Sunday, June 15, 2008

Balek kampong to Bedok Corner Part 2: Changed Landscape from Sea to Land (Written by Peter Chan)

If I were to tell you that the sea was once in front of the Bedok Canal Connector, you might not believe me. When I tell you that Fairmount Condominium was where Long Beach Seafood made its name, you would doubt that too. I use these photos, courtesy of my friends, to describe the changed landscape; Dr. Michael Wang (a medical specialist who collects heritage postcards as a hobby), Douglas Chan – who does nothing but point & shoot from inside the airplane cabin, and retired x-RAF airman Peter Biggadike.

Photo1: Bedok Rest House (circa 1960) became Long Beach Seafood in the 1970s but today is the Fairmount Condominium. The WW2 pill-box is now the refuse bin under the lone tree on Bedok Junction. The concrete steps became the driveway into Bedok Camp 1. The “koleks” is the bus-stop.

Phase 1 of the East Coast Land reclamation Project stopped exactly at the canal between the Laguna National Golf & Country Club and Bedok Camp 1. By 1969, the seafront bungalows such as Bedok Rest House, the property of the Sultan of Pahang, the block of flats (now a part of the East Coast Medicare Center), and a zinc-roofed motor workshop stood facing the sea.

By 1972 when I was in Bedok Camp 1, there was no more sea in front of those seafront bungalows. Phase 4 of the land reclamation project from Bedok Corner had reached Tanah Merah Besar Road, leaving the sea off Nicoll Drive still intact.



Photo 2: Long Beach Seafood – Through the Years

On “Day 1” of my enlistment, I peeped out of the louvered window of Delta Company block and I saw a secondary jungle. What would they do with that piece of land I asked myself? Never did I know some 20 years later, I would be standing at the same spot on the tee-box. Fast-forward to 1992, it could well have been the site of the first F1 race track and not Marina Bay. I am not sure for the reasons the Singapore Government turned down the proposal.


Bedok Corner - Camp 1 to Bedok Canal

Photo 3: Beyond Bedok Camp 1 to Sungei. Bedok. At the bottom of the lower photo is the ECP towards Changi Aiport (left to right direction).

Before land reclamation, the Sungei Ketapang and Sungei Bedok separately drained into the sea. After land reclamation both rivers (and canals as they are now called) connect to each other first to become the Bedok Canal that drains into the sea at the East Coast Parkway; a distance of 2km further from the original shoreline. The Sungei Ketapang is now the canal between the golf course and the Changi MRT Depot and its mouth became the golf driving range. The Bedok Canal is now the flight-path of numerous golf balls that fly from the tee-box to the pin.

A small section of Koh Sek Lim Road remains but is now inside the Bedok NeWater Plant. When you enter the Bedok NeWater Plant, that road is the truncated Koh Sek Lim Road having lost a part of it to the business park at Changi South Lane. The Laguna National Golf and Country Club’s clubhouse was the site of the original tofu factory and the land around it was cultivated by Chinese farmers. My Malay classmate told me that during the racial riots of 1964, the Chinese farmers and Malay fishermen banded together as one united community and armed themselves with changkols and parangs against “foreign incursions”.

I have indicated with a blue arrow in the last photo the path of the 2.5 km Run that I took during my National Service days. Depending on “how siow” the OC of Delta Company was, we ran beyond Somapah Village to Teluk Mata Ikan, a Malay Village (somewhere near the PIE and Runway 02L of Changi Airport) and back to Bedok Camp 1. Today with the Bedok Connector, one could go further than that to Changi Point from Bedok Corner.

What a transformation since the 1960s!

Photo 4: The sea which is now the Laguna National Golf and Country Club

48 comments:

Icemoon said...

Hi Chun See, is it possible to enlarge Photo 3?

icemoon said...

So Peter was in the forerunner of today's Support Company. But do trees grow so fast? In 1970, the golf course land hasn't been reclaimed, according to the photo in the previous blog entry. How come the land became a secondary jungle in two years time?

peter said...

Icemoon on re: trees

I cant explain much on the tree specie selected because I am not a botanist but I was aware that the government was doing a lot of tree-planting immediately once land reclamation finished. The same thing went for Marine Parade which was able to complete the HDB Estate the first project was at Marine Terrace by 1974. Laguna Park was ready in 1975/76. Seems for public housing you need minimum 5 years for soil settlement but not so for unused land like the golf course.

