From Villages to Flats (Part 1) – The Kampong Days

The rapid urbanisation of Singapore in the past four decades has seen hundreds of villages demolished and the lands freed up for redevelopment. The life of many Singaporeans of the last generation changed dramatically as they shifted from their kampong to the high-rise public flats. The days of living in dilapidated wooden attap houses with hygienic concerns and limited supplies differed greatly from the comfort of the public housings fitted with electricity, water and gas.

On the other hand, the community, or kampong, spirit is lost when more people tends to coop themselves up in their own flats nowadays, and interaction with neighbours become a rarity. Children of the newer generation have also lost the chance to come in contact with nature; many of them probably have not seen a live rooster in their life.

Nevertheless, there is still one kampong existing on mainland Singapore today, although the land it is standing on is currently facing the prospect of being acquired by the government.

Singapore’s Last Kampong

Kampong Lorong Buangkok, established in 1956, has a mixture of Chinese and Malay residents living in harmony. There are about 28 single-storey zinc-roof houses here, on a landsize roughly equaled to three football fields. The land belongs to the Sng family, who lives here among the residents and collects only small tokens from the other families as rental fees.

Hidden in a small stretch off Yio Chu Kang Road, the forgotten hamlet has a rustic and rural environment filled with plants of tapioca, papaya, guava and yam. It is not uncommon to see lizards or squirrels scurrying past the dirt roads, or find guppies swimming in the nearby Sungei Punggol, where part of it has now become a canal. Since 2000, the kampong’s surrounding has already changed tremendously. High-rise flats at Buangkok Green and Fernvale, and a newly constructed jogging track, have now encircled Kampong Lorong Buangkok.

The Recent Demolition

Khatib Bongsu was the most recent kampong to be demolished, in 2007. It was situated in the forested area at Yishun, near the mouth of Sungei Khatib. The land had been designated to be military training ground by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) since the early nineties, but many residents of the kampong were reluctant to shift. By late 2006, there were only two persistent residents left at Khatib Bongsu.

During its heydays, there were numerous zinc-roof houses at Khatib Bongsu, artificial ponds used for prawn rearing and wooden jetties built by the river. Some villagers used to rent generators to power their electrical appliances and collect rainwater for washing purposes. The daily meals were simple cooked with the fish and prawns caught from the waters, or a 30-minute ride by bicycle to the nearest kopitiam at the modernised Yishun.

Khatib Bongsu was also a favourite hunt for the nature-lovers and adventure groups, but the demolition of the kampong and the closure of the track off Yishun Avenue 6 by 2007 had put a stop to the activities that included fishing, bird-watching, trekking and durian-picking.

(Editor’s Note: Special thanks to photography expert Kelvin Lee for these beautiful rare photos of Khatib Bongsu taken in 2005)

Natives, Immigrants and the British

It is difficult to determine exactly how many kampong ever existed in Singapore. Prior to Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival, the aboriginal orang laut led a nomadic life living at the swampy areas, the mouth of the rivers and some of the small islands. The earliest was perhaps the orang selat who inhabited near the waters of the present-day Keppel Harbour. Others include orang seletar at Seletar River, orang kallang at Kallang River and orang gelam at the Singapore River. By 1850s, the majority of orang laut was either moved to live in kampong on the mainland of Singapore or relocated to Johor. Orang kallang, sadly, was wiped out in 1848 due to a breakout of smallpox.

After Raffles established Singapore as a British colony, an urban development plan known as Jackson Plan was drawn in 1822. At the downtown core along the Singapore River, four ethnic settlement areas were designated for the main races then, namely the European Town for the Europeans, Eurasians and rich Asians, Kampong Glam for the ethnic Malays, the Muslims and the Arabs, the Chinese Kampong (or Chinatown) for the Chinese immigrants and the Chulia Kampong for the Indian community. The racial segregation was later abandoned but the layout of each district had became what the city area is today.

The Kangchu System

As the downtown core became crowded, some residents moved to the other rural parts of Singapore, establishing villages and plantations, especially near the mouths of the rivers where the soils were fertile. Like other parts of Malaysia, many Chinese agricultural settlers set up pepper and gambier plantations along the river banks in the 19th century. The village chief was known as kangchu 港主 (the lord of the river), which explains the names of three prominent districts in Singapore. The areas at present-day Lim Chu Kang, Choa Chu Kang and Yio Chu Kang were formerly the kangchu systems headed by the Lim, Choa and Yio (Yeo) clans. There were also Chan Chu Kang (曾厝港), Tan Chu Kang (陈厝港) and Lau Chu Kang (刘厝港); while Chan Chu Kang became Nee Soon Village, Tan Chu Kang and Lau Chu Kang ceased to exist.

By 1917, the British colonial government decided to abolished the kangchu system due to the influence of some Chinese tycoons, their links to secret societies and the widespread social vices such as gambling, opium and prostitution. The Chinese later moved to set up rubber, pineapple and other plantations.

Kampong in Northern Parts of Singapore

Yishun

Nee Soon Village (formerly Chan Chu Kang) was one of the oldest Chinese kampong (pronounced as gum gong in Teochew) in Singapore. It existed as early as 1850, and was later renamed as Nee Soon Village after rubber magnate Lim Nee Soon (1879 – 1936). Lim Nee Soon and his son Lim Chong Pang (1904 – 1956) contributed massively in the development of the northern part of Singapore, thus many areas and roads in modern-day Yishun bear their names. Chong Pang Village was originally called Westhill Village before its renaming in 1956. It was located in present-day Sembawang New Town and was predominantly an Indian village until the mid-1950s. Chong Pang Village was later demolished in 1989 to make way for the development of Sembawang New Town. The current Chong Pang housing estate in Yishun, built in 1981, is not the former Chong Pang Village.

Other Chinese villages in the Nee Soon district were Bah Soon Bah Village (named after the Baba name of Lim Nee Soon), Hup Choon Kek Village (built in 1930s), Chye Kay Village (财启村), Kum Mang Hng Village, Hainan Village, De Lu Shu Village, Kampong Sah Pah Siam and Kampong Telok Soo (or Kampong Kitin). After the collapse of the rubber industry in 1935, the villagers, mostly Hokkiens and Teochews, switched to vegetable and fruit farming, orchid farming, fish and prawn breeding, pineapple and coconut planting and pig and poultry rearing. Most of the residents were resettled in Ang Mo Kio and Tampines when Yishun New Town was developed in 1977.

Heng Ley Pah Village (or fondly called Phua Village) was made up of a group of Hokkiens headed by the Phua clan, whose ancestors came to Singapore in the late 19th century from Nan An County of China. They first settled at Upper Thomson and Yio Chu Kang, before eventually moved to Lorong Handalan (present-day Springleaf estate), Lorong Persatuan and Lorong Sunyi (all three roads were now defunct) in 1914. The kampong became known as Heng Ley Pah, named after a rubber plantation nearby. The Phua clan built a temple known as Hwee San Temple for their religious and social needs, as well as a mandarin primary school called Xing Dun in 1936. The fortune of Heng Ley Pah Village declined in the seventies, and by 1990, most of its residents had moved into Yishun New Town.

The Malay population of the old Nee Soon estate was not particularly large, with some of them living at Kampong Jalan Mata Ayer along Sembawang Road. The villagers built a mosque called Masjid Ahmad Ibrahim that is still standing today, located at Jalan Ulu Seletar. Other villages would be scattered along the coastlines of Sungei Seletar (now Lower Seletar Reservoir), engaging in farming as well as fishing.

Sembawang

Kampong Wak Hassan was one of the most recent villages that vanished due to urbanisation, long after other villages in the same region were demolished, such as Sembawang VillageKampung Lubang Bom, Kampung Hailam, Kampong Tanjong Irau and Sungei Simpang Village.

Housing several Malay and Chinese families, it lasted until 1998 before it was forced to make way for the development of area beside Sembwang Shipyard. The nearby Mihad Jetty, which was used by the villagers to park their boats, was torn down along with the kampong.

Punggol

Punggol of the old days was a large rural land of farms and forests. At the tip of northern Punggol, where the Punggol Jetty is located, once existed a Malay kampong called Kampong Punggol. It was settled by the families of the fishermen who plied their trade at Sungei Dekar. One of the oldest settlements in Singapore, the kampong was believed to be more than 200 years old, existing even before Raffles’ arrival.

By the mid-19th century, the Chinese began to settle in Punggol, establishing a marketplace at the 8th milestone of Punggol Road for trading of fish, vegetable and fruits.

Flanked by two rivers in Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon, there were also many fishermen living near the river banks. A Teochew Kangkar Village was once located at the end of Upper Serangoon Road, near the mouth of the Serangoon River where it was filled with fishing boats and sampans. Consisted of a bustling wholesale fish market, the coastal kampong was demolished in 1984 to make way for the Ponggol Fishing Port, which itself was replaced by Senoko Fishing Port in 1997.

Further down the stream, a small village was developed in 1956 at Kampong Lorong Buangkok, which is now the last kampong in mainland Singapore. After 1979, Punggol became one of the two designated places in Singapore that allowed pig farms. The other place was Lim Chu Kang.

Jalan Kayu/Seletar

Built in 1928, the road of Jalan Kayu was the main access to the Seletar Air Base built by the British in the twenties. There were probably settlements prior to the development of the airbase but Jalan Kayu Village prospered due to the influx of RAF (Royal Air Force) personnel who lived in the colonial houses at Seletar. The British servicemen would visit the pasar malam, food stalls, tailors and barber shops at Jalan Kayu, providing businesses for the small community. Other residents would earn a living from their vegetable farms, which were a common sight at Jalan Kayu in the 1950s.

Woodlands/Kranji/Mandai

In 1993, Kampung Wak Selat was thrown into the media spotlight when the government insisted the demolition of the Malay village of about 70 houses. Established in 1947 and consisted of facilities such as water supply, a football ground, a prayer house and a simple wooden mosque, the kampong was located along the former Malayan railway tracks between Kranji Road and Sungei Mandai Besar. Most of the residents chose to move and live in the nearby Marsiling housing estate. Today, it is replaced by a JTC (Jurong Town Corporation) factory.

A coastal Malay kampong near the Causeway, Kampong Lorong Fatimah struggled to exist until 1989, when the land was needed for the extension of the Woodlands Checkpoint. Before the construction of Woodlands New Town in 1972, this kampong was seemingly isolated from the rest of Singapore as it was sandwiched between the Johor Strait and the forested land. In the past, the villagers worked as fishermen and boatmen, ferrying passengers between Johor and Singapore, but the newer generation started to move out of the kampong to work in the developing Woodlands industrial estate.

Other Malay villages in the northern part of Singapore included Kampung Melayu of Woodlands in the 1950s, Kampung Keranji at Kranji and Sungei Kadut Village. Prone to flooding due to high tides, Kampong Sungei Mandai Kechil was a coastal kampong named after the small stream of Sungei Mandai Kechil. The stream has now converted into an artificial pond at Woodlands Town Garden.

The Chinese villages were the Mandai Tekong Village along Mandai Road, which specialised in large vegetable and orchid farmings in the 1960s, and Sungei Mandai Village near present-day Marsiling estate.

Kampong in Central Parts of Singapore

Upper Serangoon

Built in the 19th century, Yio Chu Kang Road was a major road in the north that runs through the modern-day districts of Upper Thomson, Yio Chu Kang, Ang Mo Kio, Buangkok, Jalan Kayu, Hougang and Serangoon. Various Chinese kampong scattered along the road from Sungei Punggol to Yio Chu Kang Track 14, where the large Yio Chu Kang Village used to exist until the late eighties. The self-sufficient kampong had schools, plantations, goose farms and even a community centre known as Yio Chu Kang Village Community Centre. It also had a popular temple known as Feng Shan Tang (凤山堂).

Chia Keng Village (车宫村) was a Teochew village located at Yio Chu Kang Road, opposite present-day Serangoon Stadium. It was named Chia Keng because of the car repair shops that once plied their trade there. The small village lasted until 1984, making way for the redevelopment of the area.

The main road to Chia Keng was Lim Tua Tow Road, commonly known as ow gang gor kok jio or five milestone of Hougang, and named after Chinese pioneer and Teochew merchant Lim Tua Tow. A popular wet market well-known for its Hokkien mee and chai tow kuay once stood here from the sixties to eighties. When Lim Tua Tow Market was demolished after the mid-eighties, Serangoon New Town has no wet markets and hawker centres other than the ones at Serangoon Gardens. Teck Chye Terrace, a small artery road off Lim Tua Tow Road, is named after Lim Teck Chye, a former secretary of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

The community school at Chia Keng Village was known as Sing Hua Public School, founded in 1930 by Chua Cheok San. In its early days, the school campus consisted of only a wooden building, and was occupied by the Japanese as a makeshift barrack during the Second World War. The building became a soap factory after the war but was converted back to a school soon after. The picture shown was the new building of Sing Hua School, opened in 1976. It was, however, torn down in 1984 together with Chia Keng Village, and was relocated to Hougang Avenue 1 as Xinghua Primary School.

There was also a Chia Keng Prison nearby, where its premises was converted from the old army signal camp. The small prison, abled to house only 300 prisoners, was established in 1976, and was used mainly for secret society members and drug offenders. It was demolished in 1993 to make way for the building of HDB flats.

