The dignified white Victorian building up Parliament Lane, somewhat overshadowed by the Victoria Memorial Hall, is the Old Parliament House, built as a private dwelling for a rich merchant by Singapore’s pre-eminent colonial architect, the Irishman George Drumgould Coleman. Relieved of its legislative duties, the building is now home to a contemporary arts centre called The Arts House and includes a shop stocking literature, DVDs and other works by home-grown talent. The bronze elephant in front of Old Parliament House was a gift to Singapore from King Rama V of Thailand (whose father was the king upon whom The King and I was based) after his trip to the island in 1871 – the first foreign visit ever made by a Thai monarch. Just across Parliament Lane from its predecessor is the back of the rather soulless New Parliament House, where it is possible to watch parliamentary debates in progress.

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