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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

May 25, 2019

Tiong Bahru - 'Hollywood of Singapore'

The building at the junction of Kim Pong Road and Tiong Bahru Road, same location at different times (photos above & below).

Till the mid-1950s the streets were still lit by pre-war gaslights, most of which failed frequently because the pipes had been damaged by bombing.

How much do I know about Tiong Bahru on this blog .

There are many historical information and nostalgic stuff to learn from Tiong Bahru where I used to roam during my childhood in the 1950s. I was then staying at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee after the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961.

With the help of the resources and research at NewspaperSG, I discovered an old newspaper published 35 years ago, I learnt that Tiong Bahru was once known as the "Hollywood of Singapore".

"Tiong Bahru - From slum to fashion hub of the 50s" by Jackie Sam, staff writer of Singapore Monitor on 9 September, 1984.

To young Singaporeans the pig farms off Ponggol are out of sight, even if the smell is not.  To an older generation, pig farms used to be right in town.

In Tiong Bahru which is one of these rare Chinese-Malay names meaning "New Centre."

The older Singaporeans say tiong was originally the Hokkien Huay Kuan cemetery in the neighbourhood.  The homonym tiong meaning "centre" was adopted after the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) estate was built in the late 1930s.  It wasn't nice to call the new estate "New Cemetery."

Tiong for cemetery was in common usage amongst the peranakans (Straits-born Chinese) who settled on the fringe of the General Hospital towards the end of the 19th century.  A big chunk of land was owned by the merchant brothers, Sit Wah and Sit Pai: Chinese sources say part of the district was named after Sit Pai which the colonials corrupted to Sepoy.  English sources say it is derived from the Sepoy Lines where the Indian sepoys lived in quarters.

It was Sit Wah who built the row of two-storey terraced houses on Eng Hoon Street which leads to the hospital.  The houses still looking in good shape, were the only brick houses there until 1937.

It was then alongside the track running through villages, the cemetery and vegetable gardens into the interior.  Along this track which is now Outram Road-Tiong Bahru Road, farmers carried their produce in the pre-dawn hours for sale in town.

Sit Wah had Eng Hoon Street covered with granite chips.  As a result the rickshaw pullers refused to take passengers across this stretch of road.  Lee Boon Eng, 67, a retired clerk, gleefully recalls:

"Those babas were rich.  They would have nothing to do with the poor farmers.  Very proud people.  So some people found satisfaction in watching them try to bully the rickshaw pullers into going up Eng Hoon Street and not succeeding.  Big arguments all the time.  Very funny to watch.

"But sometimes a particularly timid rickshaw puller would give way and then he would have to bend his legs and waddle slowly over the sharp rocks, barefooted.  Poor fellow."

The rickshaw pullers didn't go into what is now Tiong Bahru, either.  It was a small hill then and no rickshaw could be pulled up Or Chye Hng the old Hokkien name for Tiong Bahru.

The name means "yam garden" from the tuber grown there in large quantities to feed pigs here.  And bean curd manufacturing.  The two always went together because the jacket of the soya bean boiled with chopped yam leaves made good pig feed.  Those days that was all the pigs had," Mr Lee says.

Huts dotted the undulating land.  All the farmers were Hokkien, living in relative peace save for the occasional secret society battles they had to take part in.  But these battles were fought elsewhere.'

"It was only after the war that young gangsters fought all over the place.  In those days secret society people were rather like gentlemen.  Whenever there was friction, reports would be made to solve them.  If it couldn't be settled, one side would say:  "Right, we meet at such and such a place, at such and such a time."  That was all.  And the battle ground would always be neutral territory away from each other's home ground.  Of course, also as far away as possible from the authorities.

"Each side would not know how many men his opponent would muster.  Or what weapons they would bring along.  Too bad if one side miscalculates,  So, before the war, it was very peaceful in Or Chye Heng"  Mr Lee said.

The population of Tiong Bahru grew rapidly with the great influx of Chinese in the early years of the century.  With many women now coming in, a lot of them began to settle in Singapore permanently.  The town was so overcrowded the colonial government decided new housing would have to be provided.

