. the last kampong revisited .

To satisfy our curiosity to check out the lifestyle of the yesteryear, the boy and I decided to pay a visit to the last kampong on mainland about a year ago. Read all about our first visit to Kampong Lorong Buangkok here. Ever since then, my mum has been expressing her keen interest to check out the sights and sounds of the last surviving kampong (other than the community in Pulau Ubin); a must-do on her checklist. To side-track, I must have inherited my sense of adventure from my mum, whom I think is the coolest mother I can ever ask for. Unlike most parental relationships, it is never a challenge for us to talk about anything under the sun – from our interest to check out the many interesting places in Singapore to my woes at work and even to the birds and the bees aka the usually forbidden sex talk with parents! :p  

Anyway, I was ecstatic when I first heard that the National Library Board is organising a special free tour to Kampong Buangkok, as an effort to educate the members of the public about a part of our heritage that was so prevalent in the not-so-distant past before it disappears for good in the future. This was the perfect opportunity for us to spend some mother-and-daughter time together, albeit with 33 other people on the tour. Lead by experienced tour guide, Bill Jee, we spent a good 2 hours exploring the nooks and crannies of this little community that has stood against the test of time. Unlike my first visit which I had zero interaction with the residents, we were lucky to be able to talk to some of the relatives of the villagers who shared with us about their childhood memories of living in a kampong. Somehow, they all agreed that 1 of the highlights – or, shall I put downfall – of living in this kampong was that it tend to get flooded rather occasionally and it was such a hilarious sight seeing children swimming and wading in water levels that can go as high as to our waist!

More than just a network of libraries that allows people to borrow books for free, the National Library Board also comes up with a range of interesting activities that are catered to people from all walks of life. Take your pick from art workshops to entrepreneur talks to heritage walks around neighbourhood, trust me … you will be spoilt for choices! 

The sight of the overhead electrical cables is something that is fast disappearing in our country where cables are,now, installed under the ground.

Lorong Buangkok is also the site where the previous building of the  Singapore Leprosy Relief Association (SILRA) stood. A wall bearing the faintly visible words “SILRA HOME” and a partial desolate-looking gate are the only reminants of this medical institute. 

The gates leading to the entrance of SILRA. 

The biggest house at Kampong Buangkok currently resides on a really huge piece of land, complete with a basketball court, car porch and front yard. In other words, it is a mansion! And … guess what? The rental for this enormous plot of land only comes up to an estimated S$30/month! Yes, I’m so not kidding! 

As the kampong is located on a low-lying area, it is not uncommon for the area to get flooded and be partially submerged in water. Hence, this flood level indicator (in fact, it is the first time that I’m seeing a flood level marker like this!) is essential to measure the level of flooding for data references. 

During our first visit to the kampong,  both the boy and I had automatically assumed that the nicest-looking house belongs to the landlord, Ms Sng. Boy, we were so wrong! It came to our shock when Bill informed us that Ms Sng is staying in this rustic looking house that looks like it fits comfortably well in the 1960s. Being a fond lover of animals, her humble abode is also home to many domestic animals such as chicken, cats and dogs. Unfortunately, Ms Sng wasn’t home at that time so I couldn’t help but felt a tad disappointed to miss the chance to talk to this lady who gave up the opportunity to be S$33 million richer because she chose to keep and preserve this plot of land that she has inherited from her father. A perfect example of how blood is thicker than water. 

There is a common Surau (translated into “Muslim Prayer Room” in English) located in the heart of the village, to cater to the Muslim residents in the community. 

While the group of us were making our way around the kampong, we were fortunate enough to meet the daughter-in-law of 1 of the resident who brought us around her 2nd home. Here is a house made of simple structures such as wood planks (structural core for the building), zinc (for the rooftop) and wire mesh (for the windows to allow better ventilation as it can get quite hot and stuff at mid-noon). Taking a look at her kampong-style house brought back childhood memories when I used to live with my grandparents at a brick-and-motar (no, I don’t belong to the kampong generation!) house that was originally built in the 1950s! Come to think of it, we are still living with my grandmother at the exact plot of land that she and my grandfather purchased more than half a decade ago … Just that the original house was torn down to make way for a newer and bigger house to accommodate 3 generations living under the same roof! 

Well furbished with eclectic furniture and antiques specially sourced from flea markets and thrift stores, this quirky little house that belongs to a freelance make-up artist (that probably explains the creativity!) definitely wins hands down for being the best decorated house in Kampong Buangkok. Despite its relatively small size, the owner has successfully managed to design it in such a way that there are many hidden spaces for him and his friends to chill out on a lazy day, making the house looks like a catalogue out of a home design magazine! A great though unintentional attempt to up the “cool” factor of living in a kampong! If you ask me, I wouldn’t mind living in such a cozy and intimate quarters, complete with my own garden, and paying only a fraction of my salary for the rent. The rental for a house this size probably comes up to around $10+/mth thus making it an ideal and cheap occasional weekend getaway! 

