Singapore Trivia: When a Tree’s Not a Tree

It looks like a tree, yet it looks a little odd in its appearance and shape.

If you have seen this kind of artificial trees at Old Choa Chu Kang Road or other parts of Singapore, usually at the western side, and you wonder about the oddness of it, you are not wrong in your observation. It is known as a cell phone tree, which are commonly used in the United States.

cell phone tree at old choa chu kang road1

Designed to be inconspicuous and “blend” into its surroundings, the cell phone trees are usually shaped like pine or palm trees, probably due to their simpler shapes as compared to other types of trees. Local tropical trees with large crowns such as Rain Tree, Angsana or the Yellow Flame are not suitable for the designs of cell phone trees due to the wind loading effect and the high manufacturing cost of the plastic and fiberglass branches and leaves.

In Singapore, cell phone trees are not common, and are usually used by the military and the telecommunication companies to disguise their antenna towers.

cell phone tree at old choa chu kang road2

Published: 28 June 2015

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The Forgotten Former Schools at Pasir Panjang

Mention Pasir Panjang, and the impression that comes to mind is that it is now a busy strip of land occupied by the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) Container Terminals, Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre and the rows of warehouses, offices and industrial buildings.

However, before development, Pasir Panjang was largely a place made up of kampongs and rural school. In fact, there were four schools existed at this southern part of Singapore that provided necessary primary and secondary educations to the students living at Kampong Batu Berlayar, Kampong Sultan, Buona Vista Village, Kampong Jagoh and Heap Guan Village. The schools were mostly built in the fifties, and lasted until the eighties and nineties when the declining student enrollment led to their eventual closure.

Batu Berlayar School (1950s-1982)/Former NTUC Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre1

Along Pasir Panjang Road currently stands an old vacant building that previously housed the former Batu Berlayar School and, later, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre. Its name literally means “sailing rock” in Malay, a reference to the Dragon Teeth’s Gate (“Long Ya Men龙牙门) that stood at Keppel passageway and were used as navigation aids for boats that visited Singapore before the 19th century. In 1848, the rocks were demolished with explosives by the British to widen the water passageway allowing the larger vessels to pass through.

batu berlayar school crestBatu Berlayar School was opened until 1982, when it was shut down due to low student enrollment. It was left empty for a few years before taken over by NTUC Comfort as a training centre for its taxi drivers. It was officially opened as its new Pasir Panjang branch in July 1987 by the former Second Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Ong Teng Cheong.

Other events were regularly organised at the building compound for the benefits of its NTUC Comfort members. In 1987, a week-long Taxi Audio Equipment Fair was held at the centre, with a wide range of cassette-radios for the taxi drivers to choose and install in their vehicles. Auctions and sales of scrapped taxis, in the models of Toyota and Datsun, were also opened to interested parties.

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre2

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre3

After the NTUC Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre was shut down, the building was leased in the late nineties and early 2000s to Montessori Centre, a private school that offered Montessori education to young children. It was eventually returned to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and has been left vacant till today.

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre4

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre5

The Centre of Animal Welfare and Control, owned by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore’s (AVA), currently stands a lane away from the former NTUC Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre. It was previously the Pasir Panjang Polyclinic, before the premises was leased to AVA in 1995. Its location was also the former site of the famous salt-water Haw Par Swimming Pool between the 1930s and the late fifties.

With its 20-year lease ending at end-2015, the animal welfare centre is expected to be relocated to Sungei Tengah.

Pasir Panjang Primary School (1930s-1986)

Situated between Jalan Mat Jambol and Yew Siang Road, off Pasir Panjang Road 5th Milestone, the former Pasir Panjang Primary School was one of the earliest schools established at Pasir Panjang. It started as Pasir Panjang English School, a co-education experiment proposed by the British government to have a mixture of boys and girls studying in the same elementary school. The co-education, also implemented among the Chinese, Malay and Indian students at Serangoon English School and Bukit Panjang English School in 1936, was considerably successful. As reported by the newspapers, the co-education:

pasir panjang primary school crestdoes not make boys effeminate, but gives them a sense of duty and polish, and makes the girls happier by removing an element of pettiness often evident in a class composed entirely of girls.

