The Clock is Ticking on Singapore’s Last Village

kampong lorong buangkok 2015

The Last Kampong on Mainland Singapore

Lorong Buangkok was originally a swampy area. In 1956, a traditional Chinese medicine seller named Sng Teow Koon bought a piece of land at Lorong Buangkok and rented it to several Chinese and Malay families, which gradually formed a kampong over the years.

The closely-knitted kampong went through the racial riots of the sixties. Both the Chinese and Malay residents agreed to look after one another during the turbulent periods and keep the village unaffected by the external chaos. When the peaceful time returned, the village was actively engaged in gotong royong, helping each other in the construction and repairs of houses.

kampong lorong buangkok2 2015

Today, the piece of land that Kampong Lorong Buangkok is standing on, about the size of three football fields, is owned by Sng Mui Hong, the daughter of Sng Teow Koon. Around 28 families are still living in this rustic village, paying tokens as monthly rentals to the landlord. There is also a kampong head, who takes care of the surau, daily prayers and other Muslim affairs within the village.

kampong lorong buangkok3 2015

kampong lorong buangkok4 2015

Flood-Prone Area

Lorong Buangkok has been a low-lying area that is prone to flooding during thunderstorms. So much so that Kampong Lorong Buangkok was once also known as Kampong Selak Kain, which means “lifting up one’s sarong” in Malay, as the residents had to lift up their sarongs to their knee levels in order to walk through the waters during the flooding.

In 1976, the kampong was hit hard by a downpour that lasted three hours. Some 40 Malay families were affected and had their Hari Raya preparation ruined as their beds, furniture and curtains were soiled by the flood water that covered the entire lorong.

kampong lorong buangkok flooded 1976

History of Lorong Buangkok

Lorong Buangkok used to be part of the Punggol constituency, represented by Ng Kah Ting who served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Punggol for 28 years between 1963 and 1991.

In 1978, after several requests, the government approved a $770,000 project to metal 15 muddy trails at Lorong Buangkok and Cheng Lim Farmways. The upgrading took almost three years. By the early eighties, the residents of Punggol and Lorong Buangkok finally had new tarmac roads flanked by brightly-lit street lamps.

chinese attap house at lorong buangkok 1980s

chicken farm at lorong buangkok 1980s

The Cheng Lim Farmways was a network of roads between farms and plantations at the southern part of old Punggol (where Sengkang’s Anchorvale neighbourhood is today), linked by a small trail named Lorong Buangkok Kechil (kechil means “little” in Malay). Lorong Buangkok had its network of farmways too; there were Buangkok North Farmways 1 to 4 and Buangkok South Farmways 1 to 4.

On the eastern side of Lorong Buangkok were the Seletar East Farmways, which had been redeveloped into the Fernvale neighbourhood of Sengkang. To cross over to either side, the residents and farmers of Lorong Buangkok, Cheng Lim and Seletar East made use of a simple bridge that spanned across Sungei Tongkang, an extension of the main Sungei Punggol.

Sungei Tongkang – From Stream to Canal

For years, the sluggish and narrow Sungei Tongkang was the main cause of the numerous flooding at Kampong Lorong Buangkok. The stream tend to overflow during downpours. In 1979, the Ministry of Environment’s Drainage Division decided to widen and deepen Sungei Tongkang, and convert it into a canal at a cost of around $1.8 million. Works were also carried out at the upper and lower parts of the river to ensure the water flowed smoothly.

Despite the upgrading, the kampong still suffered from occasional floods. It was especially hit hard by one as recent as 2004.

sungei tongkang canal 1979

sungei tongkang canal 2015

All the farmways above-mentioned were expunged by the early nineties, with their vegetable, chicken and pig farms demolished. The clusters of villages scattered around Lorong Buangkok, Cheng Lim and Seletar were also gone, making way for the development of the Punggol and Sengkang New Towns in the late nineties.

The housing estates of Fernvale, Anchorvale and Buangkok Crescent were up and running between 2002 and 2004, surrounding Kampong Lorong Buangkok, the last village standing in the vicinity. A jogging track and park connector were constructed in the late 2000s along the canal that was previously Sungei Tongkang.

lorong buangkok development 2009-2014

Development and Possible Demolition?

