Balestier Heritage Trail

Nowadays Balestier road in known as the place to go when you want to purchase some lighting but once upon a time it was an area used for sugar cane plantations.  Even the street names remind us of this, Jalan Ampas refers to the fibrous pulp that remains after sugar cane has been crushed to extract the juice, which is ampas tebu in Malay. The area also played an important role in the 1911 Chinese revolution, due to the presence of the elegant villa on Tai Gin Road, now the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.
Sun Yat Sen and his supporters were responsible for bringing down the last Chinese dynasty and founding the Republic of China. The villa was purchased by a supporter of the Chinese Nationalist Movement in 1905 and gifted to Sun Yat Sen in 1906 to use as a base for the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance. It became an essential headquarters for the Southeast Asian operations of this Alliance and many uprisings were planned during Sun Yat Sen’s visits. After the 1911 Revolution it became the headquarters of the Chinese National Party. The memorial hall is well worth a visit and their one hour guided tours are very much worthwhile.
Right next door to the memorial hall is this beautiful Burmese Buddhist Temple, Maha Sasana Ramsi. A feature of the temple is the tiered roof made with 19 tonnes of Burmese teak and on the third floor a mural depicting the story of the temple. Inside they have used LED lights to literally make the Buddha radiant and outside grows a Bodhi tree with a small shrine beneath. The Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating under such a tree. 

Also in Balestier are the former Shaw Malay Film Studios. The Shaw name is one you might be familiar with as it can still be seen on various buildings around Singapore. Shaw Studios was founded in Shanghai in 1924 by six brothers, two of whom (Runme and Run Run Shaw) later moved to Singapore. From the 1930s to the 1980s, Shaw Studios was a major force in Asian cinema with production houses in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. In addition to their movie making business the Shaw brothers also ran cinemas and amusement parks. The Shaw film studios were on Jalan Ampas alongside sites which were used as production centres. After producing more than 160 films the Golden Age of Malay Cinema came to an end when the studio closed in 1967. By this time interest in Malay movies was on the wane due to the rising popularity of imported films and television.
Balestier Road and its side streets also offer many beautiful pre-war terrace and shop houses, once renowned for their sweet treats, coffee and traditional bakeries.  The majority of these building are now under conservation and the single storey shop houses near the Thompson Road end of Balestier offer a glimpse of life outside the city centre in the 1950s and 60s.

Moving On

I think in most cases it’s best not to draw things out. Moving is probably the same, a quick move which appears from nowhere and has you packed up and gone within a month may not leave you with much time for proper goodbyes but at least once you have made the decision to go you can get on with going. 
Our move has been a known factor since the day we arrived. We knew where we would be likely to move to and we knew roughly when the move would take place. For the most part we have ignored this and settled into life here in Singapore. We have a great apartment with some of our own pictures on the walls, I fill my time with a couple of volunteering jobs and most of all we have established friendships here.
After my trip to Ghana last month it has no longer been possible to ignore the move and that routine and settled feeling has all but vanished. Now my time if filled with managing the move. Ghanaian customs need lists to be produced, as do the company responsible for the international shipment and of course the list of expectations for handing back our Singapore apartment. Arranging accommodation for after our belongings have been shipped, medicals, visas, closing down bank/electricity/mobile accounts, the lists seem endless. There are quite a few people involved and it’s easy to start to feel like a project manager in need of a project plan to manage it all.
We have moved a lot in the last 4.5 years, in fact this is our 4th move. Singapore has been an amazing journey, so amazing it deserves its own ‘Goodbye’ post. Of course everything comes at a price and this is one of the moments where we start paying. By saying goodbye to Singapore, to the friends we have only just made, packing up our lives and facing starting over once again. This can leave you feeling very, very far form home and sometimes even questioning where home is. If there is one thing Singapore has taught me it is that expat living is about being flexible and adaptable, the more you are the easier the transition will be. Ultimately the experiences you have and the wonderful variety of people you meet will far outweigh these slightly difficult transitional phases. So on that note back to the lists…..