First of all there are the games. I believe that the games played by the Malay kids and us were quite different. In PY’s article, she mentioned games like gasing and congkak. But as you have probably read from my articles (you can click on the label Toys Were Us on the right side to read these articles) the games we played were quite different.
There were also a number of things in a Chinese kampong that you would not find in a Malay kampong. These were usually related to the difference in religious faiths; Malays being mostly Muslims. For example, in a Chinese kampong like Lorong Kinchir which I grew up in, pigs roaming freely was a common sight. Another thing which was mandatory in a Chinese kampong was the Tua Pek Kong temple and wayang stage. Depending on the size of the kampong, the size of these two features also tended to be different. During the Lunar 7th Month, opera shows would be performed. I have blogged about this before here.
A typical Malay kampong house in old Singapore.
Another thing we had was the Chinese Medicine Shop. Practically all Chinese kampongs had one of these. Today, they are still a common sight in our HDB heartlands. Another thing I can think of is the village school. In our kampong, we had a small Chinese school called Chong Boon School （崇文）. I spent one year there in fact doing primary one. But later I went to primary one again, but this time in an English school. In those days, they were not particular about ages and so even though I did two years of primary one, I was not over-age.
As I said before, even among the Chinese kampongs there were differences. This was mainly due to differences in economic activity. For example, compared to our closest neighbour which was Potong Pasir, we had more fish ponds whilst they had a lot of vegetable farms. We also had quite a bit of rubber estates. especially towards the Thomson end of Lorong Kinchir. Potong Pasir was to our south and separated from us by Braddell Road. It was mainly a Cantonese area. We used to refer to it as San Par. You can see some photos of the ponds of Lorong Chuan here.
To our west, was Kampong San Teng which is called Bishan today. They too were a Cantonese area and we referred to them as Pek San Teng (Pek San is the Cantonese pronunciation for Bishan). We were separated from them by the Kallang River. I am not sure about the economic activity in Kampong San Teng. What I do know is that they had a lot of cemeteries; and every Qing Ming we would go there for the ‘grave sweeping’ exercise.
1951 photo of my mother carrying my elder brother David. I was not born yet. The fish pond like this one was very common in Lorong Kinchir and Lorong Chuan area. So were the coconut trees which helped to bring in some income for us.
You can see more photos of bona fide Singapore kampong scenes at these websites: