Artist who makes artworks about Singapore River finally takes boat ride on Singapore River

Artist who makes artworks about Singapore River finally takes boat ride on Singapore River

You would think that as an artist who has made so many works about the Singapore River, that I would have actually been on the Singapore River more times. Observed its waves up close. Spent time on a boat on the River. Dipped my toes in more recently.

Oh look, all these works about the Singapore River…

But no. In January this year, this was the SECOND time I had ever been on a boat ride on the Singapore River. Oddly, it just never struck me as something to do. I walk alongside the Singapore River, treating it much like a road or a wayfinding device, but never quite as a waterway on which I could take a boat. The boats here are 100% touristic. I do not believe working people here use it as a “water taxi” service (unlike say the Thames water taxis in Greenwich in London where you could just tap your Oyster card to get on like regular public transport). But yeh, I too had to find somewhere to squander my RediscoverSG credits (a scheme in which S$20 million was redistributed to Singaporean citizens to spend on local tourism to help local tourism businesses recover in the wake of the Covid pandemic).

And so… I took my first boat ride on the Singapore River in decades.

The boats we took were covered in Toki Doki characters, a lifestyle brand that I have become familiar with ONLY as a result of being mother to a 2 year old. I realised that there are so many mothering items and diaper bags festooned with Toki Doki livery, which makes me think of that line from Ali Wong’s comedy show – “When you’re a mom, you need ✨sparkle✨ to compensate for the light inside of you that has died”. The popularity of Toki Doki is that ✨SPARKLE✨ – ridiculously plastered over all sorts of “mothering” equipment.

To be honest, I think some people just came here for a date on a weird boat and the Singapore River and skyline just happens to be the backdrop.

It was Bean’s first ride on the Singapore River though, but I am not sure how much of this event she will remember.

For once, we got the view under the bridge. If you wave to people on the bridge, people and children often wave back for no reason.

But it is quite hard to look anywhere that doesn’t have a giant cartoon merlion in it.

The inside of the boat pretends to be covered in graffiti, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. This is the most sanitised, child friendly boatl; the complete co-opting of the sticker and graffiti aesthetic into a consumerist wallpaper.
But I am digressing. This is supposed to be a post about the Singapore River, not the vehicle I am riding on it!


In this view we are approaching the site of Pulau Saigon. The simple tourist boat ride doesn’t really go that far, but you can see Clemenceau in the distance. The appearance waterways are amplified by decorative use of accent lighting along the waterfront. Only pleasure boats make the hike up and down the waterways.

In the picture above: Passing the site of the former Home club of which I have many fond memories where I went to many a gig as a young-un – but as an elder millenial these days in the evenings I am mainly at home cleaning my collection of spatulas and cast iron pans. (Just kidding)

I often tell the story of how I asked friends and acquaintances to draw me a map of the Singapore River, and even though we were on the River itself, often people my age had no specifc idea of where we were situated or what the shape of the River was like. Well, it was actually on this row of bars and eateries that I’d whip out paper and pen at the Lanna Thai and quiz people on the Singapore River…