Last Farmers in Singapore



With thanks to MediaCorp Singapore for Documentaries On Five on “The Heritage Series” video featured on “The Last Farmers of Sembawang” here .

Watching this video inspired me to blog about the disappearance of kampongs and the farmers in Singapore which the younger generations to understand why these changes had happened in Singapore; the causes for the transformation of land use over the decades.

Singapore’s food production in 1962,  although the number of farmers engaged in agriculture was relatively small, they produced a considerable quantity annually:  750,000 pigs, 20,000,000 poultry, 200,000,000 eggs, 34,000 tons of vegetables, 1,800 tons of fruits.


Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Mrs Lee visit the Horticulture and Aquarium Fish Show at National Stadium on 5 November, 1971.

Alternatives for the resettled farmers

In 1976, Mr Lee Kuan Yew assured pig farmers in Punggol that the PAP Government would do all it could to help those settled elsewhere to re-adjust to their new environment.

At a rally in Tampines Way, the Prime Minister said it was inevitable that farmers would have to be settled in view of the development taking place in the area.

He said he understood that those affected would need some time to re-adjust, be he assured that the PAP candidate for Punggol, Mr Ng Kah Ting, would help them overcome their problems.

Of the farmers affected, he said the bona fide ones would be given alternative farmland elsewhere while the small farmers would be offered alternative employment at hawkers.

Mr Lee later spoke at another rally at Lorong Tai Seng in Paya Lebar where he told residents that the constituency would undergo phased development to make it as attractive to live in any other place in Singapore.

Speaking at a rally at Chong Pang Village, Mr Teong Eng Siong said that apart from the Sembawang shipbuilding yard, the government had allocated 1,174 hectares of land in the area for development into an industrial estate.

At another PAP rally, in Tampines Way in Punggol Estate, Mr Ng Kah Ting said:  “What the Workers’ Party wants to do is to set the clock back to the early 1950s when there was wide-spread unemployment labour exploitation and industrial unrest.  [Source:  Straits Times, 22 December, 1976]

Question mark over future pork supplies

Dr Goh Keng Swee’s policy statement on the future of pig farming in Singapore has pointed to a likelihood that we will have to import pork and poultry in large quantities.

Dr Goh, who has taken over the Primary Production Department, to the Parliament on 12 March, 1984 that “the future of Singapore pigs look to me to be very bleak”.

Though he had yet to touch on poultry farming, the general line of thinking on the long-term policy of primary products was made clear.  It was mainly the economics that would dictate the fate of the farming sectors here.

In other words, if the production costs of the food produced locally are higher, the Government prefers to get supplies from other countries.

However, the phasing out of the pig farms, if it happens at all, may disrupt the price mechanism of the pork supply here, according to an earlier study made by the PPD on pig farming.

img0008In 1964, Minister for National Development Lim Kim San (sixth from right) during his week-long tour of rural districts and installations of the Primary Production Dept.

Field  trips for farmers organised by the Primary Production Dept.



img0035This is an animal husbandry field station in a rural part of Singapore.  The Colonial Government of Singapore use these field stations to decentralize veterinary services to livestock farmers living at Changi, Ponggol-Tampines and Yio Chu Kang.  That about 80% of Singapore’s population is Chinese, is reflected in the fact that production is concentrated on pigs and poultry.  There are 750,000 pigs and 24 million birds in 1958.  Up-to date information and results of research on genetics and nutrition are disseminated to livestock farmers through these field stations.




Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew meeting Chinese farmers during his tour in 1963


img0055-lky tour of bt panjang 03031963

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Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Yusof Ishak greeting guests at a reception for farmers from Tampines area at Sri Temasek hosted by PM Lee Kuan Yew on 16 February, 1963.





District for farmers to resettle

Over 2000 farmers were resettled in Ponggol, Tampines and Teban districts.

The 420 hectares of land were allocated by the government to resettle farmers from all over the island.  Most of the farmers were affected by resettlement were mainly in the Yio Chu Kang, Lim Chu Kang and Chua Chu Kang.

Meanwhile, over 300 land-owners in Ponggol, Tampines and Teban were served with quit notices by the government.

On the question of compensation for the farmers affected by resettlement, Mr Lai Fee Kwong, president of the Singapore Livestock Farmers’ Association said the government has not given any definite reply.

He said: “We understand that resettlement is necessary but financial aid and concessions for farmers to develop their farms on new lots must be given”.

Small pig farmers agree to quit and take compensation

Most of the small pig farmers in Punggol, Jalan Kayu and Lim Chu Kang have agreed to quit their farms – a dramatic switch in 1983 when they fought hard to keep them.

Seventy farmers in Punggol, who keep fewer than 1,000 pigs have indicated in the Housing and Development Board that they prefer to get compensation early and quit farming.