Other Chinese villages near Serangoon were kampong scattered around Lorong Chuan, Lorong Kinchir and Lorong Kudang.

Yio Chu Kang

Kampong Amoy Quee was located at Cactus Road, off Yio Chu Kang Road. It was probably named after Amoy Quee Camp, a former British military camp nearby. The name Amoy Quee was derived from a derogatory term of the Caucasians addressed by the local villagers. In the eighties, Kampong Amoy Quee, along with other Chinese villages along Yio Chu Kang Road, was considerably better off, with some households able to own electrical appliances such as television. The kampong, though, could not escape urbanisation. It was replaced by rows of terrace houses by the late eighties.

Ang Mo Kio

Ang Mo Kio was an undisturbed forested land before the Chinese immigrants settled there at the early 20th century. The new settlers, mostly Hokkiens, cleared the land to set up rubber plantations, and one of the villages established was Cheng San Village. In the fifties, some of the rubber plantations were owned by prominent Chinese businessman and Nanyang University owner Tan Lark Sye (1897 – 1975).

After the rubber boom in the 1920s, the villages switched to vegetable farming and poultry rearing. Cheng San Village was a large kampong by size, made up of mostly Hokkiens and Teochews, and some Malay and Indian families. It stretched from Serangoon Gardens to Upper Thomson Road, and was commonly known as Cheng Sua Lai (青山内). A long track called Cheng San Road used to link Serangoon Gardens to Upper Thomson.

Certain parts of Cheng San Village were inaccessible by vehicles. It was said that during the election periods in the 1960s, small aircrafts were used to drop pamphlets over the kampong and play campaign slogans through loudspeakers. Jing San Primary School was founded in Cheng San Village in 1945 as Chin San School. In 1955, it was shifted to 502 Cheng San Road for the development of the new Serangoon Gardens estate, or Ang Sar Lee (红沙厘), referring to the red zinc roofs of the houses there. Cheng San Village also had an extremely popular temple known as Leng San Giam (龙山岩), reputed for giving out “lucky” numbers for betting.

In 1973, Ang Mo Kio was picked for development as Singapore’s seventh new town. Today, the name Cheng San is used for the area around Ang Mo Kio’s central, reminding us of the large village that used to exist in this region.

Bishan

Since the 19th century, Bishan was a Chinese burial ground called Peck San Theng (pavillion on the green). The Cantonese community was in charge of Peck San Theng, with more than 50,000 graves spread across the region. Kampong San Theng was the main Chinese village then, being established in 1870 by the pioneers from Kwong Fu, Wai Chow Fu and Siew Hing Fu prefectures in Canton, China. Another smaller village Soon Hock Village later became part of Kampong San Theng when the Hokkiens moved in to set up farms and small factories for the production of noodles and sesame oil.

The land of Peck San Theng was acquired by the government in 1973. After exhumation, the area was developed into a new town of what Bishan is today. Peck San Theng, standing next to Raffles Institution, is the only remnant of the demolished Kampong San Theng.

Toa Payoh

Toa Payoh of the past was mainly made up of rural vegetable farms and represented by a Toa Payoh Village. In 1963, the government made a proposal to the villagers, using the new terrace houses at the nearby Kim Keat Road in exchange for their lands and huts. The rapid development saw Toa Payoh became the second satellite town built in Singapore. By 1968, new blocks of HDB flats were standing at the center of Toa Payoh, and a new highway called Jalan Toa Payoh was linked to the new town.

In the seventies, several kampong could still be found located on the outskirts of Toa Payoh, such as the one along Sungei Kallang, at present-day Braddell.

Potong Pasir

The vast vegetable farms at Potong Pasir Village (波东巴西村) were predominated by the Cantonese in the fifties. Coconut, palm and banana trees were also cultivated, while there was also a small cluster of Indian villagers engaged in cattle rearing.

Due to the low lying lands at Potong Pasir, the area was prone to flooding. The villagers would take refuge at the nearby Woodville Hill whenever flooding occurred. One of the worst floods took place in 1978, when hundreds of people were evacuated, massive amount of crops destroyed and thousands of poultry drowned.

Serangoon

A Boyanese-dominated village known as Kampong Kapor once existed near the old racecourse at Farrer Park in the early 20th century. Due to the popularity of horse racing among the Europeans, some of the villagers were employed to look after the race horses.

Kampong in Western Parts of Singapore

Bukit Timah

Bukit Timah Village was formed by the early Chinese who settled along Bukit Timah Road near Bukit Timah Hill. One of the earliest roads in Singapore, Bukit Timah Road was built in 1827. In the early 20th century, the villagers lived in constant fear as Bukit Timah was infested by tigers, and it was not until 1930 when the last known wild tiger was captured and killed. The once-densely forested areas at Bukit Timah were also cleared for nutmeg plantations and the establishment of factories such as Ford Assembly Factory and Cold Storage Dairy Farm.

A Malay village called Kampong Chantek existed near the former Turf Club along Bukit Timah Road. It was rumoured that Sir Lawrence Guillemard (1862 – 1951), the Governor of the Straits Settlements from 1920 to 1927, once visited the kampong and praised how beautiful it was. Hence, the humble village became known as Kampong Chantek, where chantek means pretty in Malay. The long Jalan Kampong Chantek and the Pan-Island Expressway’s (PIE) Chantek Flyover are the remnants of the “pretty” village.

Before the late eighties, there was a Lorong Makam located at the end of Old Holland Road off Bukit Timah Road. The road, now defunct, led to a Chinese village known as Hakka Village (客人芭). It consisted of several kampong houses, a primary school and a burial ground. The history of the village went back to 1882, when the early Hakkas from the China counties of Foong Shoon, Eng Teng and Dabu arrived and settled at this area.

Over the past decades, as the residents shifted out of Hakka Village, the primary school was converted into an ancestral temple within Fong Yun Thai Association Columbarium. The surrounding lands had been stayed empty for years until late 2011, when a new condominium is being erected beside the columbarium.

Bukit Merah

Cluster of kampong used to flourish along the former Malayan railway tracks. Two of them were Kampong Silat and Kampong Bahru situated near the now-defunct Royal Malaysian Custom. These villages, along with the ones along the stretch of railways at Jalan Bukit Merah and Upper Bukit Timah, lasted until the mid-eighties. Silat Road and Kampong Bahru Road are the remnants of the Malay kampong that once existed here.

Bukit Panjang

Demolished in 1986, Bukit Panjang Village was a Chinese village that had rows of shophouses and a large Chinese temple worshiping the Taoist goddess (斗母宫). In 1974, Bukit Panjang Village was badly hit by a thunderstorm, affecting thousands of residents and paralysing the traffic.

A Malay village known as Kampong Quarry also existed at the borders of Bukit Pankang. It was located at Hindhede Road, off Upper Bukit Timah Road. In 1947, an Islamic school called Mahadul Irsyad was founded to provide basic Quran and Islamic knowledge to the children. The school later was renamed as Madrasah Al-Irsyad Al-Islamiah.

Choa Chu Kang

Choa Chu Kang was once a kangchu system where gambier and pepper plantations were first set up by the early Teochew settlers along the waters of Sungei Berih and Sungei Peng Siang. The population grew as attap houses were built and forested lands were cleared for more plantations, eventually leading to the emergence of Chinese villages such as Choa Chu Kang Village and Kampong Belimbing, which would include the Hokkiens who arrived later to establish the rubber and pineapple plantations.

Choa Chu Kang Village was located at the Track 10 of Old Choa Chu Kang Road. The track was now defunct and replaced by the new Brickland Road. Other small villages in the district were Kampong Cutforth, which cultivated some sugarcane plantations, Kampong Bereh and its fish farms, coastal village Kampong Jurong Tanjung BalaiKampong Sungei Tengah, Tong Seng Village (东成村) and Lam San Village (南山村).

In the late eighties, many of these kampong were demolished for the development of Choa Chu Kang New Town. By 1992, rows of new colourful high-rise HDB flats had replaced most of the attap houses.

Yew Tee Village was also a small quiet Chinese kampong located near Stagmont Ring, off Woodlands Road. Yew Tee refers to “oil pond” in Teochew, taking reference from the nearby oil storage facilities during the Japanese Occupation. Engaging in vegetable farming and poultry rearing, the strength of the village declined over the decades from more than 300 families to less than 20 households in 1991. By early nineties, most residents had left for the new housing estates of Choa Chu Kang and Jurong East.

Lim Chu Kang

Lim Chu Kang Village was another kangchu system located along the river banks of Sungei Kranji. It was headed by a Lim clan, but the founder was Neo Tiew (1883 – 1975), who made massive contributions to the development of this region, such as education, healthcare, social security and power supply. Neo Tiew Road and Neo Tiew Estate are named after him.

In the early days, like other kangchu systems in Singapore, the villagers in Lim Chu Kang specialised in gambier and pepper planting. Rubber plantations were later set up, with investment by the wealthy Irish Cashin family. In 1979, along with Punggol, Lim Chu Kang was one of the two designated districts in Singapore for pig rearing, after the government passed the law to prohibit pig farms in other parts of the island.

Neo Tiew Village (梁宙村), Thong Hoe Village and Ama Keng Village were smaller Chinese villages located in other parts of Lim Chu Kang, which had vast vegetable and chicken farms. The villagers still largely retained their frugal life by the mid-eighties, where some families used firewood for cooking. Thong Hoe Village was situated near Sungei Gedong Road, while Ama Keng Village sat beside Tengah Air Base. It had one of the oldest Chinese temples in Singapore, called Ama Keng (grandmother palace) Temple, which was built in 1900 to worship the goddess of peace and happiness. There were also various community centres at Neo Tiew, Thong Hoe and Ama Keng to serve the people.

Jurong

Jurong remained largely a rural area until its development after Singapore’s independence. The public housing plan kicked off only in the eighties, much later as compared to other estates elsewhere in Singapore. Hong Kah Village (丰加村) was one of the kampong in Jurong, with its fruit tree plantations and fish farms, that survived until the late eighties. Part of Hong Kah Village evolved to become a restricted area of Tengah today, bounded by Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) and Kranji Expressway (KJE), and its residents moved to the nearby neighbourhoods.

In the 1950s, the major stream of Jurong River (or Sungei Bajau Kanan) was home to many Malay fishing villages, such as Kampong Jawa Teban (or Kampong Java Teban). The fishermen’s wooden houses were built on stilts that stretched out into the waters, with fishing boats parked by the sides. It was a common to see the children having an enjoyable time swimming in the river, while the adults laboured in fish netting and prawn rearing. The fishing villages located nearer to the mouth of Jurong River, however, were constantly bothered by the flooding due to high tides.

Tuas

A swampy land in its early days, Tuas was inhabited by the Malay population as a fishing village. Tuas Village was located nearer to West Coast Road rather than present-day Tuas South, which was the result of land reclamation during the eighties. The southwestern part of Singapore had long been designated for industrial use, thus Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) was acquiring the lands since 1974 for their marine and engineering industries.

By the end of the eighties, most residents of Tuas Village had moved to the public housing estates, and the remainders of Tuas were small clusters of kopitiams, shophouses and four seafood restaurants near the coasts. Like the one at Punggol end, the seafood restaurants enjoyed brisk businesses and good reputations, until they were phased out after 1986.

Kampong in Eastern Parts of Singapore

Paya Lebar

Paya Lebar’s Kampong Yew Keng (葱茅园村) near Lorong Tai Seng was famous for a Chinese temple known as Nine Emperor Gods (九皇宫). The year 1965 was significant to Lorong Tai Seng as new rows of shophouses were built and new street lamps were installed along the road. The road no longer exists today.

Katong

In the 1920s, clusters of attap houses made of wood, nipah palm, rumbia and bertam forming Tanjong Katong Village could be found at the lands south of Geylang. Before the land reclamation of East Coast in the sixties, the coastline was within reach of the Chinese village.

Bedok

In the 1920s, a Chinese village was formed on the lands around the now-defunct roads of Peng Ann and Peng Ghee, off Upper Changi Road. It was Kampong Chai Chee, a large village of attap houses with vegetable farms flanked with rows of coconut and banana trees, and had its bustling market which gave the village its name Chai Chee (菜市), literally refers as “vegetable market”. The market sold, other than vegetable, pork, poultry, fish, fruits and eggs.

In the seventies, the residents of Kampong Chai Chee were resettled as the area was developed to for the building of HDB flats and the Bedok Reservoir. By early 1980s, Chai Chee became a fully urbanised housing estate, the first such estate in the eastern part of Singapore. Today, Chai Chee is part of Bedok New Town.

Other kampong in present-day Bedok included Ulu Bedok Village, just opposite Kampong Chai Chee across Peng Ann Road, Bedok Village, Simpang Bedok Village and Sompah Bedok Village, famous for its cattle farms. The last of these villages were gone by 1986.

Kallang

The Kallang Basin had been home to many settlements since the early 19th century. Orang kallang was one of the first settlers at the river, leading a nomadic life before they were unfortunately wiped out due to a smallpox outbreak. The early Malay dwellers later formed a coastal fishing village known as Kampong Kallang, which thrived in the early 1900s.

