When my husband and I went to Singapore recently for a musical theatre, we didn’t plan to explore the Lion City. We were only going to be in Singapore for 2 nights and didn’t think we would have much time (or energy) for exploration. We decided to visit my relatives and do some food hunting instead.
On our second day in Singapore, on our way to my aunt’s house from our hotel, my husband thought it would be a great idea to go to Fort Canning Park. And he was right!
We enjoyed Fort Canning Park (or some parts of it due to time constraint) but most of all, I enjoyed what was in Fort Canning Centre.
From 1st June to 15th September 2019, there is a show called “The Bicentennial Experience” showcased in Fort Canning Centre. Fort Canning Centre, now named “The Time Traveller”, will let visitors immerse themselves in The Bicentennial Experience, taking visitors all the way back to the 13th Century until present day.
Both my husband and I didn’t know of this show until we stood in front of Fort Canning Centre and what an accidental treasure it was to be able to experience From Singapore to Singaporean: The Bicentennial Experience ourselves.
From Singapore to Singaporean : The Bicentennial Experience
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Raffles’ landing in Singapore, From Singapore to Singaporean: The Bicentennial Experience is an indoor storytelling multimedia sensory experience that takes us back to witness key moments in Singapore’s transformation.
Starting from the Atrium, there is a large shower rain over flat map of the world that magically freeze and fall in “reverse”, the narration pointing out that weather played a significant role in the rise and fall of civilisations and cities and the raindrops reversing is to brings us back in time to when it all started in 1299.
There are 5 Acts to experience at the centre.
- Act 1
After the Atrium, we proceeded to another section of a room for Act 1. Act 1brought us back to year 1299 – 1613, to when Parameswara (or known as Iskandar Shah) of the Srivijaya Empire came to Singapore and claimed it as his own. He went through some bad times though and ran to Malay Peninsula where he founded Melaka.
I thought the segment of live performers on moving travelator with multimedia projections in a re-enacment of action was brilliant! The segment was short but all key points of the history was shared clearly through the speaker.
- Act 2
Act 2is year 1819 when Raffles arrived in Singapore and turned the island into a key British trading post. (Note: even though it was popularly known that Singapore was just a sleepy fishing village when Raffles landed, archaeological and historical records proved otherwise. Singapore was already a busy trading port in the 14th century, embroiled in violent regional conflicts in 15th and 16th century and went into decline in the 17th and 18th century when ports from other region started to become trading bases for emergent European colonial powers).
I loved Act 2 because it left this question in your mind: Was it Sir Stamford Raffles whom turned Singapore into a properous commercial emporium or was it Willian Farquhar, the man who oversaw the clearing of mangroves swamps, construction of aqueducts for water supply as well as building roads and bridges, who deserved the credit?
- Act 3
In the room is a curcular surround screen and rotating seats that started moving as the screen shows the development of Singapore through industrialisation and technological developments. The secondary school students in the same room as me were ooh-ing and aah-ing at the moving platform as well as the matching visuals and narration on-screen.
It shows the vast changes that Singaporewent through between 1867 – 1941 and how developments, trade and new immigrants to the city started to lead an era of biodiversity.
- Act 4
After rotating seats, we walked to another room, as smaller and darker room where we were warned that there was only going to be audio in the room. Parents were advised to care for their young children or toddlers too.
It was a much somber situation this time. We were brought back to 1942-1945 during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. We heard audio of war, we saw visuals of war in bunker-like tunnels with “cracks” in the wall to provide dramatic peek into wartime life. We even saw a re-enacted video and narration of a survivor’s harrowing escape from being murdered cold-blooded by the Japanese like most of his Chinese male counterparts.
- Act 5
Act 5 was probably my favourite. After a somber situation during the Japanese Occupation, we were given see-through umbrellas to proceed to the final room. Why?
Showers. In this room, there was rainshower and the room was surrounded with LCD walls that brought us back through Singapore’s journey from after Japanese Occupation in 1950s to the Independent Singapore that it is now in 2019. The rain was to bring us all together sharing the stories of the earlier generation and to weather the storm together as a nation.
Which DNA Trait Do You Think Is Most Important To Singapore?
Yes, it was indeed accidental that both my husband and I came to Fort Canning Centre but what a treasure it had been! We certainly saw the changes through time and what made “From Singapore to Singaporean”.
Finally, after we left the room of the final Act, we walked to another section where visitors were given plastic balls and there were three suction-tubes with a question on the wall, “Which DNA trait do you think is most important to Singapore?”
There were three answers to this question.
Visitors can then choose which is best for them and place the plastic ball in the suction-tube of their choice.
There was a cumulative result on a board next to the window. Apparently many Singaporeans chose “Self-Determination” as the top trait followed by “Multiculturalism” and lastly, “Openness”. I think they are spot-on!
In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to know what Singaporean think of themselves. The time I was at Fort Canning Centre for the show, I was with a group of Secondary school students and they were interacting well with the surrounding, giving opinions as well as having fun at the same time. I liked that involvement which I’m sure was what happened most of the time with the visitors at the centre.
I also realised there were many school students be it Primary or Secondary nearby and outside the centre. Maybe Fort Canning Park and the attractions around it is a favourite among school teachers to bring their students for excursions.
Lastly, before exiting the building, there is a memorablia section to purchase some goodies and I didn’t pass up the opportunity to buy something for myself too. I chose a book titled “Travellers’ Tales of Old Singapore” which I think suits well with the Bicentennial history, don’t you think?
Tickets & Show Times
Entrance to Fort Canning Centre for the From Singapore to Singaporean : The Bicentennial Experience is free however, it is advised to contact Fort Canning Centre beforehand to book slot and number of visitors. Walk-ins are allowed but only if there are availability.
Monday : 8.30am – 5.30pm
Tuesday – Sunday : 8.30am – 10pm
How To Get There
Fort Canning MRT: Exit B. Use escalator leading to Fort Canning Park.
Bras Basah MRT : Exit C. Walk between SMU and NMS towards Fort Canning Park.
Dhoby Ghaut MRT : Exit B.
Clarke Quay MRT : Exit E.