The decisions follow a policy statement by the First Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Goh Keng Swee, in Parliament that preliminary study had shown that it would be cheaper to import pork than to keep pollutive pig farming in land-scarce Singapore.

He added that the authorities were looking closer into the alternative sources of supply for pork.

Most of the small pig farmers have decided to call it a day because of the bleak future in pig farming here.

Another reason if the over-supply of pigs, which has made the prices go down.  Furthermore, diseases are not uncommon in the farms.  [Source:  New Nation, 13 January, 1975]

Please check out the related blogs “Ways Done in the Past – Rural Farming” here and “Memories of Woodlands – Jessica Bong” here .

The relevant photos on this blog to share with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.


Singapore Food Ambassador Violet Oon


[Photo of Violet Oon, courtesy of Anna Chittenden]

Violet Oon is considered by many to be one of the leading authorities on Asian cuisine, having written about food professionally early on in her career.

However, few people know that Violet is the Singapore Food Ambassador.

In 1988, the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (now Singapore Tourism Board) and the Singapore Airlines sent the food envoy to the US to promote Singapore as a food paradise.

She went on a 3-week media promotional blitz of eight American cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Diego, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, Washington and New York.

During her trip from April 30 to May 20, 1988, she was interviewed by the media and also give food demonstrations on television food programs.

She said: “I am really pleased that STPB is now using food as an introduction to Singapore.  To me, food is the more distinctive part of our culture”.

Born a Singapore Nyonya in 1949,Violet Oon is the grande dame of Singaporean cooking and is widely considered to be an authority on Asian cuisine, specialising in Nyonya food. Her reputation as a chef and food connoisseur spans the international arena and she often represents Singapore as a food ambassador abroad.

An Interview with Violet Oon by Anna Chittenden, author of the book “SINGAPORE, a unique, stylish and offbeat travel guide to Singapore.”

How did you get started on your food journey?

I first learnt the art and skills of Nyonya cuisine at the age of 16, when I took lessons from my aunts, my father’s sisters.  They were the ones that carried on the heritage of the cuisine from our ancestors.  In Singapore, my mother was liberated – she was a secretary and a career woman, and did not learn the nuance of this type of cooking.  In those days, you were not meant to be a superwoman, so if you were a secretary, you did not do the housework.

My first teachers were my aunt, Mrs Nona Bong and my great aunt by marriage, Mrs Nanny Khoo.  I also learnt in the traditional Asian way from Sifus (masters), who come from a long line of family chefs and cooks, and teach the next generation to carry the torch.  My first cooking classes were in Singapore in 1965-1966.  My aunts didn’t have proper recipes, but they were very accurate, because they were cooking everyday.  Recipes used to be written in five cents of this, three cents of that and one cent of this, so that makes no sense 30 years later!  So I asked my aunts to show me, and I would write as they cooked.  I then got very good at estimating the measurements, such as how many teaspoons and tablespoons went into the dishes.  When you actually watch people cooking, it is different from a recipe.

How did you become a chef?

Cooking and becoming a chef happened by chance.  I started off my career as a journalist in 1971, becoming the arts and music critic and features writer in the now defunct newspaper called the New Nation.

I then started writing about food in 1974 – my editor David Kraal said, “We had better have someone who can cook to write about food”.

During my career as a food journalist in the 1970s to the late 1990s, chefs would open their kitchens and invite me to cook with them.  I visited professional chefs in restaurants in Singapore (doing French, German, Italian, Chinese and Malay cuisine) and also abroad to places such as New Orleans, Paris, London, Australia and Hong Kong.  In this way, a lot of my cooking skills came by observation and osmosis.  The experiences that were of particular value to me though was when I was invited into kitchens in homes, where I would see each families’ own particular interpretation of well-loved dishes.

On the international food scene in the 1980s and 1990s there was a whole generation of highly respected women chefs who did not go through training in culinary schools, or who did not rise up the culinary ladder through working in hotel or restaurant kitchens, including Julia Child and Alice Waters from America, and Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander from Australia.  You could say I became a chef in the same way as these women did, by starting with a love and abiding interest and dedication to the art and craft of cooking a particular cuisine, and then sharing it with other people.

Peranakan culture is a marriage of the East and East with a strong dose of the West.  Starting with the native Malay culture in Malacca and Penang and finally in Singapore, where Chinese male immigrants married Malay maidens.

My culture, that of the Peranakans, evolved more than five centuries ago, with the flourishing of trade between China and the Malay Peninsula, although it started to die out from the 1970s.  It seemed as though there were very few of us, mainly concentrated in the Katong area of Singapore, which today is still the heartland of the Peranakan culture.  Having been born in Singapore and brought up for much of my childhood in Malacca, I was very much in touch with the essence of Peranakan life, with their specific art, music, food and dress.  In the 1950s living in Malacca, I saw a world from a past age.  For example, there were multi-generational families living in mini-apartments in courtyard house, family dinners where the men ate first and wives and daughters last, and women who dressed in opulent, richly embroidered kebayas over hand-painted sarong skirts from Pekalongan in Indonesia.  Yet coming from a modern Peranakan family, we were more in tune with the 20th century than of the past, and I did not quite live the life of a Peranakan.  At home, we did not speak Peranakan patois, ate both Chinese Hokkien home cooking as well as Peranakan dishes and Western food.  My mother did not dress the way Peranakan women did in their sarong kebayas, choosing instead to wear modern dress and the Chinese cheongsam.