In 1927 the SIT, forerunner of the Housing and Development Board, was established.  But housing was only one of several functions and not the most important.  Its resources were also limited and spent mainly on creating backlanes and reconstructing old shophouses.

It only started building single storey artisan's quarters at Balestier in 1932.  But in 1936 it cleared Tiong Bahru for Singapore's first public housing estate.  The SIT opted for flats completing 748 units in four storey blocks with 33 shops and upper-floor living quarters.

The first blocks were bounded by the extended Eng Hoon Street, Seng Poh Road, Eu Chin Street and Tiong Poh Road.  This was, and remains, Tiong Bahru's centre.  There used to be a high pillar, surmounted by a clock, on Guan Chuan Street where the road divider now ends.  It was pulled down after the war.

All the new residents were wealthy men from elsewhere, moving in just before war broke out.

Like all other public buildings, these flats and shophouses were given camouflage colours in 1940.  Underneath the staircases the SIT also built bomb shelters for the residents, each capable of accommodating six or seven people, seated.

Along some of the five-foot ways double-plank walls, filled with sand, were raised to provide additional shelters.  In the open grounds (now car parks), U-shaped concrete structures without roofs provided extra shelters.

But when the Japanese began their drive down the Malayan peninsula, thousands of refugees went ahead of them, streaming across the causeway into Singapore - and many made straight for the much-publicised flats of Tiong Bahru.

The bombs of World War Two did little damage and flats could withstand quite a bit of bombing.  Several felon these flats, most making large holes in the roof and two floors down.  These were the first flats for local people.

So many refugees crowded in here that the flats looked like a huge, permanent air-raid shelter.  It was described then as an "open city."  And when the Japanese bombers were overhead, more people crammed into the shelters than expected.

The estate's garages, now occupied by a restaurant and the community centre, were chock-a-block with people and their meagre belongs.  Even the pillboxes in Chay Yan Street and Moh Guan Terrace were crammed with refugees.

When the bombs were not falling women worked in make-shift kitchens which were 1.5m in height, in the streets and playgrounds.

With the occupation, the refugees returned to Malaya, but some stayed, swelling the squatter colonies around the estate.

Then came the sook ching.  Purification through purge.  All the residents were ordered to a large piece of vacant land on which the Tiong Bahru Market now stands.  Unlike other concentration areas, it was not properly blocked off and there were not many Japanese guards around.

"The Japanese just roped off a large square.  At the time I thought it looked exactly like Sports Day at school.  I think Tiong Bahru was very lucky, very few people taken away to be shot.

"When I got there a few hundred people were already inside.  But no guards.  So we could leave at any time.  That evening I went home.  Next morning I went back.  Most of us didn't wnt to offend the new conquerers.  There were all the stories of atrocities from China.

"We were told the Japanese needed labour to clear away all the rubble in the city.  If that was all right.  Nobody knew what was happening elsewhere on the island, but everybody was looking forward to resuming normal life.

"Next morning a captain came along, accompanied by a few local detective.  He gave us a lecture.  Singapore is now 'Shonan,' he said.  All Singapore and all private properties now belonged to Japan.  You people have now to listen to the Japanese.  That's his lecture.

"Then we were all categorised.  Businessmen one side, students another side, labourers another group, and so on.  Some groups, like the businessmen went into lorries.  Most of us thought:  Ah, now the Japanese want to make them labourers, make the eat humble pie.  Nobody thought they would disappear for good.

"I said I was a labourer.  Then we had to file past a table where the detectives were seated.  Got stamped on the arm and went home quickly.

"Next morning, the detectives were around again, telling everybody to report to Tanjong Pagar Police Station.  Everybody in Tiong Bahru went.  We got there by about 4.30 p.m., gathering on the vacant land beside the station.  Used to be know as Trafalgar Street.

"Another captain gave us a very long lecture.  All about Dai Nippon, great country, blah, blah, blah.  Everything in Singapore now belonged to them.  We must now be loyal to the emperor.  Lots of threats.  We would be executed if we didn't obey.  Went on till 8 pm.  Then we were told to go home.  Nobody taken away.  In all these years here, from childhood till now, I think that was the biggest event in Tiong Bahru.

