy vantage point to spot advancing enemies. It's thought that a Malay palace and surrounding settlement once occupied the hill, but was abandoned around the 14th-century after an attack. Since then, the British came and built a fort here, which is where the name originates (before the fort, the hill was known as Bukit Larangan, and is still called this in Malay). The hill was once home to around six hundred Christian graves, many of which have been lost to time.

We had a good wander around the park and tried not to feel threatened by the ever darkening clouds above us.

Just as we reached Sir Stamford Raffles' house, the heavens opened and we hid under and awning for a couple of minutes until it passed. Apparently Raffles liked the hill much more than his previous residence on Bencoolen Street (poor Bencoolen, getting a bad rap since the 1800's) and wrote that he would be happy to die in such a place. Nowadays his house has a view of Marina Bay Sands, which I'm not sure he would approve of. 

Umbrella at the ready in case of another downpour, we moseyed over to the archaeological site, where excavations have been ongoing since their commencement in 1984. On display is a veritable mound of pottery and glass fragments dating back through the centuries. Though it felt quite out of place, we did find the vending machine handy for a refreshing beverage in the heat of the day. 

On our way out of the park, we zigzagged through the Spice Garden, where I saw my first cinnamon tree! It looked and smelled like any other tree, so it's possible I've seen one before without realising it, but I was so excited. Fun fact: cinnamon is the best spice.