By the mid-2014, the vast forested area beside the kampong was bulldozed, confining the Kampong Lorong Buangkok to its remaining strip of vegetation sandwiched between the canal and the cleared land. The new parcel of land is likely to be reserved for an extension of the existing Buangkok Crescent housing estate.

lorong buangkok development 2015

lorong buangkok development2 2015

As for the kampong, it is not sure how much longer it will be able to hang on. After withstanding the test of time for the past 60 years, the clock, for now, seems to be ticking fast on Kampong Lorong Buangkok’s eventual demolition as development is inching ever closer to the last village of Singapore.

Updated: 13 January 2015

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18 Responses to The Clock is Ticking on Singapore’s Last Village

  1. Mae-Lin Leow says:

    That’s incredible: i didn’t realise there was still a kampong left in Singapore!

  2. Dominic Reyes says:

    I used to live at Lorong Buangkok near the junction towards Ponggol Road. I spent my childhood riding on my bicycle regularly to the other end of Lorong Buangkok towards Yio Chu Kang Road, near where the last kampong sits. Along the way were many houses and farms that lined both sides of the road and my best memories were the rubber plantations, the Ponggol Theatre, the Soo Teck School and a temple that once housed a large python that was caught nearby. Despite the narrow road, we cyclist had to be alert and had to keep to the side of the road as there were always large trucks carrying live stocks plying the area. Later, the road was also congested with military three tonnes ferrying soldiers as the SAF regularly conduct deployment and various exercises there. Pity that I don’t have the places on film as I did not own a camera then,, Would appreciate if anyone has pictures or memories to kindly share.

    • Peter Koh (Punggol Boy) says:

      Hi, You may try to get Old News paper (Lianhe zaobao) from library.
      Dated: 1st November 1987 (Sunday).

  3. Yang Hao says:

    Singapore government should just leave it as it is. Come on, it’s the last kampong in Singapore!
    I feel sad for it as much as I do for the “old” Punggol and Sengkang. No more forests and peace anymore.

  4. Eddy says:

    Went to this kampong again last week, after having a relaxed coffee session @ the kampung kopitiam @ Seletar camp… Still so peaceful and serene….. I think that if we are able to hold a bbq session @ one of the villager’s house.. would be so wonderful..but i doubt its even possible..

  5. Sigh says:

    This is sad. Every last piece of free land must remake to something with high profit and ROI. Kampong, hawker centre, swimming pool, public square, forest, shophouse all must go. Singapore loses history to $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

  6. The Virgin Soldier says:

    People need comfortable places to live, but a paved paradise, put up a parking lot? Who can save these people and their wish to pursue a simpler life?

  7. rickylai says:

    Hopefully this remain there for as long as possible. Found a short interview video on youtube of Sng Mui Hong –

  8. Cai Xianda says:

    Updates as the Feb BTO for Buangkok has just been announced today on 11 Feb. Please see attached map:

    Not too big of a concern for Buangkok Tropica, but Buangkok ParkVista is seriously close, or if not right at the Kampong site. Judging from the not-to-scale map, it means that the kampong houses are being squeezed to its houses only! The worst of all is the proposed semi-expressway which still runs directly across the kampong. So conclusively, it is goodbye to this place soon 😦

    • Yang Hao says:

      I suggest we start a petition to keep the kampong safe from future developments. Come on, this is somewhat a national heritage! Once the government suck it up for money, it can never be replaced ever again

  9. Fakarul im says:

    I like the villages in Singapore but unfortunately there is no responsible party maintain villages.

  10. lin says:

    Hi, am thinking of doing a casual photoshoot at the kampung together with my puppy. wonder if it is allowed?

  11. emily ang says:

    we wish to bring a group of kids there to have a look. Is there any way we can contact the landlord?

  12. Mark (Australia) says:

    Would anyone take offence if an ‘outsider’ visited to take casual photographs?

  13. TERMALERT says:

    Way to go Mr Singaporean Government. Surely you can squeeze an extra floor onto a few of your ugly concrete boxes and leave the last remaining trace of your old world alone. If you do then you can at least have a small slice of old Singapore instead of an island completely covered in copies of stuff from the rest of the world.

    • Anonymouse says:

      If you look at some of the newest BTOs, some of the lower storeys are left empty where HDB could have easily turned them into actual units which makes NO sense at all, especially when the government has been emphasing just how land scarce we are since forever.

  14. Hava says:

    As someone who grew up in kampungs, I feel very sad that the greedy govet won’t leave this last remnant of our national history alone. Greed is good ? Total lack of conscience for our children and grandchildren to see a living example of how their parents/grandparents grew up. No legacy for our kids to understand an appreciate. what a terribel loss for Singapore if this last kampong is paved over for GREED.

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