"I refused to do any work.  Many people didn't work.  But later the Japanese ordered everyone to get a job or else be conscripted for labour, so I went to a godown around the corner to work as a payroll clerk for a Japanese factory making raincoats out or latex and old newspapers," Lee says.

By then all the open spaces of Tiong Bahru were overgrown with tapioca.  The Japanese started a "grow more food" campaign.  Most people took the easy way out and grew tapioca.

British prisoners-of-war were made to clear the nightsoil and refuse of Tiong Bahru.  "People came out to outwit the Japanese whenever the PoWs came by.  The guard always walked ahead.  Behind him the residents would push bread, yue cha kway and cigarettes into the hands or pockets of these PoWs.  Anyone who got caught would be beaten up.  Still, every day residents did it,"  Lee recalls.

The flats came under the jurisdiction of the Custodian of Enemy Properties and looked after by the old staff of the SIT.

"The problems during the Occupation were the same as pre-war and immediately after the war: illegal brothels and gambling dens," says one of the men who had to look after the place.

It took a few years after the war before the SIT refurbished them, removing the camouflage colours and repairing the bomb damage.  Then it quickly acquired what one writer called "its most striking feature: smugness."  Behind this description was a touch of envy.  There were so many homeless, so many others crammed into dilapidated shophouses that many were jealous of those living in these flats.

By 1954 there were 2,000 units and more shophouses.  This completed the Tiong Bahru "district" bounded by Tiong Bahru Road, Kim Tian Road, Jalan Bukit Merah and the Singapore General Hospital.

"Looking at it now it is hard to believe that Tiong Bahru was known as the Hollywood of Singapore and a fashionable corner of the island," says Monitor journalist Sit Yin Fong for whom Tiong Bahru was an important part of his newspaper "beat."  High-rise living was then regarded as an American lifestyle and that was half the explanation for calling it "Hollywood."

The other part of the explanantion was the "avant garde" lifestyle of many residents.  They were mainly cabaret girls and mistresses of rich towkays.  The women went about in the latest western styles and cheongsams with daring thigh-high slits.


"Mahjong day and night.  The cabaret girls had nothing to do in the day so mahjong was very popular," says Sit.

Tiong Bahru acquired its reputation soon after its completion.  Its proximity to the Great World Cabaret and the red-light district of Keong Siak Road had to do with this as well.

But these flats were meant for the poor.  "A lot of these tenants just rented out rooms or even the whole flat to professional men or rich towkays who kept their mistresses there.

"For these prominent people it was an ideal hideaway.  You could go there by taxi and slip quickly into the dark staircases.  Some of them had as many as three or four mistresses tucked away in the estate.

"Every night there were many taxis coming in, dropping off people.  And there was a big coffee shop opposite the market that was a meeting place for young Romes.  Teddy boys, they were called.<

"The gangsters also met met at this coffee shop for talks and negotiations.  No fighting.

"The terrors of the place were really the housing inspectors.  They were real kings.  In those days the SIT employed inspectors to see that residents were bona fide ones.  Lots of bribery.  Many people who rented rooms there passed themselves off as visiting relatives or friends," Sit recalls.

In the 1960s, as low-cost housing was carried out on a colossal scale, the problem began to ease.  The squatters moved out; the surrounding areas developed.  A no-nonsense application of the anti-secret society Temporary Law Provisions put a lot of the gangster leaders behind bars; crimes dwindled.  The outdoor hawkers moved into new centres elsewhere.

In 1968 the flats were sold to residents.  By that time Tiong Bahru had acquired a middle-class sobriety.  But it continues to stand out architecturally and socially.  The surrounding housing estates are built much higher and their occupants less sophisticated.

The market now serves mainly residents.  But its foodstalls draw large numbers of nurses every morning, and office workers at lunchtime.

Photo of Gan Family outside Sit Wah Road on 1945

Archived photos of Tiong Bahru from National Archives of Singapore

<Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visit to Sepoy Line & Tiong Bahru

PM Lee Kuan Yew viewing exhibits after opeing $800,000 Tiong Bahru People's Auditorium at Seng Poh Road.  Looking on are Member of Parliament for Tiong Bahru Chng Jit Koon (second from right) and other officials on 25 August 1979.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew Visit to Ananda Metyarama Temple at Jalan Bukit Merah

May 18, 2019

The Queen's Coronation Day

Queen Elizabeth II of United Kingdom

On 6 February 1952, Princess Elizabeth succeeded to the throne on the untimely death of her father, King George VI.

