Located off Orchard Road, the affluent neighbourhood of Emerald Hill is a great place to see some history and culture from the days of Sir Stamford Raffles, though some residents clearly need to be a bit less trusting with their wealth!
I was in a taxi about to head for the Singapore Zoo, but I knew I was in one of those black luxury taxis and the meter was going up faster than I had anticipated (btw, the Zoo cannot be reached on the MRT, in case you’re wondering why I was in a taxi in the first place). I said to the driver in my best Singlish “Eh, lah, chio bu leh, can we go Emerald Hill instead, itzladdat?”. He didn’t really respond as I had expected (probably as he was Indian), so I had to rephrase it in pure English! But eventually he was happy to reroute, and clearly I saved a bit of money by not continuing to the zoo. Those black cabs are a nightmare! So expensive! This is something, however, that the residents of Emerald Hill would not have trouble affording. Yet unlike most people in Singapore, the residents of Emerald Hill don’t even need public transport, as there are plenty of cars here; not luxury ones like Ferraris or anything, but just solid family cars that simply in this Singaporean economy, most people cannot ever afford.
If truth be told, though, I was not here to look at the cars or vans. I was just interested in the architecture of the community. It is with this Chinese Baroque architecture that I imagine Singapore must have looked during the colonial days, yet perhaps not for the colonisers, but rather the Malay, Peranakan, or Singaporean residents all over the island (including Kampong Glam). Funny how now, in 2014, the tides have turned and now rich Singaporeans live here (albeit with the odd expat) at Emerald Hill whereas the expats have generally moved to other places. Now over 100 years old, some of the terraced houses along the Emerald Road have been converted to bars and pubs, which have a great atmosphere, yet most houses are still residential.
Although I actually wanted to come to Emerald Hill to check out a popular bar and chicken eatery called simply ‘No.5 Emerald Hill’, I spent a little while admiring the exteriors of the terraced houses. It felt very voyeuristic and it didn’t feel like a genuine attraction where tourists like me should be taking photos. There was also a school along Emerald Road, which during my visit was bleating out loud music, so it must have been an end of term party, or something.
As you walk down Emerald Hill Road, past all the houses, some of the doors are left trustingly open. Some residents are sitting outside in their chairs, yet others have just hung up the laundry and left it to dry (which wouldn’t take long here in Singapore). I wondered if these houses were air-conditioned, and I don’t think I saw many installations outside. I thought that was a good thing, as the original architecture of the buildings, including window shutters and ornate stone gates, were still in good condition on display. All in all, Emerald Hill feels like a little gated community, and is a nice place for a stroll before or after your shopping spree over at Orchard.
And yep, my chicken was delicious, all washed down accordingly with a nice Tiger!