Old Airport Road Food Centre


The former name of “Old Airport Road” was originally named as “Old Kallang Airport Road” and later renamed.

“Man does not live by breads alone” according to the Bible.

As babies, whatever fed to us, we would eat or drink “anything” and “whatever” …..

drink anything drink whatever

As we grew up to become adults, we have to feed ourselves.  Everyday of our waking hours when we get hungry or thirsty, most normal persons would look for food to decide what to eat, where to go.  For religious reasons for the Muslim, not to eat or drink consciously at certain hours for “puasa” during the month of Ramadan, spiritual food for the body and the mind is important.

I am not a foodie fanatic to “live to eat”.  To me, I need to “eat to live” and I speak only for myself.  Food is an individual personal choice because “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”.  To each an individual’s personal constitution in matter of food choices or preferences.

However, while travelling we prefer to be adventurous and have a food tasting experiences to go international.

There are special occasions when foreign guests or friends on a sojourn to Singapore are invited for a meal.  So, where to go, what to eat?

Our Brit Brat John Harper, his wife and Peter Stubbs from UK are in town and FOYer Lam Chun See arranged to invite them to the Old Airport Road Food Centre.  They would love to taste our local stuff they have missed for a long time.




John Harper and friends @ Old Airport Rd Food Centre [2015-03-07] (1)






Dakota Crescent Housing Estate 


Chun See, Lina Catcat and I went on a walk to blog the Dakota Crescent Housing Estate which is located in the vicinity of the Old Airport Road. The “old airport” refers to this place here .







In the above photo, Chun See and Lina Catcat were pointing to the odd street names in the estate.  Opposite Blk 14 Old Airport Road was Blk 22, Old Airport Road.  In the background behind the tree was Blk 20, Dakota Crescent.




Some kind souls who are book-lovers from somewhere or are residents in the estate created the “Dakota Free Library” as the concept of “mobile library-book exchange kiosk” at the corner of this row of shophouses.  What a novel and innovative idea to distribute used books to save lives and trees.


Three young lovely ladies who are “nostalgia heritage fans” as like-minded friends to capture precious moments of these historical buildings with memories of a little corner of Singapore to share and remember for everyone.  These friendly gals obligingly posed for the photo in front of the “人民中医” (People TCM Healthcare Clinic).




Capture the moments at the bank of the canal with Chun See for posterity.



A way to keep the canal clean …



Jogging track along the canal for the residents in the estate to exercise




Lina @ Dokota Crescent (2)

A cheerful Lina Catcat with the “V” sign to show her success of a big scoop of nostalgic photos captured in her camera at the Dakota Crescent estate.  I couldn’t catch up with her because age caught up with me to slow me down …..

Mission accomplished ….. so we were on the way to the Old Airport Road Food Centre across the road to meet our guests for dinner.


Dakota Crescent’s flats are one of the few living remnants of Singapore’s pre-independence years. The old housing estate was built by the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1958 and was handed over to the Trust’s successor, the Housing & Development Board in 1960. The 17 low-rise brick-clad flats will be by 31 December 2016 to make way for new developments under Mountbatten estate’s renewal plans.

Named after a plane model that landed at Kallang Airport in the past, the flats in the estate are fitted with retro-looking grills and doors of yore. Its old-school dove-shaped playground with mosaic tiles are reminiscent of Singapore in the 1950s.

There was inadequate housing for Singapore’s growing population in the 1950s. An increasing number of people were living in slum-like conditions with poor sanitation. As Singapore’s central area became increasingly crowded, the colonial government planned to develop a new public housing estate in the Kallang Airport area.  Elderly residents were noticed in the estate and the Tung Ling Community Services at Block 10, Dakota Crescent.


Interestingly, Dakota Crescent was the first estate to feature one-room flats. It was named after the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, a model of the planes that often landed at Kallang Airport, which was Singapore’s first civilian airport. The former airport’s runway has been converted into Old Airport Road, which runs parallel to Dakota Crescent today. The Dakota Crescent flats are physical emblems of Singapore’s public housing history and aviation history.

The flats also reflect Singapore’s early community-building efforts. The estate seems sleepy today, but there were over 60 shops, a market and schools in its heyday. These neighbourhood amenities supported an improved standard of living and the establishment of a residential community for the masses.

A number of Dakota Crescent residents have lived there since 1959, forging strong friendships among neighbours over time. A significant number of the flats in Dakota Crescent were used to rehouse victims from the Bukit Ho Swee fire on 25 May, 1961. Today, these flats are also home to elderly people and lower-income families under the HDB public rental scheme, as part of broader government efforts to give all Singaporeans a home. Beyond providing shelter, the flats have given its aged residents a sense of place and identity. They have come to identify themselves as members of the Dakota Crescent estate and the larger Old Airport Road community. For those who have since moved out, the flats are physical landmarks providing a visual link to their past.

Early Days Hawkers at the Old Airport Road Hawker Centre

Many lucky people who have the health and money who travel around the world to taste their best food and wine to “live to eat and drink”.  The Old Airport Road Food Centre was widely acclaimed in glossy travel magazines to review and recommend worldwide by foodie writers, TV production companies to feature on international TVs, bloggers and other media channel publications.

There is the Chinese idiom, “飲水思源” (yin-shui-ssu-yüan), which means: when you drink water, think of its source, i.e. remember where and how the water came from. Don’t just be thankful for the water: be thankful for all the elements and processes (both past and present) that allowed you to enjoy that humble cup of water.

The successful hawker business in Singapore would remember the early days hawkers for decades in Singapore.

With the courtesy and acknowledgement of the National Archives of Singapore, National Library and other unidentified contributors of achived photos on the Internet to share on this blog.




The above photos of the Dao Xiong Cun Eating House at Dakota Crescent in 1988.

This is the “Old Kallang Airport Hawker Centre” which replaced the previous wet market in 1977.  All stalls at this food centre were let out on rental basis and priority were given to residents of Old Kallang Airport Estate.

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To keep up with the times, the Old Kallang Airport Market and Food Centre group on Facebook is available for helpful information and posted photos by contributors.

Most of the hawker stall names were from the first generation owners or inherited from their great grandparents or grandparents who were road-side hawkers decades ago. Hawker centres were built to house the old roadside hawkers and to provide a safer and more comfortable location for eating.

The licensed hawkers participated in the balloting of hawker stalls at Old Kallang Airport on 23 July, 1963.

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The pioneer generation hawkers would remember the hardship and tumultuous period in the early days of building our nation together with our founding fathers of Singapore50.

All the public markets and food centres in Singapore have been “remade” many times to cater food and drinks to the younger generations as the population grew and the buildings and other infrastructures to be improved for an increasing population to serve the future generations.  Singapore is forever in transit and every aspects of Singapore’s growth is never stagnant.

All Singaporeans as a united people to live in peace, harmony and prosperity to progress together for a better future!

River Hongbao 2015 @ Marina Bay

PicsArt_1424309507966_bestmasterPicsArt_1424310642259_vignette PicsArt_1424265046912_newThe main entrance arch into the River Hongbao 2015 to usher in the Chinese New Year at the Singapore floating platform at Marina Bay which I could recognise during my childhood days in the 1960s. PicsArt_1424265197690_new

It was reconstructed and copied the design and architecture of the New World Amusement Park’s entrance located at Jalan Besar. Completed in 1923, the New World Amusement Park was one of the few amusement parks in the early days of Singapore.  The vintage entrance and the ticket offices at the sides, took after the distinctive facade of the now defunct New World Amusement Park.  In its glorious past, crowds of people visited the park and it was a source of joy to children while traditional Chinese operas, Malay dance performances and Hollywood movies screenings appealed to the adults. Here, a walk through the entrance reveals a retro extravagance promenade.  The bustling promenade evokes a familiar atmosphere of traditional Chinese opera performances with the classic opera masks, the beautiful winding flowers and the drawn curtains lined on both sides of the pillar.

new world entrance_editThe entrance of the New World Amusement Park c 1962.  Photo courtesy: National Archives of Singapore

A short video-clip of the River Hongbao 2015 evening program on YouTube to share on this blog.