Her Coronation in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 represented a day of historic pomp and ritual for the dignitaries at the ceremony, and the excitement of colourful pageantry and national rejoicing for the crowds who lined the streets of London in the rain to see their new sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabet II.

[Source:  Pitkin Pictorial record of this historic event, a poignant and personal account seen through the eyes of the late Beverley Nichols.]

The start of the great day

They don't care if it rains, how chill the wind blows - or even if it snows!  They've been there all night.  More than 130,000 camped out on the pavements along the route of the procession for the whole night before Coronation Day.  A scene in Northumberland Avenue.

You can't move an inch, even seven or eight hours before the procession arrives.  An early morning picture in Trafalgar Square (photo above).

The Queen's Progress to the ancient Abbey is under way.  Her Majesty's guardsmen, airmen and sailors line the route.

A coronation day smile from the Queen

"How happy the Queen looks!"  That was what her people were saying throughout this historic day as they cheered her on her triumphal Coronation drive.  Beside her the Duke of Edinburgh wears the full dress uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet.

H.M. Queen Elizabeth II is crowned

"O God ... bless this Crown, and so sanctify thy servant Elizabeth ... that she may be filled by thine abundant grace with all princely virtue. "
The Archbishop takes up St. Edward's Crown and places it upon the Queen's head.  Queen Elizabeth II is crowned.  In her right hand is the Sceptre with the Cross, ensign of power and justice, and in her left the Rod with the Dove, symbol of equity and mercy.

The Balcony Scene

The spectacle witnessed by the vast crowds that massed in front of the Palace after the Queen's return.  Between the Queen and her husband stand their children, the Duke of Cornwall and Princess Anne.  Prince Charles wears his first medal - the Silver Coronation medal.  There too, are the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.  

Prince Charles points excitedly while the Queen and the whole of the balcony party look up.

Here comes the RAF!  The airman-Duke was the first to detect the whine of the jet engine.  This was the RAF's Coronation salute to the Queen.  168 aircraft took part but they had to use open formation since bad weather made it too risky to fly wing-tip to wing-tip.

Her Majesty's Coronation Speech

Below is the text of the Queen's speech, which was broadcast at 9 p.m. on her Coronation Day, 2nd June, 1953.

When I spoke to you last, at Christmas, I asked you all whatever your religion, to pray for me on the Day of my Coronation.  To pray that God would give me wisdom and strength to carry out the promises that I should then be making.  Throughout this memorable day I have been uplifted and sustained by the knowledge that your thoughts and prayers were with me.

I have been aware all the time that my peoples spread far and wide throughout every Continent and Ocean in the world were united to support me in the task to which I have now been dedicated with such solemnity.

Many thousands of you came to London from all parts of the Commonwealth and Empire to join in the Ceremony, but I have been conscious, too, of the millions of others who have shared in it by means of wireless or television in their homes.  All of you, near, or far, have been united in one purpose.  It is hard for me to find words in which to tell you of the strength which this knowledge has given me.

The Ceremonies you have seen today are ancient and some of their origins are veiled in the mysteries of the past, but their spirit and their meaning shine through the Ages, never, perhaps, more brightly than now.  I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine.  Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.

In this resolve, I have my husband to support me.  He shares all my ideals and all my affection for you.  Then, although my experience is so short and my task so new, I have in my parents and grand-parents an example which I can follow with certainty, and with confidence.  There is also this.  I have behind me not only the splendid traditions and the annals of more than a thousand years, but the living strength and majesty of the Commonwealth and Empire.  Of societies old and new, of lands and races different in history and origins, but all by God's Will united in spirit and in aim.

Therefore, I am sure that this, my Coronation, is not the symbol of a power and a splendour that are gone, but a declaration of our hopes for the future and for the years I may, by God's grace and mercy be given to reign and serve you as your Queen.

