Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My first packaged tour

Reading YG’s post about the old People’s Park reminds me of the other famous ‘park’ of that era. Do you know which one I am referring to? It’s Outram Park.

The Outram Park shopping complex was located at where the present Outram MRT station is situated. Unlike People’s Park, the blocks here were only two storeys high. The layout of the buildings was quite unique in that the blocks were not arranged in the typical fashion; i.e. parallel to the main road with the shops facing it. Instead they were at an oblique angle to it, forming a long zig-zig row, with a long open car in front.

Thanks to Peter Chan for this 1968 photo.

Here's a photo of the Chancellor Departmental Store at Outram Park courtesy of Peter Chan. Strange, they translated Chancellor as 'da ren'? Could they have interpreted Chancellor to mean a 'big shot'?

This is the only photo of the Outram Park Shopping Complex that I could find in the National Archives’ Picas collection.

I do not know in which year Outram Park was built. But I remember clearly the first time I went there was early one morning in December 1970 to board the coach which would bring me and my family (my parents and my sister) for my first packaged holiday tour to Malaysia. I had just completed my HSC exams - today’s equivalent of the A-levels - and was waiting to be enlisted into the army. There were two well-known tour agencies at that time. One was called Nam Ho and I think the other was called C&E. We booked our tour with C&E. Can you guess how much was the fare? I think it was slightly less than $100!

Our tour covered the main attractions in Peninsula Malaysia all the way up to Penang. Of course at that time there wasn’t any North-South Highway. Neither was there a Penang Bridge. Along the way, we stopped at several popular Malaysian tourist spots. For example, we stopped at Kajang to sample the famous Kajang satay. And then there was the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur and the very popular Cameron Highlands hill resort. Our itinerary did not cover Fraser’s Hill, the other famous hill resort. But among our group, we made a collection and got the driver and guide to add that to our itinerary. I remember the poor driver’s arms became stiff from all that mountain road driving. At that time, Genting Highlands was not built yet.

Another significant stop was the Cantonese town of Ipoh in Perak. We stopped at a shopping centre called the Octagon which was called Pat-kok-lau in Cantonese. It was demolished recently. The tour guide spun a fanciful story about the smooth hor fun (rice noodle) and fair ladies of Ipoh. The former was smooth because of the special quality of the water in that region whilst the latter was fair because Ipoh sat in the shadows of the nearby limestone mountains. At that time, I never dreamed that one day I would make one of these ‘fair ladies’ my life partner. I assure you my decision was not influenced by the tour guide’s fantastic story. Neither did I dream that this little mining town would be second home to me and my children; and who knows, it could well be the place where I spend my last days.


Below are some photos from my first packaged tour.

This photo was taken at the entrance to what is known as The Gap which is a narrow winding road that allows for only one way flow of traffic. If you continue on without turning left to Fraser’s Hill, you will come to the small town of Raub which I visited once many years ago when my 9th uncle was working in the town hospital.

This photo taken with our Minolta Hi-matic camera at Cameron Highlands was from our first row of Kodak colour film. Only four of us, my father, mother, sister and myself went for this trip.

37 comments:

yg said...

chun see, i think outram park was built on the site of the outram prison which was demolished in the 60s. i don't remember much about outram park except the very popular char kway teow stall in one of the coffee shops.

Icemoon said...

Take a look at these photos by John Larkin. Could they be the same Outram Park flats?

peter said...

Icemoon - yes those look like Outram Park taken from the direction of Pearl's Hill. I didn't know they used rainbow clours for the buildings.

Chun See - Outram MRT took over Outram School. The station building next to overhead pedestrian bridge was one of the school buildings facing SGH.

thelongnwindingroad said...

My earliest memories of Outram Park were connected with my parents shopping at Chancellor, a department store that was popular back then. Not sure if anyone remembers the store?

Dogcom said...

Wow, Chun See I did the same tour, same tour agency Nam Ho around 1976. I must say your memory is really superior! I can hardly remember much details but every thing you wrote is like the tour I did then except I went with my then girl friend, now my wife. Yes we visited Cameron Highland but not Fraser Hill and Genting. And about Ipoh and Hor Fun, our tour group had a good laugh when our lunch was just solely Ipoh Hor Fun. In fact the tour guide was hyping it up before lunch plike it is something so special haha.

Lam Chun See said...

I am afraid I don't recognize the rainbow coloured flats. Anyway, my memory of Outram Park is always of the shopping complex and not the residential blocks. In 1985; my colleagues and I at NPB underwent a crash course in Japanese to prepare for our overseas training in Japan. At the end of our Japanese course, our teacher brought us to this authentic Japanese restaurant located at a corner of the Outram Park, and we were expected to place our individual orders in Japanese. The outcome as you might expect was hilarious.

As for the Chancellor Dept Store, I simply had no collection and thus did not put up Peter's photo earlier. But since Jerome mentions it, I decided to add it just now.