Kampong Rokok was a Malay village off Geylang Road near the Kallang Bridge.

Geylang/Ubi/Eunos

One of the oldest Malay settlements in Singapore, Geylang Serai also functioned as a main trading place for the Malays from Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. In the late 19th century, the rich Arabs moved in to cultivate lemon grass plantation but the industry failed to boom, which was later replaced by rubber plantations and vegetable farms. The villagers also started planting tapioca (ubi in Malay) during the Second World War, leading to the naming of Kampong Ubi, part of Geylang Serai.

Kampong Melayu was a large self-sufficient Malay village that stretched from the borders of Geylang to Jalan Eunos, where a smaller kampong called Jalan Eunos Village stood. There was a couple of Chinese families living in Kampong Melayu. In the racial riots of 1964, the village was one of the worst hit areas. A huge fire broke out at Kampong Melayu in 1975, destroying several houses and leaving dozens of people homeless.

Kampong Melayu’s main religious center was the old Alkaff Mosque. It was demolished in 1980 and a new one was built near Bedok Reservoir Road. By 1985, Kampong Melayu had to be torn down for the development of the industrial estates at Eunos.

Kembangan

Kampong Kembangan and Kampong Pachitan co-existed until the mid-eighties in today’s Kembangan district. The name Kembangan means “expansion” in Malay, and it was a predominantly Malay village, with several Chinese families living in it. The educational and social needs were provided by a Sin Sheng School and the Kampong Kembangan Community Centre.

The villages’ main road Jalan Kembangan was named as early as 1932 and gradually lost its importance after the eighties, replaced by Sim Avenue East and Changi Road.

Pasir Ris

Pasir Ris was once a low-lying swampy ground with a popular beach for outings and picnics from the fifties to seventies. Several Malay villages such as Kampong Pasir Ris and Kampong Bahru used to coexist with the large timber plantations near Elias Road. Elias Road was an old road in Pasir Ris, named after the wealthy Elias family, where they had a bungalow at the end of Elias Road. Justice of Peace and Municipal Commissioner of Singapore Joseph Aaron Elias was a prominent Jewish businessman in the early 20th century.

By the sixties, the various plantations ceased to exist after the timber industry declined. Meanwhile, pig farms flourished at Loyang during the seventies.

Tampines

Tampines Village was originally situated near Sungei Serangoon at the 7th milestone of Upper Serangoon Road (Lim Tua Tow Road is 5th milestone, while Simon Road is 6th milestone). Tampines New Town is located 5km east of where Tampines Village was, and instead was the land where Kampong Teban, Teck Hock Village, Kampong Beremban and Kampong Sungei Blukar once stood on. By the mid-eighties, rows of flats were erected at Tampines. The likes of Teck Hock Village were torn down but some tropical fish farms still survive till this day at Fish Farm Road.

In the past, Tampines was covered with kampong, farms, temples, forests and sand quarries. Old Tampines Road, one of the oldest roads in Singapore, was built in 1864, linking Upper Serangoon Road to Upper Changi Road. The villagers would make use of the dusty path to travel to Hougang and Serangoon.

Changi

The Changi Village at the most eastern part of Singapore saw tremendous changes over the decades. The kampong was still made up of attap houses in the fifties and sixties. By the early seventies, the village has prospered into a little town with many concrete shophouses thanks to the presence of the British military personnel. Changi was the last area in Singapore to be pulled out by the British upon their official withdrawal in 1971, after which the government launched the Changi Village Development Project, adding low-rise flats and a park to the little estate.

Another bustling village stood at the 10th milestone of Upper Changi Road. It was the Somapah Village (or Somapah Changi Village). Lasted until the eighties, the village was progressing well, equipped with public schools, clinics, temples, an open-air theatre, barber shops as well as cattle and goat farms. Somapah Village was later razed to the ground to make way for the Changi Business Park.

In 1975, Singapore launched one of its biggest project in history: Changi Airport. Massive land reclamations were carried out and the rivers of Sungei Tanah Merah Besar, Sungei Ayer Gemuroh and Sungei Mata Ikan were drained and diverted. Hundreds of buildings and thousands of graves in the region were demolished and exhumed. The fishing villages by the rivers, such as Kampong Mata Ikan, were also unable to escape the fate of urbanisation.

Kampong in Southern Parts of Singapore

Queenstown

Before the development of Queenstown by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in 1954, the area was made up of a large Hokkien village largely known as Boh Beh Kang (No Tail River). Its name derived from the stream that flowed between two hills called Hong Yin Sua and Hong Lim Sua, linking the Singapore River and the West Coast. The river had been converted into a canal today.

Villagers from Boh Beh Kang had their ancestry traced to Tong’An, Fujian of China. Most of them were from the extended Ang family.

Pasir Panjang

Pasir Panjang used to be a stretch of sandy beach along the southern coast of Singapore, where bungalows and resorts owned by the wealthy businessmen were abundant. In the 1930s, some Malays from Sungei Kallang settled at Pasir Panjang when Kallang Airport was being constructed. The coastal fishing settlement became known as the West Coast Malay Settlement, but it would only last until the sixties when Pasir Panjang was acquired for land reclamations and the building of a new port terminal.

Telok Blangah

Telok Blangah Hill was home to several early villages such as Kampong Bahru, which was resettled by the people of Temenggong Abdul Rahman after he signed the treaty with Sir Stamford Raffles and the East India Company to allow the British in setting up a trading post in Singapore.

Kampong Heap Guan San was a Chinese village later established at Telok Blangah. It was troubled by a series of crimes in the sixties, such as possession of revolver and opium. The Malayan Paints Work once operated its factory here. Another village at Telok Blangah was Kampong Jagoh. Its primary school known as Kampong Jagoh Malay School was opened in 1949, which became Jagoh Primary School in the eighties (now defunct).

Situated at the foot of Telok Blangah Hill, Kampong Radin Mas was well-known as a royal village in the fifties. This was due to the legend of Javanese princess Radin Mas Ayu, who escaped to Singapore from the Sultan of Java, her uncle, and settled at Telok Blangah.

Another Malay village was Kampong Berlayer near the current Labrador Park.

Tanjong Pagar

Kampong Samau was located at Palmer Road, off Shenton Way, in the fifties. Palmer Road was a result of the leveling of Mount Palmer in the early 20th century, named after Indian merchant John Palmer (1766 – 1836). The Malay village was known for its religious place-of-worship Habib Noh Shrine, which was built in 1860s. The shrine is now housed by the mosque of Masjid Haji Muhammad Salleh.

Another Malay village called Kampong Batek was demolished under force in 1947 due to the redevelopment plans. There were about 20 to 30 families in the kampong when the bulldozers were sent in, prompting outcry from the public.

Bugis/Rochor

Bugis was named after the Buginese, a seafaring tribe originated from the South Sulawesi of Indonesia. Even before the arrival of the British, the Buginese was already active in the trading with the locals around the Singapore River and Kallang Basin. By the late 19th century, a coastal Malay village called Kampong Buggis (spelt with double G) was formed on the left side of Kallang Basin.

Other villages nearby were Kampong Java Road, Kampong Saigon, Kampong Kapur (or Kapor), Kampong Boyan and Kampong Bencoolen, scattered in a region between Sungei Rochor and the Singapore River.

Kampong on the Islands of Singapore

Pulau Tekong

Pulau Tekong was home to many Malay residents before the island was developed as a military base in the eighties. In 1956, the population living on Pulau Tekong was about 4,000 strong, scattered in various small kampong such as Kampong Pahang, Kampong Selabin (Pekan), Kampong Seminal, Kampong Batu Koyok, Kampong Pasir, Kampong Sungei Belang, Kampong Onom, Kampong Pasir Merah, and Kampong Permatang. The villages were self-reliant on vegetable, fish, coconuts and tropical fruits.

There was also a small Chinese community, mostly Hakkas and Teochews, living at Kampong Sanyongkong (or Kampong Senyunkong) located near the south of the island. Starting from 1986, all the islanders were gradually resettled on mainland Singapore. Sanyongkong Field Camp, built in 2006 for the Combat Engineers, was named after this extinct kampong.

Pulau Ubin

The only rustic village atmosphere one can find in an urbanised Singapore, other than Kampong Lorong Buangkok, is Pulau Ubin. Some Malay kampong such as Kampong Leman, Kampong Cik Jawa, Kampong Melayu, Kampong Bahru, Kampong Noordin and Kampong Jelutong once stood on this northeastern island that stays largely undeveloped for decades. There is a folktale that a Sungei Kallang dweller named Encik Endun Senin led his people to migrate to Pulau Ubin in the 1880s.

Pulau Ubin was well-known for its granite quarries as early as the 19th century. The granite produced was used in several projects such as Pedro Branca’s Horsburgh Lighthouse, the Woodlands Causeway and some HDB Flats. The Chinese quarry workers arrived on the island in the 20th century, with some of them settled down and made the island their homes. The Chinese village, still surviving till this day, is located near to the jetty.

Sentosa (Pulau Blakang Mati)

In the late 19th century, Pulau Blakang Mati was inhabited by the orang laut at Kampong Kopit. Viewed as a strategic location for defense, the British built a series of fortifications such as Fort Siloso, Fort Serapong and Fort Connaught from 1880 to 1935. The island was captured and used as a prisoner-of-war camp by the Japanese during the Second World War.

Before the development of the island in the seventies, several Malay kampong existed on Pulau Blakang Mati. There was a Blakang Mati Primary School (renamed as Sentosa Primary School after the island was renamed as Sentosa in 1970) to provide education for the children of the islanders. It was established in 1964 but demolished ten years later to make way for the Maritime Museum.

A Chinese village known as Yeo Village (杨家村) also once existed on Pulau Blakang Mati.

Pulau Brani

A Malay fishing village called Kampong Teluk Saga once existed on the northern side of Pulau Brani. Rows of wooden houses owned by the fishermen lined up on stilts along the coastline.

By 1971, a naval base was built on the island, facilities were added such as Pulau Brani Community Centre and two primary schools called Tai Chong and Teluk Saga. The villagers were gradually resettled onto mainland Singapore. Today, the island is functioning as Brani Container Teminal, and is restricted to public access.

Other Islands

The outer islands opposite Pasir Panjang such as Pulau Bukom, Pulau Busing, Pulau Hantu, Pulau Semakau and Pulau Sebarok were inhabited by several Malay fishing kampong, before the islands were converted for industrial use.

Pulau Bukom has been Far East’s main oil supply centre since 1902, and was the site of Singapore’s first oil refinery in 1961, built by oil and gas giant Shell. Like Pulau Brani, the islands are now restricted from access by the public.

Pulau Semakau was acquired by the Singapore government in 1987, and the villagers were mostly resettled at Telok Blangah and Bukit Merah. The last resident held his place until 1991. The island was later linked to the nearby Pulay Sakeng to became Singapore’s first offshore landfill.

Editor’s Note: The editor has lived in a HDB flat all his life, but has fond memories of his mother’s kampong at Chia Keng village in the early eighties. ;)

See how Singapore’s public housing evolved in From Villages to Flats (Part 2) – Public Housing in Singapore.

Published: 04 April 2012

Updated: 04 August 2012

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183 Responses to From Villages to Flats (Part 1) – The Kampong Days

  1. Rickson L H Goh says:

    Thank you for all these valuable informations.They certainly are a reminder of the days when life was less stressful and more idlyic. Only people in my generation would appreciate these pictures and infos as the younger generations today do not fully understand what my generation has gone through. However, developments have to take place and generally these will have to make way. I hope the younger people will learn to appreciate history through these pictures and informations.
    Thank you once again.

    • Muhammad Taufiq says:

      I am a 16 year old teenage, and i really felt surprise to see life in the past in Singapore. This really excites me, and why i chose history asa subject in my secondary school. Wow, how i wish i live in the past, must’ve been great, although there must be some disadvantages living in kampongs. Cheers.

  2. Curan Loh says:

    Absolutely fascinating history and insights into Singapore’s past. Never realized that there were so many kampongs all over Singapore. We lived in Seletar Hills and was aware of kampong houses in Lorong Buangkok as our Malay “washer woman” (that was what it was called in those days – someone who came to your house to wash and iron the family’s laundry) lived in one of the little houses there. This was in the 70’s. Left Singapore in the 80’s and now we live in Auckland, New Zealand. I am a keen follower of your blog as it brings back so many wonderful memories growing up in Singapore. Thank you and keep up the excellent work!

    • roland wee says:

      Dear Curan Loh, good luck and happy living in your beautiful country.New Zealand, i am sporean but mostly live in china.

  3. atan ahmad osman says:

    a refreshing nostalgic feeling reading this article, i am wondering how you managed to get all these info it must be a lot of research work – good job

  4. Steve Mac says:

    This is the most informative post I ever seen on history of Singapore kampong. Highly educational and important post to understand and trace the history of Singapore. THANK !

  5. Atan Samsudin says:

    Please amend the caption on the photos showing Kampong Kembangan 1963, those row of houses is actually located at Jalan Tertib, Kaki Bukit and not Kg. Kembangan.

  6. Jared Seah says:

    It’s so nice to revisit the past.

    I am glad to have some memories of these Kampongs.