During the imminent Japanese invasion in 1941, the records of Outram School, under the orders of the Education Department, were transferred to Pasir Panjang English School for safe keeping. Unfortunately, the school was hit by the bombings during the invasion, resulting in the total destruction of all the records of Outram School between 1906 and 1941.

pasir panjang primary school 1970s

In the fifties and sixties, Pasir Panjang Primary School produced many outstanding students. The most prominent ones were Goh Chok Tong, the second Prime Minister of Singapore (1990-2004), Dr Tan Eng Liang, the Senior Minister of State for National Development (1975-1978), and Dr Cham Tao Soon, the founding President of Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI) (1981-1990) and President of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) (1991-2002).

Other prominent figures include Tan Hwee Hock, the primary school teacher of Goh Chok Tong in the fifties and former member of the Gold Medal winning water polo team in the 1954 Asian Games, and Edwin Nadason Thumboo, the unofficial poet laureate of Singapore.

former pasir panjang primary school premises

In the fifties, the teachers would regularly provide swimming lessons for the Pasir Panjang Primary School students at the Haw Par Swimming Pool, located on the opposite of Pasir Panjang Road. When Pasir Panjang Primary School was shut down in 1986, all of its remaining students were transferred to Jagoh Primary School. The premises was later used as a drug rehabilitation centre named Breakthrough Missions.

Pasir Panjang Secondary School (1955-1996)

Another former school in this vicinity was Pasir Panjang Secondary School, one of the few secondary schools that were built at this southern part of Singapore. Pasir Panjang Secondary School was established in 1955, first sharing the premises with Alexandra Estate Secondary School until it moved to its new building at Pasir Panjang in 1958. The secondary school, mostly made up of Malay students living at the nearby villages, had functioned for almost 40 years at Pasir Panjang until its closure in 1996.

pasir panjang secondary school 1976

An interesting trivia of Pasir Panjang Secondary School was the design of its school crest that consisted of a lion and three fish. The lion symbolised Singapore, while the three fish represented duyong, which means “mermaid” in Malay but is actually a marine mammal named dugong that could previously be found at the waters off Pasir Panjang. Portrayed as courageous and determined animals that were not afraid of the fiercest storms, the duyongs were inspirational symbols for the students studying at Pasir Panjang Secondary School. They were also mentioned in the school’s anthem:

pasir panjang secondary school crestAs the duyong rides up storm, so shall we face
The future with zest and steadfast enterprise.

and was used as the name of the school’s scout group in the sixties.

In 1987, Pasir Panjang Secondary School’s student enrollment fell to only 575, way below the average of 1,200 in other secondary schools. The continuous declining number in the enrollment led to its eventual closure in 1996. After its closure, the school premises was left empty for several years before being converted into a Ministry of Education (MOE) Adventure Centre.

ministry of education labrador adventure centre

Labrador Primary School (1961-1989)

The former Labrador Primary School, standing next to the NTUC Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre, existed between 1961 and 1989. Like the Pasir Panjang Secondary School, the primary school was enrolled by many Malay students living nearby, although it did provide four main streams in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Built at a cost of $350,000, the four-storey building with 24 classrooms was officially opened on 28 October 1961.

labrador primary school crestBy the late eighties, the number of students at Labrador Primary School had dropped to only 172, and the government decided to close it in January 1989. Like the Pasir Panjang Primary School students, the last batches of the Labrador Primary School students were transferred to Jagoh Primary School.

The premises of the former Labrador Primary School was not left empty for long. Six months after its closure in January 1989, it was re-opened to serve as a temporary campus for the Singapore Polytechnic’s Business Administration faculty, which required additional space due to a large jump in the number of course applicants. Shuttle bus services were specially catered to ferry the students from the main campus at Dover Road to Pasir Panjang.

