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My Escapes Singapore Bustling, Colourful Singapore The Bras Basah Area

The Bras Basah Area

May 30, 2014
July 19, 2014

Some of Singapore's oldest Christian churches are found here and I also discovered a beautiful Tamil temple and a Chinese one near it.
Bras Basah is an awe-inspiring diverse zone that besides exploring also proved to be a good place for having a brunch.

After getting out of the Bras Basah MRT station, I walked along Waterloo Street and also checked out a few side streets to the left and right.

A couple of streets further are the Queen Street and Victoria Street, much of that area is part of what they call Bugis.

Bras Basah with Krishna temple

Mix of concrete box buildings... oh, and a Krishna temple down there!

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In this article I will emphasize on the attractions strictly in the Bras Basah area, especially the ones on Waterloo Street...

But before presenting the attractions in the area, let's see more about the look and feel of Bras Basah, some facts, its history and more!

Baroque motifs

Strong Baroque motifs on a building with a Chinese feel

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So, basically, it's contrastful, one of the most colourful parts of Singapore.

Again, it's an architectural and religious mix, all around...

Striking colour combinations might seem shocking to the Westerner. Violet with green, greenish yellow resembling the mustard's colour, stark grey churches... My photos clearly reflect how weird Bras Basah is.

Weird buildings

Weird light-violet building, isn't it? And a residential high-rise with a palm tree garden on its roof!

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Residential house blocks painted in somewhat pale colours (slightly greyish blue/red/yellow/green) are also abundant in the area.

Laundry lay hanging from the windows of these blocks. Many of the clothes are hung out on long horizontal poles or ropes. Doing this requires effort and a lot of courage...

Blue house block in Bras Basah

Laundry hanging...

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Tragically, many maids die while attempting to hang laundry or when trying to collect them.

Many of the maids arrive to Singapore as foreign workers (coming from places like Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam...) and they literally risk their lives earning more money than they would back home in their own countries.

Here is an article by the Jakarta Globe on this issue.

It might seem strange that while in Singapore chewing gum is illegal, an issue like hanging clothes outside the window causes potentially more than a dozen deaths every year.

I do hope they'll do something against this issue. Like banning cloth hanging poles above a certain height? That would certainly help save lives...

Because there already are strict laws in Singapore, something could be done in this area as well.

Now a little bit of history about Bras Basah...

The words "bras basah" means something like "wet harvested rice" (might not be an exact translation), referring to the harvesting of rice during the old days when rice was transported upstream on the channels by boats and dried under the Sun.

The channels were covered up since then.

Singapore isn't all about contrasts, sometimes the sights are harmonious.

From certain angles, a neighbourhood might feel harmonious in terms of colours. The photo below illustrates pretty well what I mean... even though, the colours are quite strong by Western standards...

Harmonious colours

Harmony: these colours seem to go quite well with each other

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So, the area is thrilling to check out and easy to see most attractions, as they're almost all located right on Waterloo Street.

I also encountered a wicked yellow house block... eeek!

Weird yellow houseblock

Wicked colour... Really weird "mustard nuance" of yellow

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The attractions in the Bras Basah area include: the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, the Sri Krishnan Temple, the Singapore Art Museum, the Rendezvous Grand Hotel Singapore (stylish modern high-end), The Cathay (a 17-story cinema complex), the Raffles Hotel (established by two Armenian brothers - Martin and Tigan Sarkies in 1887) - built in colonial-style.

Bras Basah Road

Above all, I think one shouldn't miss checking the scenic Bras Basah Road out (whose photo you can see below).

It runs right near the Bras Basah MRT station, between Newton and Raffles City, so this entire area is very centrally-situated.

Bras Basah Road

Scenic Bras Basah Road

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Sri Krishnan Temple

Sri Krishnan Temple

Hanuman warrior deity's statue

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Sri Krishnan Temple can be found on Waterloo Street, it's very easy to find, located at a corner (as it is decpicted on the first photo on this page).

