Sunday, June 08, 2008

Balek Kampong to Bedok Corner by Peter Chan

I am familiar with this area for three reasons.

I took this route to Changi Beach after exiting Frankel Avenue in the early 1960s. Next time was 1967 it became my school holiday “resort” when I went to live with my Malay classmate in a kampong. In those days school holidays did not mean an overseas holiday trip to exotic Bali or to snowy Europe. We went to catch fish in the Sungei Bedok; now called Bedok Canal and explored the old kampungs at Padang Terbakar (now a golf course) and Ayer Gemuroh. Word spread and soon other friends joined us. It was because of his young, fair-skinned and sweet-looking sister, “Rosmawati” or “Rose” in short. Rose “Ada class tetapi atas sikit”.

The next time came in the early 1970s when I did my National Service at the “BU-LOK camp (the Hokkien expression for Bedok). My training area was Harvey Avenue, the reclaimed land and Kew Drive. Imagine carrying the white-board from Bedok Camp through Hwa San Road and doing camouflage in the Chinese cemetery area in Kew Drive. Of course there is a fourth reason but you have to admit, “It’s home coming one full cycle” again.


Photo 1: Bedok Corner where Katong-Bedok Bus Company had a watch-keeper hut. It is now the Fairmont Condominium

Bedok Corner is where Bedok Road meets Upper East Coast Road. It has some bits of history besides the well-known Bedok Hawker center, going back to as early as the 1970s. It was home to the first National Service battalions – 3SIR and 4SIR. 3SIR and 4SIR were raised in Taman Jurong Camp but moved to the Bedok location in 1969. During the Vietnam War, US war surplus were stored in Nissen Huts on the reclaimed land which is now the Upper East Coast Road Bus Terminus. There was strict security and triple concertina wire fence surrounded the buildings.

There was also the Long Beach Restaurant which closed in the early 1990s because the land was acquired by the government. This later became a condominium next to the Eastwood Center. The Sultan of Pahang once owned a seafront bungalow at Bedok Corner. Fortunately this 3 storey property still stands at #38 Eastwood Road.


Photo 2: Upper East Coast Road and Bedok Camps 1 & 2

The Bedok Camps were once on water before land was reclaimed from the sea. Did you know the first land reclamation project in Singapore began here in the Bedok area in 1961? It was managed by the HDB. The exact spot is the row of landed properties next to the Temasek Secondary School. I actually witnessed the land reclamation taking place but had no idea then what was going on. All I saw were many lorries ferrying earth from the hills off present-day Bedok South Road and Parbury Avenue. The sea in front of my maternal grandmother’s bungalow house became murkier each time I came until soon I found the sea breeze had weakened considerably. The lorries were heading in the direction of the beach. In the 1970s, I saw a Bailey Bridge across Upper East Coast Road. This bridge was used to carry earth on a conveyor belt to be dumped further out into the sea.

Photo 3: The former Sultan of Pahang’s bungalow facing Bedok Junction; once the sandy beach. It was completed in 1932

My inclination towards this area was because my maternal grandmother once operated a restaurant called Wyman Haven in one of the seafront bungalow houses. Her signature dish was roasted pigeon. There was one other competitor to Wyman Haven on the same road about 4 houses away at that time – it was the Palm Beach Seafood.

The hills, the cemeteries, the sea, the temples and the pondoks have changed over time. One wish I have is for the government now not to sell the reclaimed land next to the SAF camps and in the process destroy the natural fauna. I believe my wish can be realized because there is a “height restriction” on any construction due to the close proximity of Changi Airport.

If time permits, I will write on various landmarks and things to do in Bedok Corner area.
PS - LCS is taking a 1-week break.

26 comments:

Lam Chun See said...

I am not too familiar with this part of Spore. However, that bend in the road was very famous to all drivers. My main acquaintance with this area was the row of seafood restaurants which was very popular in the eighties.

Anonymous said...

This post brings back memories of my weekend evening trips to the seafood restaurants along this stretch, namely: Palm Beach, 小红楼, and 'Tai San' (which was owned by a family friend).

I still remember the rustic car park of Palm Beach whose 'road' was filled with what must've been a million bottle caps!

On another note, do you know anything about a certain 'Bedok Rest House' in this area?

Icemoon said...

Peter,

I served my time in Camp 1.