    During the early 70s, I remember visiting my relatives in Hougang and my dad will drive us to what we Teochew call: Ang Sar Li Tsu

    Now I live in a bee-hive.

  7. Ben says:

    Hi, you’re doing a wonderful job, but there’s a factual error: Kampong Bahru/Silat Road is located in the south. Indeed, Pasir Panjang is more on the west side than south; yet you categorise it as under south.

  8. ken says:

    thank you for all your work! i loved this post! looking forward to part 2!

  9. patriot says:

    Me really missed the good old days
    when we had lived life much our own ways.

    It was simple and carefree.
    We shared much in camaraderie.

    Thank You much for bringing back
    the fond memories that me had of where
    me was born and bred.

    I had my first twenty years spent
    in a village in the Eastern Part and there
    stays forever my heart.

    patriot

  10. Francis Lai says:

    I can relate with those pictures that you’ve painstakingly put up. Thank you ! My family once stayed in a kampong sitting on the Singapore Harbour Board’s land (Tg Pagar), and all the families were asked to moved out in 1963. We offerd flats in Bukit Ho Swee. My former kampong is now part of the PSA container port terminal.

  11. kat says:

    My kampung was Kampong Eunos. Thank you for the time spent on researching, documenting and writing about our kampung heritage for our parents’ generations & those born after WWII. Our generation was the fortunate recipients of having born (I was born at home) & grew up in the kampungs. I appreciate your hard work in writing about this facet of our heritage. I look forward to your part 2.. Kum siah! Terima Kasih!

    • Philip Chew says:

      kat, I lived in Kampong Eunos too from 1957 until the land was acquired the the authority for MRT and Sims Ave extension. My house, the corner terraced house was facing Lor Sarina. Where was yours? Read my article about the kampong in my blog.

  12. Dawn says:

    thank Q so much I LOVE IT,
    it reminds me of the good old days, life was simply carefree n caring too(kampong spirit)
    bsfore i left my kampong on the last days, i wished so much to own a camera,but was too poor to
    do so. i wanted to capture the image of those attaps huts, on sunny days u see ray of light shining in n when raining days u carry basin to collect raindrops ha ha these re treasures of SINGAPORE
    well done

  13. Azra says:

    Really enjoyed the article about the kampong days and other blogs too. Thanks and great work.

  14. gnoofyem says:

    Nice one! My mother and my aunt used to tell me stories of their kampong days in Toa Payoh – the simple games they played, how my grandmother would carry her seven kids across a bridge over an overflowing stream so they wouldn’t get wet for school. I should really go back and dig into old photo albums…

  15. Kall Geez says:

    absolutely beautiful…my grandparents were from the Sembawang Naval Base area…thanks for sharing and I really learnt a lot!

  16. zakaria says:

    This is wonderful, never thought to see this photo again, as we does not come from rich family and we cannot afford a camera. I was born, bread and married in Malay Settlement (Jalan Eunos).
    Beautiful memories staying in that area….. You blog has bring me wonderful memories…..
    Thank you from the bottom of my hearts.

  17. Jimmy Appudurai Chua says:

    this is amazing I am sorry that you left out my Kampong in Siglap..in Jalan Sempadan..which was where I grew up, a most harmonised kampong of Malays, Eurasians and a couple of our Chinese houses, and a main chinese provision shop at the top of the main road, which was East Coast Road, seven milestone..thank you for the wonderful article……Jimmy Appudurai Chua

    • Sheema says:

      Totally agree with you!!! I’m Malaysian but my maternal grandmother was from Kampong Siglap, and my mum still has memories of spending her school holidays there. Was hoping to see it in here!

    • Ranjit says:

      Hello there ! i was born and raised in Jalan Tua Kong in the general vicinity of Kampong Siglap. Loved it there – used to walk thru the Malay kampong to go to the beach and also walked back home thru Jalan Sempadan!

      • Yok says:

        Would you be Ranjit Singh? I too grew up in Jalan Tua Kong and I remember there was only one Indian family in the kampong. We went to Siglap Primary School. Those were the days ….

      • Ranjit says:

        Actually – it is Ranjit Kaur – Dad was Mr. Singh. We are 1 of the very few Indian families (although Mum is Chinese) in the Jln Tua Kong area. All of us siblings attended Siglap primary school near Frankel Ave. Had great fun growing up in the Siglap area before we were relocated to Bedok North HDB around 1978. Mum still lives in Bedok North area. When I visited her a few months ago (am living overseas now) – she was updating me with info of the folks from the old village. Was pleasantly surprised that I can still remember most of the folks even after 35+ years since I last saw them. Relocating to HDB flats was good in some ways – progress and all – but it sure dispersed long-time neighbors/friends along the way! Sad, sad.

        Many of the children at Jln Tua Kong attended Siglap Primary – while some of them attended Opera Estate primary schools or the Chinese school deep into Jln Tua Kong. Where about in Jln Tua Kong do u live Yok?

  18. George Favacho says:

    “Thanks for the Memories of Kampongs in Singapore! Indeed those were the days of old never to come back again! Brought back many happy memories of my childhood days in early Singapore and time spent in Kampong Pasir Ris especially! Much Appreciated!”
    George Favacho – Perth, Western Australia

  19. Dee says:

    Very, very nice…! I missed P. Tekong Besar, my mum & her family were from there (Kg. Pahang). I was too young to rmbr details of their village. I hope I can get more pics of the island in the past (& return there someday)….

  20. Lam Chun See says:

    Hi. You may be aware that I grew up in a kampong called Chui Arm Lor and subsequently renamed Lor Kinchir after Lor Chuan was built to join Braddell Rd to Serangoon Gardens in 1963.

    I would like to share some information with your readers. Prior to 1963, our address was 288 Ang Mo Kio. But in my birth cert (1952), it states 288 Yio Chu Kang Village, off Braddell Road. After 1963, our address became 21A Lor Kinchir. Which means that in the eyes of the authorities, the boundaries for thse kampongs were a little bit hazy at that time.

    Thanks for a wonderful documentary. You should write a book so people can keep it as a historical record.

    By the way, I wish you had posted you article a few months earlier. Up to end last year, I was searching high and low for a photograph of a well with pulley like the one in Nee Soon in your articles to use in my book. I even asked for help from friends in Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

    • Thanks Chun See… Think I’m not experienced enough to write a book :)
      By the way, are there any such old wells left in Singapore?
      There is a well at the Sembawang hot spring, but it is all fenced up now

    • This is a well at Pulau Ubin, still being used as a drinking source by the villagers living there

      • Pat says:

        @ Remember Singapore — What a nice photo of an old local well ! Is this Pulau Ubin well so tall & huge, or was the old man squatting down in the photo ?

        Back during the mid to late 1980s, I was brought to see a traditional well somewhere on mainland S’pore. It resembles the one shown in the Pulau Ubin photo, right down to the surrounding shady vegetation & dead leaves on the ground. But this mainland well wasn’t so huge, because I was able to look into the well while standing beside it.

        The cool water could be hauled up with a bucket. And being an urban kid seeing a well for the first time, my first thought upon seeing the somewhat murky-brown water was, “Yucks … how does one drink that ??” I don’t think I drank the muddy water. :)

        Unfortunately, I can’t recall where this mainland well was located. I don’t recall seeing any kampong nearby though. My impression was that the area wasn’t very rural. Perhaps it was a remnant well that has since been removed.

    • Came across this old photo of a kid fetching water from a well in his kampong at Tampines… How fortunate we are now, with easy access to tap water

      • Ranjit says:

        Thank u so much for your wonderfully written history of kampongs in Singapore. Where I lived in Siglap – we had a bathroom with water faucet that is shared by many families and a huge well house – also shared by many families. The well house had no roof and bathing/showering with rain water from the well was SHIOK! It was cool and nice on hot and humid days! Built some arm muscles from hauling the water from the well and carrying the buckets to the house a short distance away to put in the urns!

  21. Dr ANTHONY SIBERT says:

    WHAT ABOUT KATONG AND THE EURASIANS OF SINGAPORE?

  22. Ron says:

    Well done, and many awesome thanks. I was born before the outbreak of WWII and I can relate more intimately to many of the places where I was born, bred and and worked had been to for outings and other adventures. I had some photos of the old POI ENG Primary School in Upper Thomson Rd where I taught for a few years as an ESL teacher. I didn’t see this mentioned and today, many of the former students have been pretty successful in life. I grew up in the Rangoon Road kampong near New World in Serangoon Rd. My first primary school, Rangoon Rd Govt Primary Sch was one of the most famous and notorious for the Maria fiasco riot and where my former teacher, Abdul Dhabi was involved. Then the Sunny Ang scuba diving episode and the Pulau Senang prison riot and hanging of 19 (2 of my former classmates were hanged). Perhaps, Prof Jayakumar and Dhanbalan and some of our surviving teachers could throw more light on these. The school was used by the Japanese as a school where we went to and were marched along the streets every morning chanting Japanese songs, “Sina-ray-ahroo-kay” but we didn’t know what it meant. I’m of the view that you should compile it into a book and hope MOE would include it into their Social Studies curriculum and teachers take note of your contributions as an educational project too for students to research into deeper and thorough depths. Keep it up before my generation ceases to exist. Terima -kaseh.

  23. Michael Nathan says:

    An excellent job done!!!! pictures and all It was my growing up time and enjoyed every minute of this era missing it so much…

  24. Cool stuff. Hope you don’t mind me sharing this with FANS of Singapore on http://www.singaporedice.com/travel? Just like I have done in here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/128170167220516/

  25. Bernard Teo says:

    I am one of those who have fished in the fishing pond ….

    cheers/bernard teo

  26. Bernard Teo says:

    Neo Tiew Road further in is called Turut Track..thats where my wife used to live.

  27. J. Warden says:

    Absolutely brilliant, to see the old kampongs. As someone who left Singapore in the early 60’s, now living in Uk, it is great to see these old photos, you are doing a great job. Would be nice to have one of Katong and the Eurasians, how they have progressed through to modern day Singapore. Thanks.
    J.Warden

  28. Goh Poh Gek says:

    Thank you so much. They were beautiful memories of where we used to live. I was from Chia Keng and if I can used a ruler, now my old hut should be where the Serangoon stadium is. Anyone from there? Kampong friends lah.. may be you and me used to queue up for the common telephone booth at Jalan Teck Khee… My hut had a lot of skinny betel nuts trees…

    • Lim Yen Sun says:

      I used to stay in now where serangoon stadium too. I remember I also play zero point and sit at a see-saw outside a big house.

  29. din says:

    Thank you very much.the were memories especially Lorong Fatimah and Radin Mas when iwas in Singapore during 60s and 70s.

  30. Agnes Sim says:

    Thank you for the nostalgia this site brings. Great job! I lived in a kampong in Ponggol just off upper Serangoon Road for the first 16 years of my life. My father had his carpentry workshop just next to our house. We reared chickens and ducks for sale for Chinese New Year. Our fish were always fresh from the fishing port at the mouth of sungei Serangoon. My father sometimes fished in the swamp nearby and did crabbing there too. I must say we took the wildlife for granted. The area was rich in flora and fauna. My siblings and I have fond memories of some aspects of kampong life.
    Thank you once again.

  31. Thanks. Singapore has seen so much change and rapid development especially in the last 5 years or so.

  32. Lily Seow-Pfeifer says:

    Ten thousand thanks for sharing the beautiful photos and memories. We used to live at Upper Changi Road, near Kampong Chai Chee during the late 50’s, and therefore eager to read about kampongs in the eastern part of Singapore. We are definitely looking forward to Part II – to whichever part it will feature! Keep up the fine work and thanks again!

  33. Bobby Liu says:

    Reblogged this on Thru zen tinted shades and commented:
    Excellent reminder of who we are. reblogging.

  34. Trevor Persico says:

    Thank you for your sharing and commendable effort! If I had 10 thumbs.. 10 thumbs up for you Sir!

    Please fill us in on when will Part 2 be published?

    Kind Regards,

    Trev

  35. SHADRAKstephen says:

    Some photos of the Alexandra Brickworks, Pasir Panjang Park areas should be helpful too.

    • Not many old photos of Alexandra Brickwork, but this was painted by Ng Eng Teng (1934 – 2001), honoured as the Grandfather of Singapore Sculpture

      • tinoq russell says:

        oh my god this is just behind my kampung house!!!!! i miss my childhood! im from batu bwelayer primary scholl n pasir panjang secondary school.

  36. Adrian Sim says:

    What a fantastic journey down memory lane. Thank you very much. For those NS “old birds” (lau chiaos) among us, I remember having to venture into some of these villages (and losing our way) to recall NS reservists during NS mobilisations – the days before texting, mobile phones, emails and facebook. My kampong memories are mainly in Katong, Bedok, Siglap and Telok Kurau. Great nostalgia. Thanks again.

  37. Aizat Sharif says:

    Well done with all of your effort and information,
    My name is Aizat Sharif and I’m hail from KL. My mother is a Singapore-born Malaysian who married with my father who hail from Kedah.
    Every two years especially during Hari Raya celebration, we will be going back to my grandmother house in Serangoon North Ave 4. During the gathering, my grandmother, my auntie and my uncle will telling us stories about their ‘kampung’ days at LORONG TAI SENG before they moved to KAMPUNG CHAI CHEE..
    Whenever I come to Singapore, I always try to find or trace back the legacy of this villages.
    Do you have any information about this two places?