Victor said...

Could the trees be "instant trees"? National Parks is known to grow trees to quite a large size and then transplant them to wherever they like.

Zen said...

I can still remember how the national park board beautified the stretch of beach at Sembawang Park adjacent to the shipyard. Lorry loads of sand were laid onto the existing beach and coconut trees (at least about ten feet tall) were physically brought to transplant in the beach area. In a short period of time the new-look beach is ready to serve residents from Yishun and Sembawang areas. Due to its undulating ground the area is quite scenic especially when viewed from the higher ground (beaulieu house restaurant) overlooking the Johor strait with Pasir Gudang at the back ground. TCS (now mediacorp) filmed a few sunset scenes here. The main point I would like to stress is that grown-up trees can be transplanted successfully from one place to another - that is when under expert hands.

peter said...

Victor, you got good memory. Yes the government used the words "Instant Trees" in those days to describe trees planted on reclaimed land. Reminds of the "instant" rambutan and durian trees which you dont need to wait for 10 years to bear fruits.

Zen, what you also jog my memory. Nowdays even new condos have trees which are cultivated elsewhere and transplanted to the new destination. That was what the government did not too long ago when they brought palm trees over from Johore to Nicoll Highway (in front of Suntec City) for the IMF Meeting,

If readers like to see first-hand "transplanting" experience, the golf club has a nursery facing the Bedok Connector footpath where they are now "holding" some fully grown palm trees, taken out during the rebuilding of the golf course.

Brian Mitchell said...

When I started researching modern day Singapore, and found Chun See's blog one of the first things I realised was that the shape of the island seemed to have changed a lot since the 1960s. Articles like this explain just how much it has changed. I quickly realised that Kallang Park where I walked during my first days in Singapore now seemed to be a long way from the sea and a quick look at a map of Changi made me realise that the large attap roofed house of my friend, which was near the beach was now under the new runway!

Lam Chun See said...

Yes, our coastline is constantly changing. Sometimes when I drive visitors on the East Coast Parkway, or the West Coast Highway, I like to tell them that the road we were on used to be the sea and try to point out to them where the old coastline used to be.

Actually, many younger Singaporeans also do not know. That's why I started this blog.

Zen said...

The government is presently carrying out an ambitious reclamation programme to extend its land mass. This has brought complaints by Johor fishermen that their catch has been affected. Visitors should not be surprised to find another 'Montreal' under Singapore in the future. Already the refinery storage facilities, army ammunition storage, railway networks, roads, tunnels, utility/sewage lines and so forth have gone underground. Not too long ago, our PM proudly announced in parliamet: "We not only build upwards, extending sideway, and now digging downwards..."

Edidas said...

Singapore is re-developing at a faster rate than before in this century. 50 years on, the current places mentioned in this blog might have disappeared due to redevelopment, bringing along its heritage.

Therefore, I feel the younger Singaporeans not only need to know about Singapore heritage but also need to play a part to keep this heritage alive =/

ancientmoon said...

Singapore do changed a lot!

Such as Laguna National Golf & Country Club
i view the existing look from http://yoolk.sg/entertainment/clubs/laguna-national-golf-and-country-club-29175.html

it is very beauty .nv thought there was sea previously

golf_courses said...

yes there is beautiful. my friend taking golf courses there.

Daniel Koh said...

I know the old Bedok area very well because I spent my childhood days there. We used to live 2 houses away from the Bedok River. The road was named Padang Terbakar (Translation: Field on fire) because of the common lallang fire during the hot seasons) and later renamed Siak Kuan Road. Our house was just about 100 metres away from the shore line and during low tides, we could almost walk to the nearby kelongs. I had such a wonderful childhood during those kampong days and wish I could relive those bygone days once more. By the way, Koh Sek Lim was my grandfather. I used to joke with my friends that I "can anyhow walk on this road because it's my grandfather's road."

Edward said...