I have been speaking of the vast regions and varied peoples to whom I owe my duty, but there has also sprung from our island home a theme of social and political thought which constitutes our message to the world and through the changing generations has found acceptance both within and far beyond my realms.  Parliamentary institutions, with their free speech and respect for the rights of minorities, and the inspiration of a broad tolerance in thought and its expression.  All this we conceive to be a precious part of our way of life and outlook.

During recent centuries this message has been sustained and invigorated by the immense contribution in language, literature and action of the nations of our Commonwealth overseas.  It gives expression as I pray it always will, to living principles as sacred to the Crown and monarchy as to its many Parliaments and Peoples.

I ask you now to cherish them and practise them too, then we can go forward together in peace, seeking justice and freedom for all men.

As this day draws to its close, I know that my abiding memory of it will be not only the solemnity and beauty of the Ceremony but the inspiration of your loyalty and affection.

I thank you all from a full heart.

God bless you all.

(Above): The picture of the day.  Thousands saw the Queen like this.  Many others will also treasure this human photograph of the radiant Sovereign, so obviously happy as she rides triumphantly "home" to Buckingham Palace.
(Below):  Family group at Buckingham Palace.  Prince Charles looks smart in his long white trousers, Princess Anne pretty in her white frock.

Celebration of Queen Elizabeth II Coronation in Singapore

The Coronation celebrations in Singapore and the Federation was among the finest in the Commonwealth.  In every kampong and new village, in every town and in the City of Singapore, people were getting together to make this the most memorable occasion in a generation.

Throughout the country, buildings have been decorated with lights and bunting and flags.  Arches have sprung up on all the main roads and at the entrance to every small town.

Painted crowns have been erected and giant signs bearing the words, "Long May She Reign" and "God Save The Queen" bear eloquent testimony to the loyalty which her subjects bear to the new Queen, Elizabeth II.

Hundreds of processions and parades were held on Coronation Day and throughout the weeks.  There was pomp and pageantry and a general rejoicing.

May 10, 2019

No Place Like Home in Singapore

What do the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Marina Bay and Tiong Bahru Market have in common?  They are some of the favourite spots of 12 well-known Singaporeans as shared with BT.  This National Day, let's celebrate the special corners that we hold dear.

[Source: Business Times, 9 August 2013, Page 32/33]

This photo of the only diamond shaped flat in Singapore (Block 63 to 66 Yung Kuang Road) is featured in Soh's new book on disappearing landscapes.  PHOTO: DARREN SOH

Darren Soh, 37
Award-winning photographer whose new photography book looks at Singapore's disappearing landscapes.

"In the past 10 years, I've been taking thousands of photos of old places and spaces that are deemed too banal or insignificant to be conserved by the government.  They include ageing flats, old playgrounds, Big Splash, and the currently demolished Queenstown cinema.

Many of these places were built in the 1960s and 1970s.  And because they have no so-called 'colonial' or 'historical' characteristics, they are deemed not worthy of being conserved.  But the truth is that, for a lot of Singaporeans, they are reminders of who we are and where we come from - not just potential locations for new condos or malls.

One of the places that strike me as strange and wonderful is this diamond-shaped block of flats.  Block 63 to 66, on Yung Kuang Road.  Built in the 1960s and 1970s, it looks like a quirk of urban planning because it consists of four blocks, each a massive 21-storeys high, facing each other to form a diamond shape.

It is the only one of its kind in Singapore and it has a kind of fascinating symmetry you won't find anywhere else.

I know it will be torn down to make way for a development someday - which is why I've captured it and included it in my new photography book.

I titled the book For My Son because it documents the places and spaces my young son will never get to see or play it."

'For My Son' is the first of 20 books by famous emerging Singapore photographers.  Visit

Eric Khoo, 45

"I love the wanton mee at Guangzhou Wanton Mee at Tanglin Halt Market and Food Centre.  I have been coming here for over 10 years already.  In the old days they would operate through the night, and I would come here at five in the morning for breakfast.  This is my soul food - I have my bowl with two spoonfuls of chilli, I will mix it up and add a bit of soup and stir it all together.

Ever since my first film, Mee Pok Man, food is a constant theme.  When it comes to Singapore, what can we really call our own?  Our food!  We have all these different races that came here, and while we can hit one end of the island to the other in 50 minutes, what fascinates me is the diversity of food.