I'm curious how come the color of the buildings are off? Did they repaint the buildings or something?

peter said...

anonymous - Bedok Rest House became Long Beach Seafood. Was popular as a motel with couples seeking privacy. There was one other seafood resturant next to house #791A or #795A just after Jalan Haji Salam. I forgot the name. There was also Vienna Inn.

icemoon - the photo is fairly old like 38 years ago. I think it was beige colour between the exposed red bricks. I went inside the camp some 2 years ago, in fact to my company line. Nothing has changed.

Zen said...

Peter vivid description of the place is like from the back of his palm. We could only connect this region with our crab eating rendezvous at palm beach - quite vaguely due the passage of time. One incident comes to my mind, during a family outing we chanced to eat at a bungalow turned eating place, and as usual we ended up eating chilli crabs and I must say quality of the dish did not lose out to those of palm beach. There was no mentioning of any signature pigeon dish, therefore it could not be the bungalow belonging to Peter's maternal grandmother.

Lam Chun See said...

Now I recall. I have been into one of these camps once during my reservist days. It was to take the IPPT. After that we went across the road for some drinks and makan at the famous hawker centre which was featured in the Chinese documentary, 特写。I suppose it's no more there? Or have they built another one to replace it; the hawker centre I mean?

Icemoon said...

Peter - from your memory, what's the low compound beside the sea and in between the two camps used for? It looks quite big to me.

Icemoon said...

chun see - the hawker center is still there, but renovated. The interior layout looks nothing like the old one.

Btw, to evoke some memories, the center is famous for its ching teng and hay mee. =)

Lam Chun See said...

OK Peter. When I come back from my trip next week, I will deliver your VCR and then you can buy me a plate of hay mee at this place.

peter said...

Chun See - deal done. I intro u to some good food there. )have u tried ice kachang in soya bean?) One of them is run by a x-1st Bn Commando CSM. The original Ah Pek's haymee is no more there. The present one is a late-comer to the hawker center.

Icemoon - I think that was the 25m range shared by the 2 camps then. We used to go there to zero our AR15. To the right of the open space was the medical center, again shared by the 2 camps.

peter said...

Icemoon - apologies n corrections.

The open space was the small field with training sheds and at 2 oclock position of it was the 3SIR cookhouse. The 25mm range is 10 oclock from the open space. To the right of the 25mm range was the medical center shared by 3 and 4 SIR,

Icemoon said...

Peter - ouch, should have guessed. They have the range at Gul camp too! From 6SIR's era, I think. The training sheds and medical center are still there, same location but rebuilt/renovated. Part of the current SOC is on the small field, where was your SOC ground then? :P

Brian Mitchell said...

thanks Peter, in fact that corner is a place I remember well from the 1960s, since my first few months in Singapore I lived at a hotel overlooking Kallang Park and then in the Opera Estate in Siglap and my daily journey to school in Changi was along the Upper East Coast Road around that bend on Bedok Road and then along Upper Changi Road. When I visit next year Chun See has warned me how much things will have changed but this road is one I intend to travel along looking very carefully for any sign of the past!

Tom said...

Tom said ...
peter you just jog my mind , I remember to seeing big trucks going on the beach at Beddok and dumping alot of earth into the sea. Bedok corner, I use to go there with my army pals, I would go strait to the hawker stall and ask for one of my favorite sea food ,it is King prawns, I love alot of sea food, I recommend that people should eat sea food it is good for you and it is very healthy. looking at the photograph Bedok corner has changed , I think Brian, and I will see alot of changes

peter said...

I spotted I made some errors in my article. So this morning I took a drive to reconfirm.

The Sultan of Pahang's bungalow was completed in 1928 and the address is #34 Eastwood Road and not #38.

Zen said...

Talking about seafood, it is virtually a must for visitors to Singapore. My friend was at his wits-end when his company told him to organise a welcome party for a group of German executives. On the very first day, he took them for a boat trip to the surrounding islands completed with a sumptuous seafood dinner at Palm Beach. He saw to it that his German friends downed a sizeable volume of beer snd to their hearts' content. The verdict of the foreign visitors on the trip was..... "when would be our next visit?"

Camemberu said...

Love your blog! So nostalgic and full of historical details. One can learn so much, even from the comments. Definitely going to vote for you!

Annette Fox said...