Interesting to read about Bedok. I used to live in Bedok in the 50’s. I scarcely remember much of the house we lived in. It was a 2 storey zinc or attap roof top house with a toilet and garage outside. When it rained heavily cockroaches would come out of the stove (made of stone). Not sure if it was a wood fired stove. Was gas available in zinc and attap houses in the 50’s? I know we had chickens in the garage. When my brother and I broke an egg we’d get into trouble with mom. There was a canal or river at the back of my house. I remember my brother fell into it one day and was covered all over in black slimy stuff. Mom had to wash him over a steel basin outside the house. The kid next door was called Gerard. The beach was across the road, less than 5 minutes from where we were. My parents rented the house for a couple of years before we shifted to Sembawang Hills Estate.

Icemoon said...

Daniel Koh, oh so Koh Sek Lim was your grandfather!! May I ask whether Soo Bee (c.f. Jalan Soo Bee) was one of your relatives also?

Daniel Koh said...

Hi Icemoon - No, Soo Bee is not related to me. Koh Sek Lim's estate comprises of Gulegah Road (now renamed as Xi Lin Avenue...Hanyu Pinyin for "Sek Lim") and Jalan Chempaka Kuning estate near Bedok Shopping Complex. The whole area of the current Singapore Expo once belonged to my grandfather too. If you know Koh Sek Lim kampong well, you'll remember there was a big disused sand pit quarry that later became a scenic lake where many drownings occurred. I remember seeing bodies being recovered by the then British Royal Navy divers. Coconut plantations were plentiful too. All these were forcibly acquired by the government in the name of progress and the owner was paid peanuts.

If any of you kampong fellas out there once lived in those areas, do drop me a line. It is certainly nice to reminisce over those good old days when catching spiders, playing bola hantam, chap-teh, catching guppies at dirty longkangs, etc were part of our daily activities. No, we were the rugged types. There were no such things as infections or catching a cold back then. My mates would probably be in their 50s or early 60s by now.

Edward said...

One thing I definitely do remember is having round worms when I was living in Bedok. Maybe it was because my brother and I were running around bare feet. My mother used to pull them out of our back sides! Yuk! That was the only parasitic infections I could remember.

Icemoon said...

I'm trying to guess where Edward used to live. The canal or river, could it be Sungei Bedok or Sungei Ketapang?

From Daniel's description, I think he lived somewhere between Kok Sek Lim Road and Sungei Bedok. The lake would be between the road and river, but behind. There should be a school opposite the road.

peter said...

The big lake is where NeWater now sits, mind yo on the same spot.

Padang Terbakar is closer to Sunge Ketapang (now Laguna National Hole #10)

Bedokian said...

I lived in Jalan Chempaka Kuning and used to cycle to Koh Sek Lim Road where the attap houses and farms were. I would cycle to somewhere near Bedok camp where the beach was and remember that it was lots of fun then. Now everything has changed and it's not fun anymore. I wish everything could be the same like before in the 70's but it's just impossible. So we only have memories to live with.

Edward said...

Hi Icemoon, I will ask my mother about the street where we used to live in Bedok. She is in the early stage of Alzheimer so I hope she can remember. On my own my memory can sometimes be quite selective. Some things I remember so well but others are quite vague, even though they may happen at a later date.

Icemoon said...

Thanks Edward. Maybe you can recall how far you were away from the main road (Changi Road). Does Danniel's description sound familiar to you?

Meanwhile you can consider writing your own Balik Kampong Bedok story. :P

Daniel Koh said...

Before starting my latest comments, I think we should all thank Mr Lam Chun See for starting this blog. I am sure he must be pleased to see the interest it has generated. I'm just wondering which part of Bedok kampong his old house used to be.

Icemoon, you're right to say that my old place was between Koh Sek Lim Rd and Sungei Bedok. To be exact, it was the second house after the Bedok River, if you are walking in from Bedok camp or Bedok Rest House. It was directly facing the sea and there was a big butter-fruit tree in the garden. I was told years ago that the good old tree's still standing there. There was a rather big bridge spanning the Bedok River and it once collapsed after a big flood during the Hari Raya season. It was then rebuilt. I used to spend my time catching mud-crabs and fishing for catfish in that river. The bridge at Sungei Ketapang was not as wide and the water there was not as clean as the one at Bedok River.

