Fort Canning Park
Fort Canning Centre, Cox Terrace; Battle Box Museum – 51 Canning Rise (subway station Dhoby Ghaut)
Fort Canning Park, stretching around the same-named hill in the very heart of Singapore, is one of the most interesting parks in the city. It lures in its visitors with a huge number of historical artefacts from different epochs, as well as its amazing landscapes, unusual museums and exhibition halls.
Long ago, the hill was ancient city’s center, on which the Malay rulers’ palaces were situated. Centuries later, the locals would avoid climbing the hill, as not to disturb the sleeping souls of the former inhabitants that are buried here. Resultantly, they nicknamed the place Bukit Larangan (literally: The Forbidden Hill). The British Colonialist, Stamford Raffles, who arrived in Singapore in 1819, wasn’t superstitious in the slightest and having estimated hill’s fortunate location, built his own residence at its summit. This would become the first governmental building of the city-state.
Some time later, the British authorities built a fort on the hill and arranged barracks around it, with hospital and military storehouses in the grounds. The fort was named in honor of the former Indian governor-general, Viscount Charles Canning. It was subsequently fitted with artillery and served as island’s foremost defensive fortification. During World War II, the Malay headquarters were located here and a 9-meter-deep bunker, known as the Battle Box, was built under the hill for the British troops’ high command. It is here that in 1942, the British decided to surrender Singapore to Japanese.
The Battle Box Museum is currently located in the bunker and its exposition and setting recreate the deeply troubled atmosphere that had reigned here during those tragic events, depicted with striking accuracy. The British Imperial Military Museum and the testimony of veterans helped to recreate the bunker’s original interior. Wax figures of people, participants in those crucial events, were placed here for effect. Meanwhile, an audio sequence reinforces the impressions gained from the exhibition: the bunker is filled with sounds of constantly ringing phones, ominous footsteps and the negotiators’ voices. In addition, museum features an interesting collection of equipment and apparel, including military uniforms and weapons dating back to the Second World War.
Only Fort Canning’s massive gates have survived untouched to this day, while its restored barracks are occupied by the Singapore Dancing Theater. Malay sanctuaries and a Christian cemetery have also survived on park’s territory. In addition to these, a number of ancient historical artifacts, which were found during excavations of the site are placed here. The Garden of Spices, laid on its territory, adds a special charm to Fort Canning Park. It is a scaled-down copy of Singapore's first botanical garden, also founded by Stamford Raffles back in 1822. The park also has an observation point, facilitating wonderful glimpses into Singapore's old colonial center.
Today, Fort Canning is one of the centers of the city’s cultural life. Various events are carried out here: art exhibitions and film screenings are organized, outdoor performances and ballets are staged, while carnivals and art festivals, including the largest Singapore festival - World of Music Arts and Dance - are also carried out.