In our recent trip to Yong Peng, we also had the opportunity to visit a rubber plantation. Our hosts who were rubber tappers were very enthusiastic to explain to us about their work. Below are some photos of things you will not find in Singapore - including close-ups of the rubber tapper's knife.
Remember the light that I strapped to my forehead. Nowadays the light is powered by batteries. But in the old days they used something called chow tor - literally, ‘smelly earth’ - in Hokkien. Do you know what was that?
We also discussed the problem of snakes. I happened to chat with a Malaysian friend about this the other day. He is now a Singaporean PR (permanent resident). When he was growing up in Pekan Nanas, he too used to help out in the rubber plantations. He told me he had to wake up at 3 in the morning and start work at 4 am. He said that snakes was not a big problem as long as you do not ‘disturb’ them, although he does recall seeing or peng’s. Do you know what snake is that? The biggest problem apparently was the mosquitoes which came in swarms. They had to cover themselves from head to toe leaving just a slit to see through. What a way to make a living!
Younger readers may not know this. Not so long ago, rubber plantations were a common sight in Singapore. For example, if you were to check out this World War II topographical map which my friend Kenneth put up at Flickr.com, you will see many rubber plantations in the Thomson-Braddell area. (you have to zoom in). In fact, in my previous posts, I have mentioned seeing rubber factories in places like Lorong Chuan, Bukit Timah and Upper Thomson Road. So I believe there are actually living in our midst Singaporeans who once made a living from this humble profession. Do you know anyone like that?
Can you name some places in Singapore where you can still find rubber trees? Of course I am not referring to the islands around Singapore. I am sure there are still lots of them on Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin. I can think of three such places.
1) The forests of MacRitchie near the Venus Drive area.
2) Chestnut Drive near the water pipes. I think I saw some the last time I went there for my brisk walking exercise (see photo below).
3) Woodland Town Park East. Whilst researching the whereabouts of Marsiling Hill 180, I saw many rubber trees here.
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