If you are ever in Changi, remember that you are near the site of the 1603 Santa Catarina incident, a significant confrontation between the Dutch and the Portuguese, who were both vying for control over trade in the region. This encounter was not only significant because it happened in close proximity to Singapore, but because it also meant much more for the region.
The Dutch captured a Portuguese trading ship off the coast of Changi, and its valuable cargo was dispatched to Amsterdam and auctioned off for an extremely high price. This effectively shed light on the potential of trade in Southeast Asia. The Western world sat up, and took notice. The Santa Catarina incident was also a key discussion point and catalyst for the passing of the international law of the sea that nations around the world observe today.
Marine Parade is another interesting town. After the Japanese Occupation, the shoreline of Marine Parade was littered with trash and even unexploded Japanese shells. The British army had to intervene and conducted a mass clean-up of the shores and beaches. With the area free of litter and debris, Marine Parade blossomed into a lively seaside promenade.
Residents began moving into private beachfront houses, there were public areas with changing room facilities, food and beverage stalls and lifeguard posts drew scores of swimmers and picnickers. Even open-air church congregations and Buddhist meeting groups held their services and meetings by the beach.
By 1966, land reclamation had begun. In fact, its housing estates were the very first in the country to be built entirely on reclaimed land.
If you have ever been to Simei, which means “four beauties” in Mandarin, you may be familiar with its four main streets. Some accounts state that these four streets were named after four fabled beauties from historical China – Xishi, Diaochan, Guifei and Zhaojun. However, because the names were hard to pronounce, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) renamed the streets Simei Streets 1, 2, 3 and 4 in 1987.
Some argue that the estate was originally named “Soo Bee”, which was the dialect term for “Simei”. They believe the neighbourhood was named after a road in the area, Jalan Soo Bee.