Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Travelled Back In Time - Queenstown (Commonwealth Crescent/Close)

If I travelled back in time in late 1960 and everything happened in the past and its history to where I was as a toddler to live in this Queenstown for the past 47 years. As a child of 3 year old, my family and I had lived more than 4 decades before I got married in 1993 and stayed with my in-laws for 5 years at Havelock Road and eventually moved to a new home in Holland Close in 1998, nearby neighbourhood area that is Queenstown as if  I am back again to where I was as a child. My mum is still living at Queenstown all her life. I still remembered the times, my childhood friends and their families who lived in this Queenstown areas and some of them who lived next doors and neighbourhood blocks of flats. I would still contact some of my childhood friends till now.
Queenstown was once a swampy and sandy areas by the time, my family and I moved in since 1967 but before that my family had a house at old Nelson Road early 1966 when I was a baby.
Old High Swing
I could remember the times of the former old sand-based playground and a badminton court that surrounded by block of flats in late 1980. The former old sand-based playground was once located at Blk 95 that was a seesaw (pic below), an old high swing that the ground was only sand-based on it. I remembered I used to play a swing with a wooden board that I would stand on it and swing it myself without falling down. 
Old wooden Seesaw
The seesaw that I sat on it and lying down face up looking at the sky and move it up and down with my legs and my hands got hold the handle of the seesaw. I think you might not heard of this how to use to balance yourself if you are alone while you move one end up and the other end down. I did injured one of my right leg before and the 'small' scar will still remain of the my past playground. As yet I was then very tough and now still the same. As you can see, this seesaw that you saw is not that safely at all. Seesaws usually have handles for the riders to grip as they sit facing each other. One problem with the Seesaw's design is that if a child allows himself/herself to hit the ground suddenly after jumping, or exits the seesaw at the bottom, the other child may fall and be injured. So nowadays, they mounted above a soft surface such as foam or wood chips that provides basic protection over the whole playground.
Slide and See-saw( Blk 95) taken in 1966
Photo Credit by Kong Pin Liang
Above photo taken by my friend's late father that sent to me whom I know him as my old neighbourhood block, who is now living in oversea since 1986.
Beginning with the street name that was once swampy areas and was used to be 'Boh Beh Kang' a cemetery. The villages mainly "Hokkieh and Teochew speaking dwellers who lived in attap-roof huts with lots of plantation, cultivating vegetables and growing fruits and so on in Pre-war years until in 1953, when it was cleared to make a new housing estates.
Commonwealth Crescent estates
Close up of C'wealth estates and a stage
A stage track will hold an event every year that most people, young and old will watch the "Getai Show' during Hungry Ghost festival. A uncle to whom I knew is a 'Karang Guni' man aka a boss himself is a member of another group and also my mum's friend and his wife often go to my mum's place for a haircut.
Celebration on Kuan Yin's Birthday
Stage performance - Opera
Also this place will hold this god's birthday every year in Mar and also there is an 'Opera' performance on wooden stage in an open field.
Colourful Parrot sitting on the bench
My memorable of the old wet market at Commonwealth Drive/Crescent before it was renovated in late 1980 which I could remember of the two old wet markets - Commonwealth Market village. Above two pictures are shown the current field and footpath track (cycling track) and also the birds singing at the bench in the mornings. Do you know that this huge field was once a wet hawker market in early 1980s. Now it completed vanished and transformed into the field track and later build a stage in late 1998 and the old wet hawker market shifted to the nearest location where there was a also wet market at that time before it built 2-storey Commonwealth Crescent Hawker and Food Centre. So the 'wet' market thus shifted to level 2 storey above the market.
Current market beside the stage on the right
Two-storey Commonwealth Crescent Market and Food Centre
In the late 1998 or 1999, the wet kampong then transformed two-storeys market and hawker centre known as "Commonwealth Crescent Market and Food Centre" along the rows of 2-storeys shophouses. I could remember clearly, there was a famous fried long 'You Tiao' and carrot cakes and cost only 30 cents per piece (You Tiao) and 60 cents (carrot cakes) and the most delicious cake - 'Chwee Kueh' would cost only 50 cents (6 pcs). That was long time ago 4 decades. I love their tastes very much and was told by my mum and she said 'They were no longer in business after built 2-storey market since. I missed their foods. The other Chwee Kueh stall is still around on level 2 and they are of new owner then and had been 10 years or so. Also the famous claypot rices at Hawker market back then and currently I saw there is claypot rice stall at level 2 but they are different owners to whom I remember their faces clearly for many years.
