Discovering Singapore’s Rich Heritage: My Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Adventure

I embarked on a journey through Singapore's captivating built heritage with our Hop-On, Hop-Off (HOHO) Bus Experience with Singapore HeritageFest! (Photo: Singapore HeritageFest)

As our world becomes increasingly globalised, the distinctive flavours of our cultural heritage can easily get lost in the melting pot. Singapore, too, feels the effects of westernisation, with our unique traditions and customs slowly fading into the background. Thus, it's important to cherish our culture and roots, and the Singapore Heritage Festival's HOP ON HOP OFF (HOHO) bus is the perfect way to do just that.

I embarked on a journey through Singapore's captivating built heritage with our Hop-On, Hop-Off (HOHO) Bus Experience with Singapore HeritageFest! (Photo: Singapore HeritageFest)

It was a warm Sunday afternoon as I made my way to the National Museum, the starting point of my HOHO bus adventure. The moment I reached the entrance of the museum, I was immediately immersed in the vibrant atmosphere of the Singapore Heritage Festival 2024. The outdoor cultural booths caught my attention, which showcased the traditions and customs of Singapore. 

I participated in some interactive booths, where I got to paper-stamp the iconic dragon playground design. Did you know that only four of these beloved playgrounds remain? Later, I engaged in a watercolour activity where the watercolours were utilised from natural food sources such as turmeric, cloves, and blue peas.

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A blast from the past! Childhood snacks galore! (PHOTO: Thamizheniyan Thamizharasi)

One particular booth caught my attention. My eyes widened with excitement when I saw a booth selling all my favourite childhood snacks, from Ring Pops to Old-school bangle chocolates, which made me feel like a kid at the mama shop all over again! I remembered bugging my mum to buy me those tidbits and seeing kids rushing over to the booth excitedly brought back memories of little me doing the same. 

After spending time at the outdoor booths, I proceeded to the Glass Atrium at Level 2 and presented my HOHO ticket. I received a warm welcome, and a goodie bag filled with traditional snacks, vouchers, and an activity booklet. This booklet would be my trusty guide throughout the self-guided tour, providing valuable insights and information about the various cultural landmarks I would visit. 

The beginning of the HOHO bus adventure. (PHOTO: Thamizheniyan Thamizharasi)

My adventure begins at the National Museum and ends at the Peranakan Museum. The HOHO bus stops by the Art House, Chijmes, and the Children’s Museum – the perfect journey to soak in Singapore’s heritage.  

With my goodie bag in hand, I boarded the bus, eager to start my adventure in exploring the fascinating history and culture of Singapore. The bus departed every 20 minutes, allowing me to hop off at any of the designated stops and discover the heritage sites at my own pace. 

The Arts House At The Old Parliament (PHOTO: SPH)

My first stop was The Arts House at The Old Parliament, a stunning Neo-Palladian mansion designed by George Drumgoole Coleman. This historic building has a rich past, having served as a courthouse, assembly hall, and even a temporary parliament house.

As I explored The Arts House, I saw families with kids excitedly entering the building. I wondered what could be so interesting. That is when I discovered the ‘Monstrous Fun’ event. Kids and parents were creating their own clay monsters together. I loved seeing this historic landmark used in a new, creative way where families could bond together.  

An Unexpected Surprise at the Victoria Concert Hall

After exploring the Arts House, I walked over to the Victoria Concert Hall, situated at the opposite end. As I entered, I was immediately captivated by the enchanting voice of an opera singer from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, performing for the public free of charge.  

It was my first time experiencing an opera live, having only seen it in videos before. I was amazed and stood mesmerised for a good five minutes, joining in the applause when the performance had ended. 

The Victoria Concert Hall has a rich history, serving as a WWII hospital and later, the site for Japanese war criminal trials. I recall reading about it in my secondary school history textbook as despite its sad past, the interior is breathtakingly beautiful, with high ceilings that exude the grandeur of a palace.  

Next stop: CHIJMES from City Hall (PHOTO: Thamizheniyan Thamizharasi)

The CHIJMES building was wonderful! Its design reminded me of Rapunzel’s tower, and I was in awe of its beautiful and historic structure. What caught my eye was the intricate patterns on the small spiral staircases inside the building. I had hoped to climb them, but they were sadly off-limits. I was amazed that such an old building is now playing host to a wide array of restaurants, stylish bars and cafés.

CHIJMES has a rich history, dating back to 1854, and has served as a convent, orphanage, and school. The mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles is beautiful, and the peaceful greenery around its courtyard make it a lovely place to visit.  

Next stop: The Children’s Museum 

As I stepped off the bus, I was immediately struck by the vibrant colours of the museum building. Although I didn’t have a ticket to enter, I was thrilled to explore the outdoor booths, which once again transported me back to my childhood days. 

Another moment of nostalgia! (PHOTO: Thamizheniyan Thamizharasi)

I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me as I spotted familiar games like the eraser game, pickup sticks, and five stones. Memories of playing those games in my primary school class flooded my mind. 

The outdoor booths also offered a variety of traditional treats, including Popiah, Kueh Pie Tee, Roti Prata, Satay, and traditional drinks. I eagerly immersed myself in the games, reliving cherished moments from my childhood.  

The final destination: The Peranakan Museum

It was then time for my final destination, the Peranakan Museum. I went in eager to explore the various exhibits on display. As a student, I was fortunate to gain free admission. 

The ground floor exhibits showcased the history of the Peranakan, detailing their multicultural roots, ties and communities. 

Next, I had the privilege of visiting the Fukusa exhibition, showcasing Chris Hall’s exquisite collection of Japanese gift covers. In Japan’s Edo period, gift covers known as Fukusa were used to wrap gifts beautifully on special occasions. 

I felt really lucky to have seen this limited-time exhibit, which featured an array of captivating items such as Japanese lanterns, ceramics, furniture, and the intricately designed gift covers.

Then I saw the most beautiful of them all – the traditional Japanese kimono from the late Edo period (19th century). (PHOTO: Thamizheniyan Thamizharasi)

The dimly lit setting enhanced the beauty of these artefacts, as the colours seemed to come alive in the soft illumination. Even the security guard excitedly exclaimed that the beauty of the fabrics stood out in the dim lighting. 

I concluded my HOHO bus tour feeling enriched by Singapore’s cultural and historical experiences. I discovered new gems, gained a deeper understanding of the nation’s heritage, and left with gratitude and wonder, eager for my next adventure in this captivating island, Singapore.

The HOHO bus tour by Singapore HeritageFest lets you explore various heritage sites including Chinatown, Kampong Gelam, Little India, Bras Basah, Bugis and the Civic District, for just $10 per rider, offering comfortable rides in air conditioned buses to various cultural landmarks and a goodie bag filled with items worth $10

The bus schedule was also incredibly convenient, with buses arriving every 15 minutes at each location, including a ride back to the museum at the end of the tour. I wholeheartedly recommend it if the Singapore HeritageFest organises another one – it’s truly value for money!