With thanks to Susan Koh, “A Juggling Mom” for her interesting “River Hongbao 春到河畔 2015” blog here .

My contribution of old photos of my family album of the “Memories of River Hongbao 1992 春到河畔” was shared to the Singapore Memory Portal. At the “River Hongbao 2014 @ Marina Bay”, I posted this blog here . img0120 Singapore River Hongbao 1988 Variety Show on the steps of the City Hall on 16 February, 1988.  (Photo Credit:  National Archives of Singapore). img0011 Last year, I did not notice the bronze life-sized sculptures at the Marina Bay. PicsArt_1424264626846_vignette picsart_1424267260062_edited “makan angin” by Lim Soo Ngee Makan Angin (literally, “eating wind” in Malay or “jiak hong” – “吃风” in Hokkien) depicts a family of five enjoying a day out at the old Esplanade waterfront. The commissioned public sculpture by notable local sculptor,Lim Soo Ngee, adds a touch of nostalgia to a promenade still beloved by locals and visitors alike. It reminds us that the simplest act of “eating wind” can be one of life’s greatest delights. I missed the opening of River Hongbao 2015 as reported in Channel News Asia here .  On the eve of Chinese New Year on 17 February, 2015 afternoon to “makan angin” and capture memorable moments at Marina Bay to celebrate the traditional annual events for Singaporean Chinese, foreign visitors, guest workers and tourists.  Tonight coincides with the traditional reunion dinner with the family. PicsArt_1424266118411_new PicsArt_1424266280074_new PicsArt_1424306483694_new The annual Chinese New Year carnival will be held over 12 days at The Float @ Marina Bay from Feb 17 to 28. This year, it will be celebrating both the Lunar New Year and Singapore’s Jubilee year. When we were young, we always used to look forward to the Lunar New Year holidays. Over the years, the Lunar New Year has left us with many wonderful, heartwarming memories. The River Hongbao 2015 takes us through a journey of time to relive the past 50 Lunar New Years for the fond nostalgic memories of pioneer generation Singaporeans for the jubilee celebration of Singapore. PicsArt_1424305894842_new PicsArt_1424305984521_new In the exhibition, we will find precious photographs of Singapore’s pioneer Lim Boon Keng and his family having their reunion dinner, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong carrying his daughter to view the Chingay Parade in Orchard, the late Mrs Benjamin Sheares giving out red packets to the needy seniors. Through the pictures, the younger generation will also have to chance to see how the celebrations have changed over half a century: How did Lunar New Year greeting cards look like in those days? What are the differences between past and present Lunar New Year markets? Besides visiting the homes of their relatives and friends, what else did our parents and grandparents do during Lunar New Year in their time? In this photo exhibition “Reliving the Past, Welcoming the New Year” showcase over 230 photographs curated by the Lianhe Zaobao editorial team at the exhibition.


PicsArt_1424308616255_master PicsArt_1424307919471_new PicsArt_1424308168006_new PicsArt_1424305340564_new PicsArt_1424305168354_new PicsArt_1424305510282_new PicsArt_1424305610506_new PicsArt_1424305785743_new PicsArt_1424307141606_new PicsArt_1424307724550_new PicsArt_1424306851202_best PicsArt_1424306682697_new PicsArt_1424307375006_new PicsArt_1424308342493_new PicsArt_1424308446797_new PicsArt_1424308919516_new PicsArt_1424309174211_new The business was slow at the Food Street at the River Hongbao at Marina Bay and there were fewer visitors on this hot, sunny day.   Chinese Singaporeans were preparing to return home for the traditional family reunion dinner at home. The “River Hongbao 2015 @ Marina Bay” “happening event ” in the evening for the family to remember the Jubilee Singapore50 memories for this special year. family reunion dinner Family Reunion Dinner 團年飯 (Mandarin pinyin Tuán: Nián Fàn – In Cantonese: Tyun Nin Fan) The biggest event of any Chinese New Year’s Eve is the Reunion Dinner, named as “Nian Ye Fan 年夜飯 or tuán nián fàn 團年飯 “. img0087_sm

A family reunion dinner in Singapore in 1950s (Photo courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)


Chong Pang Kampong in the Past

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The junction of Sembawang Road and Chong Pang Road  c  1970

By an accident of my personal history to be born and grew up in Bukit Ho Swee kampong, I had to move to another kampong from central Singapore to the north in the 1970s.

After my mother passed away,  I changed job to work at Sum Soon Poultry Farm at Woodlands Road and rented a room at Sembawang Road to live nearer to my workplace.  I was then single and living independently with freedom on my own.

For about 2 to 3 years, I breathed and soaked in the atmosphere of another kampong since my birthplace in Bukit Ho Swee at a different times many decades ago.

In my early twenties, I adapted to the new living environment in Sembawang easily because I prefer the natural, simple kampong lifestyle, given a choice.

Life is a journey ….. but there are routes with twist and turns around the corners with many surprises and unexpected destination along the way.  Some good, some not so good.  Set forth with adventure due to unforeseen circumstances with rewarding life lessons to learn as we meet with guiding angels to bless and guide us.  With gratitude to kind and helpful people we meet to show the ways.

I grew up in a kampong where the long and winding paths was like a maze and very often no street direction signage to guide.  Most kampong folks are friendly and helpful to approach them politely and with respect.

Many archived photos of Chong Pang kampong are curated from the National Archives of Singapore with thanks.

I traced down the memory lanes on this blog with photos of the old places at Chong Pang kampong.

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The pedestrian on the left towards the road would lead to the former Sultan Cinema.

sultan cinema 1973a_smPhoto courtesy of blogger Jerome Lim.

Blogger friend Jerome Lim blogs on a “Forgotten With Time – Chong Pang Village”  here .

Another blogger friend, Bing, reminisce “My Home Town, Chong Pang” here .

To enter into Chong Pang kampong, the paths are forked to the left and right of the Sultan Cinema.

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There were some shops in the kampong

chong pang village 1985g_smThe hardware shop with an assortment of mechanical spare-parts for sale

chong pang village 1985qchong pang village 1985xA shop for selling joss-sticks, joss-papers and Chinese praying paraphenalias

chong pang village 1985j_sm A vehicle repair shop

 Chong Pang Village

Part of Nee Soon estate, Chong Pang Village was originally called the Westhill Village or Westhill estate.  Westhill Village was located at the 12th milestone at Seletar opposite the Sembawang Aerodrome.

It was named as Chong Pang Village by the British administrators in 1956 as a tribute to Lim Chong Pang (1904 to 1956), the son of Lim Nee Soon.  He was a businessman who served as a member of the Rural Board from 1929 to 1938.

Chong Pang Village centred around a row of shophouse units which made up the village’s business, commercial and residential core.  The western and south-western boundaries of the village were next to the extensive Ulu Sembawang vegetable and fruit farming regions.  To the north of the village was the former British Naval Base constructed in 1938.

Heavily dependent on the rubber plantations for their living, the villagers were adversely affected by the collapse of the rubber in 1935.

