Sitting in the south-west coastal region of Singapore is Telok Blangah, which means “Cooking Pot Bay” in Malay as its shape resembles clay-cooking pots used by South Indians.
Hokkiens call it Sit Lat Mng, which translates into “Singapore Gate” for in the early days of Singapore, it was the southern-most tip of Singapore and the gateway where most international ships entered and docked.
Malay legends has it that Telok Blangah has long been existing since the early 1200s with Sri Tri Buana, Prince of Palembang, landing on Telok Blangah beach just after throwing everything overboard—including his crown—when his ship was trapped in a storm. Other than this funny legend however, it does not feature much in pre-colonial history.
The arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in January 1819 however changed things for Telok Blangah. Signing a treaty in February 1819 with a Sultan Hussein Shah and Temenggong Abdul Rahman, then state official from Johor and governor of Singapore, Raffles established a British East India Company trading post in Singapore and relegated Telok Blangah as the residential area for the Temenggong and his followers. It rose in prominence and flourished as an enterprising and trading area of Singapore under the Temenggong’s rulership. When he passed on in 1825, his son Daeng Ibrahim took over and established the Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim or Telok Blangah State of Johor Mosque in 1890, which today still stands. In 1907, Telok Blangah Road was officially named. The district started out as a Malay settlement, attracting migrants from Malaysia and Indonesia. Today however, it is a residential area with a good mix of Malays, Chinese, and Indian residents.
Towering the skyline of Telok Blangah is a favoured tourist destination, Mount Faber, originally known as Telok Blangah Hill and renamed in July 1845 after Captain Charles Edward Faber who initiated the building of a narrow and meandering road to the peak of the hill. Check out these three scenic and lookout spots—Faber Walk, Faber Point, and The Jewel Box—if one is taking a walk around Mount Faber Park.
The Jewel Box also houses a handful of popular restaurants, bars including Moonstone, and has a good nightlife scene. Architecture-lovers should note the exquisite Danish Seaman’s Missions on Pender Road, which has carefully preserved the original colonial architecture of the building, and a bell-like dome structure usually found in Buddhist temples. Cable Car rides or Jewel Rides as they are termed, from Sentosa and Harbourfront Centre will be available from May 2010 to take one straight up to Mount Faber but there is an option of hiking up this 110 metres high hill through the Marang Trail. Do however note that the climb up is physically exerting and is not for the faint-hearted.
Another scenic nature spot in Telok Blangah district is the lesser travelled Labrador Park or Labrador Nature Reserve, a quiet and serene park with a seacoast front. It has a long promenade which offers breathtaking views of the harbour, Sentosa island while a history trail is set within the forested section. This is where one can find a casemate built in 1886, gun posts, edged in trenches, sealed up storage bunkers and two secret underground tunnels—known as the Labrador Secret Tunnels, a history and heritage site and tourist attraction.
For shopping-lovers, Telok Blangah houses the one of the largest shopping mall in Singapore, the iconic VivoCity. Highly popular with locals and tourists alike, this integrated waterfront retail, recreation, and lifestyle hub, is a family-oriented venue with over 300 retail stores, an outdoor children’s playground on level 2, and a rooftop Sky Park with good views of the harbour and Sentosa. The nightlife scene at Telok Blangah is also rather hip and happening with St. James Power Station, a popular night entertainment complex housing 9 different nightlife venues with distinctive music styles and atmosphere located just beside VivoCity.
There are more attractions in the Pasir Panjang area located in the greater Telok Blangah district which one can consider visiting. Reflections at Bukit Chandu, a small museum is dedicated to honouring the bravery of the Askar Melayu or the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Malay Regiment who sacrificed themselves in the defence of Singapore during World War Two, is highly recommended. You can also find the colourful but bizarre garden park, Haw Par Villa, originally known as Tiger Balm Gardens, which contains mostly freakish though some tastefully elegant statues of Chinese vernacular folklore and mythologies.
NUS Museums, a modern and sophisticated art museum housing three different galleries is worth considering especially for museum lovers. One can spend a couple hours just venturing around the permanent galleries—Ng Eng Teng Gallery, South and Southeast Asian Gallery, and Lee Kong Chian Gallery—to admire the fine and well-crafted collections of local and regional artworks.