    Regards
    Aizat Sharif

    • Hi Aizat, Lorong Tai Seng has already vanished. The area where the kampong used to exist is now being replaced by Tai Seng Industrial Estate. Meanwhile Chai Chee was developed into a housing estate by the early 1980s. It is now part of Bedok.

  38. Azizi Bin Abdullah says:

    Thanks for the picture of Kampong Sungei Mandai Kecil.It brought back memories.I was born in the kampong in Dec 1968.My father was the religious teacher in the kampong.Every year in Dec our kampong was flooded because of high tide.We enjoyed swimming at the Sungei.That is how we learned to swim,no instructor, try and error.Anyway the Kampong was called Kampong Mandai Kecil without the Sungei.Do you have any photo of Marsiling Primary School 1975 till 1980.Thanks again.Azizi Bin Abdullah(Sulaiman/Lai)

    • Abdul Rahman says:

      Hi Azizi, Im am student of Marsiling Primary School (1976-1981) and i do have some photos of the school. I had very fond memories of the school and also had a taste of kampong life too as I do made trips to visit Kampong Mandai Kechil and Lorong Fatimah especially during the school holidays. By the way do you have any photos of kampong Hock Choon and Kampong Sungei China? Thanx

  39. Julie says:

    Kudos to you for putting together such a comprehensive record. What a massive effort to bring back fond memories to many of us who still remember living in or visiting kampongs in our youth. I was born and grew up in Sennett Estate (probably the first post WWII private housing estate in Singapore) which lies between the farms of Potong Pasir and the workers quarters at Kolam Ayer. The open-air Peking cinema, Kallang River, the sawmill near the Sinalco factory, the building of the PIE across Whampoa/Toa Payoh and the development of the HDB estates at Toa Payoh, Bendemeer (tearing down Whampoa’s & Seah Liang Seah’s house and the adjacent Chinese kampong) and later Potong Pasir all form part of my life and memory.

  40. Terrance De Cotta - Melbourne Australia says:

    Wow! This is the most comprehensive information I have read on the net. Thanks an am awaiting for part 2. Keep up the wonderful work.(very painstaking effort I believe). I salute you!

    • Ernest bartels says:

      What a great article,I live my first thirteen years of my life at pulau bukom.it was a heaven to me my family and the people who live there.shell was a very generous company for our fathers to work for.don’t get me wrong our fathers work hard as their jobs were complex and difficult.but we as children had a privilege life,with the whole island to play cops and robbers,swimming at the country club,
      tennis and fishing.ah what memories.

      Ernest Bartels
      Perth, Australia

  41. RamleePulau says:

    Thanks for the memories of the old kampung days. I was one of a few hundred lucky residents of Pulau Blakang Mati, now known as Sentosa. We were asked to leave this beautiful island in 1974 by the government to make way for development to an island resort.The good old days….the experiences were memorable…unlikely that you would go through ever again. Just a little correction of the photo which you mentioned as “Yeo village” should read “kampung pantai baru'”. In fact Pulau Blakang Mati had 3 other Kampungs namely: Kampung Jut, Kampung China and Kampung Pantai lama. I was hoping to see more photos about Pulau Blakang Mati. Hope others who have them could share with us. Thanks a lot.

  42. Geewhiz says:

    hey there…love this piece about the well-known kampungs. The Kaki Bukit kampung would have made a good addition to this piece. It was one of the main and largest malay kampungs in the east, if not mistaken, and was originally gazetted to the Malays after Eunos Abdullah “hassled” the british government.

  43. marshall chua says:

    do you have any chance of having a kampong in bishan called tian ji yuan
    ?

  44. Didi says:

    Thank you so much. I have never lived in a kampong and have very vague memory of Singapore kampongs apart from the Malay reserve settlement in Kampung Melayu Kaki Bukit because my teacher and a friend used to live there. I can still feel the idyllic pulse of the place; the place seemed to have a beat lower than “Singapore city”. I now live in Kuala Lumpur but I will always have fond memories of ‘old’ Singapore. Thank you.

    • Aman the grandson of laAziz Boncet the Comedian. says:

      Reading and discovering back all those stories and pictures bring alot of tears. I was a Kampung Boy in the eastside, Jalan Tengah off Paya Lebar now Paya Ubi Industrial. Born in 1969 and i go to “makan” school at Lorong Engku Aman now Tanjong Katong Complex. Attended to Jalan Daud Primary School from 1976 til 1979. My Kampung was demolished in 1977 and I can still remember that my parent’s rumah kedai aka shophouse was the last to be remove. Imagine living in a kampung alone where everyone had left to the new estate called Bedok North. From there we moved to my dad’s parent house in Kampun Kaki Bukit ( Jalan Kekal) where our neigbours were National footballer like Hasli Ibrahim and Wak Dol the famous coach who coached none other than our football hero, Fandi Ahmad. Right behind were all those Malay artist and radio djs. Great memories was to watch Fandi Ahmad trained at the old Kaki Buki Primary School field on every afternoon. He and Razali Alias were a killer partner. If i could go on i could not stop til morning. Hehheheh thanks for the great articles!

  45. Andra Leo says:

    The photos bring back wonderful memories of a Singapore that has disappeared. I first arrived here in 1967 and have lived here since then, watching the destruction of a way of life that will never return. Modernisation has its advantages, but so much has been lost. Thank you for remembering.

  46. Sharifah says:

    Interesting research and great photos. Thanks for sharing.

  47. Brian Khoo says:

    Beautiful!! The good old days. No traffic jams, no road rage, and trees to climb. Kids did really enjoy their childhood as compared to kids today. Thank you for the memories.

  48. M P Sim says:

    well done reseach – impt to have our roots and see how we have ‘progressed’.

  49. Harry Lim says:

    Any pictures of Telok Ayer Street near Methodist Church?

  50. Eric says:

    Any photos and history for the land call Keppel Club now

  51. Gabriel says:

    Ah…for the life in the kampong again…not those high rise jungles..

  52. Andra Leo says:

    When I first came to live in Singapore there was a kampong beside the buildingI lived in (on Pasir Panjang Road) and beside the kampong was Haw Par Villa (this was in in the early 1970s). I wonder if anyone has photos of that?

  53. christina says:

    hi i live in NZ now for 40 over years.We did stay in the kampong when we had to wait for your Government houses. Ii loved the atmosphere and the homeliness then.
    I was born during the Japanese Occupation in Bahau. I go to clubs now and tell my parents story.

  54. What a lovely, lovely blog! And what a useful role it is playing in preserving the past even as gets destroyed. Thanks to Bob Tjoa for sending it to my brother Herbert, who alerted me to it! I plan to keep tabs on this blog…..

  55. Peter Ghouse says:

    what a great effort! Thanks heaps.I was Malaysian but spent lots of time in Serangoon gardens with my Grandparents The Lians of Crowhurst Drive(.I travelled to Gate 3 Keppel Rd for work.)When they bought a house there, the back door opened into the “limau kasturi” orchard and pickin from the abandonded fruit trees was a treat. Used to shop at a corner atap shop and play with some of the kampong kids of the area. I can remember fishing for ikan aruan and running away when chased by the owners. I cannot remember the area of the fish ponds but then who would have thought then that Spore was going to be the FLATS CITY. (sorry lah condo and apartment owners) Glad I was alive then to enjoy the down to earth Singapore back then.
    Once again thanks for the memories. It is and will be treasured. Bring on part 2

  56. Fay says:

    My family lived in Singapore for 2 years from 1970 – 1972. They were fabulous years growing up. So much freedom. We were from Australia, my father was in the Armed Forces and with six children and 2 adults the army barracks did not have suitable housing to accommodate us. We were one of those privileged families that lived in Nee Soon adjacent to a Kampong, My younger brother and I had many a summer day exploring these little communities and making friends with the locals., My family would go to the Amor markets on a Sunday night, stalls would stretch for kilometers along the road. I visited Singapore again this year. It is such a different atmosphere. HDB everywhere, condos such a different landscape. I was fortunate to revisit where we lived and to my surprise both houses are still standing, however HDB have replaced the Kampongs. Singapore has undergone such growth which may be part of change, but I will always treasure the memories of a time past. I was unable to post a photo of our old house.

  57. dmzack says:

    do you have any pictures of a kampong village located at jalan langgar bedok?
    or Bukit Purmei,located just at kampong bahru road

  58. Pat says:

    [1] From post: “Tampines New Town is located 5km east of where Tampines Village was, and instead was the land where Kampong Teban, Teck Hock Village, Kampong Beremban and Kampong Sungei Blukar once stood on.”

    [2] From post: “In the 1950s, the major stream of Jurong River (or Sungei Bajau Kanan) was home to many Malay fishing villages, such as Kampong Teban. […] while the adults laboured in fish netting and prawn rearing.”

    The post mentions 2 “Kampong Teban” at separate locations. For info, there was only 1 Kampong Teban in S’pore — it was located at the Tampines area, as mentioned in the Tampines sub-section of the post. Kampong Teban was a Chinese-dominated village with activities like poultry & cattle rearing.

    On the other hand, the kampong between Sungei Jurong & Sungei Pandan (called Sungei Pandan Besar before canalization & mangrove reclamation) is more accurately known as Kampong Jawa Teban (also: written as Kampong Java Teban). This was a Malay kampong sited within the swamps of the Pandan Mangrove that used to surround Sungei Pandan Besar. The original course of this tidal river was an oxbow-like meander at where Pandan Reservoir is now situated. Traditionally, Kampong Jawa Teban was a fishing village. Prawn ponds were only introduced at the backend (ie. north) of the kampong much later, because the government thought it would improve the livelihood of the fishermen living in the swampy “slum”.

    Before the area was reclaimed from the mangrove swamp, the westernmost stretch of the old West Coast Road (which was sandwiched between Kampong Jawa Teban & Sungei Pandan Besar) used to get flooded during high tides. Likewise, much of Kampong Jawa Teban would be submerged under the high-tide waters. In addition, before Sungei Jurong had a bridge, the only way to cross from Kampong Jawa Teban over to the Jurong side was by sampan — & there were crocodiles lurking in Sungei Jurong !

    With reference to “Jurong River (or Sungei Bajau Kanan)” as mentioned in the post … back in Apr 2011, I checked with NLB’s Lee Kong Chian Reference Library if Sungei Jurong/ Jurong River is the modern-day name for “Sungei Bajau Kanan”. This is because I noticed the only map reference that states “Sungei Bajau Kanan” for the river’s name is StreetDirectory.com. In response, the library advised that Sungei Jurong/ Jurong River has always been the historical name for the said river, while the moniker “Sungei Bajau Kanan” appears to originate from a sole “private entity” (ie. StreetDirectory.com). Incidentally, this “private entity” also seems to have its own unique names for some other waterways in S’pore. NLB’s research & reply (14 Apr 2011) on this issue can be viewed here.

  59. Wilson says:

    Hey dude,
    i simply enjoy reading every of your articles here.. they are so details and well written…
    anyway we can be friends or something? haha..

  60. Peter Cheng says:

    Thank you for these valuable pictures. Some of the places mentioned here are very familiar to me.

  61. zzzisle says:

    amazing. where did u get all these photos and info?

  62. Jean&Ray says:

    As a past resident of Singapore (British Army) 1959 -1961, then back in late 1962-,1965 it was lovely to remember the ‘old Singapore. Thanks for the memory …sigh!

  63. Peter ghouse Perth WA. says:

    Perhaps the government might see their way through to preserving ( if any left) a kampong for the sake of future generations and in turn it could also be an added tourist attraction. Families could be selected to spend some time in the village and upkeep the kampong which in turn will be “back to the future scenario” there are enough of us who dwell on past good memories and times to support
    “KAMPONG YESTERDAY “

  64. Philip Chew says:

    It’s hard work. Well done and I appreciate it. Your Toa Payoh reminded me of 1966s. I used to walk from Ah Hood Road through the Toa Payoh countryside to Braddel Road. At Ah Hood Road I passed a kapor (lime) factory and a cloth dying factory. The kampong people kept poultry and pigs. There was a Chinese Teochew temple which is still there. On the way to Braddel Road I passed a few vegetable farms. At Braddel Road was car workshop where I sent my car for repair.
    I also remember Nee Soong Village. There was a wet market belonging one of my colleague’s father.

  65. mambodog says:

    Hiya,
    I used to live in Chia Keng Village. My family has been in this area since the turn of the 20th century. The name did not arise from the many auto repair shops there, but rather, from the bullock carts there were parked there at night. Chia Keng Village was opposite of Plantation Avenue. The name existed well before it was officially adopted in 1936. You can find this in newspapersg. Still a great article and lots of important information.

  66. JJ says:

    Hello RemSG! Great work! I stumbled upon here after royston’s short film and one north explorer’s site (http://www.explorers.asia/p/historical-stubs.html). Was born in Toa Payoh Hospital in 78, by then Toa Payoh New Town was no longer that new, it was Serangoon, Bishan & Pasir Ris…haha. I still walk by the playground (your avatar) with many fond memories….

