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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Apr 27, 2019

A village goes up in smoke

With the courtesy of to share an aged newspaper article in The Straits Times published on 14 January 2014.

In the second of a series about events that shock Singapore, Debra Ann Francisco looks at the 1961 Bukit Ho Swee fire which left four people dead and 15,000 homeless.

Debra Ann Francisco

May 15, 1961

The area of Bukit Ho Swee included the area bound by Kampong Tiong Bahru (known as Jalan Bukit Ho Swee today), Delta Road and Havelock Road.

The fire of Bukit Ho Swee was the biggest fire in the history of Singapore since World War II.

Also known as the Hari Raya Haji fire, the initial flames reportedly broke out at about 3.30pm among some squatter huts.

Strong winds quickly spread the fire across Tiong Bahru Road.  The flames were described by eyewitnesses as terrifying and fast-moving.  The flimsy attap and wooden huts were easily set ablaze and soon, even the five blocks of flats and shophouses close by were consumed by the fire.

Smoke filled the wooden homes, squatter huts and shops.  Kampung residents worked together, using hoses, buckets and any container that could hold water to douse the flames but, before long, they had to evacuate the area.

The residents tried to salvage whatever they could physically carry as they frantically evacuated the area.

The scene was one of utter chaos as screaming children and weeping women searched for their family members.

Workers returning home at 4.30pm were met by horrific clouds of smoke.  Stunned, they tried to find their loved ones in the fleeing horde.

Twenty-two fire engines raced to the scene to fight the flames.  Even the troops from the British Army and the Singapore Military Forces came to help the firefighters contain the blaze at Delta Circus.


The blaze across the 150-acre site left four people dead, more than 45 injured and 15,000 homeless.

Two oil mills, three timber yards and three motor workshops were among the countless businesses destroyed.

The flames were finally extinguished more than seven hours later.

Many people returned to the area in the next few days to discover that their homes were completely razed to the ground and precious belongings reduced to cinders and ash.


The public and the Government acted swiftly and provided relief to the victims of the fire.  Donations in cash and kind poured into the relief centres that the homeless were housed at.  These relief centres included four schools in the Kim Seng area.

By February 1962, 12,000 low-cost flats were constructed for the victims on the very same piece of land ravaged by the Bukit Ho Swee fire.

The fire prompted a shift of people into public housing built by the Housing Board.

Sources: ST, NLB Infopedia

Bukit Ho Swee fire victims queuing for breakfast at the Kim Seng relief centre.

Survivors putting up at the Kim Seng (West) School.

A massive salvage operation being conducted at the 150-acre Bukit Ho Swee fire site.  Under strict police and army supervision, groups of people were allowed into the ravaged area to dig for their belongings.


Apr 21, 2019

Ushering Singapore into the Jet Age

Construction of airport buildings began in mid-1936 when reclamation and consolidation of land were completed.  The new airport was officially declared open by the Governor of Singapore, Sir Shenton Tomas, on 12 June, 1937.  The air corridor to Kallang brought planes over the waterfront. 

In October, 1951, the BOAC Comet I became the first jetliner to land at Kallang, ushering Singapore into the jet age in the process.

Kallang Airport with decorations to celebrate the Queen's coronation in 1953.  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.

More related blog about the former Kallang Airport here .

The air hostesses add glamour to the Kallang Airport

Four of the six new hostesses who began learning their jobs at Kallang Airport on 4 July, 1955 took time off to pose for this Singapore Standard picture.

They have been selected to augment the staff at the new international airport which was opened on 26 August, 1955.

From left:  Misses Maggie Seow, Lina Chin, Katherine Tan, Eunice Lecomber.

According to Singapore Standard's report on 20 July, 1950, the Singapore Finance Committee has voted $115,000 for investigations into the suitability of developing Kallang Airport.

This follows the abandonment of the use of Tengah by civil aircraft jointly with the RAF which makes it necessary to provide a civil airport for Malaya capable of accepting modern commercial aircraft.

