Heritage Race explores Balestier

Heritage Race explores Balestier
Participants collecting their stamps at the former Shaw Malay Film Studios as part of the Balestier Heritage Race. The more than $10,000 raised will go to the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home - as a tribute to the pioneer generation.

SINGAPORE - Balestier may be popular with foodies looking for their favourite bak kut teh or tau sar piah, but many people may not know the area's rich history.

Yesterday, the neighbourhood in central Singapore served up more than Teochew pork rib soup or mung bean cake, as it doled out tasty bites of its history to the 147 people taking part in a Heritage Race there.

For about two hours, participants visited 20 heritage sites in the area, getting their "passports" stamped at each place of interest.

Each "passport" contains information on the sites, which include the Maha Sasana Ramsi Burmese Buddhist Temple, the former Shaw Malay Film Studios where legendary star P. Ramlee made his films, and the 18-storey residential building Balestier Point.

These colourful landmarks have faded from the public eye somewhat - something the organisers of the Heritage Race hope to change.

"The Balestier area is one of Singapore's best-kept secrets and we want people to learn about how special this precinct is. The race was a good way of bringing out these stories," said Mr Tony Cousens, general manager of the Ramada and Days Hotels Singapore at Zhongshan Park.

The other organiser is Shy Ventures, a travel consultancy firm owned by Ms Yeoh Siew Hoon, who conceived the idea of having a heritage race.

Dating back 180 years, the Balestier area used to have a sugar cane plantation; it also bore witness to the plans hatched by Republican leader Sun Yat Sen during the 1911 Chinese Revolution, which overthrew China's last imperial dynasty.

Balestier was also an entertainment hub from the 1950s to 1970s, when many theatres sprang up.

A mobile application launched yesterday by the National Heritage Board will help people navigate the area and learn about its history.

Called Balestier - A Heritage Trail, it features maps with pins indicating sites or featured food stalls and a photo gallery of past and present images of the sites, among others.

Black-and-white images of the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall in 1970, for instance, can be viewed alongside colour photos of it now. The hall is one of the stops along the route.

Participants in yesterday's heritage run in Balestier visited the hall and other sites.

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