9 Mildly Interesting Facts About Orchard Road You Probably Didn’t Know16 June 2017 |
Orchard Road is a famous street in South East Asia, and increasingly across the world. Adorned with stores, malls, eateries and sites, the 2.2km strip is a paradise delight for shoppers and tourists alike. But there are a few things about Orchard Road that are little known, and adding these to your bank of knowledge could quite impress whoever you choose to stroll down the famed boulevard with. It’s not all about shopping and consumerism, there’s a lot more to this historic street in the Lion City.
1. The Birds
If you perchance to stroll down Orchard Road between around 6:30 to 8:30pm, you may notice that the human species is somewhat outnumbered by another; hundreds and hundreds of birds flock to the famed shopping street in the evening, and their singing of sunset songs can actually become quite a racket. But why are there so many birds? Singapore is actually located right on course of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway – the migrating path of thousands of birds, and the island is an essential stop for the birds to refuel – and what a place to do it! Munching on leftover food, and singing from the many treetops that line the streets are four different species of birds; the Asian Glossy Starling, the Javan Myna, the house crow, and the rock pigeon.
But their presence comes with an unsightly catch – the poop. Executive Director of the Orchard Road Business Association, Steven Goh, is expending much effort and a lot of resources to keep the boulevard clean. For example, up to 3’000 litres of water every night is used to pressure clean the street and rid it of bird poop.
2. What’s in a Name?
The name Orchard Road actually originates from where you might think – it was once lined with orchards! Early in the 19th century it was home to Pepper and Gambier plantations, which years later gave way to Nutmeg and Fruit Orchards.
It’s rumored that a “Mr. Orchard” used to own some of the land at the corner of present-day Scotts Road and Orchard Road, and as lovely as that might be, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to support it.
3. What Once Was…
As well as fruitful orchards (that sadly diminished mostly due to disease), Orchard Road was also once the location of three cemeteries; a Chinese cemetery, a Sumatran cemetery, and later on, a Jewish Cemetery.
By the 1860’s there were many private houses on Orchard Road, and in the early 1890’s, King Chulalongkorn, King of Siam, acquired “Hurricane House”. Later two pieces of property were added on, and it is now the site of the Royal Thai Embassy, at 370 Orchard Road.
The early 20th Century saw Orchard Road as home to a number of different things including fresh produce markets, car parks, the Orchard Road Railway and the Glutton’s market – where locals would wait for the clock to hit 5pm before setting up a number of stalls selling local cuisines and goodies.
And then in 1958 the Orchard Road that we know now began, with the opening of CK Tang’s Department store – the first and longest-running of its kind on the strip.
4. A Secret Street
Emerald Hill is a little street of terraced houses that feels as though it’s been frozen in time – a stunning display of Chinese Baroque architecture, this little street definitely deserves a little of your time away from Orchard Road.
What was once a nutmeg plantation (which sadly failed due to disease) has since become the home of many-a-wealthy Singaporean, and has even been the mystical setting for many short stories written by pioneer of Singaporean Literature Goh Sin Tub.
5. Shop and Stay and Shop and Stay
The 2.2km long shopping paradise is home to more than 20 shopping malls, which include the Paragon – home to a seemingly infinite number of top-designer brands, and is definitely not the place for bargain hunters – and Orchard Central – Singapore’s tallest vertical mall, which stands right in the heart of the Orchard Road shopping belt. You can find a full list of the shopping Malls on Orchard Road here.
And if you are planning to stay, there are plenty of hotels to choose from. If you want to be center stage of the whole Orchard Road show, then there’s no better place than the Concorde Hotel Singapore though, at No. 100 Orchard Road, with its fabulous feel of modern city living and luxury.
6. Instagram Spots
By far the best spot to take a photo of the cityscape has to be from ION Orchard, 218 meters into the sky, with 360 views of the stunning city. Entry into the Observatory is completely free, and well worth the climb (or the wait in the elevator).
Another great place to visit for a great photo, especially for book lovers, is the Orchard Road Library. Not only is it home to thousands of books, it also has the most awesome, aesthetically pleasing bookshelves, which make a great picture from the second floor.
7. Surrounded by Fame
All along Orchard Road you’ll find many great sites – which double up as selfie opportunities too. This is why it’s such a great hub for tourists; you really have everything in one place. To the south you have the stunning Presidential Palace, built in 1869, and locally known as “Istana”.
To the north you have the beautiful Botanic Gardens, with thousands and thousands of species of tropical plants, you can get completely lost in this blissful paradise.
Just off of Orchard Road on Scotts Road is the historic and monumental Goodwood Park. Built in 1900, and rich in passing-hands history from the time it was built until now, it is definitely worth a visit.
And then of course there’s the fabulous TANG’s, the first department store in Singapore, and the very beginnings of Orchard Road as we know it today.
8. Hidden Gems
To the casual onlooker, Orchard Road may just look like another street packed with restaurants and retailers, and won’t be all that appealing to some. But if you know where to look, there are actually some pretty amazing experiences to have here.
You can “Art Jam” above Istana Park, and unleash your creativity whilst looking out onto a beautiful water feature and a strip of tranquil greenery.
Or you could learn how to grow your very own edible garden on top of a mall at Comcrop, situated on the rooftop of Scape – you can book a farm tour on the first Saturday of each month, and learn all about the amazing, sustainable work that they do.
Or you could even take some time out from the madness at Level 6, Delfi Orchard, and join a Yoga or Pilates class, or even relax and rejuvenate at the holistic spa, and enjoy a meaningful, tranquil experience.
9. Those Christmas Lights
Orchard Road is probably the best spot in Singapore to go and see Christmas Lights light up. Each and every year they have a different and delightful display of lights covering the whole road, and to celebrate them going up the whole road is closed for the day, and there are amazing activities and displays to enjoy in anticipation of the big light up.
The street is really transformed in to a kind of Winter Wonderland, and it’s a truly stunning sight, with millions of shimmering lights lighting up the whole road. The street becomes a stage with performers of every kind putting on regular shows, and Christmas Music being played from speakers set up between ION Orchard and Takashimaya. And it just gets better every year, as each of the buildings competes for the Best Dressed Building Award – it just gets bigger, brighter and more exciting.
It seriously is one of the most magical places you could be at Christmas.
So those are our nine things about Orchard Road that you probably didn’t know! And now when somebody asks for a little history, or for something a little different to do, you won’t hesitate to answer with some of these super fun things about Orchard Road.