Peranakan food is very strongly Malay based with the addition of Chinese Hokkien dishes.  The Chinese originators of the culture came from the Fujian Province in China, and so the Chinese part of cuisine is Hokkien – a lot of dark soya sauces, taucheo, garlic and shallots.  Indians, who came from Southern India, brought with them their curries and rich aromatic seed spices which added to the cuisine, as well as a strong touch of British cooking which you’ll see in the cakes and morning breakfasts.

What are your favourite Nyonya dishes?

Kuay Pie Tee (also known as ‘top hat’) – Julienned bamboo shoot and turnip poached in a prawn bisque served in a deep fried ‘top hat’ cup topped with prawn, chilli sauce and a sweet fruit sauce.

Ngoh Hiang – Deep fried prawn, crab and chicken with water chestnut seasoned with five-spice powder wrapped in bean curd skin.

Beef Rendang – A creamy and spicy Nyonya dish with Malay and Indonesian Padang cuisine origins.  Tender beef shin braised with spices of galangal, shallots, ginger, garlic, belacan (shrimp paste) and chillies.  It has a Malay bouquet with turmeric leaf, kaffir lime leaf, and local bay leaves (daun salam).

Do you have a favourite ingredient?

The combination made in heaven is the marriage of coconut milk and gula Melaka (palm sugar).  For savoury flavours, essential ingredients include galangal, turmeric, lemongrass, shallots, chillies and belacan.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I’m inspired by home cooking.  My whole childhood was spent going to my aunts’ and different people’s homes.  What you eat at home with your family is a reflection of your life and your family’s life, your travels, and where you have been.  For example, Anglo-Indians have a unique food, which is neither Indian, nor English.

I’m fascinated by dishes or recipes that are locked in time.  The food, as well as drinks that would have gone with it, represents a certain time and place.  I was born in 1949, so in my restaurant there are these different layers of time.  These dishes are like archaeological records.  The restaurant is the brainchild of my two children, but for them, it’s also about capturing and remembering the family cooking.

How important do you think food is to the Singaporean culture and identity?

It’s very important, more so in the last few years, as people start to question what is dying off, such as the hawker culture.  It’s so essential to our psyche, more so than people realise, because expenditure on food here is much higher than in other cultures.  A lot of disposable income goes into food.  Food seems to be the tie that binds us culturally and emotionally as a people, much more so than a shared history of art or music or dance or literature.

What other chefs in Singapore do you admire?

I like what Willin Low, chef of Wild Rocket does.  In the end, it doesn’t matter what cuisine you do, the test is whether it tastes good.  He has taken a lot of traditional flavours from his culture (Singaporean), which is different from mine, and reworked it.  It’s all very delicious, and not only delicious but cooked properly technically.

But I’m more concerned with eating local hawker food that is very old, and sooner or later, the people running the hawker stalls are going to retire and nobody’s going to be able to eat their food.  It’s scary.

Which restaurants do you most enjoy eating at on your day off?

For nostalgia and old-fashioned authentic tastes, I love the Ngoh Hiang at China Street Fritters in Maxwell Food Centre.   They are the last in the whole of Singapore for what they do.  The food wouldn’t even taste the same as if you tried it in China, as they came over 70 years ago, so their cooking style has evolved.  I want to be able to savour flavours and textures that may die off within the next generation.  Already, many old-school hawkers have closed their shutters due to the extreme hard work it takes to cook authentic, old-fashioned food as well as the high cost of employing kitchen helpers.

I love the pau at Teck Kee Tanglin Pau and at Tiong Bahru Pau.  To me that’s the real Singapore texture.  The Singapore pau pastry and the Hong Kong style pau pastry are very different, for instance, when you to the tim sum restaurants in Hong Kong, there’s a very fluffy texture.  I want to see places like Teck Kee preserved.   It’s interesting because it’s truly Singaporean.  This type of food originally came from China, but now they use a particular recipe and a particular style that doesn’t exist in Hong Kong.  Those are the things that I want to see and I want people to know, not whether somebody cooks very well, but whether these nuances are kept.  At Tiong Bahru Pau, that’s the actual Singapore texture and dough preserved.  It’s very important.

