Hip Dating Spots Back in the Day
Before Resorts World Sentosa, before world-class shopping at Orchard Road, and before Marina Barrage, where did our parents and grandparents go to paktor? It may be difficult for us millennials to conjure an image of a fun date without glitz, grandeur and advanced technology, but this list of 15 paktor places of SG past will show you how it was done.
These places will leave you craving to recreate dating experiences of the past. And don’t worry – we’ve got that covered as well! Here are a few creative date ideas that parallel local favourite paktor spots of the past.
1. Visit an Amusement Park
PAST: Great World Amusement Park
Our grandparents didn’t need the glitz of Universal Studios to keep them entertained. Known locally as Tua Seh Kai in Hokkien, Great World was one of the three main amusement parks in Singapore during the 30s to late 70s along with New World and Gay World. This was before even the time some of our parents dated!
Picture old-school funfairs with warmly-lit Ferris wheels, bustling bazaars, circus freak shows and vintage carousels. It was under such a charming atmosphere that our grandparents fell in love.
PRESENT: Universal Studios Singapore
As much as we want to experience such lovely old-school charm, how can we complain about lack of great dating spots when we have Universal Studios here on our shores? USS is the go-to place for couples seeking thrill and entertainment.
The grand atmosphere permeates the entire compound, and the different themed worlds transport you and your partner to another place and time. This sense of adventure is perfect for budding romances to flourish!
2. Catch a Romantic Flick
PAST: The Cathay Theatre
It was at The Cathay where your grandpa could bring your grandma to an air-conditioned cinema with armchairs, for the first time! After World War II, The Cathay was the first cinema to show American and British films. In the 50s and 60s, the studios were churning Mandarin, Malay and Cantonese films at a rapid pace, providing non-stop entertainment for local lovebirds.
PRESENT: GV Gold Class
The cinematic experience has evolved so much over the years that previous generations may have a hard time believing it. Now, you and your partner can be pampered with wine, fine delicacies and embroidered wool blankets as you rest on your velvet seats and enjoy a movie in near complete privacy. There is even a waiter to attend to your every need!
3. Bowl Him/Her Over
PAST: Old Queenstown Bowl and Theatre
According to my friend’s dad, this place used to be the social hub for youths and families living in the area during the 80s. There was a bowling alley, a KTV and a cinema, and the building was always bustling with activity during its glory days. There was no better place to ask your neighbourhood sweetheart out for a date than here.
PRESENT: Cosmic Bowling
Bet our grandparents never knew that bowling could turn this psychedelic. Cosmic bowling is fun, exciting and invigorating. Take your date bowling in the dark and she’s bound to be impressed by your creativity!
4. Catch a Movie Beneath the Stars
PAST: Jurong Drive-in
Many of us wish that this was still here today. The first, and to date, only drive-in in Singapore, Jurong Drive-in could accommodate 900 cars and 300 people in its open walk-in gallery. The popularity of this drive-in during its glory days in the 70s is nearly incomprehensible as thousands thronged to catch Bruce Lee in his latest action movies.
The privacy of being in a car also allowed for couples to sneak a kiss or two during the screenings, so cheeky boys must have loved bringing their dates here!
PRESENT: Films at the Fort
Sure, it’s no swanky drive-in, but open-air movie screenings at Fort Canning are romantic too! Every year in August, Fort Canning screens movies every night for a few days. This year, from 1-10 August, Films at the Fort will be screening the likes of Pretty Woman, Rush and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. So pack a bottle of champagne and some sandwiches made with love, and surprise your date with tickets to Films at the Fort!
5. Watch a Light and Water Show
PAST: Sentosa Musical Fountain
Sentosa’s Fountain Display Show that ran through the 80s and 90s was inspired by the magnificent water dances of the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas. In the 90s, laser animation was introduced, making it a spectacular show that dazzled many on their dates.
PRESENT: Crane Dance @ RWS
Now, THIS is what I call spectacular! Every evening at the Sentosa waterfront, lovers will be able to feast their eyes on this astounding light and water show. The Crane Dance tells a story of two mechanical cranes, whose love for one another transforms them into real birds with beating hearts. If this doesn’t make your partner’s heart flutter, I don’t know what will!
6. Grab Some Satay
PAST: The Satay Club
The Satay Club that our parents and grandparents know and love was located in the Esplanade park, shrouded by big, shady trees. Throngs of people frequented this open-air hawker centre, and It was a great spot for the cash-strapped Singaporean to bring his date to without being looked down upon.
