Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Route Number 2

Service Number 2 is probably the only bus service that still runs along the same route in Singapore since the 1960s. Back those days, Changi Road was a long and winding two-lane country road starting from Changi Point, where the army camps were, proceeding onto farmlands and kampungs (villages) till it reaches Geylang where some urbanisation started.

The bus terminus is at Changi Point. It is still a quiet place, as it is 'land's end'. The pix here shows Sungei Changi or Changi River leading out to the Straits of Johore. In the distant horizon is Pulau Ubin. The boats here ferry people to Pulau Ubin and Pengarang in Johore, Malaysia.

There are no high rise in Changi, due to height restrictions, since it is near the airport.

There is still this village feel about the place. Very unlike elsewhere in the island.


This is the famous Changi Nasi Lemak stall. There is a perpetual queue at this stall.

The Village centre. Now mostly coffeeshops, restaurants and pubs.

This taxi stand has been around for ages! Probably since the 1960s.

For some old photos of Changi, dating back to the 1930s, click here .

This where our journey starts...

The Village centre. These big trees are home to many escaped parrakeets and cockatoos.

An idyllic escapade in busy Singapore.

Follow Changi-Tampines-Bedok-Geylang-Kallang-City (that's the route)

Over the last 30 years, the original Changi Road has been cut, straightened and widened to become "New Upper Changi Road", running parallel with the MRT tracks and high HDB apartment blocks. The kampungs are all gone and the landscape is highly urban, but arguably more varied and interesting.

I put up this post to document the passing scenary that many commuters may take for granted, ignoring the stories that surround the various landmarks that they pass. Our journey here starts at the bus terminus at Changi Village to cruise along the remaining country road that meanders like a river to more intensed urbanisation downstream in the city. The journey ends at the Neil Road terminus, by the Singapore General Hospital. Shown as 'City' on the map. The entire journey covers about 30 kms and 90 minutes. So this is a long posting, which I hope you will enjoy the scenery and little stories with me.

For a quick history of public bus services in Singapore, click here

It was a sunny day, so the ambient light is ideal for capturing the pixs, but I learn that to do that, I must be really fast. Given my cheap old camera, this was a challenge. Also, the bus jerks and throws you about. You can get a full-size view if you click on each pix.

This old section of Changi Road survived the cut and thrust of urban redevelopment. Largely, it serves Selarang Military Camp and the prison reform centres.
. I love cycling along this road. It still has a country feel. I need this peace.

This is one of the Prison day release reform centre.

These are old British Army quarters. Now used for civilian residence.

As you can see, the old house still standing with lots of green green grass of home.

It looks a bit like England on a sunny day. The road names are still very English, like St John's Crescent, Abingdon Road and Cosford Road.


A rare sleepy road in Singapore

I found this lonely church by the road.

It offers services in the Chinese dialect Hokkien!! Incidentally, Hokkien is the street language in Singapore and incidentally what the gangsters use! :) Anyway, I wonder who attends those services, as most Singaporeans now understand English and Mandarin. Could it be that it serves the old folks or those who did not have an education in English or Mandarin?

When I left Singapore in 1983, most Chinese speak dialects like Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese, Hakka...etc. Then, Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister at that time, wanted to standardise and managed to convince the Chinese Singaporean that their mother tongue is now Mandarin, a northern tongue thousands of kilometres from their ancestral home. :) For the record, none of my parents speak Mandarin, so it can't be my mother tongue. :)

When I came back in 2002, Singlish and Mandarin has taken over!

This is the famous Changi Prison Chapel. It has a museum in it, which chronicles how civilians suffered during the Japanese occupation during the Second War World. The atmosphere in this place is so sad. Many Brits, Aussies and Kiwis come here to remember their grandfather, father or husband who had died in the War.

This is the infamous Changi Prison. Two years ago, it has been entirely reconstructed and modernised. I heard with lots of technology and monitoring systems, making it less labour intensive.

This is the old prison wall. It looks like a fortress. The post there used to have full-time Gurkhas guarding. This wall is now but a landmark.

This is the new prison block.

Remember always to live on the right side of the fence - it's the sunny side!

The left side of road were once upon a time kampung houses with zinc and attap roofs.

This is the Institute of Technical Education (East) or ITE. ITE has come a long way since the early days through its predecessor called the Vocational Institutes (VIs). Students who fail in school too many times got thrown into the VIs to learn a trade vocation, like metal work, wood work, electricity...etc. Morale was low as they feel that they are dumped into a box as a last resort. Therefore its nickname as "It's The End" for "ITE".

However, today's ITE holds its head high, as their graduates perform well in industry and have more up to date courses added to their curriculum to keep up with industry needs. I think a nice campus like this helps to perk up the morale of these students. It is complete with sport facilities, great architecture and well-equipped lecture theatres.

After ITE East, the bus moves on to Bedok, where it is largely a public housing estate (HDB estate). 85% of Singaporeans live in HDB apartments. The dwellings look like this... Before that, most people were living in kampung houses.