ST. Kerry Bakery
On the corridor of the shophouses, one of the most forgotten clinic that was once operated here for a long time since I stayed for more than 4 decades and the clinic was once known as 'Lim Clinic' was located at 117 C'wealth Drive #01-721 and my mum used to bring me when I was a child to visit a doctor who was Dr Lim whom she knew him for long ago. I would still visited Dr Lim till I was married in 1994. My mum just told me that the owner Dr Lim is still around and retired and healthy, it could be around my mum's age at that time. What I heard from other sources that Dr Lim had passed on and that it could be another person, Dr Lim was not related as told by my mum. Lim Clinic, owner shop Dr Lim's family rented out to ST. Kerry and is now occupied by ST. Kerry that has been in business for a few years now, was told by the sales staff whom I knew  a few years ago and chatted with her while buying some 'coffee' buns and cakes. There is one clinic called 'The Family Practice (Clinic and Surgery) located at 117 C'wealth Drive #01-723 which opens in business.
Dessert 90
I usually go for marketing there and visit some shops whom I knew them for years especially the Drink stall - Dessert 90 on 2nd-storey food centre who was then my mum's neighbouring blocks. This drink stall has been in business more than 4 decades. 
The wet markets to whom my mum knew them for years and they were once members of 'Hungry Ghost Festival' that they held an event every year till one of my uncles whom I used to call him "Uncle Pang" who was the boss of 'Hungry Ghost Festival' for more than 3 decades. He would held the event every year till he passed away more than 6 years ago, outside at my mum's house where there was once a huge basketball court then. My late uncle, Uncle Pang lived at 90 Commonwealth Drive just next block of my mum's flat.
Blk 102 C'wealth Crescent
At the back of C'wealth Crescent Market and Food Centre, facing the block 102 C'wealth Crescent among all the rows of HDB blocks which was built early in 1967 and the blocks of C'weatlh Drive where my mum stays in early 1966 if I could remember by that time my younger brother was not born yet.
Wet Market - Frozen foods
Wet Market - Indonesia Pig Meat
The rows of food stalls on ground level that sell more variety of dry foods, imported fresh meats, poultry eggs and others. Do you know that 30 years ago, there were once 'live' chickens that been caged at the corner end of one of the wet markets and many local residents would order and choose the 'live' chicken to be killed and pulled out the feathers, as well as clean up the featherless chicken before sold to them. Even also they bought young chicks and brought back, reared them on their own home too. I was the one too and I asked my mum to buy young chicks and later a hen to bring them and I reared and fed them. That was 30 years ago!
Escalator floor
This escalator level 2 leads to the Food Centre where there are variety of cooked food stalls and some owners of food stalls are the older generations before the wet markets built on 2-storey while the ground floor, some of the market stalls are also the older generations who are still in business after its several renovations. 
Chicken Eggs in oldie times
Chicken Eggs in plastic wrap can be found in shophouses
There are two stalls that sell eggs, salt eggs, century eggs and as well as quail eggs that run in business for years. They still use the old traditional style like this (above) put eggs in 'foam' egg tray instead of plastic egg trays that normal used by supermarkets.
Indian Muslim and Malay stalls
At level 2 food centre, there was once variety of foods surrounding the stalls especially Malay stalls for years and I love their 'Mee Rebus and Lotong' at this stall - Warong Norhizan. Recently in April 2013, this two stalls had closed and the one Indian Muslim Food stall only opened a few month ago in 2013 and it closed within two months.
Henry's Chicken Rice at #02-84
One of the famous stall that sells chicken rice and others where many local residents of Queenstown love his delicous food and has seen many people queuing (snaking queue) during lunch break. A long queue outside his stall that does serve good food which costs only S$2.50 a plate with a soup. The stall owner, Mr Teo, a former construction worker, has been in this business since 1985 and serving residents with his awesome roasted chicken and he learned his trade from his chef at Mandarin Orchard, is the disciple of the main chef at the famous Chatterbox Chicken Rice in Mandarin Orchard. On the good day, he can sell up to 30-40 roasted chickens! Sometimes during my lunch time, I usually go to his stall and order roasted chicken rice (boneless) and a soup that costs me only S$2.50. His stall located at 119 C'wealth Crescent #02-84 and opens daily and closes half day once all his chicken sold out fast.
