Trail offers insights into maritime heritage

Mr Yip Yew Chong, who painted a 44m-long mural behind the Thian Hock Keng Temple depicting the life of early Hokkien immigrants when they first arrived in Amoy Street, introducing the artwork to participants of the preview of the Singapore Maritime Trail
Mr Yip Yew Chong, who painted a 44m-long mural behind the Thian Hock Keng Temple depicting the life of early Hokkien immigrants when they first arrived in Amoy Street, introducing the artwork to participants of the preview of the Singapore Maritime Trail 3: Our Legacy yesterday.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Retired clerk Ang Beng Thong, his wife Yee Mei Lin and Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng at the launch of the new Maritime Heritage Trail yesterday. The trail starts at the Thian Hock Keng Temple and ends at the Malay Heritage Centre.
Retired clerk Ang Beng Thong, his wife Yee Mei Lin and Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng at the launch of the new Maritime Heritage Trail yesterday. The trail starts at the Thian Hock Keng Temple and ends at the Malay Heritage Centre.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

21/2 hour-long free guided walk launched to get people curious about S'pore's seafaring past

As visitors step into the Fuk Tak Chi Temple, they are greeted by an intricate model of a boat with Chinese characters wishing seafarers a safe journey painted on its sail.

Originally a shrine set up by Confucianists and Taoists to give thanks for their safe journeys to Singapore, the temple was converted to a museum in 1998.

It is located in Telok Ayer Street, an area replete with temples, mosques and shrines set up by immigrants after their journeys across the sea. One of these, the Nagore Dargah Shrine, was built in memory of Shahul Hamid who was believed to have miraculously saved sailors in distress as the Saint of Nagore in southern India. Today, it serves as an Indian Muslim Heritage Centre.

These places form part of the Singapore Maritime Trail 3: Our Legacy, a free guided walk which was launched yesterday by Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Transport as well as Culture, Community and Youth. Attended by around 50 members of the public, including local students, the short tour offered a sneak preview of the full 21/2 hour-long heritage trail.

Ms Tan Beng Tee, assistant chief executive (development) of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore which is behind the trail, hopes that it will "pique interest in Singapore's rich maritime heritage".

Among the sites visited in Telok Ayer Basin were the Nagore Dargah Shrine and the Thian Hock Keng Temple, which is the trail's starting point. The visitors were impressed by the 44m-long mural behind the temple, depicting the life of early Hokkien immigrants when they first arrived in Amoy Street. The mural was painted by Mr Yip Yew Chong, who introduced his piece to the visitors.

For Mr Ang Beng Thong, 81, it was his first time visiting many of these places, including the Sultan Gate in Kampong Glam. He worked in the import and export industry as a clerk for 33 years and was once based in an office in Telok Ayer where he oversaw cargo movement.

"It is now totally different," he said. "Things have changed very fast, but it is good. Change means improvement."

Launched in support of the Singapore Bicentennial, the Maritime Heritage Trail also includes visits to Commercial Square (now Raffles Place), the Rochor River, Kampong Glam and ends at the Malay Heritage Centre.

The third Maritime Trail was set up after the successes of the first two that pulled in a total of around 1,000 people a month. Trail 1 was set up in 2014 and starts at Fort Canning and ends at Tanjong Pagar Terminal, while Trail 2 starts at Keppel Harbour and ends at the Singapore Maritime Gallery.

Undergraduate Melvin Chin Yong An, 22, who is president of the Maritime Business Society at Nanyang Technological University, said: "This trail reminds us of our history, which still plays a very important part in our development. We hope that this would interest younger people to find out more about our history."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2019, with the headline 'Trail offers insights into maritime heritage'. Print Edition | Subscribe