Thankfully, the British Naval Base came into the picture and provided plenty of employment.

The construction of the Paya Lebar Airport in 1953-1954 led to an exodus of households from Paya Lebar into Chong Pang, leading to a swelling of Chinese households into the village, even outnumbering the Indians who were until then the majority of the village’s population.

‘Remember Singapore’ blogs on Kampong Spirit and Gotong Royong .

Mr Lim Soon Hock, one of the recipients of the inaugural President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards in 2012 said:

“We all live in a time impoverished world … If you sit back and reflect on it, we will always be able to find pockets of time that we can either share it with our loved ones or the underprivileged, the needy the poor, the disadvantaged.”

“I was living in a kampong in the Towner Road area where Central Sikh Gurdwara now stands … neighbours supported each other.  There was magnanimity.  We were all part of a larger family, though not related to one another, but bonded through a common simple and unostentatious life,” said Lim upon receiving his award.

“My indication [to serve the community] has been shaped very much by my childhood experiences — The kampong spirit was very much alive then,” he added.

[Source: Yahoo Online]

The olden days kampong in Singapore may have disappeared in reality on this little red dot of this small island in the world but the memories and the kampong spirit of the one time villager would live on in many lives of  Singaporeans like me and my pioneer generation friends.

The “modern days kampongs”, albeit the architectural building designs and structures, has transformed a new generation of our multi-racial, multi-cultural community and society to live in peace, prosperity and progress for the future with hope.

PM Lee Kuan Yew at National Day Dinner at Chong Pang CC on 5 August, 1966

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How to Talk to Trees

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On a trip to a place in Singapore to explore about its historical significance to blog, I had something new (or rather old) to learn.

However, I explored with some investigative work in the area to discover for clues.   There were a number of almost hundred-year-old trees at these spots.  Not a forest though.

How I wish these heritage trees could talk …..







Since I saw those trees which were grown as saplings in Singapore over 50 years ago, I wish the trees could tell me the history of the Kallang Airport, not to gossip.  Tell me the developments and progress to celebrate Singapore50 in 2015 , over 5 decades which the community of trees nearby at the Kallang Riverside Park are enjoying the present and future generations of Singaporeans.  If I were to communicate with the trees of knowledge rooted to the same spots for a long, long time.

Trees are a source of wonder and beauty for many people who gaze upon them and spend time around them. People from all walks of life come into contact with trees daily – hikers, gardeners, artists, lovers of the great outdoors, dreamers, naturalists, travelers and tourists, hunters, botanists, and more. By dint of being rooted to the ground they grow in, trees are representative of strength and constancy for many and this can bring on a sense of peace and connection when spending time around trees.

Listening to trees is either a relaxation or a meditating exercise, depending on how you choose to view it. Listening to the communications of trees (or rustlings and noises if you’re really practical) is a way of attuning our hearing and paying more attention to what we hear around us rather than letting sounds invade our space unawares. Trees make for a wonderful subject of focus because they cannot move more than what the breeze blows, toning down distractions and causing us to relax and focus more clearly.

Singapore is not a ‘concrete jungle’ ….. the greenery and flowery plants are found everywhere to provide nature parks in the cities and heartlands.

A little knowledge of topography learned during national service days helps me to locate the surrounding areas to where I found.  Same place, different times of a different era …..

The stone pillars were hidden behind the thick foliage in the plot of land at the former Kallang Park. The strong and tall heritage tree photos are posted on this blog to juxtapose with archived photos, credit sources of the National Archives of Singapore.





Hint: The designs of the heritage concrete lamp-posts were built at Kallang Airport in the 1950s.








With stone pillars of the partially ruined main entrance of the former Kallang Airport still standing, it was determined the same site of the former Kallang Airport building opened on 12 June, 1937 in the Kallang Basin.

The construction of Kallang Airport in the 1930s

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kallang civil aiport at kallang 1937a

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Kallang Airport was in operation as a civil, commercial airport during the Japanese Occupation period.

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Various airplanes at the Kallang Airport terminal

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Singapore Flying Club two-seater aircraft landing on Kallang River off Kallang Airport in 1950.

Travelling by air in the 1950s was not as common as transportation overseas by ocean-liners and ships.

Singapore Air Show 1950 at Kallang Airport on 9 December, 1950

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Personnel and Staff at Kallang Airport

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The Singapore Immigration Officers checking the passengers’ passports at the wooden counters.

air controllers at kallang airport 1950aAir Controllers at Kallang Airport  c 1950

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airline crew planning flight routes at kallang airport 1950aAirline crew planning flight routes at Kallang Airport c 1950

cargo section of kallang airport 1950aCargo Section at Kallang Airport  c 1950

Queen Elizabeth II Coronation at Kallang Airport

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Kallang Airport with decorations to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.  It was built by the British colonial government in the 1930s as Singapore’s first commercial international airport building. Officially opened on 12 June, 1937 by Governor of the Straits Settlements Sir Shenton Thomas, the airport was replaced by Paya Lebar Airport in 1955.

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malayan airway hangar at kallang 1950aMalayan Airlines hangers at the Kallang Airport

lounge at the kallang airport 1948aThe lounge at the Kallang Airport before the passengers’ departure on their flight.

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VIPs at Kallang Airport

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Mrs Elizabeth Choy who arrived back from United Kingdom at the Kallang Airpot with her children on 3 July, 1953.

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Mr & Mrs Loke Wan Tho at Kallang Airport on their return to Singapore after a round-the-world tour on 27 July, 1953.

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Dr Lin Yutang and family leaving Singapore at Kallang Airport on 17 April, 1955.

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Prime Minister of India, Pandit Nehru waving in greeting upon his arrival at Kallang Airport on 27 December, 1954.

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Chief Scout of the Commonwealth Lord Rowallan at Kallang Airport on 18 November, 1954.

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Arrival of British Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden at Kallang Airport during visit to Singapore on 26 February, 1955

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president soekarno at kallang airport 14051956bPresident Soekarno arrives at Kallang Airport on 14 May, 1956

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old kallang airport 1942bThe entrance of the Kallang Airport arrival hall  c  1950

Spot the Differences of Kallang Airport Then and Now

Over 50 years ago, nobody could ever imagine the futuristic Changi International Airport (Terminals 1, 2, 3) developed and built with the latest modern designs and architecture buildings with the prevailing high technology available to provide best services for Singaporeans and visitors to Singapore by air.

For an ever-increasing numbers of air travellers to Singapore, more and better airports to be built in the future.






Kallang Riverside Park, Singapore





Singapore River and Environs 1819.

(Topographical details for this early map of Singapore and descriptions from various sources.)

Please take a look at the archived photos of Kampong Kallang in the Past with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.


Daily dredging at the Kallang River to remove debris from the river to keep it clean.






Please help to keep the Kallang Riverside Park clean and safe responsibly for everyone to enjoy.

Experience Singapore’s rivers in a way you’ve never imagined it to be in this Mandarin documentary as it illustrates the importance to care for our environment and keep it clean. Find out how Singapore’s rivers were cleaned up during the 1970s, and the effort put in to achieve the clean rivers we have today. Through an interviewee who was involved in the cleanup project, the future of Singapore’s water sources is presented in an awe-inspiring finale at the Marina Barrage. YouTube video uploaded by John Li.

