Jalan-Jalan in Singapore, 1980 Version

What were the fun activities during the school holidays in Singapore back in 1980?

A news article dated in June 1980 provides some interesting insights with a list of 12 outdoor activities for students and teenagers to visit and explore during the mid-year vacation period.

Some of the activities back then could no longer be replicated today, such as the train ride from Tanjong Pagar to Johor, or the fun bus tours to the rural parts of Singapore. Others still applicable today, including the cycling at Pulau Ubin and trekking to the summit of Bukit Timah Hill. One thing remained unchanged though – the hot and humid weather with occasional thunderstorms.

Activities: Nostalgia Tour

Where: Start from Upper Cross Street and work your way into the very heart of Chinatown.

Highlights: Make a list of shops that your mother may want to go to – prices are lower and all kinds of fascinating things can be found. Put the shops under these headings – glass, frames, spices, household utensils, crockery, textiles, books, joss-sticks, furniture, Chinese herbs – accompanied by little map sketches, so that mum doesn’t have to hunt around on a hot afternoon.

Today’s Context: Chinatown remains a place worth visiting, be it for shopping, food or just for some nostalgia’s sake. Most kids today, though, will probably prefer to stay at home playing online games or shop in air-conditioned shopping malls. The hot weather on an afternoon can be unbearable, even for the most enthusiastic mothers.

Activities: Bus Rides to Nowhere

Where: Old Jurong (SBS bus 175), Tengah, Ama Keng (both 172), Punggol (82, 83), Nee Soon, Sembawang (both 161, 164).

Highlights: Think of them as coach tours of rural Singapore. All services end by the sea: Service 175 near Tuas Jetty, 172 (Lim Chu Kang Jetty), 161 and 164 (Sembawang Jetty), and 82 and 83 (Punggol Jetty beside the famous seafood haunts). Look out for rural industries like brickworks and sawmills (bus 175), Tengah Airbase (172), pig farms (82, 83), cemeteries (172, 175, 161, 164), and vegetable farms, wooden temples painted bright red, sugarcane fields, and zinc-and-attap hut clusters. As a variation, ride these routes in the night and observe the rural night scenes.

Today’s Context: Most of those rural landmarks were gone. Tengah Airbase and the Lim Chu Kang Cemeteries are still around, serving by Bus Service 975 instead. Most of the bus services do not end at the bus terminals today; instead they ply between new towns or make a loop back to the bus interchanges, but one can still take a quiet bus ride along Lim Chu Kang Road. For zinc-and-attap hut clusters, only one remains on mainland Singapore. Kampong Lorong Buangkok can be reached via bus services 50, 70, 103 and 854.

Activities: Fishing

Where: Tampines Fish Farm (Tampines Lane just off 19km, Tampines Road – SBS buses 80 and 81 drop you right in front); and Jurong Lake.

Highlights: The fish farm is commercial – you have to pay $5.50 for every rod you bring in. You can also rent rods from the owner. Day fishing from 6am to 6pm. Overnight fishing from sundown to sun-up – bring warm pullover, raincoat, thermos flask of hot beverages, some snacks, powerful battery lamp and waterproof torch for immersing in the water to attract the fish. Don’t bring books to read overnight – you will only strain you eyes. Make up ghost stories to stay awake.

Today’s Context: Prawning, or prawn fishing, is a more popular leisure activity among many Singaporeans nowadays. For a range of $10 to $20 per hour, one can attempt to catch as many prawns, sometimes lobsters, as he or she can, using a rented rod, hook and some free bits of chicken liver. There are barbecue pits too, for an optional makan session of the caught prawns.

Activities: Barbecue and Campfire

Where: Anywhere along the entire stretch of Marine Parade where barbecue pits are provided.

Highlights: First get a permit – granted straightaway – from Parks and Recreation Dept, 19th floor, National Development Building, Maxwell Road. Don’t bring too much food – stuff like sausages, chicken wings and drumsticks, slices of ham and bacon, and bread are convenient. Remember the charcoal (no PUB cookers around!) and skewers or tongs. Afterwards, don’t douse the fire but sit around the dying embers telling tall tales or singing campfire songs.

Today’s Context: Barbecue remains as one of Singaporeans’ favourite food-and-chit chat session, be it at East Coast Park, chalets, clubhouses or condos. Some of the newer HDB estates also provide barbecue pits at the common areas near the playgrounds and basketball courts.

Activities: Train Ride

Where: Tanjong Pagar station to Johore Bahru.

Highlights: All you need is your passport. Five services daily, 8.45am, 1.15pm, 2, 8 and 10. Fare: Adults $1.30 (2nd class) and 90 cents (3rd class), children (under 12) 70 and 50 cents. Be at the station at least 45 minutes early to buy your tickets and go through Customs. Lots of things to do when you get to JB. Explore the tiny streets crammed with hawkers displaying their wares on the ground, the seafront padang, the cinemas, the shopping centres – all with a flavour so similar yet so unlike Singapore’s.

Today’s Context: The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station has closed since December 2016, but one can still take the train to JB at the Woodlands Train Checkpoint. Besides the 5-minute trips by train, hundreds of thousands of Singaporeans flock to JB everyday by cars, taxis and buses. In 2018 alone, Singaporeans made an astonishing total of 10.6 million trips to their favourite destination for a short getaway, seafood feast or shopping spree.

Activities: Bumboat Ride

Where: Singapore River, Kallang Basin and Tanjong Rhu.