Today, the former Labrador Primary School building is leased to the Philippines Bayanihan Society.

school at pasir panjang 1972

Published: 21 June 2015

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Remnants of Singapore’s Lost Roads – Kuala Loyang Road

There are many Malay-named roads or places in Singapore that are named after the island’s natural landscapes, such as bukit (“hill” in Malay), sungei, (“river”) or tanjong (“cape”). But there are not many with the name kuala, which refers to “estuary” in Malay. The definition of an estuary is “the tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream”. One of the best known names is, of course, Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.

There was, however, one road in Singapore that possessed the name kuala. It was the Kuala Loyang Road, formerly linked to Tampines Road and Upper Changi Road, and was extended to mouth of Sungei Loyang on its other end, where “the tide met the stream”. In the maps of the 1950s, the regions labelled Tampines and Changi are the Pasir Ris New Town and Loyang Industrial Estate today. The network of roads on the eastern side of Kuala Loyang Road, already well-developed six decades back, has become the restricted premises of Selarang Camp and Changi Air Base.

kuala loyang road 1955

Kuala Loyang Road was extended in the late sixties; the original road was stretched all the way to the coastline and was linked to a jetty located between Sungei Loyang and Sungei Selarang. At its midway, a new road, also called Kuala Loyang Road, was branched off to link to Calshot Road.

The seventies saw a series of changes made to the vicinity around Kuala Loyang Road. Private estates known as Bukit Loyang Estate North and South were planned along Tampines Road in the early seventies. In 1978, drainage projects were carried out to convert Sungei Selarang into a canal, while the parcel of land between the river and Kuala Loyang Road was designated as a future industrial estate.

kuala loyang road map 1984

By 1981, a long straight main road had been constructed, cutting through both Tampines Road and Kuala Loyang Road, resulting in an interesting scenario where two Kuala Loyang Roads existed, one kilometre away from each other. As the housing and industrial estates developed in the vicinity, the long main road would go on to become an important road in the northeastern side of Singapore. It was named Loyang Avenue.

Kampong (Sungei) Loyang and Yan Kit Village were the larger villages in the vicinity. The former was located near to the mouth of Sungei Loyang, and had existed until the late eighties before it was torn down. At its former site now stands Aloha Loyang Resort and the row of condominiums at Jalan Loyang Besar. Yan Kit Village, previously situated at the southern end of Kuala Loyang Road, was also demolished in the late eighties.

development of pasir ris and loyang 1980s

Near the junction of Kuala Loyang Road and Tampines Road used to exist a Tanah Merah Besar Malay School. It was also where the former Ministry of Culture organised free movies in the sixties for the residents living in the villages nearby.

A clinic was set up beside the school in the seventies, but by the early nineties, the school premises was converted into a camp site (later renamed as an adventure centre) for the Ministry of Education (MOE) after the school ceased its operation.

kuala loyang road

As for Kuala Loyang Road, it was reduced to a short secondary road as an access to the MOE adventure centre by the mid-nineties. The road was expunged after the premises closed down in mid-2000s. Its street signage had been removed, and it was no longer listed in the official maps.

kuala loyang road2

kuala loyang road4

kuala loyang road5

Published: 14 June 2015

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Traditional Provision Shops – Can They Stand the Test of Time?

Provision shops. Once a common sight in Singapore, having reached its peak in the mid-seventies with more than 2,000 of them scattered all around the country. As development gathered pace, and shopping of groceries made easier with the opening of modern supermarkets, mini-marts and convenience stores, many traditional provision shops are facing an uncertain future. Today, less than 150 provision shops are still in business. Many have been struggling with the stiffer competition and lack of successors. The iconic Tian Kee, located at Dakota Crescent for more than 50 years, had pulled down its shutters for the final time two years ago.

tian kee provision shop 2011

While many of the traditional provision shops are located among the HDB flats, there is a special one worth mentioning, one that is housed in an old-styled single-storey bungalow with a blue zinc roof at the junction of Rosyth and Sandilands Roads, off Yio Chu Kang Road. Named Tee Seng Store, it is one of the few landed properties in Singapore that also serves as a provision shop.