A prediction of a bright future for Kallang Airport as an important world-feeder airport for aircraft not exceeding 60,000 lbs. bearing weight was made by RAF.  The Kallang Airport is excellent, a first-class aerodrome for planes of the Dakota type, and played an important role in the city's progress and prominence in the air-world. 

PWD experts have reported that the Kallang runway is generally stronger than was previously thought possible and will be safe for fully-loaded Constellations.

The QANTAS ground organisation's new home in the terminal building at Kallang would become the colony's only airport and much busier than has ever been.

The move follows exhaustive tests of the runway at Kallang.  Experts of the Public Works Department have reported that the strengthened runway is safe for the heaviest tyopes of Constellations such as those operated on BOAC-QANTAS-Kangaroo route.

Paya Lebar Airport

The Door to Singapore

Source:  The Straits Times, 21 August 1955.

A fanfare of trumpets and the hoisting of 16 flags signalled the opening of Singapore's multi-million dollar Paya Lebar airport on 20 August 1955 by the Colonial Secretary, Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd.

The historic event, watched by more than 10,000 people was preceded by: a world record short flight by a Super-Constellation - two minutes from Kallang to Paya Lebar.

Hundred of people skipped going to the races and went to Paya Lebar hours before the $37 million airport was actually opened.

For them there was a full and interesting programme, which included a display of an RAF helicopter and Canberra bomber.  There was also an exhibition of heavy machinery used in the building at the airport site.  The Royal Singapore Flying Club put on an aeronautical display.

But the most interested and surprised spectators were 60 squatters.  For them, a miracle had happened.  Many of them born at Paya Lebar had had their farms on the airport site.  They were displaced when work on the site began.

Mr Lennox-Boyd spoke of the rapid manner in which Singapore had advanced in air travel.

He said: "When Sir Stamford Raffles first came here, it took three months to come from Britain.  Now ministers in the United Kingdom and Singapore can descend on one another with alarming rapidity.

Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's decision to relocate Paya Lebar Airport

Economic development is often linked with infrastructure development, which means that airports are expected to further the development of the economies of the surrounding regions. Transportation in general affects the development of cities, with air travel having a large stake in both short- and long-distance transportation.  But the economic value created by the industry is more than that. The principal benefits are created for the customer, the passenger or shipper using the air transport service.

In addition, the connections created between cities and markets represent an important infrastructure asset that generates benefits through enabling foreign direct investment, business clusters, specialisation and other spill-over impacts on an economy’s productive capacity. As a whole, the air transport industry has a substantial economic impact, both through its own activities and as an enabler of other industries.

By facilitating tourism and trade, airports and air travel generate economic growth, provide jobs, increase revenues from taxes, and foster the conservation of protected areas. The air transport network facilitates the delivery of emergency and humanitarian aid relief anywhere in the world, and ensures the swift delivery of medical supplies and organs for transplantation.

With the rapid increase of air travellers to Singapore in the 1970s, the runways for Paya Lebar airport was not appropriate for expansion to cater to the arrival of more passengers and cargo in the future.

With the courtesy of the following newspaper articles of below:

A $2b decision that paid off (The Straits Times, 20 August 1965)

Moving the airport from Paya Lebar to Changi took some guts.

It was a bold decision which turned out to be right, said Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Because Singapore Airlines was doing well and the tourists were coming in, the government decided in 1975 to take a gamble.

It scrapped Paya Lebar Airport.  That meant writing off $600 million worth of investment.

The choice was either to build a second runway in Paya Lebar over Sungei Serangoon or move to Changi.

There was no guarantee that the clay under Sungei Serangoon would not sink.  Expansion at Paya Lebar Airport also meant that aircraft would be flying over the city areas.

"We wrote off that $600 million and decided on a $2 billion investment in Changi.  A bold decision, right, of course ..."

MM: Changi Airport must keep growing (The Straits Times, 2 July 2006)

By Ann Chia, Karamjit Kaur

External consultants wanted Paya Lebar expanded.  The Cabinet reluctantly agreed.  Yet Changi Airport was built and went on to garner 250 awards and accolades over its 25-year history.