Highlights: Two trips daily, 9am and 2pm. Organised by Universal Travel Corporation of People’s Park Centre. You board the boat at Clifford Pier for a 2-1/2 hour trip down the river (highlights are Boat Quay, boatmen’s shrine, Pulau Saigon, Raffles’ landing place), then back to the open sea towards Kallang Basin and the boatyards of Tanjong Rhu. Land at Oasis floating restaurant for refreshments and a coach tour of Katong including a visit to a Malay shrine, the Kramat Panjang. Adult fare $16, children under 12 years, half-price.

Today’s Context: The old days of Singapore River cramped with tongkangs and twakows were long gone. So were the polluted charcoal and firewood tradings at Tanjong Rhu. The bumboat rides of today, named Singapore River Cruise, showcase to the tourists and locals Marina Bay’s iconic waterfront, Raffles Place’s skyscrapers and office towers, as well as Boat Quay’s refurbished shophouses. A 40-minute round trip costs $25 for adults and $15 for children.

Activities: Orienteering

Where: HDB New Towns, like Ang Mo Kio, Bedok and Woodlands.

Highlights: If you’re already a resident, start to find out everything about your satellite town; the police station, the various hawker centres, clinics, schools, major bus stops, unusual shops, late-night coffee shops, playgrounds, cinemas, banks and post offices. The best way to get around is by bicycle. New HDB streets are laid in geometrical patterns, making mapping easy. First draw an outline of the streets, then start filling in the important spots. To add realism, buy a compass ($2 or $3 for a simple one available from bookshops and emporiums) and draw the streets according to their compass direction. When the map is completed, you can frame it up in the living room for easy reference by the family.

Today’s Context: With easy access to internet, Google Maps and Google Street View, there is little need for one to draw his or her own maps. The new towns of the early eighties have become mature residential estates today. Perhaps it is more interesting to explore the older housing estates, especially those in risk of being demolished or redeveloped. Examples are Tanglin Halt, Dakota Crescent and Kampong Silat Estate.

Activities: Hill-climbing

Where: Bukit Timah (enter from Hindhede Road at junction of Jalan Anak Bukit and Upper Bukit Timah Road).

Highlights: Climb up the series of steps to the summit or follow the winding track. For the more adventurous, bash through the bushes – you won’t get lost as long as you keep heading up. Watch out for the quarry. Note: Carry all your snacks and drinks in a haversack (the bag slung behind your shoulders, try Sungei Road) so as to leave your hands free.

Today’s Context: The 163m-tall Bukit Timah Hill is crowded with hundreds of Singaporeans especially during the weekends. Designated in 1990, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve consists of the Dairy Farm Nature Park and Rifle Range Nature Park, where one can adventurously trek for about 17km to the MacRitchie Reservoir via the various rocky trails. There is also the challenging Bukit Timah Mountain Bike Trail, opened since 1997, that snakes around the former granite quarries and secondary forest.

Activities: Exploration

Where: Pulau Ubin (daily ferry from Changi Point from sun-up to sundown).

Highlights: Our second biggest little island (after Pulau Tekong Besar) is just the right size for trekking and overnight camping. Try night fishing at a jetty on the northside, but don’t swim because jellyfish abound near the jetty. Trekking across island is not for children under 13 because of secondary forest and hilly ground.

Today’s Context: Pulau Ubin stays almost as serene and undisturbed today as compared to 40 years ago. Each year, it attracts tens of thousands of Singaporeans, who visit the island for various activities such as trekking, cycling, picking durians, praying at the Chinese Tua Pek Kong temple or visiting simply to have a nostalgic feel of the ruralness that has long vanished on mainland Singapore.

Activities: PSA Cruises

Where: Clifford Pier, World Trade Centre.

Highlights: Cruise from the WTC is a quick half-hour round the harbour, at $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. Bring a camera to take unusual shots of the city skyline viewed from the sea, the busy port and the container terminal. For a long cruise, go to Clifford Pier – it’s a harbour and southern islands tour, at 9.30am and 3.30pm. The trip is 2-1/2 hours – you visit the harbour, the islands and stop over at Kusu.

Today’s Context: The Singapore Island Cruise and Ferry Services offers the local context of island hopping. At $18, or $15 during the weekends, one can hop onto the ferries from Marina South Pier and explore the tranquil Kusu Islands, St. John’s Island and Lazarus Island in round trips at 10am and 2pm daily (or 9am to 5pm at 2-hour intervals during the weekends).

Activities: Picnicking

Where: Peirce Reservoir (entrance from Old Thomson Road where the Grand Prix used to be held).

Highlights: There are actually two reservoirs – Upper Peirce and Lower Peirce. Head for the Upper where there are toilets. Lots of huge spreading trees near the back for a quiet afternoon picnic. The place is practically deserted so you can have it all to yourself. But remember to get out before dark for the gate closes after 6pm.

Today’s Context: The Marina Barrage, Singapore’s 15th reservoir, is a more popular option today for gatherings, picnics and other activities, such as recreational flying of kites and drones, at its spacious green rooftop. The nearby splendid Singapore skyline provides a treat to the eyes too.

Activities: Free Film Shows

Where: National Museum.

Highlights: Why pay to see cinema shows when the museum has lots of movies – free but on first-come-first-served basis. Wednesdays (June 11, 18 and 25, at 8pm) and Saturdays (June 14, 21, 28, at 10.45pm). Some titles are World Beneath The Sea (June 14), Through The North-West Passage (June 18) and Reef Of Steel (June 28).

Today’s Context: Besides film screenings, the National Museum of Singapore also organises various events such as exhibitions, rhapsodies and family fun activities as its main attractions. Other than the National Museum, one can also drop by the Asian Civilisation Museum, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore Philatelic Museum, Peranakan Museum and Singapore Art Museum, all located within the City Hall district.

Published: 29 July 2019

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