Masjid Darul Aman by Eunos


PKMS Building, the only political party in Singapore, other than the ruling party to have their own building. PKMS stands for "Pertubokan Kebangsaan Melayu Singapura", which translates to Singapore Malay National Organisation. It is originally the Singapore branch of the Malaysian ruling party, UMNO (United Malay National Organisation) Singapore branch, but become PKMS after separation from Malaysia in 1965.

Sian Keng Tong temple, a Heng Hwa temple built in 1965 by local crafsmen

For more pixs from flikr, click here

Found a Youtube video, click here

Uniquely Singaporean ad. :) I haven't seen this kind of public announcements anywhere else in the world before. Sounds like a happy problem! :)

These are Singapore styled shop houses. Notice that the architecture is a combination of Roman columns, Portuguese wall tiles, Mediterranean window slates, and sometimes Chinese motifs. The ones you see in Geylang still have their internal architecture preserved. Many in Clarke Quay and Chinatown only have their facades preserved. If you are a purist, that does make a difference, as for instance, where they put the staircases, toilets,...etc, do tell different stories about way of life of the place during the time when it was constructed.

This is a typical Geylang coffeeshop, along Lorong 34. "Lorong" means "dirt track" in Malay. A misnomer, as these lorongs are now fully paved two lanes roads.

. This one sells Teochew Porridge, which is rice porridge eaten with salty dishes, like salted fish, salted eggs, salted vegetables...etc. I think the Teochews dialect group must have come from salt basins in China.

This one is specialised in claypot meals. Since it was around lunchtime, I alighted from the bus to go on a short walkabout. A lot easier taking photos on the ground and also without the dust stained glass in between the object and the camera.

There are many religious organisations that have their temples and places of worship/practice in Geylang. Perhaps it is because land is cheaper here since it is a redlight district.
From here, the Geylang sleaze begins to intensify.

Found this dilapidated house in the middle of the other shop houses. Somehow it has been left to rot here. A precious piece of real estate in today's crowded Singapore.

Found this very fertile jackfruit tree along the side walk of a residential lorong. .

White cockatoos outside a pet shop along Geylang Road. Cockatoos used to be sold without the cages. Owners sit them on a wooden bar and chain one of their legs so that they will not fly away. However, some clever ones managed to pick those chains and set themselves free. Many of the descendants of these freed birds now live in the trees in Changi Village. There, you will see white cockatoos and green parakeets. To find out more click here

These wild parrakeets, offsprings of escaped caged pets, are outside my window every morning. Can you count how many of them are there in the pix? You find many of these wild parrakeets and cockatoos in Changi.

Khadijah Mosque

This pix looks very much like it is taken in a Middle Eastern city.

The Sungaramuda Buddhist Institute - amongst the many religious institutions along Geylang

An old style bungalow. Now a budget hotel in Geylang.

These apartments are probably built in the 70s. Not a very pretty sight.

Another Teochew Porridge joint

Haji Mohammed Salleh Mosque

This Karaoke lounge is called "Pai Ler Mern" or "Gate of a Hundred Happiness" in Chinese, symbolic that we are now in the heart of the Geylang redlight district. The two characters below ("Ma Te") is supposed to be "Martell" in Chinese. However, its literal meaning is "Mother Father"!

There are two series of "lorongs" on both sides of Geylang Road. The even numbered lorongs on the left and the odd numbered on the right. Traditionally, the even numbered lorongs are where the hookers hang out and this have been tolerated by the public and the police. However in the recent years, there have been a proliferation of freelance prostitutes from mainland China and the neighbouring countries, resulting in the spillover to the odd numbered 'lorongs' on the right side.



What old world charm! Reminisent of a time when being 'gay' simply meant being happy!! :)

Gay World was a popular amusement park in the vicinity of Kallang where this hotel is situated. It had all the joy rides, like ferries wheel, carousels, ghost rides, magic shows, boxing matches, cinemas and mini open air dance clubs where one can dance with hostesses for 50 cents per dance. Big money for a dance those days.
Gay World Amusement Park finally closed due to dwelling attendance in the late 70s, as customers turned more to the TV for entertainment, as colour television began to turn out better quality programmes and live football matches at Kallang Stadium roared in.


Opposite Gay World Hotel is the Old Kallang Airport. Now, the control tower is occupied by People's Association.

This is Kallang River following into Marina Bay. In the distance is the banking city at Raffles Place. There used to be many workshops that repairs the tongkangs (boats) along these banks. The place stinks like a sewer back in the 60s and 70s. Now it is teeming with fishes and soon, will be another of our fresh water reservoir for drinking. This is a new urban redevelopment, probably 40 storeys high of apartments to cater for a conscious effort by the government to increase the population from the current 4.2 million to 6.5 million people by selective immigration. There are taller apartment blocks being built now. See later...