The man who green-lighted the proposal to relocate the airport from Paya Lebar to Changi revealed last night how this Singapore icon came to be built.

But more important than its history, he said, is the need for it to keep growing.

Said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew:  "The competition for Changi's hub position has grown keener with newer, bigger airports around."

Cost pressures in the form of new aircraft technology and low-cost carriers add to competitive stresses, he warned.

Changi has never been just an airport, but an international gateway introducing visitors to the way Singapore works.

"Changi international recognition is a valuable and visible extension of Singapore's reputation for excellence, for reliability and for dependability," he said.

The Government, for its part, will continue to liberalise its air-service agreements with China, India and Asean nations to boost the growth of local and foreign carriers at Changi.

He applauded the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore for responding to challenges in the aviation sector, noting that it had taken steps last year to keep costs competitive while improving efficiency and service levels.

With him at a dinner last night to celebrate the airport's 25th anniversary at Swissotel The Stamford were some of the 3,500 people who have been at the airport since day one.  They heard him tell the story of the airport's birth.

The initial plan was to expand Paya Lebar.  But Mr Lee disagreed.  Its expansion would be limited by its proximity to the city centre, he said, and the Serangoon River would have to be filled in to accommodate a second runway.  In addition, planes flying over the populated area would add to the noise and air pollution.

Moving to the former British airbase at Changi would mean aircraft approaching the island over the water, he argued.

But external advisers said moving the airport would be costly, especially since $800 million had already been poured into Paya Lebar.

The Cabinet reluctantly agreed to expand Paya Lebar.

But the plan was complicated by the 1973 oil crisis, which led to fewer planes landing at Paya Lebar and made the need for a second runway less pressing.

Taking the opportunity to reconsider the decision, Mr Lee asked then-chairman of the Port of Singapore Authority Howe Yoon Chong to head a team to look into the implication of a move to Changi instead.

The anwer?  Changi could be ready by 1981, at a cost of some $1.5 billion.

"I believed that in the long term, this would be the better option," said Mr Lee.

In 1975, war broke out in Vietnam and he had to decide quickly whether the airport should stick to the 1981 deadline.  He cabled acting prime minister Goh Keng Swee from Washington and told him to proceed as planned.

Changi Airport was ready in July 1981.  In its first year, it handled eight million passengers and 200,000 tonnes of cargo.  Today, it handles four times as many passengers and nine times as much cargo.

Please watch the Changi Airport Terminal 1 video debut 38 years ago.


Apr 16, 2019

Changi Airport Jewel: Not just another mall

Construction of Changi Airport Terminal 1 passenger terminal building in 1978.
Source:  National Archives of Singapore

The open-air carpark at Changi Airport Terminal 1 in 1980s.

Changi Airport Jewel:  Not just another mall

Complex is meant to be the iconic centrepiece for Singapore air hub.

Article by Karamjit Kaur in The Straits Times on 6 December, 2014,

What started as an urgent but mundane need to expand Terminal 1 will now end in a Jewel - Changi Airport's hoped-for iconic centrepiece to wow travellers and enhance the air hub's attractiveness when completed by 2018.

Merely to expand the terminal would have been a wasted opportunity, said the Chief Executive Officer of Changi Airport Group, Mr Lee Seow Hiang, at the ground-breaking for the retail cum airport complex.

"To address the capacity bottle-neck, we could have just pushed out T1 and built a multi-storey carpark over it.  But we felt we could do so much more.  We had a chance, for the first time, to hub the three terminals together."

And so the decision was made to raze T1's open-air carpark and construct in it's place a five-storey high complex with five basement levels which would link all three passenger terminals.

T1 would also be upgraded and expanded in the $1.7 billion project.

Explaining at length, for the first time, the rationale and thinking behind the project, Mr Lee, who is also chairman of Jewel Changi Airport Development, a joint venture beween Changi Airport Group and CapitaMalls Asia, admitted questions had been asked about the project.

