Talk about Bugis Street and some will recall the colourful nightlife that this stretch of street evoked. In the early days of Singapore’s history, Bugis Street was an enclave of the seafaring people who arrived from South Sulawesi, a province in Indonesia. Known as “The Bugis”, they came to Singapore bringing with them cargoes of cotton cloth, spices, sandalwood, coffee, rice, and even exotic feathers of birds-of-paradise, to trade with Singaporean merchants. The Bugis community grew along with its trade and this was how the thoroughfare where they settled got its name known as Bugis Street.
^ Today, you have New Bugis Street, Bugis Square, Bugis Village, Bugis Junction, Parco Bugis Junction, Bugis Junction Towers, Bugis Cineplex, Bugis MRT station, Bugis Pasar Malam, New Bugis Food Village, Where exactly is the location of Bugis Street where it was well known to many tourists and locals alike? The original Bugis Street still exist today with nicely paved cobblestoned and wide pathways that lies between the buildings of Bugis Junction. Surrounded by air-conditioned shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment outlets, it is a far cry from the Bugis Street many remembered.
^ Gleeful children playing by the water-fountain located at the original Bugis Street.
^ An old photo of Bugis Street where tourists and locals were attracted to its food, booze, pasar malam – night market. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa late 1980s). Though the area was surrounded by old shop-houses, dirty back-lanes and smelly drains which was a concern for sanitation, it all adds up to the lively flavour of Bugis Street.
^ Besides tourists and locals, Bugis Street also saw its fair share of attracting foreign soldiers and navy men on shore-leave during their R&R. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1962)
^ Another main attraction in the nightlife of Bugis Street was the ‘parade of transvestites’. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa late 1980s). Flamboyantly dressed in their regalia, the transvestites would sashayed up and down the street much to the hordes of gawkers around.
^ This photo was added to this post on 2nd Mar 2009 (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa late 1980s). This photo was inserted in relation to what fellow blogger YG has described in his comment where he remembered sailors prancing on the rooftops at Bugis Street. In a Wikipedia search, this was what happened:
One of the “hallowed traditions” bestowed upon the area by sojourning sailors, such as from Australia, was the ritualistic “Dance Of The Flamers” or “Dance Of The Flaming Arseholes” on top of the infamous toilet’s roof. Compatriots on the ground would chant the signature “Haul ‘em down you Zulu Warrior” song whilst the matelots performed their act.
^ During the mid-1980s, Bugis Street underwent a major urban redevelopment. Dilapidated shop-houses were demolished. Poor sanitation along the decaying back lanes and smelly drains were cleaned up. It also saw to the construction of the underground Bugis MRT station.
^ To replicate the bustling colourful atmosphere of the original Bugis Street where pasar malam and road-side hawker stalls once existed, STPB (Singapore Tourist Promotion Board) created the “New Bugis Street” that is presently located just opposite the original Bugis Street. The photo above shows the entrance to the new Bugis Street along Victoria Street.
^ Inside the maze of passageways of the new Bugis Street, a wide variety of goods were sold ranging from bags, clothes, music and video CDs, shoes, electronic gadgets and all sorts of knick-knacks.
^ One of the many food stalls to fill your hungry tummy after all that shopping.
^ A variety of fruit juices to quench that thirst.
^ A stall selling roast duck and roast pork which perhaps is worth trying given all the culinary endorsements displayed.
Tourists and locals may recall the days of “Boom Boom Room” at Bugis Street where Singapore’s drag-queen, Kumar, and his troupe performed cabaret-styled shows much to the laughter and amusement of his audience. For some, Bugis Street was also a place once known as “Boogie Street” during the disco craze in the 1970s. The sights, sounds and smell of old Bugis Street with its bazaar of nightlife have all but faded into our memories. Indeed it was a captivating experience for many during the good old days boogie-ing at Bugis.