Food is about memories; I am currently working on my latest project, Recipe, with the Health Promotion Board about Alzheimer's disease, and it stars Zoe Tay.

I am reminded of how flavours and taste can bring you back.  To be honest, a lot of local hawker fare does not look all that titillating - but the minute it goes into your mouth, for $2.50 or $3, my gosh, I don't need any three-starred Michelin restaurant."


Lim Choon Hong, 54
Founder and managing director of Xtra Designs

One time on a weekend, together with my wife and two kids, we had a picnic there.  It was fun, but not as pleasant as being in the Gardens on a weekday, when there are fewer people.

I did visit the Gardens in my younger days and also when my now grown-up kids were toddlers, but now I feel I can better appreciate the space and greenery.  The Gardens is a lovely oasis, a real haven, especially in the city.

In the last few months, I have gone there about four times.  I want to go more often, but since returning to work, the phone calls start coming in and it becomes difficult to find time to go.

I have a group of old school mates who often go there to exercise.  I hope to join them soon."

I've come to the stage of my life where I long for nature, peace, and open spaces.  The Singapore Botanic Gardens is my favourite place.

I only started going there about three months ago, when I was recuperating from an operation.  It is across the road from Gleneagles Hospital where I was at.  I've discovered that the Gardens is a place I really like.  My wife, Sara, and I would take a walk through the Gardens, and then have a coffee, before we would head to the hospital for my check-ups.  Being in the Gardens you can feel that life slows down, and things are unhurried.


Zizi Azah, 32
Playwright and artistic director of Teater Ekamatra

"I'm leaving for New Haven on Aug 20, and will be there for three years with my husband and daughter.  I am a little nervous about the move - I feel I'm leaving behind my youth and the protected life I have in Singapore.

My identity is tied to my memories - the physical memory of the past may not exist anymore, but who I am stems from my experiences.  And these give me a sense of belonging: a sense of being home.

Bedok has always given me that sense of belonging.  I grew up in Block 90 at Bedok North Street 4 and moved out when I was eight.

But I spent most of my life there because my baby-sitter lived in my old block; my parents worked shifts so she looked after me every day.  I used to hang out and play with my friends in the neighbourhood.

Now, I visit the area only once or twice a week.  My husband and I enjoy going on drives through the streets; sometimes I like to annoy him by singing Madonna's This Used To Be My Playground.

What I like about Bedok is that it has not changed as much as the rest of Singapore has.  Some of the old buildings have been replaced by new developments, but Block 90 is still there.

Change is good, but I think sometimes we quantify the monetary value of a place too much, to the point where we don't realise how much heritage is lost when the place is gone.  It doesn't feel like anything is sacred anymore.


Ti Lian Seng, 59
Director at DP Architects

"My favourite place in Singapore is the Marina Bay area.  The place has evolved and is still evolving into one of the most complete and integrated urban waterfront environments on the planet.  This is the consummate cosmic centre of Singapore which is why I love it.

The mixture of historical and urban modern buildings alludes to Singapore's past and present as a global city; the developments around the Bay give it so much vibrancy, diversity, texture and depth.  For me it is an irresistible and ever-changing place that one can go back to again and again.

I count myself very fortunate in the sense I go past and get to enjoy the view of the Bay every day on my way to and back from my office at Marina Square; but when it comes to actually going into the Bay area, I do that about twice a month.

I have been going to the Marina Bay area over the last 10 years.  Of course, way back then, there were not that many developments and there was not a Bay as we know it today where a person could walk around.  But you could already get a sense of its amazing potential.

When I am there, I walk around the Bay as part of my exercise regime. 

But sometimes I simply sit at a park bench or lean against the rail looking across the water and I feel very humbled and inspired.


Jeremy Monteiro, 53
Composer and pianist

"I cycle to Bishan Park two to three times a week, normally at one in the morning.  I will be working on my music, or I may be working on a proposal for a show, and wind down by coming here.  I guess almost all my whole life I have been performing and finishing at 12 in the morning.