Was this a vanity showpiece?  In the light of manpower constraints in Singapore, why build another retail mall?  Was the airport getting distracted from its core business of aviation?

"This question of purpose is not a trivial one," he said, stressing that the first driving force behind the project was the growing capacity constraints at T1.

Having decided that the terminal must expand and more should be done with the piece of land, the decision was made to build a complex with close to 70 percent of the total gross floor area of about 134,000 sq m set aside for retail with about 300 shops.

Yes, Singapore has about 150 malls but many serve local communities with only a handful that are strong enough to capture the attention of tourists, Mr Lee said.

Jewel, which will be funded and operated by the new joint venture firm with CapitaMalls Asia, plans to be different, he said, thought the retail mix has not been finalised.

Throwing his weight behind the project, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who was the chief guest at yesterday's event, said: "We are operating in a dynamic and increasingly competitive environment.
Passengers today are spoilt for choice as air hubs around the world actively pursue new ways to boost their appeal as destinations and as transit points."

Jetstar Asia's Chief Executive Officer Bara Pasupathi agreed, noting the development of Jewel would "better serve the sophisticated taste of travellers in the region".

Renowned architect Moshe Safdie, 76, the man behind Marina Bay Sands who is leading the design team for Jewel, has big dreams for the project.

Mr Safdie, who also attended the ground-breaking, said: "I would like to think that in four years, people outside Singapore will say to their friends, 'When you go to Singapore and land at Changi, don't dare to leave the airport before you visit Jewel'.  Or better still, perhaps say 'You must fly to Singapore or travel to Singapore because you've got to see that Jewel."

Changi Airport’s new T1 carpark, situated within Jewel Changi Airport (Jewel), will open on 20 November 2018. The carpark is part of the ongoing T1 expansion works, which commenced in March 2015 in conjunction with the Jewel development.

The latest attraction at the Jewel Changi Airport to watch the videos here  and here .

At 135,700 sqm in size, Jewel offers a range of offerings including airport facilities, indoor gardens and leisure attractions, retail and dining offerings as well as a hotel, all under one roof.

Please watch The Making of Jewel Changi Airport here .

Creating a mythical garden was the inspiration of the world famous architect Moshe Safdie.
Memories of Changi Airport Terminal 1

Kids love to watch real aeroplanes (not toy ones) at the waving gallery of Singapore's Changi Airport in 1986 as the aeroplanes take-off and landing at the airport runways.

It was fun and exciting to watch these aeroplanes so small from a distance in the sky and how they become bigger when landed at the airport.

Our airport is among the busiest in the world with every few minutes for aeroplanes to arrive and depart to serve the international passengers.  It has consistently been rated the world's preferred airport by frequent travellers and readers of influential and popular publications.

The airport was my kids' favorite place for weekend outings ..... to watch the aeroplanes, roving around the spacious places in airconditioned comfort, funstuff like riding on a trishaw, foodies for kids and of course, ice-cream at Swensons :)

Travelling in a trishaw is fun for children to remember their childhood memories. 

The 2 photos taken at Changi Airport Terminal 1 in the 1980s of a trishaw, displayed by the Singapore Promotion Board which was a favorite among kids for taking the photos.

A&W All American Food in Singapore

The 'Great Root Bear' is the popular mascot for A & W Root Beer.  It was first used in 1974 Canadian A & W, and was adopted by the American chain, the Great Root Bear's role as mascot.  In the above photos, my 2-year-old daughter was nervous when carried by the Great Root Bear in 1982.

The taste of nostalgia lures snaking queues of A&W fans to Jewel Changi Airport. 

A&W - which stands for Allen and Wright - made its debut in Singapore in 1966 at Dunearn Road, and the first A&W drive-through opened in 1970 at Bukit Timah Road.

The fast-food joint's hamburgers, hot dogs and root beer soon became popular among Singaporeans and it is believed its success helped pave the way for other fast-food establishments to set up shop in Singapore, including McDonald's (1979), Kentucky Fried Chicken (1977) and Burger King (1982)/

However, by 2003, A&W faced stiff competition from its competitors and shuttered its remaining outlets.