tee seng store at rosyth road1

Tee Seng Store was established in the fifties. The owner of the shop, Mr Ang, first worked there in 1955 after completing his primary education. He later took over the business from his former boss. And for almost half a century, he has been faithfully running his humble shop that doubles as his long-time home with his wife, where the 6,000 square feet property is partitioned into a shop, bedroom and kitchen. Now in his 70s, it is a matter of time before Mr Ang retires. With his three children not keen to continue the business, his vintage provision shop, like many others, will likely walk into the history.

tee seng store at rosyth road2

tee seng store at rosyth road3

Tee Seng Store serves mainly the landed houses around Rosyth Road, thus it is common to see domestic maids doing their grocery purchases every day. From their regular contacts, Mr Ang is able to pick up several languages over the years, including English, Bahasa Indonesian, Thai, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

tee seng store at rosyth road4

tee seng store at rosyth road5

tee seng store at rosyth road6

Like most traditional provision shops, Tee Seng Store sells a wide range of basic necessities from toiletries, detergents and washing powder to canned food, instant cup noodles, packet drinks and bags of rice. The goods are stacked neatly on the wooden shelves and cupboards that are virtually unchanged in the past few decades, except for some repairs due to wear and tear.

tee seng store at rosyth road8

tee seng store at rosyth road7

Little vintage gems can also be found inside the provision shop, as though they have been frozen in time. Old black power switches and sockets are attached to the wooden beams, same as those that were once commonly found in households many decades ago. A wooden weight, in the shape of a beer bottle, was once used to balance a Milo tin can that functioned as a “cashier box”. And not forgetting a pair of vintage metal trays printed with Coca Cola and F&N advertisements that Mr Ang displays proudly in his shop.

tee seng store at rosyth road9

Although provision shops are usually opened and owned by ethnic Singaporean Chinese, the Muslim and Indian provision shops have been fairly common in the past too. In the sixties and seventies when there were still many kampongs, provision shops became a vital amenity that provided much needed convenience to the villagers. To be able to open a provision shop with sufficient supply of goods required certain amount of capital. Therefore, the towkays of provision shops back then were viewed as doing considerably well.

a muslim provision shop at everton road 1980s

indian provision shop at jalan kayu 1970s

Some provision shops in the past also sold petrol and diesel. One example was Yong Seng, situated along Changi Road, that had pumps supplying Esso diesel to motorists. Such scenarios are no more today, as the oligopoly of the four oil giants rules the local retail petrol market in Singapore today, with each of them owning 30 or more petrol stations each. Provision shops were not restricted to mainland Singapore; outlying islands such as Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong also had provision shops to provide the daily necessities to the residents living on the island.

yong seng provision shop with diesel pumps at changi road

wing mow seng provision at pulau tekong 1979

Unlike supermarkets or convenience stores, provision shop owners built up good relationships with their customers, often by giving credits, a practice that some traditional provision shops still observe today, or home delivery services. There were other traditions too, one of which was the distribution of customary soft drinks to customers during Chinese New Years. In the late sixties and early seventies, each provision shop gave out some 700 cases of soft drinks every year. This tradition, however, stopped in 1973 when many provision shops were hit by the rising costs and overheads.

Traditional provision shops in Singapore had been facing challenges since the early eighties. Even the petrol service stations started offering groceries at discounted prices. With the mushrooming of competitors, more than 100 provision shops decided to remodel themselves in a bid to survive. They were renovated and converted into self-service mini-markets (mini-marts) with uniform logos, identical shop layouts and similar prices. Centralised bulk purchases, advertising and promotion campaigns were carried out to give the new shops the edge over others. By 1982, more than 50 provision shops had successfully converted to mini-marts.

chee kow provision shop at jalan kayu 1970s

Many decades have since gone by. Some had changed their business model. Others had opened and shut down. Those that have remained today are likely to struggle. Will the traditional provision shops officially walk into history one day? Or will they be able to stand the test of time? Perhaps next time when you walk past a traditional provision shop, show your support by buying some canned drinks or chocolate bars from them.