  67. Michael Norman says:

    Great web site. Former RAF airman 1959-1961 remembering visiting kampong just outside Jalan Kyu. Now return to Singapore every two years. Amazing place amazing changes.

  68. Edward Lim says:

    Hi! Can someone please tell me the earliest blocks of HDB flats at Bukit Panjang built in 1980s?

    • Hi, according the newspapers archive of Singapore, one of the earliest batches of HDB flats were built in the mid-seventies at Teck Whye Avenue, Bukit Panjang estate.
      The batch comprised of more than a hundred three-roomed flats and more than 200 four-roomed flats, with prices ranging between $15,800 and $24,500.

      • Edward Lim says:

        Thank you for your reply. I am looking for info on HDB flats built in the early and mid-80s at Bukit Panjang estate. Is Teck Whye Avenue considered as part of Bukit Panjang estate? One old resident at Bangkit Road told me the oldest blocks are those with block numbers 100 and beyond. I will be grateful if there is more specific info on the above.

      • Mohamad Ghouse says:

        isnt Toa Payoh was the first HDB flat in Singapore, built in 1967…?

  69. Tan Lai Hock says:

    Thank you for your wonderful blog, well done. I was born in 1958, and it brings back fond memories of the past. I used to live in one of those attap houses in the kampong. It reminds me of common sharing of the toilet and ktichen with few families. The night-soiled workers will come early in the morning or latest by late evening to cleared away buckets of filthy night-soil from the toilet.

    Once again, thank you for your hard work which no words can express of your unsung hero in this blog.

  70. These photos (from National Archives of Singapore) show some Malay houses at Kampong Punggol… such houses could still be found near the Punggol end in the mid-eighties



  71. Came across a 1930 map of Singapore showing the distribution of farms and plantations…


    The light blue areas represent rubber plantations, green areas were mixture of rubber and coconuts, and orange areas were small pockets of pineapple farms

  72. azhar says:

    sweet memories my father stay at kg bereh singapore every malaysia school holiday i visiting my father ,uncle all my family an frinde i miss so much kg bereh

  73. Shi Wei says:

    Wonderful read. During my run today I came across an old attap house squatting squarely in the middle of the HDB houses at Bukit Purmei, along Kampong Bahru Road. A sign said “Malay Barber”, and I spied a Malay family within. Can’t seem to find any info on this, but it certainly seems like a remnant from a Malay village from the past..

    • Pat says:

      @ Shi Wei — How do the “old attap hut […] at Bukit Purmei, along Kampong Bahru Road” & its immediate surroundings look like ? The hut could be at one of the following areas in the said locality. From my guess, you might probably have come upon area (4).

      (1) A remnant hut from the demolished Kampong Radin Mas (which is briefly mentioned in the above blog-post);
      (2) A remnant hut from the also-demolished Kampong Pahang, which was located a few hundred metres further downhill & nearer to the main road (ie. Kampong Bahru Rd);
      (3) A remnant or newer makeshift hut at the base of Keramat Radin Mas Ayu that overlooked Kampong Radin Mas, before the latter was demolished;

      (4) The caretaker’s wooden house

      (see: photo) outside Keramat Bukit Kasita (aka Keramat Raja or Makam Kerabat di Raja Johor) & the adjoining graveyard Tanah Kubor Raja — both of which are located closer to Kampong Bahru Rd, near Kampong Pahang (see item 2 above) which was demolished during the late 1970s.

      Currently, Keramat Bukit Kasita & its graveyard are surrounded by Bukit Purmei’s HDB flats, & enclosed within an old brick wall that is hidden behind the graveyard caretaker’s house.The only way to enter the graveyard is through this (rather dilapidated-looking) wooden house. The graveyard is overlooked by large mature trees.

      It is said that Tanah Kubor Raja (or: King’s Burial Ground) holds the tombs of Sultan Iskandar Shah, Hussein Shah & various other personalities of Johor’s Malay royalty. There is a sign at the graveyard’s interior gateway stating “Selamat Datang, Makam Kerabat di Raja Johor” (ie. “Welcome [to the] Tomb of the Johor Royal Family”).

      If you climb to the higher corridors of the nearest HDB block, you might be able to look down & view the yellow-clad tombstones of the well-kept graveyard (see: photo).

      For more info, check out this archived message from the Sejarah-Melayu group: “Keramat” Bukit Kasita, Singapore.

  74. Pat says:

    From the blog-post: “Another Malay village was Kampong Berlayer near the current Labrador Park.”

    I suppose Kampong Berlayar (note the spelling) is the same as Bukit Berlayar Village ? This was located along Pasir Panjang Road — opposite the defunct Labrador School & Batu Berlayar Primary School. The said village’s name is shown on various old Street Directories (eg. 1970, 1975, 1978, etc.)

    Apparently, the land there belonged to the S’pore Harbour Board & the “Malay huts” in the village was erected without prior approval from the Municipal Council — see the newspaper report: Municipal Commission And Building Of Huts (The Straits Times – 29 Apr 1939).

    The locality’s spelling is also enshrined in various S’pore’s legislative statures & official notices such as the following:-
    Environmental Public Health (Public Cleansing) Regulations: Sixth ScheduleNB: “Berlayar Creek (the canal beside Keppel Golf Links”;
    Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore Act (Chapter 170A, Section 41)(Port) Regulations Part I Preliminary: DefinitionsNB: “Berlayar Beacon”;
    No. 63 Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218) (Section 9 (2)): Boundaries of Altered Polling Districts (ELD – 07 Jan 2011)NB: “Tanjong Berlayar”, “Batu Berlayar”, “Tanjong Berlayar canal”

    On the other hand, there is no such word or linguistic variant as “berlayer” in Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Indonesia. Although quite frequently used without much thought in S’pore today, “berlayer” appears to be an anglicized corrupted spelling — much like how Tampines (officially accepted nowadays) & Tempenis/ Tampenis (very commonly used in colonial S’pore but rejected some years ago) are both corrupted spellings of “Tempinis”, the Malay name of the S’pore native tree Streblus elongatus.

    On the other hand, “berlayar” & “belayar” are derived from the root-word “layar” — which in Malay language is a noun referring to a curtain, or piece of fabric used as sail. The prefix “ber-” affixes to the term the meaning: “with” or “wear”; while the prefix “be-” transforms the term into an intransitive verb (ie. a verb that doesn’t require any associated object). As such:

    layar (n): sail, curtain, ~ agung: main sail
    berlayar (adj): having sail(s), with sail(s)
    belayar (v): to go by boat/ship, to sail, to travel by water

    The word “berlayar” in S’pore is most famously used to refer to Batu Berlayar — a large rock that is shaped like a sail, or a boat with attached sails (ie. a sailing boat). This no-longer-existent rocky outcrop was located along the coast off Labrador Park, before the rock was blown up to widen the entrance to Keppel Straits. I understand that Bukit Berlayar (ie. the hill & the nearby village) & Batu Berlayar Primary School were named after this historic rock.

    Once in a while, one comes across the variant spelling Batu Belayar (ie. the verb form, lacking the “r” in the prefix). But this variant name might possibly be less authentic in terms of logic, because it implies that the rock (batu) is moving — ie. sailing or traversing through the water.

  75. Havent been to a Kampong before! Watch this video and maybe one day you’ll drop by armed with your camera and notebook! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lOxq6cUuQU Careful not to intrude the residents!

  76. Dhanya says:

    So nostalgic. I am just transported back to those days. My family lived in Jalan Kayu & Philips Ave during the 50s then in 1965, we shifted to Circuit rd Apt – call Aljunied Chap Lao in Hokkien…….Thank you so much for the wonderful pics and great infos.

  77. Azy says:

    Not everyone from Pasir Panjang lives above water. There are many villagers that lives away from the coast. I am one of those villagers.

  78. Anyone know where the portraits of the governors of Singapore are displayed today?
    They used to hang in the Victoria Memorial Hall, and were rumoured to have disappeared during the post independence frenzy to rid the country of all vestiges of colonialism.

  79. Abdul Rahman says:

    Hi Thank you very much for your effort for painstaking doing the write up and uploading these valuable yet memorable photos of the old kampongs. It had brought me memories of life there. I was quite surprised to find a photo of my house and my neighbours in this site. I was raised in Kampong Chantek @ Lorong Temechut. I still remember my address – 41 Lorong Temechut. The house that was filled hanging laundry was my neighbour – late Mr Bakri while the house behind it belongs to Mr Yusuf who used to sell delicious beef noodle soup. My house (light blue) was immediately behind Mr Yusuf house. I still remember the days, when I can just ordered a bowl of his noodles right from my window as his kitchen was facing my window. Those were the days simple and carefree life. Majority of the Kampong Chantek dwellers were resettled in Bukit Panjang Estate – Petir and Pending Road. Next to Kampong Chantek was Kampong Bahru which was located next to Murnane Reservoir. The remains of this kampong can still be seen and its now use as hiking trail that link Bukit Timah Hill park to Macritchie Park. Another kampong which neighbours Kampong Chantek is Kampong Lorong Watas which is accessible by foot and accessible my road though Rifle Range Road. I still remember the big tamarind tree that belonged to the late Wak Tabri there. Majority of the Lorong Watas occupants were relocated to Bukit Batok West. Thank you again for your effort. Keep it up!

  80. Tan RAY says:

    Predominantly prior to Sir Stanford Raffles’s landing on Singapura, this place was dominated by the Malay settlement. The photos show kampong houses built on stilts, usually along the rivers and catching fish was their livelihood. There were so many islands around the ” lion city ” and yet none of them were preserved for nostalgic purpose for the next generation to reminiscent what their grandparents times were like. Very sad that a part of our history has been totally erased and never to be found again except on pictures posted here on this site.

  81. Siti Kampung Padang Terbakar says:

    Thank you very much for the very detailed documentation of the kampongs of Singapore. It is very enlightening. My husband, a former kampong boy of Batu Koyok, at Pulau Tekong, and I were very encouraged when we found your blog.

    He remembers a lot about his childhood days at Tekong and we were wondering if there wee any articles on the net about the kampongs there. We were very delighted to find your blog.

    We were looking out for old photos of his old haunts. By the way, it is Kampong Semenai and not Seminal.

    There is a story behind the name of his village, Batu Koyok. The village was named after a solitary coral rock, shaped like a dog howling at the moon. Legend says that there was once a dog that was cursed to become a rock. It was only visible at low tide during the months of March to June, commonly known then to the villagers as “kering timur”. Koyok means dog in the Bugis language.

    My husband remembers that the seemingly magical rock was always covered with knee high sea water, even though the rest of the sea around it has disappeared. He recalls seeing fish swimming within the water that surrounded the rock.

    The beach was very beautiful as it faces the South China Sea. His grand uncle would share eggs of the leatherback turtles that used to grace the shores of the kampong, whenever he returned to the island during weekends.

    His grandfather was known as Sergeant Ismail, a well respected police officer who used to run the Kandang Kerbau Police Station til he retired in 1948. My husband grew up in the only house which had concrete columns and steps leading to the house.

    I was just telling my husband, how sad it is that his stories of his life in Tekong are not documented and shared. He doesnot even have any photos of the cursed rock. I am very encouraged with your sharing and may just continue to chronicle my husband’s memories of his past.

    I grew up just off Somapah Road, on Siak Kuan Road, at Kampong Padang Terbakar – loosely translated at the Village of burning fields. I think I will try and dig out some old
    photos and share them here.

    Once again, thank you for all the effort :)

    Siti

    • Dee says:

      Hai kak Siti Padang Terbakar, do you have any email addr so I can contact you? Ur husband may be related to us…

    • Dee says:

      Hai again kak Siti Padang Terbakar…I spent my younger days at P.Tekong too, at Kg. Pahang. We have relatives at other kampongs, eg. Kg Permatang, Batu Koyok, Selabin…U may contact me at mdbsms_07@yahoo.com…Thanks..!!

    • Ho KC says:

      Hi, I also fondly remember those days where we can do simple camping at the beautiful beach (can’t remember the name of the beach) before the island was taken over for military use. We used to alight at the 2nd ferry terminal, and then take a 10 min walk inland, pass by a Chinese cemetry on the way, and then a provision shop – with a well for bathing etc in front. Those were really good memories!! The camping was simplistic, no need permits, no need big nice tent like we used to have these days. We can even do some hiking looking for checkpoints marked across the island. I still remember the checkpoint behind that provision shop was a Southern Cross – I’m sure those scouts know what I am talking about. Great fun we have then!!

    • ccp99 says:

      I remembered visiting Kampong Padang Terbakar Community Centre in the early 1970s. Cikgu Eksan was the Chairman of that Community Centre Management Committee. Happy Memory of the good old days.

  82. aliogoi says:

    I used to live in Kg Quarry Hindhede Rd. Remember walking to relatives and friends in the vicinity via the railway track – taking short cuts here and there. There used to be a village right till the rifle range area at Rifle Range Road – the Malays called it `Kg Target’. Life in our village was harmonious, open and happy. We know everyone of all races by name. Try that now!! Highlights of my childhood include playing in the sawmill nearby, foraging for fruits and tapioca, catching the huge yellow grasshoppers, buying tidbits from the mamak store. Those were the days!!