Lam Chun See said...

Well Frankie, at least you remembered who you went with :)

Anyway, about Ipoh, I also remember we ate tim sum at the Octagon. Also remember the famous Ipoh pomeloes as well as the Sam Poh Tong limestone caves. Of course years; or should I say decades later when I went to Ipoh with my wife, I realised how tiny the Octagon was actually.

stanley said...

Yes I remember there was a char kway teow stall located on the second storey where for two dollars you could get a big plate of kway teow plus generous amount of see hum.

yg said...

stanley, when it comes to food, your memory is very good.

FL said...

During my secondary schooldays in the sixties, I used to take the Hock Lee Bus daily passing along Outram Road. Whilst travelling on the bus, you could see the prison bldg with its high walls at this site, and also the old Outram Sec School. I think the Outram Park (with HDB flats & shops) was built in the late sixties. I recalled attended one or two friends' wedding dinners in a Chinese restaurant at the Outram Park during the 1970s. That's all I remember.

Brian and Tess said...

I was interested to see the photo of your family at The Gap, we travelled up this road to Frasers Hill in 1961 - it was at that time a small hill station for the British Forces and my father was Station Commander for two weeks in the summer - I guess he was covering for the premanent Commander whilst on holiday. We were fascinated by the place as we stayed in a small cottage, with a fire for the cold evenings and wandered around a strangely British but not British place - not least as it was surrounded by jungle with very noisy monkeys. A group of us set off into the jungle but were very careful to find our way back. This visit, and the night we spent in a colonial guest house in KL the night before is a very vivid memory for me.

Brian

Thimbuktu said...

Outram Park blog triggers me nostalgic memories of the place which was the former site of the Outram Prison. It was beside the old Outram Secondary School building along Outram Road.

When Outram Park completed the building by HDB in 1968, I attended the opening ceremony by MM Lee Kuan Yew. Late Mrs Lee was then present together with their 3 children. PM Lee Hsien Loong was a young boy then. Time flies.

Lam Chun See said...

Since some of you have made mention of the Outram Road jail, younger readers may be curious. Hence, I will share with you a photo of this place sent to me by Russ Wickson. The photo was taken by George Shaw. Next time.

Tom said...

I Remember the Cameron Highlands very well, I was sent up there after I came out of Alexandra Hospital Singapore for weeks convalescent, Just a wee bit of history, Chun See did you know how the Cameron highlands got its name ,it was named after a Surveyor called William Cameron who map out the area. I think he would have been a Scotsman with a name like Cameron.

Lam Chun See said...

Considering the technology of those days, the difficult terrain, remoteness of these highlands, esp. Fraser's Hill and their accessiblity, it is amazing that they could survey and build the structures in these 2 places. Must take our hats off to these people responsible.

Lam Chun See said...

That first time we went to Fraser's Hill we were really struck by the 'Englishness' of the buildings. We were also amazed at the beauty of the flowers there, especially the huge roses and chrysanthemums.

Icemoon said...

I can never imagine how they send pple up Cameron Highlands for convalescencing. Today I think there are two routes up the highlands. One them, a road spiralling all the way, can really make you puke. A nightmarish introduction to the hill station.

Lam Chun See said...

Icemoon's comment reminds me. Actually my sister did throw up a few times during the trip down from Cameron Highlands. Today there is a new road to CH from Simpang Pulai which is much better; broader, straighter and with dual lanes in many stretches for easy over-taking. Otherwise if you are stuck behind a lorry or bus on a mountain road, it can be terrible. Especially uphill. Some of these old Msian lorries spew lots and lots of black smoke.

But for Sporeans driving up north, it means having to travel some extra distance becos Simpang Pulai is just before Ipoh, whereas the old road is from Tapah, which is, I don't know ... maybe 70~80 km to the south.

But according to this website; its only another 40 km or so.

Redstorm said...

Yes, Chun See, you are right. The distance between the Tapah Road and Simpang Pulai Road is 42.3km, to be exact, according to my GPS map.

Tom said...

Icemoon, The time I went to the Cameron Highlands I was put on air plane at R.A.F Changi if I remember right the plane was called a Dakota ,And I think it Landed some where near Ipoh and I got on to a army bus that was to take me all the way to a small village in the Highlands I just cant remember the name of the place and the bus took that long winding road you had mentoined If I remember it had a lot of long sharp bends on it and thick Jungle on each side of the road.

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Icemoon said...

How do you pronounce Dakota? Is it Da-ko-ta or Di-ko-ta? SMRT thinks it is the latter. The metro station next to National Stadium got its name due to the many Dakotas at Kallang Airport.

Brian and Tom's trip to the highlands remind me of two historical incidents - assassination of High Commissioner Gurney at Fraser Hill Gap Road (one day I must do a second shot) in 1951 and disappearance of Jim Thompson on Cameron Highlands in 1967.

Tom said...

Icemoon I think you can pronounce Dakota ither way,but I dont know, I my self would pronounce it a Di-ko-ta.

