Further away, the Fountain of Wealth bubbles incessantly. The wealth for which it stands has led to skyscrapers of immense proportions growing high into the clouds. As night starts to fall, they almost magically become showcases of dark and light, in turn transforming the streets around them into pulsating veins and arteries. The next morning, Khoo Yeow Khim invites us to join him on a journey through time into historical Singapore. To avoid the traffic, he sets off early in the morning in the direction of Chinatown, passing through the old colonial centre as he goes.
“Here you can see the Raffles Hotel from the nineteenth century,” says Khoo Yeow Khim and as we pass, he points to the whitewashed legend from colonial times. “It is named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who founded the first British settlement in Singapore.” On the other side of the brackish Singapore River, where the broad boulevards tighten up into narrow streets, Mr Khoo’s face looks blissful: the quarter with its thin shop-houses and their colourful façades shining in the morning sun is where he used to live. He was born in Stanley Street and, like many traders of Chinese descent, his father ran the food store just around the corner in South Canal Road: “It was the beating heart of the town.”