  83. Barnabas says:

    Thank you for all the pictures! Appreciate your effort in keeping it alive! Having born in the 80s, I didn’t get to see any kampongs or villages except the one in Buangkok. Great if someone could post pictures of Pasir Panjang Kampong (eg. Old Brick works, Hyderabad Road). These is where my parents and grandparents lived until the british left our country in 1971. By the end of the 70s, everyone had to be relocated.

  84. Being half a Teochew, I know Hong Kah (in Teochew) means Christianity, but it never crosses my mind that Hong Kah Village is actually referring to Christian Village! :D

    Origin Of The Name Hong Kah

    Hong Kah is named after the Hong Kah GRC but the term originated from the old Hong Kah Village in Jurong. The village, more popularly known in Teochew as ‘Hong Kah Choon’ which means ‘Christian Village’.

    The village started when the pastor of St. John’s Church applied from the Government the use of 10 parcels of land. The land was distributed to 10 Church member-families, including one for the Church itself.

    However, the whole Jurong area was redeveloped. The original village and its inhabitants were relocated but the name was retained – at least phonologically. Now, the term in Mandarin (丰嘉) encompasses the meaning of abundance and praises.

    Source: http://www.hongkahsec.moe.edu.sg/

  85. Was doing an article on Singapore’s past community centres and found out there were many kampongs in Singapore with rather unique and colourful names (the community centres were named after the kampongs), such as Malay Farm (at Jalan Eunos), Boh Sua Tian (at Jalan Kayu/Seletar), Jin Ai Village (at Upper Bukit Timah), Ong Lye Sua 黄梨山 (at Yishun), Tua Pek Kong Kow 大伯公口 (at present-day Teacher’s Estate, Yio Chu Kang Road), Kampong Chu Ban San and Plantation Avenue Village (off Yio Chu Kang Road).

    Maybe I’ll do a revamp on this article next time ;)

  86. The forested areas along Yishun Ave 6 is currently being cleared for the expansion of Yishun New Town, or a new Simpang housing estate
    It’s only a matter of time before the whole greenery, stretching to the coastline where Khatib Bongsu used to be, will be cleared and developed for more residential flats or condos

    • aliogoi says:

      Yup. That place more or less was known as Kampong Mayang area. Google used to show that up in their maps a few years back. Sad that the new pte housing developments never use old names for their projects. Just imagine … Mayangville … Mayang View ..

  87. hak55 says:

    Singapore’s Last Kampong – Lor Buangkok

    Your brief description of the still existing kampong in Lor Buangkok is indeed very interesting.

    In the 50s and 60s I was raised by my late grandmother who lived in a kampong which was located about 3 km from Lor Buangkok known as Trafalgar Estate, later, the road in front of our house was given a name: Lorong Renjong. The kampong was located within the compounds of the Cable & Wireless Co. and it was just outside the perimeter of Woodbridge Hospital. The nearest road from the kampong, about three kms away, was Yio Chu Kang Road. In 1987 the kampong was closed and all the residents were moved to the HDB flats in Hougang.

    Did you know that the actual name of that kampong in Lor Buangkok is ‘Kampong Selak Kain’ (Lift your cloth Kampong (cloth here refers to trousers, kain sarong or skirt))?

    During the monsoon seasons Lor Buangkok flooded badly and at times the water rose to as high as as 6ft. in certain areas. However, most of the roads and paths, even though they were all flooded, were passable on foot and to keep ones’ trousers, kain sarong or skirts dry, they had to lift them in order to keep them dry and some even had to lift their kain sarong or skirts to as high as their groin level. It was quite a scene seeing people moving around through the floods in those days. Hence the name, Kampong Selak Kain’.

    Only the people from the older generation know it, the people from the younger generation may not know it at all.

    Regards.

    • Ran says:

      oh – that is interesting – thanks for sharing – i really missed the kampong days – flooded lorongs and all – grew up in Siglap.

  88. Kasim T says:

    I lived in Toa Payoh from 1966 to 1987. During that period the kampong near Braddel road, Lorong Chuan are still intact. When the Government acquired the land the villages were abandoned and we used to hunt for fruits from trees left by the owners. The river along Braddel has lot of fish and during one of the flood season fish from the nearby Potong Pasir ponds overflowed to the rivers. Weekend is always our favourite days as we spend our time wandering around the abandon village. Life is care free and we had lots of fun. Your photos brings back all the memory which I believe my children will never experience.

    Thank you Sir!

  89. In the olden days not too long ago there was a kampong (village) by the name of Kampong Tempeh in Singapore. It was located between Sixth Avenue and Coronation Road West in the Bukit Timah area. During its heydays between 1920’S and late 1980’S, Kampong Tempeh was quite a big village spanning a neighbourhood which comprises of Jalan Haji Alias, Jalan Lim Tai See, Coronation Road West, Jalan Siantan, Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tuah.

    Kampong Tempeh received its name and was made famous in Singapore during those days for the tempeh that was produced in the village. Tempeh is a type of fermented food made out from soy bean which originates from Indonesia and it is a favorite item among the Javanese people. Most of the pioneering villagers living in Kampong Tempeh came from Indonesia and there were many families involved in the tempeh making business. The tempeh produced were home made, its recipe being passed down from the older generation and their productions combined were enough to make it as a famous tempeh making district. As time goes on, gradually food companies started producing tempeh from the factories and at the same time by the late 70’S only a handful of the families were left in the tempeh business.

    Source: http://www.alhuda.sg/kampongtempeh.html

  90. Abdullah Abdul Rahim says:

    One if the best articles I ever read about those good old kampong days in late 40’s & early 50’s. My salute and thanks for the person who had compiled these.

  91. Faiz says:

    Hi!! Nice that you researched into the old Kampongs. My Grandma and mum used to live in Kampong Heap Guan San last time. She states there used to be a cemetery around that side too. Now the only remnants they said was a Chinese temple at Telong Belangah Heights near the MRT station. My grandma was one of the few handful of Malays living at that area. The reason how she knows a little hokkien :)

  92. Fondey says:

    I grew up in the early 70’s with my Punjabi grandparents in a Kampong. I think that it is the Kampong listed on my birth certificate as being at 24, Jalan Basong (27). I attended Sambawang Primary School for a time while there. I have many wonderful memories of our Kampong life and also my school mates. I moved to HPD when I was still a small child and I would like to find out anything I can about my Kampong and if any photos of it exist. Does anyone have any such info or photos?

  93. Sunan A-Que. says:

    It’s bring back those memories. I Luv it!!

  94. Lynne Copping (Wilson) says:

    I grew up on Pulau Brani in 1958, in British army houses. There is no mention on your site of the British presence on the island, just the fact that a naval base was built there in 1971. There was military housing, messes and workshops there (British) dating from long before WW2.

  95. yeowkee says:

    Wow!! I lived in Somapah as a young boy on my grandfather’s farm. When I looked at the pictures, all the memories come flooding back :) Thanks for the hard work keeping this blog. Fantastic!

  96. Ngo See Khee says:

    Re: Kampong Chantek BAHRU near the PIE/BKE Chantek Interchange
    The remark on “pretty village” by Sir Laurence probably refers to Kg Chantek LAMA in Whitley Road (please see your 60 years of Community Centres). The “new pretty” village is aka “Huay Khee Suah” in Hokkien or “American Hill”. It was so named as some of the villagers from the old kampong were resettled in Bt Timah (6.5 m s) due to partial private housing development near the present day Raffles Town Club at the junction of Dunearn and Whitley Road (Wayang Satu).

  97. Kate sedgwick says:

    Superb website!!!Well done!!!and Thankyou! (used to live in Singapore 1957-61 and again 1966-70)

  98. Rahil says:

    Hi, I am making a documentary for channel 5 about old Singapore and we are doing a piece on Kampong Mendai Kechil and Kampong Lorong Fatimah. Any ex residents around?

  99. Christine says:

    I was born in 1972 and grown up in Potong Pasir. I still remember very clearly how I spent about two nights sleeping in the attic of our zinc house during the flood in 1978. I could also hear the sound of dripping water in the middle of the night. My family was helped by the green boats sent by the army to leave the village. The tortises belonged to my grandfather who had passed away just a few months before were washed away by the flood. But I was too innocent to understand the loss to my family. Subsequently, we moved to leave in a flat in 1980. I missed Potong Pasir and I am one of those who last sent how the episode of one of the great kampongs ended. But I also feel very honoured to have experience what kampong spirit was and I am practicing it every day of my life to keep it going. It is not difficult. Just a smile with “Good Morning”, “Hi” or “Have you taken your lunch or dinner?”.

  100. Noraini says:

    hi
    i used to live in Jalan Haji Alias, affectionately known as Kampong Tempeh, in the ’60s. I went to Duchess Road Primary School, a good thirty minute walk from home. It was a good walk on most days though, on the tarred road and then cutting through the next kampong (name forgotten) amidst ducks and chicken and the occasional cows. There were huge local longan trees, jambus, papayas, rubber, rambutans and the lovely coconut.
    Your post and great work has brought much joy and nostalgia to me as I am not living in Singapore now. There is another post on Kampong Tempeh and I recognise the house but I cannot recall the occupants. Sigh.
    Thank you again.

  101. jasonhengcs says:

    You described Choa Chu Kang Village to be located along the waters of Sungei Berih and Sungei Peng Siang. These are two separate places, Sungei Berih is part of Poyan reservoir and Sungei Peng Siang is at Kranji.

    I believe the settlement at Sungei Peng Siang was Chu Chu Kang instead. Chu Chu Kang is reported in A Descriptive Dictionary of British Malaya (1894) as a village on Kranji river. There also existed an old Chu Chu Kang Road, postal code Singapore 2469, which was connected to the junction of Woodlands Road and Bukit Timah Road Junction. Any way to clarify?

  102. Rashid says:

    The kranji kampung wak selat picture u used was my grandmother’s house. I used to water my grandma’s plants when I came over the weekends. The picture was taken after everyone has left. It would look much more beautiful if its taken earlier. Thanks for the upload!

  103. aliogoi says:

    I spent a couple of years in a village at the base of Bukit Timah Nature Reserves . . . Kg Quarry at Hindhede Drive. I can still remember the spot where my house once stood (now a grassy patch). The old chempaka tree is still there …. green and majestic as ever. My days were spent roaming around and playing … such carefree days.

  104. Rare footage of Pulau Tekong kampong, taken from the 1985 SBC drama “Son of Tekong”



  105. Kudos to his generous donations!

    8,000 photos of old Singapore donated to NHB

    http://www.todayonline.com
    06 November 2013

    SINGAPORE — A 67-year-old photography enthusiast has donated about 8,000 photographs of Singapore in the 1980s to the National Heritage Board (NHB).

    The NHB said today (Nov 6) that Mr Quek Tiong Swee has been documenting Singapore over the past three decades, spending his free time documenting places slated for redevelopment.

    Part of the donated collection includes rare photographs of Singapore’s forgotten kampungs such as Pulau Tekong, Bugis, Pulau Sakeng, Tanjong Rhu, Kampung Lorong Fatimah in Woodlands, and Kampung Koh Sek Lim in Changi.

    Mr Quek, a retiree, said he started documenting Singapore’s changing landscapes as a pastime while he was in his early 30s. He decided to come forward to offer the photos after reading recent reports about the NHB’s celebrating of Singapore’s 50 years of independence with commemorative exhibitions.

    “NHB regards the offer as a windfall as they are rare photographs featuring settlements in rural areas and offshore islands,” said Mr Alvin Tan, Group Director (Policy), NHB, during a media briefing this morning.

    “We hope that more individuals will follow Mr Quek’s example so that we can grow our repository of heritage materials and make them available to the general public.”

    The NHB will catalogue Mr Quek’s photos to aid research and will also file copies of the pictures with the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) so that they will be available to the public.

    Kampongs at Pulau Tekong 1980s



    Kampongs at Lorong Fatimah 1980s

    Kampongs at Tanjong Rhu 1980s

    (Photo Credit: Quek Tiong Swee)

    • ABC123 says:

      Pics of kampong@Tekong 1st pic-Kg Selabin, 2nd-Kg Pahang ‘warong’ near jetty (Newspaper article stated Kg Selabin instead), 3rd-Kg Pahang?, 4th-Kg Permatang

      • aliogoi says:

        Yep I remember Selabin and Pahang. Used to hike and camp. There were tobacco plantations there then. Such a cool place.

  106. Kean says:

    I think you should seriously consider putting all your blog articles together and publish them in a book. It will be a great waste if you don’t.You should preserve our memory for our posterity.

    • Philip Chew says:

      Hi Kean, I have thought of publishing my blog articles into a book. My priority is to publish the articles in mychewjoochiat blog. I need help to arrange them into chapters and edit before publishing. Know anyone who could help?

  107. Tuas Village in the 1960s was also known as Kampong 18th Milestone. It was once Singapore’s busiest fishing village, with more than 200 fishing boats parked at its pier every day.