I love to be still - as a musician, there is always a whole lot of movement.  To me the hallmark of a successful life is being able to balance motion and stillness; I'm always playing, I'm often talking and interacting with people, so that's why the stillness of Bishan Park, and being able to ride and to be still and calm my mind, appeals to me.

Music, melodies and inspiration come when I'm most quiet and not thinking and worrying.  The Botanic Gardens is great, Gardens by the Bay and even East Coast Park as well, and I have cycled all the way from East Coast Park to Changi Village - a 20-kilometre ride, I would cycle all the way, burn off all my calories, have supper and take a cab home."


Chris Lee, 43
Founder and creative director of design agency Asylum

"There are many new places in Singapore these days, but I don't have any emotional attachment towards them the way I do to Queensway Shopping Centre.

I grew up in the Queensway area and lived there for 20 years before moving away.  I now live I Balestier, but I still occasionally visit the shopping centre to buy sports equipment.

It has a unique, old-school layout and retro feel with all its nooks and crannies; walking through the place always gives me a sense of nostalgia.

I remember how during my schooling years, I would run away from school and head for the shopping centre, to play games, such as Galaga, Rally X and Pacman at the arcade.  Strangely enough, I never got into much trouble or doing that, other than the one time when my father caught me.  I was so engrossed in playing a game that it took me some time to notice his reflection on the screen.  He was really angry and I got a big scolding.

The arcade has long since been torn down and most of the shops from my childhood are no longer there, but Queensway Shopping Centre still has a place in my heart as it holds so many good memories for me."


Royston Tan, 36

"Dakota Crescent 'Doves' playground is very old school and it reminds me of my childhood.  During the Mid-Autumn Festival my friends and I would burn lanterns here, and hid things like pocket money in some secret compartments.  You will find secrets if you dig around the playground.'

We played and got injured here, then learnt how to protect ourselves - it is not only a playground but also a learning ground.

There is a sudden emphasis recently on heritage projects, and many are initiated from the ground up.  People feel that the landscape is changing too quickly and a crisis is coming up.

When I started working on the film installation Old Romances about two years ago, there were people from all walks of life calling in to a hotline, and they spoke about old places like playgrounds and hair salons, which formed a very interesting narrative thread of 45 places in Singapore.  But by the time the film premiered in January this year, half the places were gone.

I think the youths of today can start by asking their family members what personal stories they have, and start documenting them.  Everything starts from the family - we all have interesting stories about parents, and we have to get to know our dialect."


Genevieve Chua, 29
Full-time multidisciplinary artist

"In Singapore, where every plot of land has to be accounted for, and things are quickly torn down and rebuilt, it is becoming rare to find areas that have prevailed despite all the changes around them.

So it came as a pleasant surprise three years ago, when I was walking along the KTM railway and stumbled upon a piece of farmland that was flourishing amidst the resilient weeds surrounding it.

Located behind Block 305 at Clementi Avenue 4, that stretch of vegetation was clearly well-maintained, with plants like okra and chili padi growing in separate plots.  It seemed to have escaptede the changes and development that the areas around it had undergone.

I later found out that residents in the area had been tending to the crops there for the past 30 years, simply for their love of gardening.

I visited that place a few more times after discovering it, the most recent being last month.  I usually seek quiet places where I can contemplate my thoughts, but none have left on me an impression as strong as that plot of land.  To me, it is a comforting place, a respite away from the rest of Singapore's changing landscape."


Lee Meng Joo, 54
Owner, Zhong Yu Yuan Wei Wanton Noodles, Tiong Bahru Market

"I started out as a hawker's assistant in Tiong Bahru in 1983.  The market's current structure was only built in 2006, when I opened my own stall.  Before that, the market was really made up of three separate stretches: one along Seng Poh Road, one at Lim Liak Street and an open-air space at the back.  Hawkers had fierce loyalties to the section they were in; there were even debates over which one had the best food.  All that was lost when the hawkers were dispersed throughout the new market.

The old market was very dimly lit, the floors were paved with uneven, broken tilesd and you might have a tree trunk growing out from behind your table.  But people came because the food was good, and comfort was less of an issue.