I would like to see the children of the old hawkers take over.  They grew up watching their fathers cooking these dishes for 20 years, so there’s a certain osmosis and DNA which is so difficult to capture.  You can’t teach it.  There are things that they know, that they don’t even realise that they know.  You may be able to cook the food excellently as a new chef, but there are certain touches, which you would only have if you grew up with it.

What do you love most about Singapore?

I love our inclusiveness, and our unique Singlish multi-cultural sense of humour; our classic put-downs that speak a volume in a word or two.  I love our whole natural environment.  Our urban jungle is literally a jungle with lots of plants, tree and foliage.  I love our built and unbuilt environment.

Singapore has much more character than people think.  What I find very funny is that a lot of westerners coming to the Far East think that exotic means dirty.  If it’s dirty, then it’s exotic.  They can’t believe that it can be clean and have character.  You just have to go to any of the HDB areas and just hangout.

I also love the diversity.  It’s got a bit of Britain here, a bit of India there; it’s got a bit of everything.

What are you most proud of as a Singaporean?

I think what make me most proud is our inclusiveness, which is now the more obvious in the midst of non-inclusiveness in many societies.  A mosque will be next to a temple, which is next to a church.  To us, religious tolerance and racial harmony is so important, for example, in the schools, children celebrate a racial harmony day.  Regarding our respect for each other’s religion, customs and sense of private cultural space, although we may not be the best at this in the world, we can be proud of what we are and where we are.

[Source:  An Interview with Violet Oon by Anna Chittenden in her book, SINGAPORE. 1st Edition of LOST GUIDES].

Please check out Violet Onn’s ‘Spice of Life’ here .


Goodwill Liaison Committee


People’s Association (PA) headquarters in Kallang.  Established on 1 July 1960, PA’s aim is to foster racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore.

Race, language and religion are fault lines that have torn many societies apart, PM Lee Hsien Loong noted in his Facebook post on 20 July 2017.

“Singapore is a rare and precious example of a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-religious society where people live harmoniously together,” he wrote.

“This is not by chance.  The Government and the different communities worked hard together to make this happen.”

We know why here .

With the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore, the text of broadcast talk by the Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, over Radio Singapore on Friday, 24 July, 1964 at 8.00 pm to share on this blog.

[In the last 24 hours the situation improved.  The number of incidents has gone down by about half.  The first phase of rioting is over.  The Police and Military are sufficiently deployed all over the island and heavily concentrated in the affected areas of Geylang Serai and Kampong Kembangan to prevent any further clashes.

The problem now is fear and suspicion.  Groups of Malays is predominantly Chinese areas are fearful that they may be attacked.  So, too, groups of Chinese in predominantly Malay are afraid for themselves.  In fact, in one incident last night in the Geylang Serai area 2 groups became frightened of each other as each thought that the other was about to attack and had armed themselves with sticks and weapons.  Fortunately there were men courageously enough amongst their midst who went forward and questioned each others intentions.  They discovered that each were afraid of the other, and neither had intended to attack.  So they got together and formed a ‘Goodwill Liaison Committee’ to jointly protect each other from extremists and lunatics.

Our business now is to dispel this fear and to restore confidence.  In those parts of the island, where the Chinese are in the majority, make it a duty to shelter and protect your Malay fellow citizens from mischief.  Similarly, in those parts where Malays predominate, give shelter and protect your Chinese neighbours.  If your neighbour’s house is now empty, make it your duty to do all you can to see that no harm comes to it.  In this way goodwill and confidence in each others’ intentions will be re-established.

This afternoon in twelve constituencies, where large Malay kampongs adjoin Chinese villages, local village elders and kampong ketuas, together with members of the Citizen Consultatuve Committees, with Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries have gone round to set up Goodwill Liaison Committees to restore morale and confidence.  This work will go on tomorrow as more and more Police can be spared to escort these teams.

Eventually, the work will blanket the whole island with the help of community leaders, kampong ketuas and penghulus, leaders of Trade Unions, Chambers of Commerce and Social and Civic organisations.  They will help to spread goodwill and confidence.

Meanwhile the life and health of our city is being maintained.  Distribution of food, essential services, medical and health  services and most important of all city cleansing is going on.  There were a few deplorable incidents yesterday when city cleansing labourers who had gone out on their public duty to clean the streets and dustbins of garbage were attacked.  This is madness.  We should thank and help protect these men who are risking their lives and limbs to ensure that there are no epidemics.  The Police are giving them protection, but they cannot be everywhere in strength at the same time.  Anyone who injures as essential worker is a fool and a criminal.  The Police have orders in such situations to act first and ask questions later.

To get things back to normal quickly, there must be close co-ordination and co-operation with the Central Government.  They are in direct charge of the police and military operations. We have a common purpose and a common responsibility.  As the Police and the Army scrub out violence and restore law and order, the civil administration and civic organisations must get to work to restore morale, confidence and a spirit of compassion and understanding in the face of a common calamity.  Meanwhile people must get back to work and earn their living.  Day by day as the situation improves. the curfew will be relaxed for all of you to resume the normal business of life and living.  We cannot afford this idleness.