I remember Bedok point from 1962 to 1964. Look at the 1958 photo. If that bus were to turn a sharp left, it would leave the road and enter a lovely little kampong. My uncle had a big bungalow there, and our childhood highlight was going to visit him, dragging out beach buckets, balls and toys from under the house which was raised about 1m off the ground, and then walking a few minutes to the beach to play.
At the end of the visit, in the very late evening, we would drive home past all the seafood houses on the left. I remember broken glass cemented into the tops of brick walls. I was about 6 and 7 then, and it was only in 1980 that a friend of mine treated me to a dinner at one of those restaurants.
I was thrilled to see that an old neon sign which used to be on the building (now partially hidden by the bus in the picture) was still there then! It was all in the same colour - one word on a plain design background: BAR. It always signified to me as we drove away in my dad's car the end of the enjoyable visit. By the time we got to the last of the broken bottles on the walls, I was almost fast asleep...
Until the next visit which was heralded by the strong salty smell of the sea, drifting in through an army of coconut trees many of which were practically parallel to the beach.
Thank you for the pictures.

Anonymous said...

Hi all

Recently read this book – WHEN KINGMAKERS SPEAK, a crime mystery based in Opera Estate in Singapore.

Don’t know whether it’s available in Singapore but I got it from amazon.co.uk.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=when+kingmakers+speak&x=16&y=17

Rather good. It brought back memories of my early life in Singapore.
Has anyone else read this?

Yeo Hong Eng said...

The first phase of the land reclamation was started in 1961 and was undetaken by the Japanese company Ombayashi Gumi. The first lorry load of earth was taken from the hill at Tanah Merah Kechil Road and dumped at the busstop at present day Temasek Secondary Schhol. At that time I was taking a bus at that bus stop.



Regarding the location of Tai Sun Resturant and Palm Beach, I have a map from my matchbox collection featuring

Yeo Hong Eng said...

The first phase of land reclamation of this part of Bedok was undertaken by Obayashi Gumi in 1961. The first lorry load of earth was taken from the hill of Tanah Merah Kechil and unloaded the beach just behind the busstop (present day Temasek Secondary School). At that time I was taking the Katong Bedok Bus.

peter said...

Yeo Eng Hong

I like to contact you. Please let Chun See know your email contact. Thanks.

Ida said...

Hi,

I was at Bedok Corner last night and am writing about it today.

A lot of things has changed since I've been overseas for a fair bit. I used to live in Kampong Bedok and was quite upset when my grandmother's land was acquired by the government and later sold to developers. I remember the good old day of waiting for my bus across from Bedok Corner to get to school every morning. And those days where I visited my family's food stall at Bedok Corner. It's not the same anymore but I still visit the hawker centre each time I visit Singapore. There were lots of good memories - chased by dogs at Padang Terbakar and walking behind Bedok Camp to get to the beach and picking up the bullet shells. Dad always told me stories about the area - where the beaches were and then disappeared. He pointed out the old rotten posts along where the shoreline used to be and the the road began (and still is). I think those posts are gone now.

I miss it all.

Ian Roy Millington said...

hello,
i am quite sure that it was Padang Terbakar Kampung where i was well treated as a blond-haired young child about 2-4 yrs of age.
i being the son of an RAF Family living in Siglap.
it was 'Mar' the gardener who would bike me to their home, and i would be fed and washed and generally spoilt.
i believe my father has a number of photo's 1962-1965 in the changi/siglap area + Singapore overall., please reply-ask if you require any of these.
Does anyone remember the Singaporean Rock-Band 'Sweet Charity'., do they come from Bedok Village?
any replies very welcome., all the best., ian

Anonymous said...

Am glad to have the book about the place where i was born.i was born at Kampong Padang Terbakar since 1965 till 1987 where the place was acquired by goverment.Now the place known as Laguna Golf Club.It gave me a lots of memory during growing up at that place.Before the sea was reclaim my home was only 200m away from the beach we can get many types of seafood during the low tide, but feel upset when the area was totally changed..

Siti Nuraisah Buang said...

Dear Mr Chun,

Thank you for taking the time to share about Kg Padang Terbakar and its environs. I am grateful to learn and read more about the village where I spent the earlier years of my life. I will share your Blog with my family. Thank you.

Ian, I am not sure if Sweet Charity came from Bedok but I'll check with my sources :)