Published: 26 May 2015

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Lakeview Estate, its Former Market and the “Shopping Centre”

It was a name that was inspired from the splendid panoramic view of the MacRitchie Reservoir. It was also previously well-known for its popular hawker centre and market that were situated opposite Thomson Community Centre in the eighties and nineties. But for the past decade, the name Lakeview has been gradually forgotten, apart from the three brown HUDC (Housing and Urban Development Company) flats and a couple of shops along Upper Thomson Road that still carry the name.

lakeview shopping centre1 1985

Today, it is an empty plot of land that is barely noticeable along the main road of Upper Thomson. But in the eighties and nineties, it was a small bustling estate with HDB flats, hawker centre, wet market and rows of shops that was collectively known as Lakeview Shopping Centre, a name that was commonly used to refer to such HDB-owned and -managed neighhourhood hubs. Similar concepts can also be found in other parts of Singapore; the Boon Lay Shopping Centre, Balestier Hill Shopping Centre and Keat Hong Shopping Centre are some of such neighbourhood hubs that survive till today.

lakeview upper thomson map 1988

Before its demolition in the late nineties, there was a total of 13 blocks of double-storey HDB (Housing & Development Board) flats and a hawker centre cum wet market at Lakeview. The rows of shops, that were dubbed Lakeview Shopping Centre, were located at Block 5 and 7. Today, the only remnant of the “shopping centre” is a flight of steps on the sloped ground that leads to the pedestrian pavement along Upper Thomson Road.

lakeview estate upper thomson

lakeview shopping centre2 1985

Block 9 housed the popular hawker centre and wet market, where residents from the nearby neighbourhoods came to make their daily purchases of vegetables, fresh fish and other groceries from the dozens of stalls. Others came to enjoy their breakfasts, or simply a glass of thick kopi to start the day. Every morning, it was a busy scene at the hawker centre and market, filled with bargaining, chit-chatting and, occasionally, bickering over trivial matters.

lakeview market 1980s

lakeview market 1990s

The hawker centre was also well-known for some of its delicious local delights too, such as the chye tow kueh (carrot cake), bak kut teh, Hokkien mee and char kway teow. When the hawker centre and market were demolished, some of the stallholders were relocated to the nearby Shunfu hawker centre.

lakeview hawker centre noodle stall 1980s

Before its development, Lakeview was formerly a Chinese cemetery known as Hylam Sua, literally means “Hainanese Hill”. Thomson Village was on the opposite side of the cemetery, scattered along Upper Thomson Road, Min Hock Road and Soon Hock Road. Both Min Hock and Soon Hock Roads were expunged in the early eighties, when Shunfu (named after Soon Hock Road) Estate was constructed.

thomson village chinese temple 1986

A street away from Hylam Sua was the Thomson Garden Estate, commonly known as gor ba keng (五百间, “five hundreds houses” in Hokkien). It was also where Heap Hoe Rubber Factory was previously situated.

Another prominent landmark near Lakeview was the Long House, which was closed in early 2014 after its owner sold the property for $45 million. In the early 1960s, the site was owned by oil giant Shell, which had operated a petrol station there. The premises switched hands in 1980, and was subsequently leased out by its new owner to the American fast food chain A&W (until the late eighties) and local food court operator Kopitiam Group. After 2000, it became better known as the Long House Food Centre.

lakeview hudc flats1

The HUDC (Housing and Urban Development Company) was introduced in 1974 to allow the sandwiched middle-class Singaporeans, deemed to be stuck in between affordable HDB flats and expensive private homes, to “have a stake in the country” by having the chance to own upscale public housings. Many of the HUDC estates were exclusively located, including the three tall blocks at Lakeview near the MacRitchie Reservoir. It was developed during the HUDC Phase I/II period, between 1974 and 1981.

