Jun 11, 2011

A Preview Tour of the PMB Monumental Walking Tours

Media Preview Participants

An email by Jannah, Public Relations for the Preservation of Monuments Board, changed my schedule for Tuesday morning. To my surprise, I was invited to a special media preview of the upcoming Monumental Walking Tours organized by the PMB. A sneak preview! And free. How could I miss out on the opportunity? The next day, instead of taking the MRT direct to Si Pai Por, I alighted at City Hall to join the tour group assembling outside Funan Centre, gambling I could still reach my workplace "on time". Ah ... the joy of working so close to Singapore Town.

Monumental Walking Tours by the PMB

The night before, I got to know from Jannah the name of the tour - Order out of Chaos - conducted by volunteer guide Jill Wong. To prep us for what to expect, we were given the synopsis as well:

Most people today think of Singapore as a clean, green and orderly city. But did you know that Singapore was nicknamed “Sin-galore” in the 1920s? In its early days, murder and mayhem ruled and many immigrants risked the perils of a long sea journey in search of a better life in Singapore, only to find a life of hardship and exploitation waiting for them. Find out more about these public institutions that were established by the British to bring order out of chaos in their new colony.

Since the media preview fell on a weekday and Jill had to work (she works as a policy executive), likewise for many of the participants,  the tour was tweaked a little: the duration was reduced from 1.5 hours to 1 hour, one monument (the former Minister of Labour Building) was dropped and the time was changed from the usual 10am to 8.30am.

* If you decide to join one of the tours, take note the usual timing is from 10am to 11.30am. The sun may be a bit unbearable at this time and since this is a walking tour, no transport will be provided. The guide will try to keep everybody under the shade but do prepare your own walking shoes, water and umbrella.

Jill on Danish Mansion, another Blood and Bandage
Jill Wong, our volunteer guide.

The tour started from Funan, opposite the Central Fire Station, where we were treated to a short history of the oldest fire station in Singapore. Jill never failed to capture my attention with her little nuggets of history woven into the storyline. For example, we were told of a fire in 1890 at Hock Lam Street - which met Hill Street at where we were standing - before the Central Fire Station was constructed in 1909. With no professional fire brigade and water arriving an hour after the fire, the crowd could only watch as the houses were completely gutted.

Central Fire Station
Central Fire Station, one of two monuments we covered in the preview tour. The other was former Hill Street Police Station.

Jill was articulate, knowledgeable and came well-prepared. It was not only the stories, the news articles she would read from time to time, but also the photos she would show as she touched on the topic. Some were new to me. For example, I never knew Captain Montague Pett, the first professionally-trained Superintendent of the Fire Brigade, could be so yandao. Jill also showed a photo of the Central Fire Station in camouflage during the war. According  to her, Hill Street Police Station also spotted camouflage patterns during the war but she could find no photos for that.

Jill on Camouflaged Central Fire Station
Central Fire Station in camouflage

Overall the tour was an enlightening one and kudos to Jill who made it so. We learnt that guides have great freedom in planning their tour, with each guide telling the story from a different focus, and there are no scripts for them to memorize. So don't be surprised if you see two tours covering the same monuments.

The tours will commence on 11 June 2011 and will be held every weekend in June and July. Do sign up, if you are interested but have not done so.

Monumental Walking Tours

June tours: $5 (adults) and $3 (students and senior citizens)
July tours: $10 (1 adult), $15 (2 adults), $20 (3 adults), $25 (group of four) and $5 (students and senior citizens).

Jill Interviewed
Jill giving a CNA interview


Anonymous said...

should change the title to be"a preview of walking tours with Jill"

Icemoon said...

Haha, Anon has a sense of humour. I focused more on Jill as this is the high standard of the volunteer PMB guides. The monuments, I blog about them in future.