The camaraderie between hawkers then was much stronger.  With no physical walls between stalls, we would borrow salt and plastic bags from each other, and share extra food with our neighbours at the end of the day.  Many famous artists and writers who lived in the neighbourhood would come regularly; this market has also bred many doctors and leading businessmen out of hawkers' sons.  Many of the first-generation hawkers have since retired, and newer hawkers have come in, but the food quality is not as good anymore.  Food cost was cheaper then and fish came fresh from the sea, not farms, and kampong chicken were allowed to grow in natural conditions for a longer time, not just 50 days.

Thankfully, rents in the market are still affordable today - they haven't risen as quickly as those in the private buildings outside, which have led many around here to shut down.  But the government doesn't set any quotas on how many wanton mee stalls you can have in a market, so you still have to up your game.  You can't get byt just making mediocre food.


Malcolm Lee, 29
Chef/co-owner of Candlenut Kitchen

"I grew up at Ang Mo Kio Street 62, attending nursery, kindergarten and primary school there.  In fact, they were literally beside Ang Mo Kio 628 market - one of Singapore's hidden treasures.  I can still remember the taste of the chicken rice, braised duck rice, fried carrot cake, bak chor mee, wanton noodles, barbecue chicken wings and barbecue seafood.  And even thoughI have moved out from the area, I still go back when I can to have my favourite food.

I would take a walk around the block where I used to live and reminisce back on the days when we played soccer, and broke some lamps in the process; catching at the void deck; marbles and other games like Red Indian and Blind Cat at the playground, which still had sand then.  I used to ride my BMX almost every day around the area, and I can still remember where I crashed and injured myself.

Just looking at my old neighbourhood, it has changed quite a bit - the playground is no longer there and as everything is new and upgraded; it just isn't the same anymore.

It has only been a little over 10 years and things have changed so much.  But that really defines Singapore and who we are; we move quickly with the times and adapt to changes just as quickly.

But there is not much we can do about it - Singapore is small and we need to change quickly in order to survive.  I would say, just treasure the memories we have and not lose them in the midst of the many changes happening around us."

Lee Guo Sun, 32
Lawyer/Supperclub owner/cookbook writer

"Every other Saturday back in the 80s and the early 90s (when people used to work half-days on Saturdays), my mum used to bring me to her workplace at Exeter Road, also known as ComCentre, where I would just hang around, read books or run around the fountain outside.

When my parents finished work, we would rush over to the Killiney Road Kopitiam, which was across the road, in a attempt to beat the lunch queue, and order their famous kaya toast and Hainanese coffee.

I remember seating inside a cramped old shophouse, with light streaming down from the airwell, me perched on a stool playing with my toys on the cold marble coffee table, the open top charcoal fires grilling the kaya toasts, and large pot of kaya simmering gently on the charcoal stove.

We knew Killiney Kopitiam as Bulldog back then, thanks to this one grumpy and squat uncle with a furrowed brow, a stubby nose and sagging cheeks, barking out orders in Hainanese as the order rolled in.

I hope that the old stalls and the traditions that come along with them would learn to modernise and evolve with the times and remain relevant - like the National Museum, the MITA building or the Fullerton Hotel.  I don't think you can recreate the feel of a place, but we can preserve things like recipes and stories.

What I am worried about is the techniques and flavours which may be lost in the effluxion of time.  And that my own kids may never know the taste of toast grilled on charcoal slathered with handmade kaya."

The Value of Old Newspapers

I  missed the National Day 2013 edition of Business Times and found this interesting feature through the archives of  NewspaperSG. 

I reproduce this articles because newspapers in print form are unlike books, cannot be reprinted to replenish the books' stocks are sold out. The daily newspapers are published once, not reprinted.

The old newspaperws are not just rubbish or garbage, for the 'karung guni man' to sell at a few cents a kati.  The printed words in all languages of the newspapers and other publicationsa are the gems: valuable for knowledge, research and resources which everyone could learn and share for education. 

'No Place Like Home'  is a topic for everyone in every country where a person is born and share our fond childhood memories to share.  Writing about personal memories of an individual in a place to grow up anywhere in the world is not about patriotism or to treat this topic as propaganda of the government.  Every citizen in the world are proud of every place like home.

Tiong Bahru Market - Then and Now