The development of HUDC estates (Phase III/IV) was taken over by the HDB in 1982, but by the mid-eighties, the popularity of HUDC flats began to wane. In 1987, the scheme was halted. Overall, a total of eighteen HUDC estates with 7,731 units was constructed.

lakeview hudc flats2

lakeview hudc flats3

In 1995, the government allowed the privatisation of HUDC flats, if there was 75% consensus among the owners. The Gillman Heights, Pine Grove and Ivory Heights were the first HUDC estates to be privatised, between 1996 and 1998. Lakeview Estate was privatised in 2003. Braddell View was the last of the HUDC estates, in 2014, to undergo privatisation, symbolically spelling the end of the HUDC era.

The privatisation of the HUDC estates does have its advantage. Singapore’s last remaining sand-based adventure playground can be found at the compound of Lakeview Estate. Such children playgrounds were once a common sight in Singapore in the eighties and nineties, but most of them have been demolished and replaced by the new playgrounds.

lakeview former carpark

lakeview dentist

Published: 17 May 2015

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Transit Road – A Transition from Retro Shops to New Condos

Many former National Servicemen who did their BMTs (Basic Military Trainings) at Nee Soon Camp would remember Transit Road, the short link between the army camp and the main Sembawang Road.

Despite the limited space, Transit Road used to house a row of shops that sold a wide variety of products from military apparels to electronic appliances. It used to served Nee Soon Village too, which was located a stone’s throw away at the junction of Mandai and Sembawang Roads, until the late eighties.

transit road shophouses1

Records show that shops had been plying their trades at Transit Road since 1945. After the war, many locals opened shops at Transit Road to provide delivery and courier services for the British servicemen stationed at Nee Soon Camp, who would send food and gift parcels back to their families at Britain, often on a weekly basis.

Brands and names of shops that had operated at Transit Road in the past six decades might ring a bell to some, including Nee Soon Bar, Yong Lee Provision Shop and Lucky Store to Paris Silk Store, Hock Gift Shop, Rambo Gift Shop and Danny Tattoo, the last batch of shops before the premises were demolished.

transit road shophouses2

transit road shophouses6

Fire Hazards

Clusters of attap and wooden huts used to exist behind the shophouses in the seventies, where they housed many families. The vicinity was prone to fire hazards, and were hit by several fire accidents that affected the livelihoods of many residents and shopkeepers in the seventies and eighties.

A large fire broke out on an early morning in June 1977, sweeping through the shops and huts rapidly. The fire engines only arrived 30 minutes later. More than $1 million worth of goods and properties were destroyed, and at least 12 families were rendered homeless. In mid-1985, another fire burned down a bookshop and two tailor shops at Transit Road. $30,000 worth of goods had gone up in flames; the old bookshop, operating since the sixties, never did recover after the incident.

transit road arson 1986

A Case Within a Case

In 1986, Transit Road again appeared in the headlines when six shops were consumed by a raging fire that cost damages of almost $1 million. Two men died in the fire; the case was classified by the police as arson-murder.

Forensic tests and police investigations were conducted; the results showed that the two victims might be the ones committing the arson, but they themselves were trapped and killed by the engulfing flames. It was later discovered that the owners of London Bazaar, an electronic shop at Transit Road, had hired the two men to burn down their shop in order to cheat the insurance company for $330,000. The owners were eventually sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in 1988.

transit road shops 1989

Mini Orchard Road

In the late eighties, perhaps thanks to marketing, Transit Road was dubbed by the media as a mini Orchard Road. The dozen shops received roaring businesses from many New Zealanders and Australians who were the former servicemen at Singapore’s military bases. The competitive prices offered for goods such as electronics, luggage, toys and sport gears also lured the tourists to Transit Road, which had its shophouses refurbished after the disastrous fire in 1986.

Comparing to the “official” shopping belt at Orchard, the shops at Transit Road offered prices of their products at 20% or more cheaper. In addition, the vicinity had hassle-free parking and low pressure “country-style selling”. Besides the tourists, the SAF (Singapore Army Forces) soldiers from the nearby Nee Soon and Kahtib Camps, and residents from neighbouring estates such as Seletar Hills also provided sufficient crowds to keep the shops busy seven days a week.

transit road shophouses3

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Decline and Demolition

The hype soon faded in the nineties, but the shops still enjoyed businesses from the NSFs who served their BMTs at Nee Soon Camp. This changed in the late nineties, when the new SAF BMTC (Basic Military Training Centre) was opened at Pulau Tekong. All newly enlisted recruits were no longer trained at Nee Soon Camp; the crowds passing through Transit Road became considerably reduced.