Characteristic letter boxes, unlike the standard mental box that we see everywhere else. 

1 of the many perks of living in a kampong is that you get free access to grow your own tropical fruits and so, it is easy to spot a miniature banana plantation every stone’s throw away. According to the son of 1 of the villager, despite commercialization and a spike in the number of people visiting the kampong in the recent years, the spirit of sharing is still very prevalent in the community. His family is usually more than happy to share their fruits of labour (banana and coconut) with their neighbours and even strangers who have been known to make their way there to get their regular fix of fruits! 

Dried leaves from the sea almond plant. Bill shared with us on how he used to collect bunches of such withered leaves as a treatment for his sick fishes. Basically, the brine collected from soaking these dried leaves is used for the sick fishes to swim in as it contains medicinal substances to cure them. Seriously, who would have ever thought that such dried leaves actually have such medical benefits?! 

Just in case if you were wondering, this is how the sea almond looks like! It’s edible and can be eaten raw …. That’s if you dare to! 

Nature and flora within the vicinity of Kampong Lorong Buangkok

Spot the friendly dinosaur hiding in the midst of the tree top! Must be an act of mischief done by a naughty child! :p 

To give us a better idea of the games that the children used to play in the kampong days, Bill made these miniature walking slits from scratch so that we can play around with them. Honestly, it was painful trying to walk around in those barely 10cm-off-the-ground coconut husk slits and I gave up after awhile. Decided to make use of this for a photo opportunity instead! 🙂

My mum and I exclaimed out loud when we saw this colourful toy house sitting in 1 of the resident’s backyard! Guess what? We actually still have this exact toy house
(bought from every child’s dreamland – Toys R Us) in our home! 

Am really glad to be able to take the time to spend some mother-daughter bonding with my mum (My Dad and youngest Sis were too lazy to spend a lovely Saturday getting under the sun with us!). We’ll be covering  a portion of the hottest must-visit spot next week – The railway tracks!


23 responses to “. the last kampong revisited .

  1. Nice blog you’ve got here Steph and thanks for visiting Cooler Insights. Great to see that you’re also a heritage buff! I remember that last house where you’ve taken photographs of, but my family and I didn’t visit it as thoroughly as your mum and you did. The mossies and the searing hot sun probably drove us away after a short tour, but we did have fun nonetheless. Here’s my account:

    • Hi Walter 🙂

      Thanks for your lovely comment! Well, I wouldn’t dare say that I’m a heritage and history buff although I do enjoy exploring different parts of Singapore, esp those that are off the usual retail places like Orchard. 🙂 Love to read up about the history and background of these places and it’s thanks to heritage bloggers that i get my source of information!

      Thanks for sharing with me your entry about Kampong Buangkok! That’s the one thing i love about blogging – the spirit of sharing within the blogging community!

  2. Hi Steph,

    great account! is the kampong still around today?

    you will enjoy yourself at the tracks – I just did it today – Bukit Timah to Queensway, tiring but worth it. will be blogging about it too! 🙂

    • Hi!

      Oh yes, I just visited the kampong on Saturday so I can vouch that it’s definitely still around! 🙂 Yes, please do blog about your trekking trip along the railway tracks! I’ll most probably be taking the route from Bukit Timah to Holland Village and I reckon that it will be extremely crowded as we intend to take a stroll along the tracks on the very last day!

      Looking forward to reading about your entry soon 🙂

  3. Wow nice, esp the make-up artist’s house! I didn’t even know abt the existence of a kampong in Singapore!! Thanks for the beautiful pictures. Haha I am so tempted to visit it, Is the national library board still conducting tours?

    • Hi babe 🙂

      I don’t think that the NLB is organising a tour to the kampong anytime soon but you can always drop by the village anytime. In fact, I would recommend that you visit kampong buangkok without a tour group as the residents might be more receptive to individuals rather than a group. If u ever need the directions to get to the place, let me know and I’ll try my best to help you yeah?

      I love the artist’s house too.. It’s definitely 1 of the most beautiful and creative house that I’ve seen. Small but cozy, just what a true home should be 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing this with us, it’s great! it’s the second time since last week that I come across photos of this Kampong online, I MUST visit it sooner than later… Btw there is a similar flood level indicator at Commonwealth Mrt. I just noticed it yesterday, and was wondering WTH it was… never heard of any major floods there!

    • Thanks for dropping by 🙂 Yes, you have to visit this kampong sometime soon as it has been slated for development (As with most old buildings and places in Sg). Other than the community in Pulau Ubin, there isn’t another kampong in Singapore anymore. Having said that, you can certainly see many kampongs in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand but there’s just something special about seeing a part of our past in a cosmopolitan city. Juxtapose of modern and old!