With the opening of Jewel Changi Airport, however, the well-loved chain is back with an 80-seater outlet, which will be open 24-hours a day.


Apr 7, 2019

Fast to Cook, Good to Eat

The commentary in Channel News Asia on "How instant noodles became symbol of workaholics", published on 6 April, 2019 here  inspired me to post on this blog to share.

Seventy years ago when I was born in Bukit Ho Swee kampong, there was no instant food, no instant milk powder or fast food to make me grow up fast.

Mothers during that era would have to patiently take time to prepare the condensed milk to feed the babies.  Because my mother did not breast-feed me as a baby, I grew up on "Lifeguard" condensed milk whenever I was hungry.

Children would be fed porridge, not instant noodles to save time.

More Mee for Me

I found an article in the Straits Times on 5 March 1997 with the headline "S'poreans slurping instant noodles by the millions" to share on this blog:

Student Chin Shou King, 17, loves it.

"I know eating too much to it is not very good for my health and the soup base can be salty," he said.  Still, he slurps at least a packet of instant noodles a week.  He is not the only one.

Singaporeans are fans of instant mee, gobbling up almost 6 million kg of this three-minute meal a year, worth more than $30 million, according to Mr Gareth Ellis, director of retail services of Survey Research Singapore (SRS).

Countries elsewhere consume more.  Manufacturer Nissin has estimated that China consumed 12 billion packages of instant noodle in 1995, Indonesia 6 billion, Japan 5.2 billion, South Korea 3.55 billion, the United States 2 billion and Thailand 1.5 billion packages.

In the past, the noodles were available with only one flavour, chicken, but today there are many varieties such as abalone, sesame, tom yam, Sichuan, mee poh sambal and even Xiamen chicken.
Instant noodles today come in packets and Styrofoam cups or bowls.  The market for cup noodles appears to be growing at a faster rate than that of the packet version, no doubt because of its convenience - just peel the cover, add the freeze-dried ingredients and pour boiling water.

With the advent of cup noodles, people have been seen buying a few cartons to store in their office drawers.  "If they do not go out for lunch, they can easily eat them in the office by adding hot water."

Students are big eaters of instant mee.  Said Aw Shiao Yin, 19 "When I'm busy, instant noodles comes in handy as a quick meal."

But some parents feel that with so much flavouring in the soup base, children should steer clear of them.  Said housewife Liu Ah Siew, 39, who has three daughters:  "I wouldn't want my children to eat too much."

Top 10 best instant noodles, courtesy of Food King Singapore on YouTube here .

Instant noodles for astronauts

In an AFP article in 2002, Japanese snack noodles hope to dump their junk food status and soar to the higher gastronomical rank of space cuisine.

Nissin Food Products Company said it would work with the National Space Development Agency of Japan (Nasda) to develop instant ramen noodles for astronauts participate at the International Space Station project.

"It has been the wish of the founder of our company, who invented instant ramen noodles some 44 years ago, to develop space food instant ramen," said Mr Shinichi Kuwata, a spokesman for Nissin, best known for its cup noodles.

Nasda needed nutritious, tasty and familiar food for Japanese astronauts as the space station project would require them to stay in space for several months at a time.

"Japanese astronauts who have already been to space have told us they wanted to eat ramen noodles.  With Nissin proposing to develop space food ramen, we decided to conduct a feasibility study for noodle eating in space."
Astronauts must be able to consume the noodles without slopping strands or spilling drops of soup on their clothes or equipment.

People eat noodles by picking up strands with chopsticks and sucking them into the mouth from the cups of soup.  "But we cannot do that in space because the soup might spill and damage the equipment.  We have a prototype for the space instant noodles, but we still have a lot to do to develop appropriate packages.   The proposed space noodles must also pass taste tests by astronauts from other participating countries, such as the United States and Russia.