At the opening of “Gardens by the Bay” by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in June 2014:

From the beginning, even before Singapore became independent, we sought to build a world-class living environment here through greenery. At first we aimed to be a “Garden City” – parks, reservoirs, Kallang River cleaned up, Singapore River, later cleaned up. Today, more than half of Singapore Island is covered in green; and we have more than 3,000 hectares of nature reserves, which is equal to six and a half Toa Payoh towns. So if you look at Singapore from the air, you do not see a concrete jungle. You see tropical forests, greenery, and you have to identify the roads by where the green trees are, not by where the tarmac can be seen. If you go on a Google or Flickr search and you type in “Singapore Parks”, you get hundreds of thousands of beautiful pictures. Singaporeans enjoy it, and visitors are also unfailingly impressed by how clean and green Singapore is. So Singaporeans, to the best of our ability, and I think we have not done badly, are able to enjoy high-quality living, with many places to enjoy nature.

Singapore: Venice of the East, the Little Red Dot video narrated by Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew the very architect who drafted the blueprint for Singapore’s unique brand of sustainable development.

Direction Signboard near the Kallang Riverside Park



Romantic Quiet Spots at Kallang Riverside Park






Pioneer Generation (PG) Singaporeans would tell our young Singaporeans how lucky they are to have so many “paktor” (courting in Hokkien) places like the Kallang Riverside Park in Singapore today.

Over 50 years ago, the grandparents and parents would reminisce and share their nostalgic memories in their young days when there were very few public places to find some quiet corners or dark spots for their “heart to heart talk” (谈情说爱) in privacy to whisper to their ears only.  There were cheeky “peeping Toms” to disturb the “paktor” couples.

PG friends would remember the early days when their “paktor” common places in Singapore were the Queen Elizabeth Park (now the Esplanade), Fort Canning Park (now Central Park), MacRitchie Reservoir, Changi Point, Labrador Park and the few places.

It would be  fun for our Pioneer Generation Singaporeans to share their first-hand stories for family bonding at SG50 Facebook to tell their children and grandchildren their courtship places in Singapore long time ago.




new_PicsArt_1421681503080In the direction of the Sir Arthur Bridge (hidden by the Kallang MRT Station on the right).



Life is great for the birds ….. sunbathing at the Kallang Riverside Park!



At Kallang Riverside Park when the moon take the place of the sun in the sky …..


Memories of Alexandra Canal, Singapore

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The above photo and a series of selected archived photos curated with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore to share collective memories of Alexandra Canal on this personal blog.

I was like that young boy in the photo, when I was about 6-years-old in 1953 catching small “longkang fishes” in the canal at low tide.  At that time, the canal was not yet developed with concrete lining and the water was muddy with earth and debris on both sides of the canal banks.

Children living in the kampung often played together in the outdoors. Around the kampung, one could easily find many ‘longkangs’ (a malay word for drains). The fishes were kept in empty bottles to bring home as pets.

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As urchins of Bukit Ho Swee, my neighborhood buddies and I roamed the territories of the kampong as our “playground” during our childhood days,  at a time when we did not have nurseries or kindergartens before we attend primary schools.  The parents in the kampongs were too busy with their household chores and the kids were left to their own devices.  We were having fun to catch small “longkang fishes” with colorful “guppies”, “rainbow” and the common “japanese” and other nickname fishes which were easily available in the drains and canals.

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Flooding at Alexandra Road

Most major roads in Alexandra Road were flooded during the monsoon seasons in the 1960s.  The drainage and waterway links connected to Alexandra canal was overflown after a few hours of continuous heavy rainfall.

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Alexandra kampong

a kampong at alexandra rd 1956a

squats at alexandra area 04041956a chinese family in alexandra rd 23011958a

Although Alexandra Road was developed during the colonial days to build residential flats by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), there were still scattered pockets of attap settlements in some areas.

prince philip avenue hawker stall 16101963a prince philip avenue hawker stall 16101963b SIT flats and shops at Prince Philip Avenue.

residences near the alexandra canal 02111974a

shacks along alexandra canal 02111974j

shacks along alexandra canal 02111974a

Wooden shacks were constructed indiscriminately along Alexandra Canal, a tributory of the Singapore River.

Alexandra Canal in the early days

alexandra canal 20101974e

crossing the alexandra canal 02111974a

disused bridge at alexandra canal 02111974b

Alexandra Canal Widening Project

chan choy siong widen canal project 19091963a chan choy siong widen canal project 19091963b

Member of Legislative Assembly for Delta, Mdm Chan Choy Siong opens the “Alexandra Canal Widening Project” on 19 September, 1963.

chan choy siong widen canal project 19091963c drainage project signboard at alexandra canal 02111974a

PUB’s Drainage Improvement Programme

alexandra canal linear park A_alexandra canal1 A_alexandra canal2

The 250m stretch of Alexandra Canal between Zion Road and Kim Seng Road will also be transformed into a scenic waterway with recreational spaces.

As part of PUB’s drainage improvement programme, a stretch of the Alexandra Canal between Zion Road and Kim Seng Road will undergo reconstruction. The 250m stretch will be widened and deepened from the original 27m-by-3m trapezoidal drain into a 28m-by-5.7m U-shaped drain.

The improved drainage capacity at this stretch of the Alexandra Canal will help alleviate flooding at the nearby low-lying areas such as the junction of Alexandra Road and Lower Delta Road, and the area between Jervois Road and Prince Charles Crescent.

To accommodate the expansion of the Alexandra Canal, the Zion Road Bridge and the Kim Seng Road Bridge overcrossing the waterway will also be reconstructed. Temporary bridges will be constructed to maintain traffic flow during the project period.

In addition, PUB will construct three pedestrian underpasses, one across Zion Road and two across Kim Seng Road, to provide safe and easy access for pedestrians to cross over to the connecting Singapore River promenade.

As part of the project, Alexandra Canal will be transformed into a scenic recreational space incorporating PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) design elements. The transformation of the waterway will bring a softer, more natural landscape to the busy urban setting. A rain garden will be incorporated along the rejuvenated canal to help treat rainwater runoff from the promenade so cleaner water flows into the canal. In addition, four cantilever viewing decks will be constructed together with landscaping along the embankment, allowing visitors to enjoy views of the waterway.

During the planning stage of the project, PUB sought input from the grassroots groups, to ensure that the project addresses the community needs and enhances the living environment of the area.

Since March 2011, residents and students in the area have already been enjoying ABC Waters features along the stretch of the Canal near Tanglin Road. Opened by former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, the features such as lookout decks and community plaza have become hotspots for recreational and educational activities. (Source:  PUB)





beautiful waters

Under the Benjamin Sheares Bridge in Singapore



artist impression of kallang river_sm The artist impression of the Benjamin Sheares Bridge and include developments in Tanjong Rhu.

A Walk in the Park

This is the conclusion chapter of the Benjamin Sheares Bridge blog topic here , here and   here .

On New Year Day on 1 January, 2015, I took a bus trip to the Marina Promenade behind Singapore Flyer to the end of Beach Road (Nicoll Highway).

As my previous trips were made to blog the walk at the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, it would be incomplete for me to explore the place under the bridge.

It was my first visit to Marina Promenade and the photos are posted to share on this blog.

Tracking back my memories to my first job in 1967 at former Koon Hoe & Co, the storehouse was located at Kallang Road (now at Lavendar MRT station).  I vividly remember that at the rear of the storehouse, it was the murky, polluted and foul-smelling Kallang River where several boatyards and sawmills were situated.  The color of the water in the river was black and the polluted “liquid” was discharged towards Kallang Basin and the open sea.

How different the clear, clean water at the estuary of Kallang Basin to flow towards the sea now.