    (Photo credit: MyPaper)

  108. Always thought these are domestic chicken that remind us of kampong days.



    But actually they are not… These are the Red Junglefowl (there’s even an Infopedia page for them: http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_541_2004-12-24.html)

  109. I love all these pictures. I remembered visiting my relative at Kampong Lorong Fatimah but I can hardly recall what I did there. This sure brings back a lot of memories. And can I also say that I actually got teary eyed whilst looking through these pictures of old Singapore. i dunno why!

    anyway, can I have your permission to use some photos here for my teaching purposes? we will be touching on Singapore in the past and present, so your pictures will come in handy for me!

  110. Loke larry says:

    A wonderful and nostalgic documentation of the old Singapore. I really enjoy reading this article and also seeing the absolutely sharp and clear pictures presented.

  111. SALEHAN BIN ABDUL GHAFAR says:

    Hello everyone & especially to you, our HONOURABLE ‘host’. Words just cannot describe how I feel right now. Though I might be the ‘100th’ person commenting on this & though it might already be a cliche, it is STILL a MUST for me to say, “THANK YOU!!!” I am a Malaysian by birth. But when I was about two months old, my parents brought me over to Singapore in the early 1970s. This was the scenario simply because my father was working in Singapore. We first lived in Raden Mas. Then we moved to a rented house in Redhill Close. Around the middle of the 1980s, my father bought our FIRST house in Jurong West. Unfortunately as I was still a tiny toddler, I just could not visualize any images of the days when I was living in Raden Mas. I still keep two photos of myself and my father though but they were taken in our house. Thus, it would be TRULY WONDERFUL if anyone still keeps photos of Kampong Raden Mas, Singapore from the yesteryear when it was still bubbling with activities. Till then, take care peeps!!!

  112. Angela Leong says:

    I am so delighted to see some old pic of pulau tekong !! I am born there and spend my childhood there till p6 (1978) …. really love the beautiful beach behind our house…..our hous then was infront of the primary school…hope to be able to connect to my primary school mates ….

    • 123ABC says:

      Hello Angela…nice to hear from x-Tekong citizens. My family was frm Kg Selabin n Pahang. I have a few of their FBs acct, mayb some of them are ur x-school mates. Do u have any email addr?

  113. mardiana kassim says:

    always blik kampung cantik during d sch holidays…stayed at my grandparents hs
    e.thks for the memories…is there any stories abt the kampung near the old turf club ?.

  114. Christine (nee Harral) Pratt says:

    I just love reading, and re-reading, these stories about Singapore. My happiest childhood days were spent in Singapore beween 1965 and 1968 in army quarters, first in Orchard Crescent and then on Wessex Estate. We regularly attended the officers mess for meals and events. I went to Pasir Panjang school (which became Wessex School in 1967) and then I went to Bourne school and remember having to climb up hundreds of steps when we got off the school bus. We visited Blakang Mati island with my family most Sunday’s – and enjoyed picnics and/or an egg n chips sat knee-deep in sand – happy days. I was in class at Pasir Panjang school on the 06.06.66 – and remember it well. I have a school book full of pictures of Singapore and some photos which I will try to transfer onto this modern contraption called a laptop – which did not exist back then! I am also in touch with one of my teachers from Pasir Panjang – yes really! Bill Johnson was my music/recorder teacher. We meet regularly. Back then our uniform was green with white edging. Also, my mum ran the Wessex Estate kindergarten and I used to dish out the children’s lolipops and fruit after their nap – and everyone wanted a blue lolipop, which didn’t exist! I remember so much; Queens Way and those 25storey flats, the kampongs, the wild animals – boars, snakes and so on. I remember the music of those days (San Fransico and Whiter Shade of Pale to name just two), I remember the yellow taxi’s and the ice-cream bicycles. Thank for taking me back in time to those happy, care-free, days. Christine (nee Harral) Pratt.

  115. The “kampong house” at Bedok Avenue…..



  116. Amazing photos of Tekong in the 1970s!

    Check out Mr Yeo Hong Eng’s blog (http://wwwyeohongeng.blogspot.sg/2014/02/pulau-tekong-in-70s.html) for more old Tekong photos!





  117. Hi! Remembering Singapore in the ‘Good Old Days’ is really something … it brings back Wonderful Memories of our younger days going up in the amazing Country!
    Anyone who knows me please write to me! I am now living America. I have been here over 40 years. I am in Pennsylvania

  118. Dr Praema Raghavan-Gilbert says:

    Thank you for this incredibly valuable documentation of our history. it means so much to those of us from the pioneer generation. Your record will provide proof for the younger generation of where we came from and how far we have come today.Thank you again. Praema

  119. Soon Thiam says:

    Thanks for the wonderful website, which I enjoyed tremenously.

    I once live in Jalan Haji Karim, off Tampiness Road in the 1960s, and early 1970s. It is really sad to have lost so much of the kampong days, but luckily we have old pictures and the internet to share them.
    I now live in Guildford, UK, so if anyone knows me, do write to me.

  120. Doris says:

    Hi, this is really fascinating and amazing to discover. New in Singapore – I can only imagine what it must have been like… It reads like most sites are not there anymore, but for Kampong Lorong Buangkok, it reads like there is some of it left (amidst the new buildings)? Or do I misread this and is it completely gone? Thanks for the info.

  121. @RahmanBS says:

    Hi. Use to lived at 14-E Lor Renjong (Kampong Renjong) about 1,2 klik away from Lor Buangkok. Sanwiched by Kampong Buangkok & Kampong Ubi. Great memories all gone. We hv well to bath and WC was bucket system den. Ducks,chickens,cats,birds n fruit trees surround my hse.Born in 1968 n I hd done it all ‘kampong style’. It was awesome den. Now living in Sengkang . Boringg..

  122. Angus says:

    Singapore is growing too fast. I came from Malaysia Kampong. Now still a Kampong. thus I appreciated my home town when seeing Singapore changing to become 100% city. Now, Singapore keep on demolishing old hawker food center/building/shop, I don’t know why. Dirty, old table, not an excuse to kill your own root/culture/architecture.

  123. The kampong life in the 60s in our neighbouring country was almost identical to ours…

    http://www.thestar.com.my/Lifestyle/Features/2014/10/24/Life-moments-from-a-childhood-in-the-60s/

    Life moments from a childhood in the 60s

    Friday October 24, 2014

    Life in the sixties was vastly different from what it is today. Back then, a packet of fried meehoon cost only 10 sen.

    I was the third of five children. We lived in abject poverty. Our daily budget for food was RM1.50 as my parents had to stretch their monthly income of RM200 to feed eight mouths.

    Black and white television was introduced in Malaysia in 1963. Prior to that, the folks in my village got to see some free Western movies occasionally. A sponsor would rent a big reel of film and projector, and set up a mobile screen in the school field. People would flock to the field in the evening to watch the shows.

    One of our better-off neighbours installed a television in their house. My eldest brother and I usually went over to watch cartoons like Donald Duck, Woody Woodpecker and Mickey Mouse in the evenings. We were not allowed to enter the neighbour’s house though. We merely peeped through the windows on our raised feet as we were short. We pressed both hands on the window sill for support. After a while, we got tired, and went home.

    Occasionally, a local medicine peddler would set up a mobile movie screen at a vacant field in the village to promote his medicine. He would hit his cymbals to draw the villagers out of their homes in the evening. Attracted by the free movie, people flocked to the venue, complete with stools and big palm leaf fans to shoo away the mosquitoes.

    Another interesting character was the “Dye Man”. He came to the village every two months to dye clothes. He made a clog, clog sound with a small drum with two wooden knobs attached to two strings on the drum. People who wanted to dye their clothes black, came forward. In those days, people dyed their clothes black when the clothes were worn out and the colour of the fabric had faded.

    A man from the veterinary department could be seen riding his motorcycle into the squatter area, once a month, to neuter the cockerels. Back then, many people reared hens, cockerels, and some ducks in their house compound. It was fascinating to watch the man work. He held the birds by their wings and pressed his feet on them. Then he opened his bag, took out a pair of sharp metal hooks, slit open the side of the cockerel and used a nylon string, stretched between two fingers, to pull out the testicles with a swivelling movement. He knew the exact spot to make the incision. Each cockerel had two testicles which resembled an oval shaped fish roe. After the procedure, he pulled a tuft of feathers to cover the incision. He charged a fee for every cockerel he neutered.

    Sometimes, a short, rotund man made his rounds, with a male swine on a leash. There were villagers who had a small pigsty in their compound. If they did not own any male pigs, they wouId commission the rotund man to get his boar to mate with their sow for breeding purposes.

    Then there was the mattress repair man who would spread old and torn mattresses on a long, wooden bench and restitch them under the hot sun, for a small fee.

    There were many houses which doubled up as mini cottage industries. There was this family who made wooden stools, while another family used timber to make wooden clogs. The husband and wife sat at opposite ends of a long saw and alternately pushed and pulled strenuously to saw the timber into wooden blocks to make clogs. Another family made wooden barrels for multi-purposes. They could be used as containers for holding water and rice as plastic ware was not introduced yet.

    Home-made

    Some households made biscuits for sale and some made soya sauce. Not too far away, there was this man who made cooking pots, pans, trays and other utensils, with aluminium sheets.

    Opposite his house was a man who prepared traditional Chinese medicine paste. He dried mounds of sticky, black paste on a piece of white paper, in front of his house. The breeze often carried the strong, pungent smell of the paste right across the neighbourhood.

    The breadman made his rounds daily at three o’clock in the afternoon. He was a tall, big man who carried different types of bread in a round basket placed at the back of his bicycle. Every year, the breadman would return to India to visit his family, and an apprentice would relieve him during his absence.

    Womenfolk above 50 tied their hair into a bun and wore dim coloured blouses with three-quarter length sleeves and black, loose pants. The richer ones would have one or two of their front teeth encased in gold for people to admire.

    There was empty land around my house which was overgrown with wild vegetables. Many Indian women used to pluck them in the afternoon. They put them in a pouch, formed by rolling the front end of their saris. Most of these women chewed betel leaves as they went about their chores.

    An ice-cream man used to make his rounds twice a week on a bicycle. He rang a bell and children would run out of their homes and crowd around his bicycle. He had a square metal box attached to the back of his bicycle. He stored all his “ice-cream potong” (ice-cream sticks) in this metal box. A rotating wooden wheel with the numbers zero to five marked on it was hung at the back of the box for the children to spin. Each spin cost 5 sen. The numbers were separated by nails which were carefully hammered in such a way that when the wheel was spun, the needle would point to zero or one when the wheel came to a rest. However, that did not deter the little ones from trying their luck.

    As jobs were scarce during those days, people used their ingenuity to create jobs for themselves to support their families.

    In those days, parents would be happy to earn enough to provide food and shelter for the family.

    On certain nights of the week, I would be awakened by a foul, pungent smell which assaulted my nostrils. It was usually past midnight. I could hear the heavy footsteps of the night soil carrier as he passed by the side of the house. He wore a torchlight on his forehead and was often heard mumbling about the heavy load that night. He had a wooden pole straddled on his shoulders with a bucket on each end. The night soil truck could be heard a distance away, with its engine running, as the driver waited for the carrier.

    I spent my childhood years in the wooden, attap house which had no electricity or water supply. On some rainy nights, I could hear the distant cries of cicadas and the croaking of toads. Our family of eight used to have dinner around a black formica table made by my father. We used an aluminium canister with a long cylinder that burned on calcium carbide and water for illumination.

    Light source

    Later on, we progressed to a kerosene lamp, which was the source of light for all of us in the wooden house.

    My elder brother often played catapult with our neighbours. The catapults were made by cutting a Y-shaped twig from a tree. Sometimes, they played tops and marbles. The older boys would make kites and flew them in the evening. The strings of the kites were glazed with fine glass crystals. Often there would be a challenge to cut down the competitor’s kite by criss-crossing their strings. Once the string broke, the kite would drift in the sky and the owner and his supporters would be running around the houses, trying to retrieve the kite.

    There were a few children around my age in the neighbourhood. We played hide-and-seek, hop scotch, five stones, and walked on wooden stilts. We tied many rubber bands into loops to form a skipping rope, drew diagrams in the sand and used tiny stones to play hop scotch. We often played until we were exhausted and sweaty.

    On one occasion, we were playing hide-and-seek and the players ran around the wooden houses to try and find a choice spot to hide. In my haste, I stepped on a heap of smothering charcoal. An old lady had thrown the charcoal outside her house after she had removed it from her coal iron.

    Children of those days hardly had any toys to play with, so we devised our own games. The girls made paper dolls, designed clothes for their dolls, and played masak masak (cooking). Sometimes, we found some mud and made pots and pans to play with.

    In the early sixties, plastic was unheard of. Schoolchildren used an empty soft drink bottle, made of glass, as a water tumbler. I suffered cuts when a glass bottle broke and splinters cut two long incisions in my right palm. There were no fashionable PVC school bags in those days. School bags were made of rattan or canvas. People used yam and banana leaves to wrap raw meat, newspapers for other foodstuff, and hemp strings to tie up things.

    Those nostalgic and colourful days are long gone and it is difficult for young people of today to visualise the simple life and hardship of yesteryear.

  124. thewritecopy says:

    I lived in Singapore from 1965-67 and will never forget the amazing people of Singapore. I have written a thriller – One Degree North – that is set in those days as a homage to the place and the times. It is on Amazon.
    Thank you for this wonderful work.

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