Icemoon, you're also correct to say that there was a school near the lake. Actually, that big 2-storey building was one of Koh Sek Lim's mansion before being converted to a school. It was a Chinese stream school and reported to be haunted.

Padang Terbakar used to be a Malay kampong with many houses on stilts. There was a factory making "kapo" (white-washing paint)from the white seashells harvested from the sea opposite. I also remember there was a Canossian Convent school nearby run by European nuns. I think the second generation Canossian Convent school (primary & secondary) is now located at Bedok North. Later on down the years, there was also a towgay-producing farm not far away and directly facing the sea.

I'll "balik kampong" for holidays in January 2010 and I must make a nostalic trip down memory lane to my old homeground. A place that I know so well and which still hold so many happy memories for me.

Lam Chun See said...

Yes Daniel. It gives me great pleasure to see that readers seem to enjoy chatting and exchanging stories here at Good Morning Yesterday. If you have any stories you would like to share, pls feel free to email them to me at: cslam@hoshin.com.sg.

By the way, my kampong was not in Bedok but near Lorong Chuan. This particular article is written by my friend Peter Chan.

Daniel Koh said...

Oh ya, I overlooked that. It was Peter Chan who wrote about Koh Sek Lim kampong and its surrounding areas. Nevertheless, you still deserved the credit for putting up this blog in the first place. Now, Peter...where was your old place?

I am looking for a certain guy whose nickname (when he was a young boy) was "Ah-Yam." (No, I can assure you he was no chicken!) I do not know his real name but I think his surname is Soh. We grew up together in the same kampong and spent our growing up years like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He should be around 50 years old by now and I heard that he is/was an engineer by profession. So, Ah-Yam...if by a slim chance you're reading this, please contact me. We have heaps to talk about.

Lam Chun See said...

Daniel. You will be happy ot know that this blog has re-connected more than 1 set of old friends. One example is my primary school classmate Aii Chan. Even friends in UK who have not met for years managed to reconnect right here in Good Morning Yesterday.

Like you I also hope my friend from Braddell Rise School by the name of Daniel reads this blog. He used to live in Bartley Road.

Edward said...

Icemoon, I’ve just got a reply from my mother. We used to live in Sennet Road. Apparently the houses in the street were replaced by new terrace houses about 2 years after we left, which was in 1958. The canal at the back of our house was always flooded when it rained heavily.

Anonymous said...

Edward, the fact you lived in Bedok before it was levelled is interesting. I checked old maps. There were two water streams, one at Bedok South Road today and the other at Bedok North. Your house was on top of the hill?

- Icemoon

Edward said...

Hi Icemoon, I will ask my mother about this. Please bear with me, it may take some time to get an answer from her. As I said before, my mother has Alzheimer, so remembering the past can be quite an effort … which means it may be a while before I get an answer. Strange you should mention hills in Bedok. I can recall coming back from the barber … we drove along a road and I could see a bare hill top i.e. a hill with no trees or vegetation. More or less an orange, earth coloured sandy top. My dad used to say that it’s “tueng swar”, which in Hokkien means China. Do you remember a bare hilltop in or around Bedok? Dad used to drive a black Austin Cambridge in 1957. I remember his car parked in our garage … the garage where we have chooks running around. We keep them for their eggs. You do have very good memories of Bedok.

cXD said...

Hi Chun See, I'm very impressed on how you have documented the past and changes to Singapore over the years. I'm 16 and really interested in exploring the past of Singapore but very few are left (except one Kampong in Lorong Buangkok). People think I'm crazy as I kept talking about how good to live in the rustic past as lives were very much simpler. How I wish I can experience a taste of the past like you and the other users! I'm currently staying along the newly reclaimed land at Marine Parade and thanks for documenting the history of Bedok and the old East Coast. It provided me a great insight.

