Boat Quay

Boat Quay, Singapore

The trailblazer of the Singapore entertainment scene, Boat Quay is arguably Singapore's best place to 'chill out'. With a good mix of high end restaurants and alfresco dining and lively bars and pubs, Boat Quay is the hangout for most professionals and expatriates.

Imagine that only a century ago, sun-tanned coolies and swaylos (water-hands) balanced heavy gunny-sacks of rice on their shoulders, with springy gangplanks under their feet, loading and unloading a bewildering plethora of produce. When Raffles signed the agreement securing the auspicious title of free port for Singapore, this instantly opened the floodgates of immigrants from neighbouring countries. Within six months, Boat Quay had become a hothouse for trading, and by the 1860's, three-quarters of all shipping business was done at Boat Quay. Here was the starting point of all that is Singapore today: affluent, hardworking and adamant on success.

Immigrants were keen to erect their shophouses on the already crammed south side of the River, because it resembled the concaved belly of a carp, which according to Chinese belief, was where prosperity and wealth lay. Notice how the row of shophouses, which have been carefully conserved, vary in height. This was a sign of each man's wealth - the higher the shophouse, the wealthier the owner.

Getting There: Head towards the Singapore River from Raffles Place MRT (EW14/NS26).