At the Marina Promenade, I gazed at the breathtaking spectacular sea views of Kallang Basin on the eastern and southern sides.  I was mesmerized by the unblock views across Kampong Glam towards the city skyline on the western and northerns sides.  The views capture the best of both worlds – the serene,  awe-inspiring sea views of Kallang Basin and beyond, and the colorful, busy landscapes of the city centre.

Visitors to the place who love the sea and capture the moments of Mother Nature to breath the fresh air and salty sea water in the cooling breeze.   The place was not crowded and there were about a dozen young and old to exercise and jog.  There were also benches under the Benjamin Sheares Bridge and I noticed some reading or listening to music on their portable radios with ear-plugs.

The calmness and tranquility of the place which held a lot of emotion for many people who need balance in our daily busy life activities, far away from the maddening crowd.  Silence is golden ….. peace, joy and health can only be obtained by entering into one’s silent self and to learn mindfulness to help meditation practices.

The Marina Promenade Park is designed and build park connectors around the waterfront and all over Singapore for Singaporeans to enjoy.





























A group of young canoers taking a rest at the riverbank

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The wooden benches located below the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.


Duck Tour at Kallang River under Benjamin Sheares Bridge








Kampong Kallang in the Past

aerial view of kallang river2_smKallang River Mouth c 1987

The archived photos on this blog are shared with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.

Cleaning Kallang River in the 1980s

By 1977, decades of development and lack of long-term planning in Singapore had resulted in heavy pollution in the waterways of the city-state, threatening its very survival. This paper analyses the strategies to clean the Singapore River and Kallang Basin as part of an overall development plan which aimed at sustained growth. It also analyses the economic, social and environmental dimensions of these strategies not only to improve the conditions of the rivers and their surroundings, but also to develop the city-state, provide its population with an improved quality of life, including clean environment, and most importantly, propel Singapore towards the path to sustainability and economic prosperity.

The then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew did not consider river pollution as an isolated problem: he rightly noted that it was the end result of all other pollution problems prevalent in the city-state. If the nation was to develop as a productive industrial society, and the population was to be provided with an improved quality of life, the solutions to the issues affecting the population of Singapore in general, and those living around the Singapore River in particular, had to be considered, planned and implemented within an overall framework that would consider financial, legal, institutional, policy and management issues.

In March 1969, Prime Minister Lee called on the drainage engineers in the Public Works Department and water engineers in the Public Utility Board to work together on a plan to solve the environmental problems associated with the rivers of Singapore.

kallang river from beach road

cleaning kallang river

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cleaning kallang river2_sm

The rains held off as flood waters receded in all parts of Singapore and victims of the massive weekend flooding counted their loss. The floods had caused heavy damage to property, livestock and poultry. At a spot in Kallang River alone, environment workers recovered 200 pig carcasses. Date: 4/12/1978.

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Litter along the riverbank of the Kallang River near the Oasis Restaurant inspite of the “No Dumping” sign. c 1976

kallang malay village

Postcard with view of Malay village across the Kallang River in Singapore, with floating logs in the waters belonging to nearby sawmills.  c 1910

sampans in kallang river

Scene of Kallang from the sea – sampans in the river, platform resting on stilts with shed to cover the goods.  c 1946

wood sawmill workers Sawmill workers in Kallang.  c 1950

ship repairerA ship repairer working at Kallang River c 1950

kallang river malay villagekampong kallang_sm

Kampong Kallang – Youths and children posing for photographer in front of waterside houses of a Malay village on the bank of Kallang River. c 1900s

chinese junks in kallang river_smChinese junks at Kallang River c 1973

tongkang at kallang riverA “tongkang” at Kallang River. c 1973

sampans in kallang river3

 The sampan delivers boxes of Coca Cola soft drinks to the villagers c 1970s

seaplane at kallang riverSeaplane at Kallang River, off Kallang Airport.  c 1946

pm lee kuan yew boatride

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Mrs Lee taking a boat ride down the Singapore River and Kallang River for inspection in conjunction with the “Clean Rivers Commoration ’92” on 2/9/1987.

pm lee kuan yew inspect kallang river

Crocodiles at Kallang River

crocodiles at kallang river1_sm

crocodiles at kallang river2_sm Crowds keeping a lookout for crocodiles at Kallang River. Date: 2/11/1976

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Four weeping Chinese women who lost their houses and belonging during a fire at two hundred closely-built huts in a Chinese settlement of banks of Kallang River on 7/5/1951.

tg rhu squattersIllegal squatters along the banks of Kallang River in 1986.

The Cleaning Operation:  1977 – 1986

Excerpts of the academic papers by Yugal Joshi, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore, Cecilia Tortajada* (corresponding author), Third World Centre for Water Management, Mexico and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS.
Asit K. Biswas, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, Singapore.

This paper is part of a broader research project on urban water management in Singapore sponsored by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, Singapore, and the Third World Centre for Water Management, Mexico.

By early 1977, much of the environmental work and control activities of the river polluting sources had already been planned or were under consideration by the appropriate authorities. The cleaning of the various rivers had progressed close to the mouth of the basin, but the mouth itself and the catchment areas still represented a major challenge in ensuring significant improvement in water quality. This is because some 44,000 squatters were still living in unsanitary conditions in the vicinity of the rivers, and liquid and solid wastes from the hawkers, vegetable vendors and markets and unsewered  premises, continued representing various sources of pollution. In addition, 610 pig farms and 500 duck farms were still draining untreated wastes into the rivers, specially into the Kallang Basin.

On 27 February 1977, during the opening ceremony of the Upper Peirce Reservoir, Prime  Minister Lee gave a definite target to the Ministry of Environment to clean the Singapore  River and Kallang Basin.

Similarly, Kallang Basin’s new sandy beaches and parks transformed it into a location for water sports and other recreational activities, promenades and numerous commercial activities. In addition to these, the rivers clean-up supported other long-term development plans. Economic development along the banks of the Singapore River, for example, or construction of a mass rapid transit tunnel under the Singapore River would have been impossible if the river and its surroundings had remained severely congested and polluted.

Our fellow Friends of Yesterday (FOYers) Otterman speaks on this blog topic here .

Heritage blogger and author, Lam Chun See who hosts Tim’s articles, provides the important clarification:

“Your teachers did right to warn you to keep clear of the Kallang River. If you had fallen in, you were unlikely to be attacked by crocodiles. More likely you would be overwhelmed by the stench of dead chickens, pigs and other animals. … We kampong folks [upriver] used to call the Kallang River, “Dead Chicken River“? “

Earlier in his blog, Chun See had written,

“Many of the village folks (not our family, I must declare) used to discard dead animals like chickens, dogs and even pigs into the river. The resulting stench was sometimes so strong that whenever we walked or cycled past the river, we had to hold our breaths. Sometimes, when the tide was low, you could even see the maggots crawling all over the carcasses, a sight that even we kampong kids found it difficult to stomach”.

Please read the 5 interesting facts about the Cleaning up of Singapore River .

Eastpoint Mall – Then and Now

1896737_10152649536693432_3228432835831738198_nThe main entrance to Eastpoint Mall re-opened on 2 December, 2014

1396965_10152649464403432_3472232471020936943_o10393556_10152649469103432_138837632340542901_n10846076_10152649547048432_7177049580550261048_n The festive mood for Christmas with colorful and brightly decorated and piped Christmas songs and music in the shops to meet the visitors and shoppers to Eastpoint Mall.

Non-Simei residents are welcome to enjoy shopping at Eastpoint Mall, located conveniently by shoppers with their own transport, by MRT or public transport by buses for SBS Service No. 5, 9, 20 and 38.  The bus-stop right in front of the mall.

