Once upon a time, the Singapore River was crowded with bumboats. They carried goods such as nutmeg and pepper between the ships moored out at sea and the warehouses, which were also called godowns.
Back in the day, bumboats came in all colours, shapes and sizes. Some were powered by motors, some depended on oars. Others were guided by long poles as they crawled slowly along. Most of them had big rubber tires strapped to their sides, in case they bumped into each other in the busy river. And all of them had “faces” painted on their bow, so that they could “spot” danger.
But lots of traffic meant that the Singapore River got really really dirty. After Singapore became independent, there was a massive national campaign to clean it up and bumboats were eventually banned from it.
These days, you can spot a few bumboats trawling the river. These are river taxis and they now carry only people, not goods.
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