[Photos] Travel through time to street scenes in 1960s Singapore

Today, Singapore is a city of towering high-rises and immaculate cleanliness. But as these archive images illustrate, back in the 1960s, it still retained charming pockets of urban chaos and scruffiness not often seen today

July 29, 2020
[Photos] Travel through time to street scenes in 1960s Singapore
Photo by David Ayres.

There used to be a time when the sights and people of Saigon and Singapore didn’t look too dissimilar.

This compilation of photos taken in Singapore in the 1960s was compiled by Redsvn, showing a national island that was as orderly and glamorous as it is today. Still, in the shots exist corners that are less polished and cluttered, but remain charming because of that urban chaos.

Of the images, the most famous are perhaps those by David Ayres, who did two rounds in the Royal Navy and was stationed in the UK’s naval base in 1963–1964 and 1966–1967. The regal cleanliness of Raffles Place was perfectly preserved in the shot above.

Just like in 1960s Saigon, rickshaws, vintage cars and casual cyclists filled local streets, while residents took strolls in crisp white shirts and pants. Rows of shophouses in Chinatown adorned with colourful block letters could pass for scenes in Saigon’s own Cho Lon neighbourhoods.

Somewhere along the line, the two street cultures of the two cities diverged. Singapore continued growing vertically at a rapid rate, peppering main thoroughfares with international-style high-rises. Quaint streets and canals were replaced by wide expressways while sleek infrastructure significantly improved quality of life. Vestiges of these 60s scenes are now only found in a few streets in Chinatown, such as Joo Chiat or Emerald Hill.

Saigon is also being invaded by skyscrapers, especially in the last decade, but it’s also content with the messier, grittier side of street life. In between glass towers, clusters of vendors and hawkers provide a common ground for people from all walks of life to grab some grub.

Visit a retro side of Singapore through the photos below:

This story was originally published on Saigoneer here.

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