The temporarily resurrected
Gluttons Square in Orchard Road Carpark opposite Centrepoint has reeled in the
crowds, far exceeding the organisers' expectations. Local papers* have it that
12,000 people visit the place every night, well in excess of the 3,000
expected daily. The bulk of the diners seem to be locals, rather than
Is the good response because of
cheaper hawker food not normally found in upmarket Orchard Road? Or is it
because of the Singaporeans' hunger for memories of things past?
At S$3 for a plate of char kuay
teow, the price is the same as that offered at the air-conditioned Cuppage
Food Centre behind Centrepoint Shopping Centre, a stone's throw away. So, it
can't be that people throng the new Gluttons Square to save money. Also,
present-day Singaporeans prefer the ambience and comfort of air-conditioned
food courts to open-air hawker centres.
In the 1970s, when the original
Gluttons Square was operating at the same place, each plate of char kway
teow cost only 70 cents. Singaporeans frequented the place as it offered
hawker fare at prices which were at a great discount to those charged in
shopping centres in the area. I rather think those of us who have been
visiting the new Gluttons Square do so because of nostalgia. We long for
things of the past which have been obliterated in the name of progress.
In my teenage years in the 1970s,
I ever paid visits to Gluttons Square. It certainly wasn't clean or hygenic.
Street hawkers were already disappearing from the roads then as the Government
had embarked on a campaign to move hawkers out of the streets into hawker
centres. I remember, then, my schoolmates and I weren't keen on eating hawker
food when we went out during weekends.
As teenagers then, our favourite
haunts were coffeehouses where we paid something like S$4.50 for a decent
western lunch set. In fact, if I remember correctly, there was a proliferation
of coffeehouses in the HDB estates such as Toa Payoh. Going to coffeehouses
was the fad then for young people, like us. We wanted the ambience, and of
course, the air-conditioning which we didn't have at home or in the coffee
I remember frequenting the
open-air Medo restaurant which was located in the open space between Plaza
Singapura and Singapura Shopping Centre. It's long gone now. We would meet at
the bus-stop outside Supreme House (now Park Mall), then step into Metro
department store in Supreme House and later adjourn to Medo for lunch. And
when Plaza Singapura opened in 1974, we added it to our itinerary. We were
soon attracted to the offerings of Yaohan supermarket and department store in
You see, I find myself writing
more about the past, about the 1970s when I was young. So, it's likely that
those of us who have been descending upon Glutton Square recently have been
having nostalgic cravings.
But, it is one thing to bring back
memories of the past, and quite another to resurrect the past. I think you can
only bring back memories of the past. People will inevitably find themselves
comparing the new Gluttons Square with the original of the 1970s. Then, when
they have had time to digest the food and feed their nostalgic pangs, they
will realise the new place isn't quite like the old. Their memories of things
past will come to the fore and hinder their efforts at reconciling the present
Gluttons Square with the past.
So, you see, there is no way to
bring back the past. You can only try to bring back the memories of the past.
My point is simply this. Things which we have removed in the name of progress
are gone forever. We can't rebuild such things, try as we may. These things
remain only in our memories. We just simply can't come down to Orchard Road to
touch the past. The real thing isn't around anymore; it has become part of our
But, the new Gluttons Square is a
good idea in that it allows Singaporeans, as well as tourists who have
savoured the original Gluttons Square, the opportunity to reminisce the past.
The newspapers* have it that the
new Gluttons Square is "such a hit that it might well become a permanent
fixture". I think that once the nostalgic amongst us have had our fill,
the crowds at the new place will dwindle. We will return to the
air-conditioned comfort of the food courts in Orchard Road to partake of
hawker food at prices equal to if not lower than those at the new open-air
It's a Singaporean thing
that we do - we make a beeline for every new shopping centre, department store
or local attraction that opens on the island, jostling among thousands of
others to take in the sights and then disappearing just as quickly as we had
Then, the new place may still
appeal to tourists and expatriates - the same people whom the new Gluttons
Square may hope to attract in the long run to sustain itself, that is, if it
becomes a permanent fixture. Who knows, the new Gluttons Square may even
become another Newton Circus Food Centre!
Have a good week!
* Straits Times 11 Jul 2004 (9)
Square returns to Orchard Road Carpark