The colourful roof decorations are clearly visible even from a bigger distance.

In fact, the intriguing colourful statuettes and large statues at the entrance have kept me there for a long period of time, admiring them...

This holy place is dedicated to Sri Krishna (the supreme Hindu god) and his consort Rukmini.

The Sri Krishnan Temple is the only South Indian Hindu temple and it was established in 1870. This makes it part of the oldest historic religious sites in Singapore.

I was quite unlucky that day, because much of the roof section was covered with a thick cloth - I suppose restoration work was undergoing, that's why I couldn't see, nor was I able to photograph the temple in its entirety.

Anyway, the temple was flooded by Hindus who arrived for prayer and in respect for them, I kept a discrete distance.

At first, it was very hard getting even a few good shots of the place without anyone else getting into the picture. People kept entering, I stayed outside, as I tried getting away from the crowd.

Besides, barriers and the cloth covering much of the temple only allowed me to take a few photos.

Lord Garuda statue

Lord Garuda (the Eagle Man) statue standing on the left side

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Lord Garuda (above) is a humanoid bird (some say so) or, a human-like deity with bird wings (I find the latter describes him better).

The other deity is Hanuman, who also had both human and animal physical features. Basically, a human body and part-monkey face.

Hanuman statue

Hanuman's statue was on the right side of the entrance

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As people kept pouring in, it took a while to immortalize both statues with my camera... speaking of immortalization, they're immortal anyway, because they're gods!

Particularly beautiful is the roof section of this temple and the gopuram...

Gopuram statues

Statues on the gopuram

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This temple is considered a National Monument in Singapore...

Amazingly it looks almost entirely new. It's in excellent condition. That's because in the late 1980's it went through a major restoration (I think similar work was being carried out during my visit).

Roof section statues

Statues on the roof section

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Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple

The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple is near the above-presented Sri Krishnan Temple and, it's dedicated to the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Im (Guanyin).

This place was being visited by religious people during my visit. So I didn't interfere with them, but I took a few photos of the temple.

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple

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Church of Saints Peter and Paul

Finalized in 1870, it's a stark grey-coloured (quite morbid, actually) Roman Catholic church.

There used to be a small chapel at its place in the 1830's, but it had been too small, so they started building a new (and larger) church in 1869. Behold: it was already finalized the next year!

It wasn't built by the colonialists, nor the Europeans, but the Chinese Catholic Mission.

So, the church was primarily used by Chinese, but some European missionaries too - those who needed to learn Chinese.

In fact, its main entrance is located at 225 Queen Street, which is parallel to Waterloo Street. I must admit, my photo doesn't show its best part, the front, which is really beautiful. Back then I didn't realize this.

Church of Saints Peter and Paul

Church of St.Peter & St.Paul

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St.Joseph's Church

Saint Joseph's Church is a Roman Catholic church at 143 Victoria Street.

The building was constructed between 1904-1912 in Gothic Revival Style by the Portuguese mission, members of which have arrived in the first half of the 1800's from Goa (India).

In fact, the best way to approach it is from Victoria Street, not from Waterloo Street.

Anyway, to me it felt delicious. White walls with some elements like window frames painted light blue... It felt like a creamy cake.

St.Joseph's Church

St.Joseph's Church

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Middle Road Church (Sculpture Square)

It's very small church built between 1870-1875 and it was first known as Christian Institute, later called Middle Road Church.

After having become a Malay Methodist Church is 1894, it became the first Straits Chinese Methodist Church in Singapore.

The building had various functions, including a Methodist girls' school until 1900 and it had even served as a Chinese restaurant called May Blossom Restaurant.

Today it's an art centre.

Middle Road Church

Middle Road Church

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Singapore Art Museum

Shortly: SAM has the World's largest public collection of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian artworks.

It was officially opened in 1996 only. Rather new...

But the host building dates back to the 1850's and it has an unusual elegance emanating from it.

Singapore Art Museum<

Singapore Art Museum

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Escape Hunter

About the Author:

Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...


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