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 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.
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!
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?!
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!