U Foodfare - Rice Garden
One of the newest stall that has recently opened - Rice Garden that projected by NTUC Foodfare where unionised members or NTUC members will get an offer of S$1.99 per set instead of usual price S$2.50. Good deal! For those who loves all kinds of variety of cooked foods and you can find it at Clementi Mall where there is NTUC Foodfare at level 3.
A long Glass of 'hot' coffee
And those love coffee and you can find it at the corner stall beside Malay stall (Closed) facing the shophouses at level 2 and a 'long' glass of coffee with milk costs only 80 cents. I had it then and it tastes excellent. I would remember in those oldie times, there were 'wooden' coffee stall that sold kaya breads, half boiled eggs, coffee, tea and others at Commonwealth Hawker Market many years ago. Those times a cup of coffee cost only 25 cents and two loaf of breads, two eggs plus a coffee would fetch only S$1.20
Famous Prawn Noodle Stall
I remember there is one corner of blk 116 Commonwealth Kopitiam, there is an elderly woman whom my mum and I knew for years, sells 'Prawn noodles' at her stall is one of the older generation too. Her stall is fast selling the famous Prawn noodle and fish ball noodle and most local residents in this Queenstown areas love her food for years. Her stall is only open early in the morning and closes before 12noon once there is no food left and it closes for half a day and the stall closes on Tuesdays. Besides her stall, there are two stalls at coffee shop that sell roast duck rice and char chew rice and the other stall sells 'Rojak' and 'Popiah". Actually, there are 4 kopitiam (coffee shops) each corner of the block 116, 117 and 118 commonwealth crescent.
118 Buona Vista Commonwealth Close (RC)
Not more than 10 years ago, Buona Vista C'wealth Close was set up in its branch there, I believed there was once a Bilingual kindergarten then I would remember along the corner of the coffee shop next to it. Some of the shophouses had moved or shifted to other locations which are nearer to their home that recently opened in shopping centres near MRTs according to the stall owners next door told me.
Old stall - Cheng Hua Minimart (Then)
This stall - Cheng Hua Minimart has been in business for more than 20 years located at 118 C'wealth Crescent #01-17/19 beside the shop that sell grocery goods. Renovated for two month since early Feb 2013 to Mar 2013.
New stall - Cheng Hua S Mart (Now)
After two month 'makeover' the stall which has three units instead of two in the above picture that covered from the other shop(Closed) and the stall had reopened in April 2013 with full of grocery goods and others in their large spacious area and considered the cheapest store in Singapore.
Planet Cola Drink
I bought two cans of cola carbonated drink costs only 40 cents each and the can look cute and the product is from Malaysia and imported by Pokka company in Singapore.
Tat Chye Trading 
Tat Chye Trading - Tua Pek Gong Paper house
And one of the shophouses - Tat Chye Trading and Enterprise whom my mum and I knew the boss of the shop for 30 years as he is one of my late uncle's member of 'Hungry Ghost festival" since. This shop sells incense papers, joss-sticks and others which is a convenient store near my place and my mum's house just one stone away from it. Every year, I order the 'Kuan Yin' new clothes, shoes, stick and hat from the shop and sometimes buy incense papers and others too.
20-cents - car and scooter ride
Kiddy Rides
Besides this, there are also lots of old Kiddy Rides along the shophouses and most of them are the oldest Kiddy Rides since it was there for 3 decades. Among these three pictures above, there are also Kiddy car rides and others. Some 20-cent and 50-cent kiddy rides are still available up to this day. The oldest kiddy rides are car and scooter which costs only 20-cent per ride.
Kiddy Ride -  Merry Go Round
One of the Kiddy Ride is the Merry Go Round Ride that located at Holland Ave is the cutest ride ever. For every child who loves Merry Go Round ride is the happiest child in the world and the child's face will light up and laughing all the way with music included.
Queenstown Lutheran Church Kindergarten
Beside Commonwealth Crescent Market and Food Centre opposite the road, lies lonely planet 'Queenstown Lutheran Church and Queenstown Lutheran Church Kindergarten' established early 1960s in the heartlands of Commonwealth Drive, Queenstown Lutheran Church is the second oldest Lutheran congregation in Singapore, in 1967 I as a child of 3 year old, enrolled at Lutheran Church kindergarten. Memories of this church lingered in my mind every time I walk pass by from my place for 4 decades.