Like the Beach Road Army Market, the gift shops at Transit Road, selling mostly military supplies and apparels, saw their businesses declined since SAF introduced the concept of eMarts and their credit system in 1997. The electrical appliance-selling Lucky Store was the oldest shop in the vicinity, having operating at Transit Road since 1948. Danny Tattoo Art, another old name, was in the business since the seventies.

transit road shophouses5

The former kopitiam, located at the end of the row of shops, had already been demolished and replaced in 2004 by the Forest Hills Condominium. A decade later, at the end of April 2015, the Transit Road shops will face the exact fate. It has been the same story for many old places elsewhere in Singapore, where they were torn down for private residential projects. This has become an increasing and worrying trend especially in the recent years.

transit road shophouses7

transit road shophouses8

Published: 27 April 2015

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Remnants of Singapore’s Lost Roads – Lorong Bistari

map of choa chu kang 1988

Lorong Bistari was one of the numerous roads that were expunged in the late eighties and early nineties due to the development of Choa Chu Kang New Town (Choa Chu Kang North, or Yew Tee today) and the expansion of the Kranji army camps.

The remaining 50m stretch of Lorong Bistari, off Choa Chu Kang Way, is still visible today, although it is no longer listed in most modern maps and street directories. The defunct road, along with its several old lamp posts, has been gradually forgotten. Other roads such as Lorong Chembol, Lorong Keduang and Lorong Puyu had long completely disappeared into history, while part of Lorong Kebasi (where the former Yew Tee Community Centre once stood) and Lorong Limbang (which gave rise to the naming of Limbang, one of the neigbourhoods at Choa Chu Kang North) were absorbed into the restricted premises of Kranji Camp.

lorong bistari1

lorong bistari2

Choa Chu Kang was a different picture in the sixties and seventies, where pig, poultry and vegetable farms were abundant. On the opposite side of Woodlands Road, there were granite mills and crushing plants for the Mandai Quarry, providing ample job opportunities for the villagers living in the vicinity. At Lorong Bistari, small businesses such as hardware shops and sawmills lined up along the road; Guan Seng, one of the sawmills, was destroyed in a fire in 1973. An estimated 150 tons of wooden planks and boards, reported to be worth $80,000, were consumed by the flames.

guan seng sawmill at lorong bistari destroyed in fire 1973

The Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) started developing a small light industrial estate at Choa Chu Kang North in the early eighties. It was named Yew Tee Industrial Estate, and was made up of rows of double-storey terrace workshops built in the area bounded by Woodlands Road, Stagmont Ring, the railway tracks and Peng Sua Canal. To boost the industry, parcels of vacant lands near Lorong Bistari, between 30,000 and 60,000 square feet, were made available for lease to small factories.

stagmont ring 1977

The Choa Chu Kang New Town was developed in the late eighties. By 1991, as many as 35,000 housing units were ready. However, Choa Chu Kang North, or Yew Tee, was not yet developed as a residential district, even though main roads such as Choa Chu Kang Way were already laid by the late eighties. It was only after the completion and opening of Yew Tee MRT Station in 1996 that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) decided to carry out its Development Guide Plan to transform Choa Chu Kang North into a modern new town.

choa chu kang new town 1992

To provide a greater ease of accessibility to the new town, a new expressway called Kranji Expressway (KJE) was constructed in the early nineties, linking Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Panjang and Bukit Batok to both the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) and Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE). Part of the original Stagmont Ring was used as a section of KJE that cut through Choa Chu Kang and split it into northern and southern portions. It took a total of $128 million and four years for KJE to be fully operational ready in 1994.

lorong bistari3

Published: 20 April 2015

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