Thursday, 3 October 2013

Memories are made of: The Dragon at the Park

The very iconic Dragon Fountain Park at Whampoa, Block 85, Whampoa Drive.

I was just chatting up with fellow Urban Sketcher Don and his lovely wife, Kat the other day about a possible sketchwalk at Whampoa Estate and the surrounding Jalan Bahagia neighbourhood. I was sharing with them about the good food at Whampoa Market, the iconic dragon fountain at block 85, which used to be part of a complete landscaped park to its surrounding estate. A walking distance away, there is the historical ten-story houses of differing styles at Jalan Bahagia and Jalan Tenteram (literally Happy and Quiet Street, respectively). One must also remark on the St Michael bus terminal and the list could go on with this, one of Singapore’s oldest estates.

It is of little coincidence then, that I found myself at the very estate, which is near my office and wandering towards the very dragon fountain that was once many a lovers’ haunt during its heyday in the late 70s and 80s. In fact, that was how I made my acquaintance with the park. During those days, it is not uncommon for dating couples to bring one’s younger relative along on dates as an unofficial ‘chaperone’.

I was one such chaperone for my aunt’s dates.

My aunt and her then-boyfriend-now-husband (for thirty-one years now, bless them…) would have their dates here in this park. I remember a small playground of cement animal sculptures and a series of very ornate covered trash bins, which are no longer there, of course. They have all given way to the run of the mill modern ones, boringly made of plastic. The willow trees, which I also remember swaying against the indigo evening sky, are still there. And then, of course, there is the dragon fountain, the very icon and symbol of the park, if not the estate. 

The namesake dragon at the park.
The 4-meter tall dragon, surging out a body of sculpted water and reaching towards the heavens, used to spout water from its mouth. In the evening, a park attendant would spigot the fountain off. When I am there, I would stay to watch the mesmerising body of water dancing against the brilliantly lit body of the dragon, slowly trailing into a drizzle before disappearing into the dragon’s breathing, gaping mouth.

And then there is the silent park, under the starry Prussian blue sky with sparkling diamonds.

“Okay, the water’s gone now… it’s time to go…” she said, as my aunt held my hand, her boyfriend holding my other hand and we’d walk home to grandma’s.


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