Clarke QuayWith its picturesque mix of both modern and traditional facilities, its fame has soared due to the recent successful revamping that has given Clarke Quay a new lease of life with renewed interest from the public. However Clark Quay wasn’t always the colourful kaleidoscope that the young, semi-nocturnal and restless would hang out at. It had its beginnings as a trading hub back when the Singapore River was the centre of commercial activity.

Taking its name after Sir Andrew Clarke, Singapore’s second Governor and Governor of the Straits Settlements from 1873 to 1875, Clarke Quay has gone through a series of changes since its colonial days. This historical area situated near the mouth of the Singapore River, and bounded by Tan Tye Place and Canning Road, is the only riverside village in Singapore. Dozens of bumboats used to jostle the area for mooring space.

Therefore, to cater to the entrepot trade, 5 blocks of buildings housing 60 warehouses (locally known as godowns) and shop houses were built. Even before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore, the Singapore River was the centre of life on the island.

Ruled over by the Sultan of Johor, the island and its river port remained a trading post until the arrival of the British, who saw the potential in the Singapore River as a way they could start their own colony and challenge the Dutch and Portuguese in the region.

It is estimated that the Singapore River was used by more than 3,000 barges by 1821, and that by 1823, the river was handling a total trade volume worth S$13 million.

When Sir Stamford Raffles gained control of the island, he wasted no time in setting his government offices which gave birth to the city we know today. Clarke Quay was integral to his plans and soon became the centre of commerce for the colony.

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Not only did the area of river where it is situated afford good anchorage for the boats that plied the waters, but it was also situated directly below Forbidden Hill – or what would become known as Fort Canning. The Fort was important for the defence of the new city and being in such close proximity, Clarke Quay was able to forge its place as the beating heart of Singapore.

By the twentieth century, rapid urbanisation and expanding trade had caused heavy traffic on the Singapore River and filling its waters with garbage, sewage and pig wastes from nearby pig farms. By 1977, the situation had become very serious, oil spills and wastewaters from boats and lighters only helped to worsen the situation. The government decided to relocate cargo services to a new modern facility in Pasir Panjang. Clarke Quay fell silent.

By October 1977, an action plan on “The Clean-up of the Singapore River and Kallang Basin” was submitted to the Prime Minister and later that same year the government started taking actions towards the clean up of the river. In the space of ten years the government had cleaned up the river, and with the removal of hundreds of tons of debris which had been piled up over the years, marine life returned to the river.

The plan for Clarke Quay in particular involved turning it into a flourishing commercial, residential and entertainment precinct that reflected a historic ambience of an early riverside village.

Taking into consideration the historical value of Clarke Quay, it was mandatory that the new buildings complement the historical 19th century styled architectures.

Certain old buildings were also completely reconstructed due to their badly deteriorated state.

Clarke Quay Festival Village was the biggest conservation project for the Singapore River and officially opened on 10 December 1993. The five blocks were transformed into five areas – the Foundry, the Cannery, Trader’s Market, Merchant’s Court and the Shophouse Row, as we know it today. Since its restoration, visitors to Clarke Quay have an array of activities that they can indulge in.

Among the interesting daytime attractions include shopping at the Clarke Quay mall or exploring a tableau of delicacies from all over the world such as Korea, India, Persian and many more through the various restaurants and eateries.

Those up for a more thrilling experience can always try the G-Max Reverse bungy ride. On the other hand those wanting a more relaxing experience could head for Clarke Quay during the weekends, as it is transformed into a flea market where they can get antiques and souvenirs of the many kinds. By night, the area transforms into a smooth and groovy entertainment area.

On May 9th of 2006, CapitaLand (the people that run Clarke Quay), completed their two-year redevelopment plan of Clark Quay, costing them a staggering $80 million. With over 50 new F&B outlets lining the Singapore River, Clarke Quay now has a new hip and vibrant look. Clarke Quay is now equipped with multi-coloured canopies (affectionately known as “Angels”), which utilises air flow technology, cool water features and mature shady trees to keep the ambient temperature along its internal streets balanced.

This microclimate and sophisticated shading/cooling system enhances both the project’s visual ingredient and its environmental agenda and was developed by renowned U.K architect Aslop. Besides this, the physical environment has been improved by turning the riverside location into a garden of sorts with evocative flower-inspired structures called “lilypads” dotting the Singapore River platform while petals of “bluebells” overhang the river along the water’s edge.

According to Belinda Yew, the marketing manager of CapitaLand, the new look of Clarke Quay has been reaping the benefits as total revenues have increased and all tenants have had significantly higher sales. Mr Pua Seck Guan, CEO, CapitaLand Retail Limited said, “The revitalisation project has added a touch of modern charm to its rich heritage making it a popular tourist destination”. CapitaLand’s goals for the future are to make Clarke Quay the premier F&B cum entertainment riverfront precinct in Singapore.

Clarke Quay fountain court

Today, Clarke Quay is one of the biggest entertainment zones in Singapore. It has a vivacious nightlife, and acclaimed acts and clubs such as Crazy Horse cabaret from Paris (closed), a big UK dance club Ministry of Sound have opened their doors here.

Other interesting occupants include the “new kid on the block,” Pump Room, which was recently opened.

A restaurant by day, The Pump Room hosts a range of award-winning beers, which is brewed and tapped directly on the premises, hence the name.

Wine lovers may also delight their taste-buds here as it has one of the largest selections of wines by the glass in Singapore, set in a casual atmosphere and also providing live entertainment by the well-known band, Jive Talkin’.

Those wanting a taste of Scotland may opt to go to The Highlander, the sister outlet to The Pump Room, which are conveniently located right next door to each other.

Greeted by a traditional Scottish setting and kilt wearing staff The Highlander provides patrons with over 200 Scottish single malt whiskies to choose from. A wide selection of Scottish cuisines is also available for those who are looking for a different kind of meal.

Craving for something closer to home? At Park 10, a Korean restaurant and bar, staff in traditional Hanbok costumes will greet and serve you with an array of Korean food. If you’re interested in seeing how your food is prepared just have an eye on the charcoal counter at the centre of the room where you could watch the meat being grilled.

If you fancy Middle-Eastern food, then head on to Shiraz Restaurant. It’s an authentic Persian cuisine delight set in a classy and comfortably decorated atmosphere. The food is prepared to provide a balanced yet tasty diet and spiced up with unique Persian herbs and spices that satisfies the mouth and fills the stomach.

Of course, if you’re up for more local dish there’s always the famous Satay Club. Having undergone a make-over, it is now known as King Satay, with a more posh feel although the prices remain unchanged. It features alfresco dining and has increased seating capacity. One of their new features includes a bar, where you can unwind with some beer after fulfiling your appetite.

If you need a place to chill and relax with a group of friends Coffee Club is opened until about 4am from Wednesday to Saturday. Coffee Club provides you with fresh coffee roasted on the spot made from a variety of beans originating from South America, Africa and many more. The interior of the place is made to comfort those who occupy the place consequently making Coffee Club the perfect place to unwind especially after a night of partying.

So as you take the time to absorb the cool breeze, dazzling lights and sounds coming from the little restaurants and pubs established along the river allow yourself to indulge in the idea that Clarke Quay is a reminder of the boatmen who toiled day and night to make Singapore the centre of entrepot trade in South-east Asia and also of the enterprising merchants who made this possible. It’s where families, business people and party people mix amongst the buildings that once watched over the birth of the city and today have been beautifully restored.

Long live Clarke Quay!

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