Brian and Tess said...

Toms comment on flying up in a Dakota reminded me that our family flew back from our trip to Frasers Hill in a Bristol Frieghter to Changi. These were just about the most basic cargo aircraft around, they had a few passenger seats strapped into the cargo hold in which we sat, the noise was so great that communication was only possible through written notes - and one came around warning us we were about to fly straight through a tropical storm - it was extremely noisy and rough. Definitely the worse flight I have ever done.

Redstorm said...

Icemoon's comment that the metro station next to National Stadium got its name due to the many Dakotas at Kallang Airport is not exactly correct.

Yes, Dakota MRT station's name is adapted from the nearby road, Dakota Crescent, but the latter was actually named in commemoration of an air crash involving a Dakota aircraft.

On 29 Jun 1946, one of the Dakota aircrafts belonging to the Royal Air Force with 20 personnel on board crashed at the Kallang Airport in a storm with no survivors. A housing estate later was built around the vicinity of the crash site and Dakota Crescent was named in commemoration of this disaster.

Lam Chun See said...

Yeee .... Icemoon. Why do you adopt such a scary looking avatar?

Lam Chun See said...

Tom, Brian. Could it be that in those days, these 2 hill resorts (Good Lord, I almost typed hell resorts .. LOL) catered mostly to the British folks. No wonder the buidings had such an English look. There is a restaurant called Ye O' Smokehouse; very elegant and classy. I have stayed at the Richmond Bungalow at Frasers; they even have a fireplace.

Icemoon said...

Chun See, it is not scary anymore. Highlands like Cameron, Fraser and Maxwell started of as British hill stations.

Redstorm, thanks for the clarification. However I'm not sure the entry in wikipedia on Kallang Airport is reliable. They gave the source for the air crash, but not the source for the origin of Dakota Crescent. I got my info from the wiki entry on Dakota MRT, unfortunately the source is not cited as well. So I'm open to both arguments.

Tom said...

Chun See the place I went to in the highlands did look very English.

Zen said...

I remember the char kway teow stall operated from a small corner coffee shop. The fried kway teow was done just right - not too dry, the ingredients generous, delicious sauce and the dish could be considered of high standard. The old man had the kwai teow fried ready,still lying in the wok, and when he received an order he would speedily crack in an egg, stirred it with the ingredients (most memorable were the fresh cockles), and with astonishing speed the dish was ready. Before you could warm your seat, the plate of tasty kway teow delivered to you....that was provided you could beat the hungry lunch crowd.

Anonymous said...

Was the Chinese restaurant at Outram Park named Yan Palace? 燕閣 The one now located at Hong Lim Complex.

halogen replacement led said...

Packaged tours gives us the best enjoyments but sometimes we feel like we are in limitation in packaged tours. But after reading your post I came to know that you have enjoyed a lot during your tour.

Security Print said...

I think you love traveling in different place. Here you described about your first tour in Outram Park. I know that first packaged tour is always remarkable and I think you have very good experience with your first tour. I appreciate that you have very deep knowledge in particular destination for traveling.

pervertt said...

I lived in the Outram Park estate for 3 years, from 1981 to 1984. There was a block of flats that was reserved for foreign nationals (mainly Malaysians) who worked in the public service. The block was directly opposite the Pearl Bank Apartments. I worked in the Ministry of National Development at Maxwell Road, and walked to the office everyday (this was before the MRT).

As one of the first generation HDB developments, the flats in Outram Park were plain and functional. There was nothing especially beautiful about the place. I was in a small 2 bedroom flat on the 7th floor, with a squat toilet that took a while to get used to. The shops downstairs were not doing well, probably because the place was too close to People's Park and Chinatown.

I returned to Singapore for a visit earlier this year. The entire HDB estate had been flattened, and there was only empty ground where several blocks of flats once stood. It was sad in way, but I guess there is little room for sentimentality in land scarce Singapore.

Mont d'Or said...

Thanks to Peter and Chun See for sharing the photo of Chancellor which brings back fond memories of the place. Such photos are hard to find online. I vaguely remember there's a phamacy next to it call Dragon Gate. I hope someone could share photos of the Dragon Phoenix restaurant in Outram Park, or any restaurants from the 70s where a stage with live band is common.

Peak Paradigm said...

I lived in Outram Park for almost my entire childhood years, and it was so sad to see it demolished. As someone quoted 'there is little room for sentimentality in land-scarece Singapore.'
From 1972 to 1985 i grew up with the place, saw its growth and gradual decline, until the government had a permanent en-bloc for the place, and we shifyed further down to Jalan Bt Merah.
I am trying to gather my personal memories of the place to write a book. If anyone would like to contribute text memories or visual memories (photos), i will appreciate it very much. Thanks!

JL said...

there was a chinese restaurant called dragon gate, i think, located at the top floor of WTO/harbourfront... is it the same restaurant?