Meanwhile, look after your families and yourselves and prevent evil men in our midst from preaching more hatred and generating more violence.

Meanwhile to those who have suffered as a result of the calamity over the last few days, may I give this word of comfort: the Government will help you to rehabilitate yourselves, your families and your homes.]

Source:  National Archives of Singapore.

Archived photos of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew during his visit to Geylang Serai on 24 July, 1964.






Birthday of Tua Pek Kong 2018


戊戌(狗)年二月初二日 : 大伯公千秋
Lunar: 2nd of 2nd mth – Birthday of Tua Pek Kong Celebration at the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple on 18 March, 2018.

In the morning, the ceremony was held at the temple and conducted by the Taoist priest who chanted the century-old Tua Pek Kong sutras in Hokkien.

The Taoist priest and the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple Committee Members.


The devotees and their family at the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple to celebrate Tua Pek Kong’s birthday and to offer with good luck and blessings.


戊戌(狗)年二月初二日 : 大伯公千秋
Lunar: 2nd of 2nd mth – Birthday of Tua Pek Kong Celebration at the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple on 18 March, 2018.

The Origin, Legends & Power Of Tua Pek Kong (大伯公) – Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神) – Chinese Earth Deity

Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神) is the Earth Deity worshipped by Chinese folks. In China and Taiwan, he is addressed as Tu Di Gong (土地公) or Tu Di Shen (土地神). In South East Asia, he is often called Da Bo Gong (大伯公) – The Great Grand Uncle. In Indonesia, he is known as Dewa Bumi. In Ryukyu – Japan (日本琉球), he is known as 土帝君(トゥティークー).

In ancient time, Chinese Folks pray to Earth God for the abundance of crops, grains , healthy livestocks etc. In this modern era, Earth God is prayed for prosperity, wealth ,safety and happiness. Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神) is also revered as one of the Chinese Gods of Wealth.  He can even be sought after to win the lottery / 4D, if you know the way.

Within the celestial pantheon, Tu Di Gong occupies a unique position, as he is at the same time the lowest ranking official in the bureaucracy, yet also the most commonly worshiped deity. Almost every homes of the Chinese Folks in South East Asia, has an altar of Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神) in the main hall / living room.

Today, many Chinese young adults still pray to him but without knowing the origin, the legends , the way to pray , and the power of him. This is the article to share with you the knowledge and information of  Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神).  [Source:  Taoist Sorcery website].

Since my birth at the Bukit Ho Swee kampong, my mother and our neighbors worship to Tua Pek Kong.   The framed image of Tua Pek Kong was placed just below the ceiling of the house and my mother, a pious Taoist since young, would offer 3 sticks of joss-sticks every morning to pray to Tua Pek Kong to bless the family.

Please check out the related blog on Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple here .

I am pleased to share the YouTube video-clip of the Tua Pek Kong birthday ceremony at Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple on 18 March, 2018 here .

River Hongbao 2018 in Singapore



The God of Wealth statue is re-located at the River Hongbao at Marine Bay in 2018.

In 2017 at River Hongbao, the statue was positioned in the middle of the road from the main entrance.  The God of Wealth statue appears to be slimmer, cheerful with outstretched hands to embrace everyone to bless them with good luck in the Year of the Dog.

An Endearing Home for One and All

More than 500 lanterns are featured at this year’s River Hongbao.

About 35 craftsmen from Sichuan, China took about three months to handcraft and assemble the lanterns here into more than 60 display sets.

The lantern sets are displayed at River Hongbao 2018, themed An Endearing Home for One and All, which will run from Feb 14 to 24.

Prosperous Nation, Flourishing People


The largest display set at 50m long and 15m tall is called Prosperous Nation, Flourishing People, and is inspired by Singapore’s skyline.

Based on the theme 繁荣兴旺 (Prosperous Nation, Flourishing People),  this display bears our well wishes for Singapore our nation to continue to flourish as a prosperous nation and our people enjoying the fruits of the prosperity.

In the centre of the display is a happy 6.5 m tall giant dog running out from a time tunnel with LED lighting effects.  The time tunnel represents the zodiac cycle and the dogs exiting from the tunnel symbolises the arrival of Year of the Dog.


The Chinese characters on the four windows are 国旺 (a thriving nation) 家旺 (a happy family), 身体旺 (a healthy body) and 财富旺 (a prosperous wealth) respectively.  They represent our aspirations an d well wishes for Singapore, all families and individuals to thrive, prosper, and enjoy good health and wealth in the New Year.

The bundles of mandarin oranges and pineapples in the foreground are icons of great fortune and good luck for the Chinese New Year.



Other lanterns will feature 13 different dog breeds, accompanied by information on each breed’s characteristics.