Some updated photos at Eastpoint Mall

PicsArt_1418599979257PicsArt_1418600090382PicsArt_1418600556141PicsArt_1418600931610PicsArt_1418601160786PicsArt_1418601277044PicsArt_1418601443076PicsArt_1418601831929PicsArt_1418602013125PicsArt_1418602263900PSX_20141215_072656PicsArt_1418602169604 As an old-time resident of Simei for over 20 years, this is an informational blog to revive the memories of Simei.  I couldn’t recognise the “New Look” Eastpoint Mall with an overall facelift and makeup when I first stepped into the place for the first time.

The place is now ergonomically-designed layout and shop displays, brighter with old favorites and new shops to serve our shoppers who are Simei residents and everyone from Singapore everywhere.There are also many visitors and foreign tourists to shop at the new Eastpoint Mall.

In February 2013, the mall closed for major renovations and upgrading of Eastpoint Mall is now open with a fresh new look and an upsized shopping experience!

With a feast of new dining choices, an upsized 24-hour FairPrice for all your everyday grocery needs, a nautical-themed play area, first-in-Singapore concept stores and familiar favourites. Owned by NTUC Income and managed by Frasers Centrepoint Malls, it’s not just a new shopping experience – it’s your choice to live it your way! Eastpoint Mall at

3 Simei Street 6 Singapore 528833 (Next to Simei MRT). Tel: (65) 6587 7200.

Opening Hours: 10am to 10pm daily Owned by: NTUC Income Managed by: Frasers Centrepoint Malls Official Card: Frasers Rewards Eastpoint Mall was reopened on 2nd December 2014 after the completion of major renovations. The revamped mall consists a total of 180 tenants.  (Source:  Wikipedia)

Basement 1
Singtel Exclusive Retailer
Old Kim Guan
The laundry club
The Handbag Spa
Toy outpost
Wink Optics
Tori Q
Home Fix DIY
Umi sushi
Dough Culture (First cafe concept)
British Essential
Yamazaki Boulangerie Chaude
Heavenly Wang

Level 1
Bakery Cuisine
Hanis Cafe and Bakery
Toast Box
Long John Silver’s
Eighteen Chefs
Nene Chicken
Xiaomi Chicken
Sakae Sushi
Pet Lovers Centre (Pet Safari)
Mr Bean
Soul Green
Gong Cha
Yayoi – Japanese Teishoku Restaurant
Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe
Juk Story Restaurant (First in Singapore)
Yick Ming optical
02 Classic
Design & Comfort
The Royals Cafe
Pezzo Pizzas

Level 2
Plush Beauty
Jantzen Salon
The Spa-Lon
Siam Kitchen
Four Leaves (First cafe concept)
Menkan Osaka Ohsho
Look and See optical
Art Luxury
Plains & Prints
Nail Palace
Pizza Hut
Paradise Inn
Frenzo Spa & Wellness
I Love Accessories
Black Hammer
Pedal Works
The Blues
Bata Shoes

Level 3
AVONE Beauty Secrets
The Hair Secrets
Shabu Sai
Penang Street
Eu Yan Sang TCM
Ma Kuang TCM
Max Coil
De Dental
True Cloud mobile & repair
Popular bookstore
Chen Kang Wellness
Beauty Hub International
Professional Hair Studio
Saizeriya Ristorante & Caffe
QB House

Level 4
Food Junction (12,500 sq ft)
Indoor Playground
Hockhua Tonic
Beauty Language
Japan Home

Level 5
NTUC Fairprice (24/7) (37,000 sq ft)
Unity Healthcare

Level 6
The Ballet and Music school
Discovery Kidz
Kent Ridge Education
My First Skool
Global Art



The temporary NTUC FairPrice located beside the revamped Eastpoint Mall to be dismantled for other uses to serve the residents of Simei soon.

Whilst the revamped Eastpoint Mall was under construction, the temporary NTUC FairPrice served the residents of Simei and regular customers without disrupted services or caused inconveniences during that period.

The community leaders and those concerned who requested for these arrangements to NTUC Fairprice is certainly appreciated with thanks.  No trumpet blowing or fanfare to announce those who care with thoughtfulness the needs of Simei residents and the community.  People who respond quietly with action to serve.

Memories of Simei in 1988


The old photo of Simei MRT station in the background was taken in 1988.  As shown in the photo, Eastpoint Mall was not yet built.

new_PicsArt_1418726099702new_PicsArt_1418726020723former eastpoint mall_bwThe Eastpoint Mall in the early days before the revamp.

Looking at an archived photo of Eastpoint Mall originally designed about 20 years ago and juxtapose it with the new Eastpoint Mall now, what are the vast changes and differences we have seen the same place, different times and different shopping experiences? Please judge them for yourself.

Eastpoint (Chinese: 东福坊) is a small shopping mall located in Simei, Singapore. It was known for its wide selection of tuition and enrichment centres (The Learning Hub Of The East) and its pet shop (The Pet Safari), which was once Asia’s largest. Eastpoint Mall was developed by Far East Organisation and was completed in December 1996.

Like other suburban malls at that time, it featured a cinema, a supermarket, a department store, a food court, an arcade and a book store as anchors, and an array of speciality shops and restaurants. It also pioneered several firsts, such as a rooftop children’s pool and a wet market on the ground level of the mall (both were subsequently closed).

When my family and I moved into Simei in 1988,  there was no Eastpoint Mall for shopping or marketing for the residents.  There was no Simei MRT Station or direct public buses to travel to the estate.

We did not complain to travel to the nearby markets and shopping complexes in Tampines.  It took years for the estate to grow little by little into a heartland vibrant community as more residential buildings in Simei to be completed and the population grew.  Even the trees and flowering plants would take time to grow into a “Garden City” with tender loving care, not “ready-grown” flowers or trees produced instantaneously.

Pet Safari Centre

Web-PetSafari_smpet safari experience

The Pet Safari Concept was not an ordinary, usual, run-of-the-mill kind of safari.  It’s a living and thriving community of pet lovers, united in their celebration of the love they have for the pets.  Its a community of pet lovers who love and a place to serve them. Without the hassle when it comes to getting pet-related services, so we took the liberty to house everything under one roof. Like a kid in a candy store, you’ll find that The Pet Safari is the closest you can get to Pet Heaven. There are grooming services, pet cafes and bakeries. There’s pet care and training classes. After all, we’re all pet lovers too, so having gatherings with our furry family members is something we love doing. Seeing pet owners and pets enjoying themselves is why we do this job.

Long-time residents of Simei would remember that before opening of the Simei MRT Station, the location of the present East Point Mall was operated by NTUC FairPrice a wet market at the basement of the building. It was also one of the first Safari Pet Centre in Singapore.

I remember with amusement when my pet-lover daughter once brought her pet rabbit to the Vet at the Safari for treatment of flu, a label on the cage was indicated as “Rum Rum Seah” Our pet rabbit was part of the family with our family surname. Residents of Simei would have fond nostalgic memories of the Eastpoint Mall to share at the  “My Home in Simei” group on Facebook.

Tanjong Rhu in the Past

A bird’s eye view of the Geylang River mouth. c 1980s
img0022-2Tanjong Rhu Jetty at the river mouth of Geylang River c 1980s.







Looking at Tanjong Rhu in the 1980s, it would have been hard for anyone to imagine that it could look at it today – an attractive and exclusive residential enclave of tastefully designed waterfront condominiums.

Following the previous related blogs, the “memory aids” of selected archived photos with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) and various sources on the Internet to share on this blog.

Tanjong Rhu was a busy shipbuilding center in the past.