I remember a time when the population of Singapore was only 1.7 million people. At that time, we were worried about over-population and there was a campaign to stop couples having more than two children, by voluntary sterilisation and administrative pressure.

The belief is that city states in history like Venice and Genoa, did not survive very long without a huge population. The government thinks we can buck the trend of history if we become a city of at least 10 million people. So, be prepared to see more of these cold tall residential building to come up in the next few years.

As it is now at 4.2 million people, only 2.4 million are citizens (and not all locally born), with about 1 million foreign born permanent residence and the rest employment pass holders. In other words, for every three persons you see in public in Singapore, only two are citizens. With the mass selective immigration, in future, you will see probably a 50:50 ratio of citizens vs foreigners; and that does not include tourists and people on business visits.

Singapore already a cosmopolitan city where many languages and cultures merge, will become increasingly so in the coming years.

The tents outside this mosque is for Muslims to break their fast. This photo was taken during the month of Ramadan.

This arty pix is an accident. I was trying to capture Sultan Mosque by Jalan Sultan, but missed it totally. The whitish 'soft focus' is actually the greasy window showing!!! Many commuters on this long journey must have fallen asleep and leaned their head there. :)

Do you feel it looks like some village houses in South of France? :)

This is the Singapore Management University Administration Block. This is also the heart of the Education Hub in Singapore. Within walking distances, you can find the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, La Salle School of Arts, a proposed liberal arts college, and many other private colleges offering university degrees.

Nowadays, it is common to find groups of students of different nationalities and races in this area.

I had it all aimed well, then the bus jerked and threw me off the frame!!! :) This is CHIJMES, a former convent, now converted to a place for bars, pubs and restaurants.

Doesn't this look a bit like Regent Street in London? :)

It is actually Stamford building along Stamford Road in Singapore.

This is the Central Fire Station. It also house a wonderful Fire Fighting museum open during office hours. Admission is free.

This is the Ministry of Information, Communications and Arts. This building used to be the old Hill Street Police Station.

To see how it looked like in the 1960s... click here

We are now right in the heart of the city of Singapore. This is the banking city on the opposite bank of Singapore River. I remember a time when the river was black black and smelt exactly like a sewer. That was in the 60s and 70s. Then concerted efforts was made to clean the water ways. Now fishes florish in the river and soon, the whole river and Marina basin will be turned into a fresh water lake and we will use the water for drinking.

This is Clarke Quay. Once upon a time godowns and store houses, now teeming with pubs and clubs for the trendy. Only the facades of these buildings are conserved, the internal of the buildings are mostly re-arranged - which makes it hard to retrace the usage and lifestyle of its occupants during the old times.

This is about the point where Chinatown starts.

This first shop here sells "Bak Kut Teh" or Pork Rib Soup. Check it out here

Thong Chai Free Clinic, built 1892

Used to be a free clinic that dispenses free traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment and medicine to patients of all races in Singapore. Today, it is used as a commercial building for the Singapore office for Forever Living Products.

I found some great pixs on flikr, click here

This is Yue Hwa Shopping Mall housed in the building built in 1900 as the famous Nam Tin Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel then. Fore more about the history of the building, click here

This is the former Majestic Theatre, built in 1927 by a Mr Eu Tong Sen, a tin and rubber magnate for his wife who loved Cantonese opera.

In its hay days, it was a very popular theatre, before video tapes took the audience from cinemas to the living room. Soon after, cineplexes which are cinemas with many mini theatrettes were introduced and standalone huge theatres like these faded away permanently. The Majestic is now a shopping centre.

This is a Clan association building. There used to be a Chinese sinseh where I went to when I sprained my ankle. He will fix the problem by physical brute force. It was damn painful!! Now the place is cleaned up and pretty and the sinseh is gone.

If you want to live in Singapore, you need to know your CTE, SLE, AYE, TPE and ECP, and what sets them apart! :) But that is not all, next you have to know which of these expressways to take for your journey, as the taxi driver will ask you for your choice. Not good if you don't know. :)

Here "Jln Bkt Merah" is supposed to be "Jalan Bukit Merah" which means "Redhill Road". But when you reach there, you won't see any red hills or any hill for that matter. I used to live there, when there was still a red hill. Now you see a shopping centre instead! :)

Pretty box, but I think it is more difficult to spot a mail box from a distance these days, when you are trying to find one.

These used to be residential houses, but now they are mostly occupied by design houses and architecture companies.

The first house (in yellow) is a replica. It was rebuilt after the North East MRT line was constructed, probably due to subsidence of the ground and damages. You can see evidence of the ground subsidence by looking at the slanting beam of the adjoining grey house.

The construction behind is "The Pinnacle", a fifty storey tall public housing apartment block. When completed, it will have a jogging track that joins all the blocks at about 35 storeys and 50 storeys. So you will see people jogging in the sky in future.

This is Duxton estate - beautiful residential area with these charming houses.


End of the road. Neil Road Terminus.

No comments:

Want to read about what goes on 'behind the scenes' in film making?

Click here.