The field that was a HDB estate
Beside a small road, next to the greenly field was once a HDB flat that had long gone since. Unfortunately, I did not take a shot of it and I could remember this place clearly. The once HDB flat that seated on the side next to the carpark (picture background) was the former site of Block 114 Commonwealth Close that missed at this point. Well, you may think that there is no block number in this area where there are block 115A and 115B Commonwealth Close is JTC factory building and a canteen. Come to think of it, where are the two blocks of 114 and 115? These Blk 114 and Blk 115 Commonwealth Close were residential flats had demolished long ago in 2002. These sites that stood had long forgotten by younger generation residents and new residents in this areas. 
In the meantime, I will continue to write the old memory of Queenstown/Queensway in time to come as there are more of these stories in my next blog during my stays in 47 years.

Please note that all above photos are taken by my Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc except the two old photo on top.
Updated by May 2013

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Last Surviving Kampong Lorong Buangkok

Kampong Lorong Buangkok
Been heard of the last surviving of Kampong Lorong Buangkok took me a long time to see this nostalgia place after my late grandma's villages torn down in late 1982. This place will bring me memories of Kampong days when I was a kid.
On the hot afternoon as if the sky is going to darken soon and hopefully it would not rain when my Muslim friend and I would reach there around 3.30pm, to have a last look an old Kampong Lorong Buangkok. This well signboard probably leads to the Surau Muslim Prayer room. The place which reminds of the kampong days and it is indeed a nostalgia place where many younger generations would never heard or know of what they had lived in these wooden houses for decades.
Cable overhead pole in darken cloud
Built in 1965 or early and who knows it might earlier than that accordingly to the residents who lives there all their life. I remember my late grandma and her 18 children who lived at Kampong village since early 1950s after WWII till late 1982 when the government acquired the land to be redevelopments along Jurong areas and Upper Bukit Timah road.
Sandy road leads to the zinc roof houses
Kampong Lorong Buangkok has a rich history heritage since and one of the last surviving kampongs in S'pore and the swampy areas and hilly roads as well as thick forests that was once of my late grandma's kampong was like that living in this areas for decades. Kampong villages where many local folks or residents who lives in this peaceful surrounding of the forests and the sound of night crickets are heard among the bushes of the forests and hilly areas. A huge towering power cables that was used for communication within kampong area that help to communicate to one another. Kampong residents pay not more than $30 a month for rent to the landlord till to this day.
Red zinc roofed wooden house is seen on sandy footpath
Not all the kampong village has its red zinc roofed wooden house where my late grandma's kampong villages had different type of roofed top of their houses and thus to prevent the rain from pouring in during rainy seasons. These zinc roofed wooden house can last long time and if it is broken and immediately replaced a new one when they spotted the roof top of their house. Being familiar of Kampong lives of local residents like my late grandma and relatives who lived there for decades before they moved out to a new housing housing in Boon Lay Drive and other location that closed to their grandma's flat in late 1982 after Boon Lay Drive was built.
Stack of wooden poles lined up on sandy road
You may not seen these wooden poles piled up on each side by side, that is to prevent incoming motorists or cyclists crashing onto the residents' wooden houses when the road is curved on rocky paths. Such an accident do happen among the kampong villages especially night falls, kampong houses in total darkness with dim lights or there is not street lights along the stretch of the road paths. Thus the colours wooden poles are seen in Kampong Lorong Buangkok served a 'warning'  with flashlights coming from the motorists when the road is curved and they swerve to keep away from hitting the wooden houses next to these poles.
Zigzag road is seen along the wooden houses
Heading along the stretch roads of what was used to be a swampy areas at that time I could remember before the sandy path road was invented. Wooden houses along the road where many old residents living as early as 1954 before it was built in 1956 and thus living in settlement. Without electricity and gas, most villages would survive on kerosene lamps, burning charcoal woods, farming and their daily lives on household chores. In early time, there was no street lamps at that time along the thick forests but they are living in the quiet and peaceful life, away from main roads. I missed this peaceful kampong life what my late grandma lived for decades. Till then, Kampong residents received electricity and water supplies in 1963, two years before the independence of Singapore in 1965.