Towards the end of the Japanese occupation, one of the most interesting of shipbuilding experiments took place at Kallang River, mainly Tanjong Rhu.

Transforming a shipyard into a private condominium enclave is a giant step involving architectural planning of the modern buildings and infrastructures over many years.

This massive exercise for the east coast park land reclamation and the construction of the Benjamin Sheares Bridge and expressway.

tgrhu_masterTanjong Rhu boatyard in 1964


tgrhu2kallang river bank1 kallang river bank2

tanjong rhu river bank extra

Tanjong Rhu in the kampong days

The area was formerly known as “Sandy Point”.  Tanjong Rhu was the Malay name comes from the casuarina trees, referred to “pokok rhu” in Malay.



tgrhu6Postcard featuring cows roaming Tanjong Rhu beach, with the diving or observation stage of Singapore Swimming Club seen in the background.  c 1905

Singapore Swimming Club


Fort Road

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Land Reclamation & Construction of Benjamin Sheares Bridge

east coast reclamation 10

bsbridge construction2bsbridge construction3

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east coast reclamation 8

kallang bridge3

The above photo of Ms  Tan Peck Eng, a generous contributor to NAS, posed with her brother in 1972 before the development of Tanjong Rhu.

Shipbuilding at Tanjong Rhu

Tanjong Rhu has been associated with shipbuilding and repairing small or medium-sized vessels from the early days in Singapore.

Captain Flint, a harbour master, started a boat building and repair company at Tanjong Rhu in 1822.


VIPs and guests at the launching of “W Flint” at Tanjong Rhu.  c 1950


Tanjong Rhu Girls School.  c 1951

tgrhu10Single-door bus at Tanjong Rhu.  c 1956

tgrhu11United Engineers shipyard at Tanjong Rhu 1956


tgrhu13HDB flats at Tanjong Rhu under construction.  c 1962

tgrhu14 Tanjong Rhu and Mountbatten Road houses under construction.  c 1962


Fire at Geylang in 1962


Enche Mahmood Bin Idrus and his wife, victims of fire in Geylang, moving into new flat at Tanjong Rhu in 1962.


Minister for Social Affairs Othman Bin Wok visits the Geylang fire victims at the Tanjong Rhu HDB flats on 5 November, 1963

Tanjong Rhu Industrial Estates in 1960s

Minister of Finance Dr Goh Keng Swee unveils plague at opening of Khong Guan Flour Mill at Tanjong Rhu on 31 March, 1964





Former Bungalows at Tanjong Rhu

tanjong rhu bungaloweast coast reclamation 9

As late in the 1980s and 1990s, the water surrounding Tanjong Rhu was polluted with industrial and domestic waste, creating an extremely unpleasant environment.

A massive relocation exercise was then undertaken by the Singapore government to transform Tanjong Rhu into a upmarket, high-end residential area. Reclamation of land along Tanjong Rhu for redevelopment and utilization for better benefits of Singapore.

Today, the best views of the Benjamin Sheares Bridge and Tanjong Rhu have become the iconic symbols of beautiful Singapore from air, land and sea.  These photos by our visitors and tourists from all over the world brought home fond nostalgic memories of our little island.

A Pavilion of Memories


The Pavilion Cinema at Orchard Road, Singapore in 1959 (above and below).

One of the oldest shopping centres at Orchard Road, Specialists’ Shopping Centre was home to Hotel Phoenix Singapore and, more famously, the John Little departmental store. It was originally named Specialists due to the concentration of medical specialists in its early days, and it was built in the site of the Pavilion Theatre in the early seventies.

Owned by OCBC Bank, the 30-plus years old mall and hotel were finally demolished in 2008 to be replaced by Orchard Gateway, a new mall with restaurants, offices, hotel rooms and a library linked between two towers. (Source: rememberSingapore blog).


The 1870s photograph from G.R. Lambert & Co. shows a view of Orchard Road.  This road began as a country lane lined with bamboo hedge and shrubbery.  The road got its name from the nutmeg, pepper and fruit orchards that lie on both sides of the road.

How far back is it worthwhile or meaningful for any purpose to track the history of Orchard Road to post on this heritage blog?  For that matter, how was the description of the City of Singapore in the 1930s?

“Remembering gives purpose to our past. Remembering brings gratitude for all that others have done for us. Remembering strengthens out community. Remembering provides us perspective for where we have been and where we are going. Remembering re-ignites hope for what can be”.  ~ Sandy Koenig

I wasn’t born in 1930, so the description of a place as written over 80 years ago would be helpful to research from old books, magazines, newspapers and other recorded material resources which younger generations could learn from their prevailing situation, circumstances and conditions at that time.

In the book “Stolen Childhoods:  The Untold Story of the Children Interned by the Japanese” by Nicola Tyer:

Singapore in the 1930s was a dynamic and glamorous city with a worldwide reputation for exciting nightlife.  Run as a British colony since its foundation in the early nineteenth century by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, its status as a free port meant prices were low and the good life came cheap.  Crammed onto the small island were a multitude of nationalities – Indians, Malays, Chinese, English, Dutch, Germans.  These races, each with their own quarter, contributed to the island’s reputation for gaiety and diversity.  The hub of Singapore’s shopping aea was the opulent tree-lined Orchard Road with its boutiques displaying samples of their expensive goods – handbags, gloves, perfumes – in glass cabinets along the pavements.

So how different was Orchard Road then and now through the eyes of foreign visitors and tourists to Singapore so many decades apart?

To blog to express from recollection of a place or event so many decades later would be very different from the past written records as and when these incidence happened, current affairs and the memories are still fresh in the mind.

My memories of Pavilion Cinema in 1959 when I was 11 years old. Mary Sim, my English language tuition teacher who was my elder sister’s colleague brought my sisters and I to watch a midnight show at Pavilion Cinema.

It was the first midnight movie and the first and last visit to Pavilion.  The memories and experience of Pavilion was vague and it was soon forgotten.

I think it was an Indian movie “Mother Earth” or something.  As I was small in size as a child, I did not have a seat to buy the ticket and shared the seat with my sister.

Pavilion was sandwiched in between a row of shops in Orchard Road.  The grey building was dark and there were few street lamps. Most shops were closed at midnight at 1.00 am when the show ended. Public buses have also stopped operation, but Mary drove her car and did not have to worry about public transport to watch the midnight show at Pavilion.

With the help of “memory aids” from old digital newspapers from NewspaperSG, I learn many stuff about Pavilion which I did not notice.

According to the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser dated 25 February 1935:

Morning cinema performances on Sundays are likely to become the fashion in Singapore, judging by the success of the experiment carried out at the Pavilion Theatre yesterday where “Our Daily Bread” is being shown.

There seems to be a large class of cinema-goers to whom a morning show appeals and there is every likelihood of the management of the Pavilion Theatre repeating the experiment next Sunday.

Yesterday’s morning performance commenced at 11 am and was over in good time to enable those who attended to get home for lunch.  Sunday morning performances are popular in other countries and the Pavilion Theatre’s experiment has proved that there is also a public for them in Malaya.

In July 1940, Pavilion Theatre was closed for 5 months to install up-to-date air-conditioned cinema hall.

Alterations to the cinema included a change of seating accomodation upstairs and arm-chair seats were provided.

For its modernisation, the theatre concentrated on showing British comedies.  The management felt that at those times of anxiety, cinema patrons wanted comedies as film entertainment.

In 6 October 1927, the success of The Jazz Singer, a Warner Brother’s a half-silent, half-talking musical signaled the beginning of the end of silent films in 1931 to begin movies with sound as “talkies”.