PS: I was residing at Upper Thonson a year ago near an old place which I know and was called Kampong San Teng.

katak said...

hi to everyone here. i too used to live in bedok. my place ws near the current bedok corner makan place. there ws a petrol station there too and i remembered the big flood in late 60s. i also used to cycle from my place to somapah road bypassing padang terbakar. we used to call somapah road the 10mile and end of koh sek lim road the 9mile. in the late 60s, early 70s there were regular beach regatta before the reclaimation.. i remembered the pill box in front of bedok rest house and the sea ws just within walking distance.. in front of the pill box, there ws a small pond, quite deep in which i lost a one of my sandal as it got stuck in the mud. i also remembered going looking for kerang during low tide and seaweed too. a big mansion still stands to this day, but it must have been converted into boarding house [i hear]. there were many accidents along bedok corner, a dangerous place to take corners in particular for 2 wheels motorists. along kew drive, behind a chinese temple [after bedok camp towards east coast rd], there used to be a cemetery.. i went to bedok boys' school and later chai chee chee secondary.. those days, playing 'goli', catching spiders, swimming in the canals beside the bedok river, 'kuti kuti', rubberbands, throwing stones n there were many more were the norm for most kids.. just cant forget those days.. i still go back to bedok corner once or twice a year.. just incredible to find shared details here.. cheers everyone.

Daniel Koh said...

Hi Katak (Frog?), Nice to hear from a fellow old Bedokian and reminise about old happenings in our kampong. Yes, I do remember the old Bedok corner too. Many pedestrians trying to cross from that section of the road were knocked down by cars. There was also the old Bedok Police Station near that corner. I still go back to Bedok corner for my makan sessions whenever I am in Singapore. The famous stall selling "Chng-Tng" and "Ju-hu Eng-Chye" is still there although it is now run by his 2 sons. I see that you were also from Bedok Boys' School. I was there from 1960 to 1965. Check out the school's facebook for some nostalgic trip down memory lane. I posted some photos there.

abdul mutalib said...

Ako M67
Hi everyones, What a great memory over there, back to bedok corner. I use to stay at Jln Haji Salam , and bedok corner makan place use to be my morning and dinner makan area. Still remember Ali mamak who sell Roti prata, and Nasi Rawan Mak Malek.
im from bedok boys primary sch. The principal during my time was Miss Tan. Mr Chan who we use to call the Garang teacher use to carry along long cane. Mr Goh very nice and use to be vice principals.
That corner road was use to be the favourite corner spot for those who ride motorbike during that time.Till now during my free time i use to drive in from jln haji salam and out at jln langgar bedok. also till now i use to pray at jln bilal mos.During mid 70s i use to ride bicycle from my house go into jln bedok laut to jln padang terbakar and out to somampah road opposite jln 3 ratus near changkat changi sec sch.At bedok laut there was a wet market and the only market at that area.
My friends and i use to sit at the junction of jln haji salam and we start to guess what will be the next bus service number that will passby.it use to be service nos 10,11,13,14,135 and 155. Use to jog early in the morning from Kew Dr to East Coast Park and must pass by a samll cemetary ( muslim ) and a Temple next to it.

Well what a loving memories during that time

peter said...

Not sure whether anybody can recall this incident. A female teacher (under stress) from Bedok Boys (Girls???) School hung herself at a tree opposite the school. I think this spot is now Bedok Ria.

There was a Changi Bus Company depot somewhere along Bedok Road in the 60s/70s.

There was a white colored seawall built somewhere from Kew Drive to somewhere in front of Bedok Camp in the 60s.

Icemoon said...

> My friends and i use to sit at the junction of jln haji salam and we start to guess what will be the next bus service number that will passby.it use to be service nos 10,11,13,14,135 and 155.

Now that gahman is moving towards hub-and-spoke model for bus services, it is timely to blog about the services still plying our roads since the early (green, tay koh yat etc.?) days. 10 and 14 still serving Bedok Corner. Bus 2 still travel along the old (and new) Changi roads.

Salim said...

Hi Peter,

The sad incident you mentioned, I recalled was that of a student from Bedok Girls Pr Sch. Too much of exam stress. Mama shopkeeper along Bedok Rd, adjacent to Bedok Bus Depot, mentioned that she bought rope from him.

The bus depot you mention was Katong/Bedok Bus Company

RON HO said...

