Png Chin Lai, veteran bumboat tour guide of Singapore River Cruise, talks about the old days of Singapore River and what to do in the precinct
Singapore may only be 50 years young, but the city is nonetheless rich in history — especially along the Singapore River, the country’s lifeline for over 150 years. We get cosy with Singapore River Cruise’s veteran bumboat tour guide Png Chin Lai, and made him tell us the stories surrounding the river, as well as what to do when you find yourself around the nightlife hotspot.
Singapore River… has undergone vibrant changes and has a rich history. This former trading hub is now the heart of a bustling metropolis, surrounded by old colonial buildings on one side of the river and modern skyscrapers on the other. I believe this could never be possible if not for Singapore’s first Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
I have many fond memories… of growing up by the Singapore River. We used to swim in it and hang on to tyre fenders as the boats cruised along. As a boatman, I feel proud to show passengers the beautiful Singapore skyline by ferrying them down the river of my childhood memories.
We used to eat along the Boat Quay riverbank… where street hawkers sold porridge, noodles and satay (grilled skewered meat). These days, we are spoiled for choice with food from the many restaurants along the river. Singapore is a food paradise after all – so do try the different ethnic food!
Hop on a bumboat… because you get to sit back and relax while sightseeing local attractions like Marina Bay Sands, the Merlion and the Esplanade. An accompanying audio commentary will also help you better understand Singapore River’s past and present. Don’t forget to bring along your camera to capture the moments – the sights by the river are constantly changing.
If you’re spending a day along the Singapore River… start your morning at Ya Kun Kaya Toast at Central before heading to the Asian Civilisations Museum for its stunning galleries of historical artefacts. Then, take the bumboat from Fullerton Hotel to Marina Bay Sands (MBS) to lunch at the Skypark. Shop to your heart’s content at MBS before popping by the Marina Bay City Gallery to learn about country’s urban transformation. Take a stroll along the Merlion Park for photos before a scenic seafood dinner. Then, change into your dancing shoes and party at clubs at Clarke Quay.
A river cruise along Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Marina Bay costs $24 for adults and $15 for children.
Singapore River Cruise, 59 Boat Quay, Singapore 049028, p. 6336 6111.
This article was first published in Singapore Insider. Pick up a copy of the print guide at Singapore Visitor Centres island-wide, including Orchard (junction of Cairnhill Road and Orchard Road), orchardgateway, ION Orchard (Level 1 Concierge), and Chinatown Visitor Centre (2 Banda Street), or download the latest issue.