In a letter to the Straits Times dated 18 August 1951, L. WEBB JONE, Singapore wrote:

“Our Cinema”

May I express the hope that the Pavilion Cinema, Singapore will always remain a cinema, run on the same circumspect line as in the days of the late Mr Joe Elias?  It is the one place left, apart from the Victoria Theatre, where one is not swamped by magnitude, and the management shows an admirable restraint in the handling of film ballyhoo.

To many residents it has become “our cinema”.

In 1951, one of Singapore’s oldest cinemas, the Pavilion’s owners of the theatre advertised for tenders for the lease for five-year periods to use the building for another purpose.  On 15 August 1951, the owners of the theatre, the trustees of the late Mr. J. Elias, advertised for tenders for the lease of the Pavilion for five-year period.

The Pavilion was closed when the premises was used for some other purpose and not as a cinema.

Car Parks in Orchard Road

To visualize the location of the Pavilion Cinema and the road traffic in Orchard Road 62 years ago, please read the news in The Straits Times dated 29 March 1952.

The City’s Traffic Police have laid down new parking laws for cars outside the Pavilion Cinema in Orchard Road.

No parking is permitted as from today on the roadside opposite the cinema, or in Emerald Hill Road, or immediately in front of the cinema.

Vehicles leaving the car-parking space on either side of the cinema must turn left, and go to the end of the dividing island near Grange Road, before turning about to go into the city.

Cars may only be parked in the diagonal spaces painted on the road.  When the park is full, they must be parked opposite the Cold Storage in Orchard Road.

Orchard Road looking from Pavilion Theatre with Singapore Cold Storage on the left, and Cathay Building in the background.
Street hawkers were re-sited at temporary hawker centres such as the old Glutton’s Square opposite Cold Storage.
“Shaws give up cinema lease of Pavilion”

It was reported in The Straits Times on 1 Novemeber 1959 that Shaw Brothers organization has decided to give up the lease on the Pavilion Theatre in Orchard Road, one of the oldest cinemas in Singapore with effect from 1 December 1959.

Mr Run Run Shaw told The Sunday Times that the theatre was losing money.

“The costs of running the theatre have increased, while box office takings have dropped,” he said.  “So we have decided to give it up.”

Mr Shaw said that about 40 people employed at the Pavilion have been given notice terminating their services.

Shaws have been running the Pavilion for the past seven years.  The building belongs to the Elias estate.

Built soon after the World War I, it was originally named Palladium until 1931 when it acquired its present name.

A Pavilion of Memories“, the blog topic (borrowed from my favorite Straits Times journalist Tan Bah Bah in my young days) was published an interesting article of the same title and published on 21 February 1993.  Courtesy of the excerpt on this blog.

Older Singaporeans who have a good knowledge of the history of Orchard Road will recall the old Pavilion cinema, which used to be where the Specialists’ Centre is today.

A grey building tucked in a row of shops and restaurants, it ranked with the likes of Capitol and Cathay as the first wave of cinemas showing first-run English films.

This may come as a surprise to some.  But old landmark cinemas like Lido and Orchard are considered second-wave because they came later.  And the architectural styles of the two generations of cinemas were indeed different.

First-wave cinemas were usually more stately.  Second-wave ones tended to be louder and more modern in design.

Pavilion was, if not a grande dame, at least a princess-royal whose high point, as far as I am concerned was that “It’s Great To Be Young”, a sleeper-turned-box-office-hit, was shown there.

This is what the authoritative Halliwell’s Film Guide says of the film:  “It’s Great To Be Young in 1956.  A popular teacher falls foul of the new headmaster who tries to disband the school orchestra.  Very acceptable but totally forgettable star comedy starring John Mills, Cecil Parker and Jeremy Spenser.

For soppy appeal, the film can be compared with The Bodyguard, the Whitney Houston- Kevin Costner good looks superstar showpiece masquerading as cinema – despised by the critics but gleefully lapped up by the public.

Somehow, restless Chinese high-school students, fired at that time by anti-colonial sentiment and slogans, admired the film’s anti-establishment theme.

They might not have fully understood John Mill’s stiff upper-lip brand of English.  But Chinese subtitles and an instinctive feel for issues of growing up moved the kids to stomp and clap at every note of defiance from Jeremy Spenser’s trumpet (Mills played the part of the new principal and Spenser, one of the band members who later became the leader of the “rebellion”.)

And just one or two years down the road, some of these youths were ready for the more serious business of burning buses, breaking street lamps and chanting “ompah Merdeka”.

English-stream students from one missionary school could also empathise in a way with the character in It’s Great To Be Young.  Their own principal was about to be transferred and when he was posted to another school later, they staged a strike.

How many times has it happened: Someone whom many admire and like as a leader is asked to go and the inspired ones are left in the dark and in an angry stupor as to the whys and the wherefores.  Thus, although the Pavilion was reputed for showing English (as distinct from American) films, it played an inadvertent role as one of the stepping stones in the social awakening of today’s older Singaporeans.

And in more ways than one.  The Pavilion bar and restaurant, which was next to the theatre, survived till the early 1980s.

It was a famous watering hole for British expatriates.  They would catch Twice Round The Daffodils or whatever Pinewood Studios production would be showing at the theatre, pop over to the pub at the first level to down their pintas and then adjourn to the second for their bangers, fish and chips.

As they dined, Queen Elizabeth II and her predecessors watched with much amusement from their framed glory on the wall.

Nationhood brought a more mixed crowed – meaning more locals – to the bar.  Not, according to a Pavilion old-timer, merely to talk trivia, show off their designer trinkets or boast of their latest Azura Red Bean commodity killing.  But to let off steam on current affairs.  The more heated the debate, the faster the drinks went down.

Yet, said the veteran drinker, the Pavilion was not really a rowdy place.  It was an oasis in the hurly burly of Orchard Road – where you could discuss an issue like the Barisan Socialis boycott of Parliament without having to raise your voice.

But the controlled calm of the bar did not last long towards the last years of its existence.  Impressed travel agents suddenly “discovered” its charm and started to dump their busloads of tourists onto the place.

Finally, it was progress – land acquisition for a wider Orchard Road – which consigned the Pavilion to history.

Briefly, but so briefly, the name reappeared in the Pavilion International hotel, which has since been renamed the Regent.

The concept of movie-going has changed so much in the meantime.

Bringing a family to the cinema was cheaper, even  if one had to take a bus all the way from Paya Lebar to Orchard.  There was romance and fun in both the idea of making the trip downtown and the escapism of losing oneself in a first-class cinema like the old Pavilion.

In an age of neighbourhood cineplexes and multiplexes, going to the movies is, of course, as convenient as taking a stroll to the coffeeshop – casual shorts, sandals and all.  I welcome that.  But I must say I also miss having to dress up.

Also, I also miss dearly the cinemas which had character, or at least names with a touch of class.

Frankly, I do not know what to do with a cinema named Central, I do not even know where it is.

But Pavilion, Garrick, Galaxy, Diamond, Queen’s, Roxy, Globe, Silver City, Victory, Atlantic, Mercury – those were real cinemas.

The discerning comments and current affairs of the day in Tan Bah Bah’s article was burrowed surreptiously to reflect the disturbing  current affairs of young Singaporean students in 1956 in the “Pavilion of Memories”.

An old postcard of Orchard Road, Singapore c 1930

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The location of the former Pavilion Cinema in Orchard Road. Same place, Different times. Different purposes of the heritage building with rebuilt modernised designs, features and functions to suit the times in Singapore.

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