Space Ram, a special instant noodle product developed for Japanese Astronaut Soichi Noguchi. The noodle broth is thicker than normal to stop the noodles floating off in zero gravity.The Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda, near the Japanese city of Osaka, has welcomed some 2 million visitors over the years. .

Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama

Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama to capture story behind one of the world's greatest inventions.

Although it has been more than half a century since instant noodles were first created in Japan, the Japanese are still getting their chopsticks out for what is arguably one of the world's greatest inventions.

New varieties hit store shelves every month.

And in the ultimate show of the importance of instant noodles to Japanese culture, the Cup Noodle Museum opened in Yokohama, south-west of Tokyo, paying tribute to the man behind it all.

In 1958, the late Mr Momofuku Ando, a Taiwanese-Japanese businessman, invented instant noodles amid a campaign by the government to get the Japanese to consume more wheat sent by the United States, to alleviate the post-war food shortage.

In 1971, Mr Ando came up with yet another idea - the packaging of instant noodles in disposable polystyrene containers, which have become a particular favorite with people looking for a convenient meal.

The inspiration came during a trip to the US, where he watched a supermarket worker break up a packet of instant noodles into a cup and pour hot water over it.

The result was Cup Noodles, now a registered trademark of Nissin Foods, the company he founded.  By making instant noodles even more instant, its popularity has been boosted further - beyond the Earth, even.

In 2005, Mr Ando developed a space-friendly version that allowed astronauts to tuck into a bowl of noodles with a fork instead of sucking them through a tube , as they do with other types of space foods.

All the milestones are captured in the Cup Noodle Museum, which not only features the history of the ubiquitous product, but also invite visitors to get a literal taste of Mr Ando's invention.

Here, children and their parents can have a go at making their own instant noodles from flour, customising them with their choices of toppings and even designs for the disposable polystyrene cups.  Visitors can also dine on noodle dishes from around the world, from Vietnamese Pho to Malaysian Laksa.

Too much attention on a simple cup of noodles?  Hardly.

Mr Ando's creation has not only been described as the most important Japanese food development of the century, but it has also conquered the entire planet.

Every year, some 95 billion servings are produced round the world - 13 for every person - and the number is still growing.

The average Japanese eats 41 packets a year, or one every nine days.  Put together, that's a 5.25 billion servings eaten annually in this country.

Company worker Jun Kaneko is one of those people who cannot go without it for long.  "In the summer, I often eat instant fried noodles.  But in the winter, I want to warm up my body, so I eat instant kitsune (fried beancurd skin) udon in soup," he says.

The range of instant noodles that Mr Kaneko can choose from reflects how far the product has come.

In 1958, Mr Ando started out with one flavour - Chicken Ramen - which is still a perennial favorite.

The Cup Noodle Museum showcases the more than 3,000 varieties produced over the years in Japan alone.

In 1976, Nissin came up with instant versions of traditional noodles, such as the Donbei series of instant soba and udon, with slight variations catering to the local taste buds of different regions.

That means instant noodle fans can turn trips across Japan into a culinary exercise.

Musician M. Tomikawa says:  "Whenever I go on tour around the country, I always look forward to eating the local instant noodles to see what's different.

"On my last trip to Kyushu, the local Donbei noodles turned out to be a great surprise."

Meanwhile, hot on the heels of the huge ramen boom in recent years, there has been a rush to create new varieties of instant noodles that faithfully mimic popular regional ramen flavors.

Now, ramen fans can choose from the soya sauce and miso (bean paste) flavors common in northern Japan to pork booth varieties preferred in the south.

And for those who still think instant noodles is just snack, think again.

A restaurant in Tokyo's Nakano ward serves nothing but instant noodles, and offers a menu that includes foreign varieties.  Here, you can choose from no fewer that 200 varieties of instant noodles, from the well-known Kitakata of north-eastern Japan to even fiery hot noodles from South Korea.

And, of course, you won't have to wait long for your meal, which comes with toppings such as vegetables, meat and a soft-boiled egg.