SINGAPORE – Sitting on the water, the Fullerton Bay Hotel, with its irregular angles and balconied rooms, is built to resemble a cruise ship.
Embarking on the hotel’s Heritage Journey experience, therefore, was like boarding a slow boat and travelling in stately elegance back in time to Singapore’s neonatal days as a bustling trading port.
Of course, I was seeing 19th-century Singapore through the eyes of a privileged upper-classman, not a cargo labourer. The five-star hotel’s tastefully appointed Premier Bay View rooms incorporate colonial-style hat-and-coat racks and framed black-and-white reminders of the marina’s early days into their sleek decor. Lounging on the deckchairs on the private balcony and looking across the water at the Marina Bay Sands, it felt like I had just stepped out of my cabin to enjoy the salt spray – after all, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Since a Heritage Journey is supposed to be educational, the package includes a complimentary Singapore River boat ride. I also signed up for the hour-long guided tours where I discovered interesting bits of trivia.
The Fullerton Hotel Tour, for example, takes you around the Fullerton Hotel across the road from the Fullerton Bay, where you’re given interesting and informative tidbits. Did you know, for instance, that when the building was used as a General Post Office, it boasted a 90m postal counter – and it was the longest in the world?
The Maritime Journey tour points out the roles of the harbour’s conservation buildings like Customs House and The Fullerton Waterboat House. I learnt that Clifford Pier was quite romantically known as the Red Lantern Pier. The older generation still refers to it fondly as “ang teng” (Hokkien for red lantern) because of the red oil lamps that hung from it to guide incoming ships. The originals are still there today.
Dinner was a glamorous affair at The Clifford Pier restaurant, which unveiled its beautiful new powder-blue-drawing-room look this May. Under the original Art Deco arches, it wasn’t hard to imagine the space in 1933: The landing point for Singapore’s travel-weary new residents. A five-course Heritage dinner included popiah, satay, Hainanese chicken rice, a well-executed crispy wok-fried snapper on a bed of eggplant, a dessert of pulot hitam and a coffeestall-style beverage.
After dining, it’s a good idea to head up to Lantern, the rooftop bar, for cocktails: On any weekend until Aug 9, you can cap your night watching the fireworks display from the National Day Parade rehearsals on the bay.
If you want to, you can get all dressed up – white outfit, sun hat, leather carry-all, maybe even a parasol – and pretend you’re back in the days when docking at a pier was a real affair. But a Heritage Journey like this also reminds us that although Singaporeans may have “arrived”, we shouldn’t forget the journey we took to get here.
The Fullerton Bay Hotel’s Heritage Journey room package is available until Aug 31 (excluding 8 and 9 August) from S$658++ per Deluxe Room per night, including breakfast for two.