There will be 11 consecutive nights of fireworks and lights shows, an exhibition, food, games and performances.

River Hongbao 2018 is organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Tourism Board and People’s Association.

The event will be held at The Float@Marina Bay from 2pm to 11pm daily, except on Chinese New Year’s Eve on Feb 15, when it will be extended to 1am. Admission is free.
(Source: The Straits Times)


Main Entrance Arch

Welcome to River Hongbao 2018! You are greeting by the Main Entrance Arch inspired by Singapore’s iconic shophouses.

Standing at a height of 15m, measuring 26m across, the arch features facades of shophouses in Art Deco and Straits-Chinese architectural styles with a fusion of modern and traditional elements.

The open windows signifying us looking forward to the New Year with full confidence anticipating good fortunes and opportunities. Meanwhile, the lead character in this year’s didplay, Man’s best friend, welcomes you from the open windows with warm smiles.

You are also greeted with our New Year message [犬吠汪旺迎新春] which means welcoming the New Year with joyous and auspicious barks. With this message, we wish you prosperity, wealth and success in the Year of the Dog.

On the entrance pillars are a set of spring couplets or 春联 (chunlian) that expresses our joy in the festive celebrations and our aspirations for a better future.  It is a tradition for Chinese families to put a set of couplets on their door frames during Chinese New Year.

We hope you and your family enjoy your visit at River Hongbao 2018.

For the security and safety of the visitors, the check-points are stationed at the entrance to the River Hongbao at Marina Bay.


Entrance Walkway

Be dazzled at the start of your magical journey in River Hongbao 2018!

The entrance walkway is a 30m stretch of stunning stylised light columns representing growth and good fortune. The character on some of the columns signifies success and prosperity . This character is also a homonym with the character which means a dog’s bark. The overhead canopy of fairy lights with sweeping ribbons projects a festive and celebratory atmosphere.

Walking along this entrance signify embarking on a bright and prosperous year ahead of us. We hope you enjoy this festive and celebratory atmosphere.

Take a photo with your family and friends and tag us @RiverHongbao2018 or hashtag #RiverHongbao2018!


Hao Cai Tou

Inspired by the phrase 好彩头 (good omen or good luck), this lantern depicts a joyful family celebrating a bountiful harvest of carrots. It is based on a Chinese nursery rhyme where a farmer could not pull out a giant carrot during harvest. He then enlisted the help of his whole family, including his wife, children and pet dogs, to pull out the carrot. The moral of the story is about the importance of teamwork and family cohesion.




Remaking our Heartland


This lantern showcase pays tribute to the “Remaking Our Heartland” initiative to renew and develop existing estates, to ensure sustainability and vibrancy of our heartlands.

The 18m long lantern portrays Singaporeans enjoying leisure activities in a park with clean waterways and lush greenery. This is set against a backdrop of our HDB (Housing Development Board) flats – Singapore’s public housing which house more than 80% of our population.

The display is a reflection of our aspirations and continuous plans to rebuild our heartland, revitalise our garden city, enhance our infrastructure and improve our quality of life. Together, we strive to build a distinctive and endearing home for all.

“Zheng Cheng”


This 11m (length) by 5m (height) display features translucent lanterns displaying positive virtues associated with our furry friends.

  • 真诚        zhencheng (Sincerity)
  • 忠诚        zhongcheng (Loyalty)
  • 信赖       xinlai (Trust)
  • 勇敢        yonggan (Courage)

These are also virtues that we value in all our friends and loved ones.

There is an interactive element incorporated into this lantern set.  There are 2 pairs of stationary bicycles for the visitors to pedal.  They convert human mechanical energy to generate electrical power to light up 2 LED scrolls with Chinese New Year greetings.

Chinese Zodiac of Animals







For your convenience, please check out the past related blogs on Hongbao River linked by year: 1992 , 2014 , 2015 , 2017 .

Firework Display at River Hongbao 2018

Please watch the video on YouTube the firework display at the River Hongbao 2018 at Marina Bay Singapore on 21 February, 2018 here .

River Hongbao 2018 at Night





The Singapore River is Ageless


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The above photo was published in The Straits Times on 26 October 2017 here , with courtesy of the Singapore Press Holdings.

Singapore River is ageless until the end of times, meaning lasting forever, eternal for as long as Singapore last on this planet.  Since time immemorial, centuries before Stamford Raffles founded the island of Singapore in 1819, the Singapore in its original geography position and location existed.  The Singapore River is not man-made.  Its size, shape, length and location was naturally created in Singapore.

However, the land utilisation and purposes of the Singapore River over the decades has changed for inland transportation, the buildings along the river-banks, the open spaces for recreation  and sight-seeing which visitors, tourists and Singaporeans to enjoy.

Over the decades, the government and peoples of Singapore worked together to transform the Singapore River to change and improve the environment into a better, clean, green and beautiful Garden City.

