SINGAPORE - About 11 years after it last traversed the island from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands en route to Malaysia, the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) train is back - this time as a plywood mock-up in the National Museum of Singapore.
The recreated train cabin, which gives visitors a sense of how it was to travel on the trains more than a decade ago, marks the return of Singapore HeritageFest this year with the themes of travel and nature.
National Museum serves as the home ground, where visitors will be able to find out more about its more than 120 programmes.
This year’s festival, to be held from May 2 to 29, has considerably more in-person offerings than the mostly virtual editions that took place after the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. About two-thirds of this year's events are on site, with the rest online. Under half of last year's programmes were in-person.
Festival director David Chew, 41, said on Wednesday (April 20) that KTM trains and the route they once passed through, the Rail Corridor, collectively bring together both themes.
"Before the advent of cheap flights, taking a train to Malaysia was the idea of a family holiday for a lot of Singaporeans," said Mr Chew, who added that the 24km-long Rail Corridor, set up after the railway line was closed, has over the past decade served nature lovers well.
Mr Chew said the travel theme pays tribute to Singaporeans working in the sector, which has been badly hit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"(We want to) acknowledge their efforts - not just resilience in the last two years - but also the last 50 years or so, representing Singapore to the rest of the world," he added.
Among the programmes that celebrate Singapore's travel and tourism heritage is a tour of national monument Fullerton Hotel, which previously served as the General Post Office. Besides showcasing the hotel's architectural features, it also recalls its role in Singapore's colonial, war and independence years.
Also among the travel-related offerings is a tour of the Singapore Aviation Academy, where the country's air traffic controllers are trained. Through a training simulator, participants will be able to experience day-and-night settings in a control tower from the perspective of a traffic controller.
Those who prefer to enjoy the festival from their homes can explore a video series showcasing the treasures of private collectors such as Mr Jason Ang, a self-professed Singapore Airlines enthusiast.
The 52-year-old tour leader said: "By showing my collection, I hope that people can witness a slice of history - how SIA has evolved from a small operator to the renowned airline it is today.
"When people overseas think about Singapore, they think first of the Merlion and SIA. Hopefully, it will get people to feel a sense of pride, like I do."
On the festival's other theme of natural heritage, Mr Chew noted that Singaporeans have been flocking to nature spots during the pandemic.
As borders reopen and people start planning holidays abroad, he said the festival provides an opportunity for Singaporeans to continue to rediscover the island's natural settings.
At one programme run by heritage consultancy Total Heritage, participants will learn about the relevance of one of three cash crops - pineapple, coffee or coconut - to Singapore's history, and how waste materials from their consumption can be repurposed for other uses.
Coffee grounds, for instance, can be used to make a body scrub. Although coffee is not commonly associated with Singapore today, Total Heritage co-founder John Kwok, 44, said the robusta and liberica varieties were grown here in the 1890s to the early 1900s, which led to them forming the basis of Nanyang coffee that is sold in coffee shops today.
For a hands-on experience, participants can join a kayaking tour of Lower Khatib Bongsu, one of Singapore's largest mangrove riverine systems.
Mr Chew said that besides the tours and experiences, he hopes participants will also reflect on the issues that concern the festival's two themes.
To that end, the festival also has talks and panel discussions featuring academics, interest groups and stakeholders. For example, an "Open Business" series of talks features local business owners sharing details about their trades and the challenges they have faced in keeping the business going.
The festival's programmes will be open for registration at noon on Thursday. The public may find out more about them at the Singapore HeritageFest website.