The land reclamation at Bedok corner started in 1960 when I was 12 years old. It was contracted to Obayashi Gumi who used soil from the hills at Chai Chee and conveyorized them across Kew Drive area to the shallow sea in from front of Bedok Rest House. The two pill boxes that stood to the right of Bedok Rest House which we used to play inside as kids were removed in 1962 or so while the reclamation was on-going. The reclamation took place at the corner of Bedok and worked its way towards Katong and the sea front where we used to catch crabs and prawns at low tide was filled 150 meters towards the sea. Life for us at the Bedok kampong where we lived was not the same thereafter. No more going to the beach to dig for clams, no more prawn and crab catching and no more collection of old WW2 bullets from the sea bed. It was true that during the riots of 1964, people at kampong Bedok, Malays and Chinese, ganged up to fight off outside invaders. Racial harmony was never better when we lived in the kampong.

mavrick said...

Hi Daniel,

I am Murad. Not your age group but probably one of your relative David Koh who once stayed at 164B Bedok Road which is now a Church. I was his neighbour at 162A Bedok Road and also a classmate of his in Bedok Primary School. Was there from Pr 1 to 6 with Miss Annie Tan as the principal. Any idea where David is now?

Oh yes guys... lovely reading this blog... brings me back lots of memory as I was borned there and lived there till 1981. My house was next to the Buddhist Pelalei Temple and opposite Bedok Boys School. Did my primary studies in that school too. Yup... I am looking up for old friends who still remembers me.

Edward...
The hill with the bare top is now Kew Crescent and you find a Condominium now there."http://www.streetdirectory.com/asia_travel/travel/travel_id_19496/travel_site_1/#t/map/lo/103.95103087820365/la/1.3187200470637326/l/13" It was bare because it was a Chinese cemetary at the top. There was also a temple at the bottom of the hill and a road next to it going up the hill. The temple is till there. That hill is historical as it was where the 1st Malay regiment fellows that were captured at Pasir Panjang but was massacred there. I have a friend doing a research on this. He is still in search of their lost graves which was the one behind Bedok Boys School where you find a small plot of land with some graves. Now, I guess it is part of Bedok South Secondary School which took the area where Bedok Boys and Bedok Girls School used to be. The land where Bedok Primary School is still bare till today.

Daniel Koh said...

Hi Murad, Yes, David is one of my cousins and they used to live at the place which you described. He and his family are living in Australia for many years now.

Icemoon said...

Maverick, have you read this related post by Peter? Daniel Kassim commented the graves were behind Bedok Boys School as well.

mavrick said...

Icemoon, Yes, Daniel Kassim is my friend who was asking me about the graves. We had a walk there.

mavrick said...

Daniel, Thanks. Do send my regards to him. Is his dad around? Reminds me of the lovely beatle car he drove and of course his wonderful mom.

Daniel Koh said...

@ Murad - Will convey your regards to David Koh. Yes, his dad is still around but his mum passed away many years ago.

iqbal said...

I cannot believe that and grateful to have found a photo of the Bedok Rest House as it was before reclamation. You see I once stayed at the Rest house for a couple of months as a kid with my parents and siblings in the 50's between moving house. I remember the stunning and unforgettable scenes of the tide rising to the very door steps of Rest house . The endless coast line hugging the old Bedok road made going to school in a bus feel like an pleasurable excursion in a resort . Are you aware Mr. Lum ,if there are any other pictures of Old Bedok to be found? Best regards Mohd. Iqbal

Edward said...

Hi Mavrick, thanks for the information on the barren hilltop. I’m glad I did not know there was a Chinese cemetery there or the story of the massacre of the 1st Malay regiment during the Japanese occupation. I am sure my dad kept these spooky details from us. I have tried to get old photos of Sennet Road to refresh my memory but have no luck so far. I really enjoyed the two postings on Bedok by Peter Chan (as well as their related comments). So much historical information on my childhood home which I left in 1958!

Anonymous said...

I was born in the 1950s at Lor Selulu (hope it is correct) or 'ang moh village' (can't remember exact dialectal name. Was from Bedok Girls' Primary School. I think Bedok Secondary School or some sports school is now sited at the location of the former school.
It is really nostalgic to come across this website ... missing those kampung days and the childhood kampung boys and girls ... just wonder how and where they are ....

Christopher Tan said...

Hi Daniel Koh (GrandUncle)!






Shernice said...

Hi,

I would like to find out more about the house of sultan.
I would really appreciate if anyone knows the history of the house to contact me.

Thank you,
Gow
98622031