The Singapore River precinct, with three distinctive quays –  Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay – is the historic heart of the  city and the foundation upon which Singapore has been built.   Its diverse offerings and welcoming ambience are a draw for both locals and visitors.  Its preservation and continued vitality are important for reasons both economic and cultural.

In the early days, the Singapore River provided an ideal natural artery around which the city could flourish as trade ebbed and flowed  across the archipelago.  The transformation from tidal creek to port and commercial centre was necessary to the rapid growth of the island as an entrepot in Southeast Asia.  Unfortunately, the river also suffered problems with congestions and pollution over the years.   From the initial days of flourishing trade and activity at the Singapore River had become heavily polluted.

During its early stages as an independent nation state, the Singapore Government embarked on a massive program of renewal and reform.  The end of the colonial era had pressing issues that needed attention: urban overcrowding and lack of basic amenities such as piped water and sewerage – especially in the city’s heart near the river.  The 1960s ushered in a period of unprecedented urban renewal, as run down and dilapidated sections of the city were cleared to give way to modern high rises.  By the 1970s, the river became unable to deal with modern container shipping and trading activity gradually moved to Keppel Harbour, paving the way for the redevelopment of the river.

In 1977, the government – spearheaded by the Ministry of Environment – began the mammoth task of cleaning up Singapore River.  By the end of 1983, the river’s environment had improved dramatically, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) would take the responsibility of formulating comprehensive redevelopment strategies for derelict areas around the river.  Works undertaken to redevelop Singapore River included dredging the river, rebuilding the river walls along the entire stretch of Singapore River and the construction of a 6km long promenade along both banks of the waterfront.

Today, Singapore River has been reborn.  Transformed from a working waterway to an attractive waterfront environment for housing, recreation, entertainment and commercial new developments have generated renewed activity, while conserved buildings lend charm and preserve the memory of the river’s past.


Singapore River Festival 2017

With thanks to Singapore River One and Asia PR Werks Pte Ltd, I have the pleasure and opportunity to be invited to participate in the Singapore River Festival 2017 events and activities.

Please watch the Singapore River One video on YouTube.

Singapore is a country of immigrants from India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries from all over the world.  It is not a homogeneous country for mainly natives.

Our forefathers arrived in Singapore in the 1930s mainly by sea and landed at the Singapore River.  Some returned to their homeland later while others, like my father, rooted in Singapore and set up a family as Singapore Citizens and never return to China when he passed away in 1977.

In fact, the site where Stamford Raffles first landed on the Singapore River, near the Parliament House in Singapore, is marked as the historical spot to learn the history of the Singapore River.

However, the purpose of the Singapore River for inland transportation has changed over the decades. When Singapore was a colony under the British Administration, the emphasis of the economy was for entrepot trade to take advantage of the strategic position to trade with countries of the east and west in the world.

In 2011 when I posted the blog about my father and the Singapore River here and another blog in 2014 here , I did not expect the archived blogs could be revived in the Singapore River Festival 2017 initiative as “People of the River”.  The personal material which I have researched and blogged as the resources for the Singapore River Festival 2017 as “People of the River” to share.

Media Session on 24 October, 2017

The Singapore River Festival 2017 returns on November 3 and 4, 2017.  Unlike previous year’s edition, this year’s edition focus on the local people and stories of Singapore River and will celebrate the vibrant lifestyle of our three quays – Clarke Quay, Boat Quay and Robertson Quay – with a series of events and activities.  To pay tribute to the people and memories that make up the rich heritage of the iconic river, the Singapore River organisers, Singapore River One, which invited Captain Frederick James Francis and I among those featured in the Singapore River Festival’s first ever initiative that pays homage to those intrinsically linked to the river and its heritage.

It is indeed my privilege and honor to be invited to share my personal stories about the Singapore River memories.

The following photos of the media session on 24 October, 2017 which I presented together with Captain Frederick James Francis, author of the book “Singapore History – Islands and Islanders”.



Lianhe Wanbao published on 29 October, 2017


Channel News Asia “live” interview with “Singapore Tonight” on 27 October, 2017



At the interview, I mentioned about the unpleasant remarks by some tourists about the water in the Singapore River in the old days before the clean-up of the river.

The following archived photos of Singapore River with courtesy of NewspaperSG, National Library Board, Singapore.



One of the two-cent ferries across the Singapore River between Robertson Quay and Havelock Road which save pedestrians a walk of more than a mile.

The former Boat Quay food stalls at the Singapore River

With thanks to Andrew Yeo for his wonderful painting of Singapore River.

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





Glenda Chong, my favorite English news presenter on MediaCorp TV smiled when I mentioned about what some tourists said: “The water in the Singapore River should be bottled and sold as ‘smelling salt’ 🙂

Pls watch the video clip at YouTube here .