One of the Kampong residents - Elder Malay resident
One of the kampong residents, Malay guys whom we managed to talk to them, on how they are adapt to the kampong life even though, it is now 21st century of modern city of Singapore. My friend managed to chat with one the siblings who is the younger resident (below) after he had chatted with the elder resident of the same kampong.
Buangkok resident - Younger resident
Both are siblings who come to visit their mother who had lived there ever since till now. They came here on free their time, just to help out in doing some spring cleaning, house chores and other simple stuff. Two siblings - One lives in Yishun while the other one lives in Pasir Ris.
What an inspired me on these two friendly Malay residents who loved and help their mother despite their busy schedule. He even mentioned that at nights, it is very dark and the lights around and very dim surrounding the kampong as if it looks like haunted houses with crickets sounds could be heard. It would be dangerous for the visitors to come and explore as kampong are hardly seen around them. He also mentioned that many visitors including students came to visit around the kampong and even tourists also spotted around the areas. My friend and I chatted with him as if we were old friends in our times and talked for more than 5 minutes.
But it's advisable not to come at nights and who knows there might be a snake lurking around thick muddy forests and even 'barked' dogs that being kept by Chinese residents for their protection of intruders. On the bottom of my heart, my friend and I thanked two Malay siblings for their time to chat with us and their hospitality to allow us to have photoshot with their house surroundings..
Two siblings visit their mother on the pot of land
This pot of land is the size of basketball court where they are farming on the pot of muddy sand which you won't not see this in Singapore anymore. I recalled in younger days of my late grandma's village was also the size of basketball court and extended up within the area with two or three villages of her own and had fenced up. 
Farming on the muddy sand
Younger Malay resident wearing long rubber boots and helps on farming on the muddy sand in the morning or afternoon when the sky is clear. I recalled on kampong days, my late grandma's villages also had a farm too and reared pigs, ducks, chickens and also kept guarded dogs as well as a small paddy field on top of the hill. 
One of their playground - A swing on the tree
A swing of the tree is spot just outside their house which is belonged to them. Their kids will play the swing whenever they bring their kids to visit their grandmother.
kampong houses surrounded by forest
As the sky is going to darken and it rains heavily, we seek shelter of the mother of two siblings' kampong before we set off to other location and thus we managed to snap a few shots till the rain stops in a few minutes. As you can see the kampong that is surrounded by the thick forest along on sand footpath of the village. 
Sitting on an old chair
As I was sitting on an old chair looking back of my memory of kampong that seem reminds me of the past that was no longer there. The last surviving Kampong Lorong Buangkok is the last resort of an old Singapore where many visitors mostly tourists  would have heard this.
Old Electric lamp
The old electric lamp hangs on the top of the two sibling's kampong house where I was sitting next to it. This is quite common lamp that can be seen in Singapore.
Lorong Buangkok 1954
Thus this street name and street code of Lorong Buangkok 1954 stated in early years whereas the Kampong built in 1956, located at Kampong Lorong Buangkok off Yio Chu Kang road.
After the rain had stopped, we left the house  and walked back along the road from where we came from and it wasn't difficult to locate back to where we were.
A Buddha Statue
Along the grassy path which is near the Malay resident's kampong, there is a Buddha statue sitting on the stone ground, surrounding with small statues. One of Chinese residents would place an orange with flower buds on the palm of the Buddha and there is joss-stick on the burner on the ground. Many Chinese residents would pray homage to the Buddha statue for their safety and asked for peaceful life.
Pigeons and Chickens
Passing by the rows of wooden houses, we spotted the chicken and the birds grouped together as if they are friends for years. They are happily walking around and thus picking up the food what left on the road. There is no surprise for me as I had seen these cute animals during my kampong days.
As it was getting late, we walked towards the main road and walked to the bus-stop near to the Shell station, took the bus and were heading home.
Memory of the trip that inspires me of the past that never be forgotten over the decades.
You may read my friend's blog about our adventure and yet a nostalgia trip for us. 
How do you feel about this kampong where many local residents - Malay and Chinese had lived their life during and after WWII.
Do visit this nostalgia Kampong Lorong Buangkok before they are gone and otherwise you could never see it again in the face of modern Singapore. Remember - Respect their privately as kampong is their home.