If a man brought me to watch rows of hawkers grill my satay in front of me, I’d say yes to another date for sure!
PRESENT: Satay by the Bay
The attempt to emulate the old Satay Club has led to the birth of a classier, cosier, open-air food court by the waterfront of Gardens by the Bay. The various satay stalls come in the form of push-carts, retaining a fragment of that old-school vibe. The sweet aromas of grilled meat and peanut sauce permeate the air, guaranteeing you and your date a night to remember.
7. Embark on a Resort Getaway
PAST: Golden Palace Holiday Resort Tampines
Golden Palace was the go-to place for food, drinks, music, parties, boating, fishing and picnics for youths in the 60s-70s. It had everything from restaurants to chalets to nightclubs, all of which were regularly filled to the brim. This sounds like an idyllic holiday resort – perfect for fostering that budding romance!
PRESENT: D’Kranji Farm Resort
This is the closest thing to a pastoral, rustic getaway in Singapore now. Nestled in the Kranji countryside far from Singaporean civilisation is D’Kranji Farm resort. There are 5 hectares worth of farms to explore, cosy wooden chalets, prawning and a seafood restaurant.
If you know your partner adores the peace of a kampong-like setting, you know the place to suggest for the next date!
8. Visit a Water Theme Park!
PAST: Big Splash
Big Splash holds many memories for my parents. My dad used to bring my mom here for some splashing good fun, and he wasn’t the only one – it was a very popular dating spot among fun-loving couples.
Apart from the 85-metre long waterslide, said to be the longest and highest in the world at that time, Big Splash boasted an open-air theatre, restaurants, food kiosks and an arcade. No wonder this was where all the young lovers flocked to!
PRESENT: Adventure Cove Waterpark
Adventure Cove is the new and greatly improved Big Splash of today. Couples, friends and families alike flock here to quench their thirst for thrill, swim with the fish in Rainbow Reef, or play with the stingrays at Ray Bay.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie and have never been on a date to Adventure Cove, it’s time you dropped some hints to your partner!
9. Get Up To Something Fishy
PAST: Van Kleef Aquarium
Opened in 1955, this was Singapore’s first public aquarium and one of my parents’ favourite dating spots. With nearly 6,500 fishes of more than 180 varieties, the aquarium attracted swarms of tourists, families and couples. The star attraction was the swamp tank of the mudskippers which are only found in Southeast Asia.
With such a myriad of aquatic life, it’s no wonder this aquarium came to be known as the best in Southeast Asia at that time, and that the young men would flock here with their dates in an attempt to impress and fascinate.
PRESENT: S.E.A Aquarium @ RWS
Oh, how times have changed. Now, you can even hold your own grand wedding in our local aquarium! All my mermaid fantasies are coming true with the Ocean Gallery S.E.A Aquarium wedding packages. But before we think so far ahead, this aquatic wonderland is a magical place for a date.
With marine life from the Strait of Malacca to East Africa, a date here is sure to wow your partner!
10. Boggle Your Mind
PAST: Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa is one scary place – perfect for boys who want to show off their manliness to impress the girl. With its horrific depictions of Chinese Folklore’s 10 Courts of Hell, this place was bound to send shivers down couples’ spines, giving the perfect excuse to hug each other tighter.
There used to be a slow boat ride through the 10 Courts of Hell, a thrilling flume ride through a mountain and down a river, and an amphitheatre that showed plays. Though Haw Par Villa isn’t as exciting today, it’s still an intriguing place with heavy wafts of mystery and horror hanging in the air.
PRESENT: Trick Eye Museum
Yes, I know this place isn’t eerie or grotesque like Haw Par Villa, but Trick Eye Museum is still an interesting feast for the eyes. With more than 80 optical illusion paintings, you and your date are bound to have have a mind-boggling adventure as you immerse yourselves in this world of 3D art.
11. Feel the Sea Breeze in Your Hair
PAST: Clifford Pier
Through the 60s, the carpark at Clifford Pier was transformed into a hawker centre at night where local musicians and night owls would flock to. My dad reminisces watching ferries dock and sail away from the harbour with my mom, sea breeze rushing through their hair and distant honks of boats mingling with the bustle of the pier.
PRESENT: Singapore River
Having dinner by the Singapore River is the glitzy, modern version of having dinner at Clifford Pier. Dining by the quayside with your partner will allow the both of you to soak in the laidback, celebratory atmosphere as you admire the kaleidoscope of lights dancing on the river surface.
