Singapore’s relationship with its past, to crib from Facebook, boils down to “it’s complicated”. Many historical buildings in the business center have long been obliterated to make way for gleaming high rises. But modernity has not always had its own way: ethnic enclaves like Chinatown retain many 19th-century shophouses and temples, and many other signs of Singapore’s past persist all around the island.
Most of Singapore’s oldest buildings find new life through new uses: a former British Army HQ, for instance, has been transformed into the cozy but modern Hotel Fort Canning. Other places have managed to hang on through history’s highs and lows – the Raffles Hotel, opened in 1887, continues to serve patrons in the same Long Bar that once served Somerset Maugham and Charlie Chaplin.
All bets are off, though, when you go to Marina Bay, part of Singapore’s historic civic district: this part of Singapore is currently undergoing a radical transformation into a “garden city”. Its skyline has been transformed by the addition of structures like the Esplanade, the Gardens by the Bay, the Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer. To see Singapore rushing headlong into the future, you need to visit Marina Bay posthaste.