The Empress Place Building, very close to the mouth of the Singapore River, is a robust Neoclassical structure named for Queen Victoria and completed in 1865. Having long housed government offices, it is now home to the fine Asian Civilisations Museum, tracing the origins and growth of Asia’s many and varied cultures, from Islamic West Asia through South and Southeast Asia to China. A bit of a misfit here, though most apt given the museum’s location, is the excellent Singapore River gallery. It has displays of sampans and other river craft, and a diorama of a timber dwelling for coolies that recalls the grim lodging houses that once featured in London’s docklands, but best of all are fascinating oral history clips featuring people who once worked on and lived by the river. In keeping with the river’s renaissance as a major area for wining and dining, Empress Place also houses several slick restaurants, notably those run by the Indochine chain.
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