  5. This is such an amazing collection of photos and info that I didn’t even know was around. I love that Ms Sng kept the land in the family and didn’t sell out so she could hold on to her past. Money can’t buy you everything right?
    I can’t believe how beautiful that makeup artists home is and how cheap the rent is. But I guess you pay a little knowing that it might flood and you may loss a lot of your personal belongings. Beautiful none the less.
    It makes me happy to see you have such a wonderful relationship with your mother. I do as well but we live 5,000+ KMS away from each other so I don’t get to see her as much as I would like to (like everyday) since she really is my best friend.
    Thanks for sharing your journey it brings a big smile to my face to see others daily lives and part of their world. Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.
    Much Love,
    P.S. Thanks for coming to my blog and leaving such kind comments. I would be honoured if you linked up my blog to yours.

    • Hi Crystal 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by my blog! 🙂 Would love to link your blog to mine because yours is definitely a little inspirational space that I know i will be visiting pretty often!

      It’s true, as much as I love to earn more money (Who doesn’t after all?), I have to admit that there are just some stuff that money cannot buy. As over-rated as it might seem, I do truly believe that happiness and contentment is something that $ cannot buy for long… temporary, yes but for long-term, it’s hard to say.

      Unlike the western culture, youngsters in Asia (especially so in Sg) often live with their parents until they finally get married and settle down. One thing that is holding us back from getting a place of our own is due to the extremely expensive housing/real estate. So, it’s very common for majority of us to live with our parents under the same roof till we have no choice but to start a family of our own! :p HAHAHA.

  6. The last surviving kampung on mainland Singapore, hopefully it will be able to stand the test of time in Singapore’s future and history! You captured the essence of kampung life with the games & visit to the villagers/residents home, understanding & showing their side of life, I only captured the surroundings, maybe I need an in-depth personal photojournalistic adventure myself 🙂

    Looking forward to read more of your heritage visits and adventure writing 🙂 Great sharing!!


    • Hi JH 🙂

      Thanks for your encouraging comment (once again!). 🙂 Very often, I tend to be a silent visitor to many places in Singapore… often just capturing moments in still but lately, it just hit upon me on how crucial it is to interact with people and get their views on stuff. In fact, many times it’s actually through conversations with people from all walks of life that we learn to cherish these moments even more. 🙂 Besides, surprisingly… most people are more than happy to share with you a part of their lives!

  7. Hello! I dropped by via MLM and also thank you for sharing what inspires you over at my blog (http://me-udesignblog.blospot.com). I love the photos that you have taken, especially the ones of the clothes peg. It’s so colorful and yet has a sense of nostalgia….

    I actually grew up in Singapore but I never knew this part of Singapore existed. Perhaps the thing that sort of stood out in Singapore is now the modernity of it. But the next time I come back to Singapore, I would definitely seek out the alternative to the modern Singapore.

    I’ll definitely be checking your site often to see more of your writings and photos. ^^


    • Hello!

      Thanks for your lovely comment, babe! 🙂 You grew up in Singapore? Oh yes, actually… many Singaporeans do not know about the existence of this kampong because after all, it’s still a residental area albeit the only one of its kind left in Singapore! The first impression that many have of Singapore (other than its many fines and laws lol) is its modern skyscrappers and city skyline! :p Do you come back to Singapore very often?

      • Yes I grew up in Singapore. I did my primary and secondary schooling in Singapore, then I moved to Melbourne, Australia. 🙂 I do come back to Singapore quite often… at least once a year, though I’m not sure if I will get to go back this year and next year since I’m supposed to be finishing up on my PhD. 😛 The next time I go back, I really have to do a photowalk. 🙂

      • my sister is currently in melbourne and she’s hoping to stay there to work if possible 🙂 it’s true… i have friends who studied in australia and they used to return to Singapore very often as compared to friends staying in US or UK. Distance plays a huge role :p on the contrary to the assumption that singapore is v boring, i actually feel that there’re quite a handful of beautiful spots that one can go to, to explore and take pictures of! if u ever need a list, i’d be more than willing to share and help 🙂

      • That would be fantastic if you can share with me a list of great places to take photos in Singapore. 🙂 Thank you!! ^^ I can understand why your sister wants to stay here… Melbourne has got its quirk too… I love the little alley ways around the city. 🙂

      • Sure, I’ll drop you an email with a list of places to go to! 🙂 and feel free to drop me an email if you happen to be in town, yea?

      • definitely! 🙂
        I’ll let you know. 🙂

      • Or if you are ever in Melbourne, let me know. 🙂

      • Okay!:)

        I will most likely be heading to Melbourne later this year to visit my sister as her convocation will be held then. So hopefully we can meet for a meal together or something!:)

  8. I’ve been wanting to visit this place for the longest time but I still haven’t made it there!

    • Hi 🙂

      You should! It’s my second time there and almost everything seemed to be the same…. I do get what you mean though – I have a LONG LIST of TO-DO but up till now, there’s still alot of stuff that I havent got round doing because of lack of time and such lol.

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