From Singapore’s Ancient Relics to WWII History: A Turn Through Fort Canning Park

Early Sunday morning I decided to go for a run/walk (OK, mostly walk) at a lush park near our apartment, Fort Canning Park. The park covers 18 hectares (44 acres) and tops out at a whopping 48 meters (156 feet) right in the middle of the city.

I’ll cover Singapore’s history in greater detail in future posts, but here are some basics for now: the British showed up in Singapore around 1819 while they were busy colonizing a solid chunk of Southeast Asia and trying to get ahead of the Dutch who were doing the same. Also–spoiler alert–there were people and cultures in Singapore before the Brits came along. The park includes exhibits, structures, and gardens that illustrate this varied history. The park’s other names reflect this history: Government Hill and Bukit Larangan (Forbidden Hill in Malay).

The ancient kingdom of Singapore was likely centered around Bukit Larangan. One pavilion covers an archeological dig, and the accompanying exhibit describes the 14th century artifacts found; legends describe a palace and burial grounds for kings despite the somewhat thin archeological evidence to support either. That said plenty of the usual stuff abounds: pot sherds, jewelry, and so on.

Sir Stamford Raffles, who founded modern Singapore in 1819, built his house in the Park with a pretty awesome view of the harbor

In the late 19th century the actual fort was built to help defend the harbor. Though mostly demolished in the early 20th century, a few of the fort’s buildings remain today. The most significant military structure present today hides underground: the Battle Box, the headquarters for the Malaya Post that defended Malaya and Singapore during World War II. The Battle Box looked fascinating enough to warrant a return visit with the family this coming weekend, so stay tuned for a report from our tour.

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