Channel News Asia “live” interview with “Hello Singapore” on 2 November, 2017




Pls watch the video clip at YouTube here .

Fond Memories of Singapore River for the young generations of Singaporeans



Please share these fond memories of Singapore River photos of my son and daughter taken in 1987.

I hope these third generation of “People of the River” to pass on our younger generations of Singaporeans.  During the Singapore River Festival 2017, I would like to encourage every Singaporean to visit the Singapore River with their great grandparents, grandparents, family, relatives and other People of the River for inter-generational activities for family bonding and meaningful fun experience for everyone.

At National Day 1968, the story of Singapore – and the Singapore River – unfolded in a four-part mass display segment:

  1. ‘River of Life’ – The murky river turned blue – signifying our progress in nation-building.  The final scene: A bridge spanning a clean, calm Singapore River – symbolising our common destiny over individual differences.
  2. ‘River of Soul’ – The audience helped pass down beach balls, symbolising passing our shared values to the next generation.
  3. ‘River of Hope’ – This ends with the river-like NDP ’98 logo.
  4. ‘River of Joy’ – With spectacular fireworks displays, laser and light effects.

Pls watch the video clip at YouTube here .




Thong Chai Medical Institution in Singapore

20171017_162334Former Thong Chai Medical Institution at 50, Eu Tong Sen Street, Singapore

The former Thong Chai Medical Institution is a historic building constructed in 1892 and housed one of the best known Chinese charity medical centres in Singapore.  Traditional Chinese doctors or sinsehs used to dispense free treatment and medicine to patients of all races in Singapore.  Today, it is used as a commercial building for the Singapore office for Forever Living Products.


The side photo of the Thong Chai Medical Institution.   Funama Hotel in the background.

History of the Thong Chai Medical Institution


The plaques in English (above) and Chinese (below) are displayed on both sides of the Thong Chai Medical Institution entrance.


In 1867,  two Chinese merchants got together to set up Singapore’s first traditional Chinese medical institution for the poor.  These compassionate men saw an urgent need for a charitable organisation that provided medical advice and assistance to those who could not afford to pay for it.

Thong Chai dispensed free medical consultation, treatment and herbal medicines to the poor, regardless of race or religion.  Its sincere efforts were appreciated and recognised and more benefactors joined its ranks.  They came from all Chinese communities: Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, Hainanese and Hakka.




Initially, Thong Chai operated out of a small rented shophouse on Upper Pickering Street, then know as Upper Macao Street.  It was then called Tong Chay Ee Say.  In 1892, it bought the building of 50 Eu Tong Sen Street, with which it has become most strongly associated, and changed its name to Thong Chai Medical Institution.

From this building, Thong Chai continued to serve the poor and sick but it also became a centre for business and political activities.  Several clan associations set up their headquarters there; the Chinese Chamber of Commerce was conceived in this building, and its first office operated there until 1906 when it moved to its own premises.  In the early years of the twentieth century, when political tensions between China and Japanese high, Chinese loyalists held public meetings at Thong Chai to garner support for their motherland.

Thong Chai Medical Institution is now located in a 10-storey building in Chin Swee Road, carrying on the Thong Chai tradition much in the way of its predecessors.  They celebrated 150 years of operations in 2017.

The former Thong Chai Medical Institution was gazetted as a national monument on 6 July, 1973.  [Source:  Boden-Kloss]

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at Thong Chai Medical Institution to officiate swearing-in ceremony of the Institution’s Management Committee members on 26 March, 1963.




Favorite Teochew Heritage Food Stalls at Eu Tong Sen Street

With thanks to my blogger friend, Victor Yue, the “Chinatownboy”  who posted another blog about Thong Chai Medical Institution. He is also the creator of the Heritage Singapore Food group on Facebook.

He mentioned that the delicious food were found at the pushcart stalls located outside Thong Chai in the 1960s.




The juxtaposed photo of the then Thong Chai hawker stalls located at Eu Tong Sen Street (above) with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore and the present photo (below) at the courtesy of Mr Lam Chun See of the Good Morning Yesterday blog.


Most of the hawkers were Teochew who lived in the Eu Tong Sen Street, Merchant Road and Ellenborough Street.

My former secondary school classmate Steven Sim and his family lived in Merchant Road at the back of the Thong Chai hawker stall in 1962.   Whenever I visited him in the evening and passed the stalls to smell the aroma of mouth-watering food, it brought me a hunger pang.




Unlike the food stalls at another famous place for foodies at the former Orchard Car Park Glutton Square which were only opened in the evening,  the Thong Chai food stalls were opened in the day and night.   The stalls were very crowded during lunch time patronised by office workers around the Chulia Street and Raffles Place areas.

Pioneer generation Teochew foodie friends will never forget their favorite Teochew food stalls at Thong Chai.

The Present Thong Chai Medical Institution at Chin Swee Road, Singapore


Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution website here .