12. Hawker Centre Date
PAST: Orchard Road Carpark Hawker Centre
Affectionately known as Glutton’s Square, this hawker centre was one of the most popular and beloved makan places in Singapore in the 60s and 70s. Many young couples flocked here for a cheap and tasty dinner date, and the feasting could last up to 5am.
Imagine how fun it must have been! Winding your way through the labyrinth of wooden carts, sourcing for the best Hokkien Mee or bak kut teh, and savouring the night’s sweet moments over ice kacang.
NOW: Newton Food Centre
Fortunately, Singapore has managed to retain most of our hawker culture. Now, for an authentic hawker experience, we visit the likes of Chomp Chomp and Newton Food Centre.
While it is true that the disorder and chaos that gave Glutton’s Square its charm is long gone, at least your date won’t run the risk of an upset stomach – Glutton’s Square was notoriously unhygienic! The food at Newton Food Centre is still as good as ever, and with regular hygiene inspections, nobody’s complaining!
13. Dance the Night Away
PAST: Tea Dances @ The Golden Venus
Tea dances were all the rage in the 60s. It was here where youths congregated to dance, drink, and feast their ears on the latest rock, R&B and psychedelic tunes. It was a haven for music lovers and a breeding ground for local bands with big dreams. Bands would do their own renditions of all that was hot, from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin to Jimi Hendrix.
It may seem hard to believe, but due to the conservative lifestyle then, some of our grandparents had to sneak out to attend these tea dances. It was also here where some of our grandpas asked our grandmas to dance for the first time – and look where that has gotten them!
Zouk is our current party-goer’s paradise, where youths can let their hair down and immerse themselves in a night of worldly indulgence. With good music and a futuristic dance floor, Zouk is a prominent date spot for couples who know how to have their fun!
14. A Feast For Your Eyes
Source: National Archives of Singapore, PICAS
Tropicana was Singapore’s very first entertainment complex to feature a cabaret theatre, restaurants and nightclubs. Tropicana drew large crowds in the 60s and 70s with its vast array of performances, from flamboyant flamenco dances to jazz orchestras to Tony Martin. Even Frank Sinatra visited in 1971!
It was a classy place to bring a date, with tickets costing up to $85 which was a bomb at that time. If a man knew how to treat his lady, this was where he’d bring her.
PRESENT: The Screening Room
The Screening Room is a restaurant, cinema and rooftop bar all rolled in one. Feast on Middle Eastern food on the first level, enjoy a classic film as you lounge on a comfy sofa on the third, and finish off the night with a round of drinks on the roof overlooking the grand Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
An interesting place for a date if you ask me!
15. A Romantic Night at the Park
PAST: Kallang Park Fountain
This looks like a scene straight out of the cartoon TV series The Jetsons. Kallang Park was a popular spot among the locals living in the area, with its vast open spaces, playgrounds and sports facilities. I can already picture young lovebirds taking a nice evening stroll in the park, stopping to admire the view of this unique fountain as they revel in each other’s company.
PRESENT: Bishan-AMK Park
If you’re running out of ideas on where to go for a nice picnic date, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is a lovely spot. The Kallang River courses through soft patches of green grass and wildflowers, and you and your date can even have a try at fishing for guppies.
In conjunction with the first concert of NParks’ SG50 Concert Series in the Park at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park from 4pm – 10pm on 14 March 2015, SG Heart Map is having its first celebration event – SG Heart Map @ Park.
Grab your partner and join in the fun as we relive our childhood at a kite flying festival and bask in the romantic atmosphere of a night kite display. You can also be part of a one-of-a-kind formation of the map of Singapore with fellow Singaporeans right in the heart of the park.
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SG Heart Map, the first crowd-sourced map of places we ‘heart’ here in Singapore, is also collecting stories of Singaporeans’ most cherished places, so feel free to share your thoughts at www.heartmap.sg.
Recreate the Memories
Now it’s time to grab your date and give her a grand time by recreating experiences of the past. Time has only made these modern parallels more attractive and entertaining than their historical counterparts, so dating can only get better from here!
We hope that this post has given you an interesting insight into Singapore history, while serving as inspiration for future dates. If we’ve missed any of your parents’ or grandparents’ favourite paktor spots, let us know in the comments below!
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This post was brought to you by SG Heart Map.