With so much urbanization, the fascination with comparing the old and new Singapore streetscape and landmarks dies off. That is true unless you take to the sky for a different kind of experience - which is exactly what I did over a period of time.
I got this “kick” from my experience coming in to land at the former Hong Hong’s Kai Tak International Airport. How do I describe it when you target your camera at the roads, people and buildings from Mongkok to Kowloon Wall City - just 1,000 feet below you? Well someday I will like to share those aerial photographs which I took in the 1980s and 1990s. Meanwhile back to Singapore.
On an aircraft, you can explore more of what is below you. Back in the 1960s, one could take to the skies on a Cessna from the Singapore Flying Club at Paya Lebar Airport. Today that is impossible because we have to deal with security restrictions. The alternative is to turn to civilian flights that leave/arrive at Changi International Airport. Still you need to find a good window seat as well as a pair of steady hands to “fire off” the camera.
Despite careful planning, luck plays a part. Sometimes luck is not on one’s side when the aircraft takes-off on a different runway and heads in another direction away from the intended route. Climbing to a high altitude too quickly also present a challenge.
Take the case when you are about to land at Changi International Airport and finding you are seated at the wrong side of the aircraft. How about the weather which can also create havoc? Too cloudy or a heavy rain storm can ruin aerial photography. Facing morning sun? Afternoon sun? When airlines do not care much about maintenance you have dusty and scratched windows.
The eastern part of Singapore makes an interesting case study because it is near to Changi Airport. You discover the urban, transport and industrial layout of Singapore which you cannot see at street level. Some places look familiar but not altogether the same. High up there, you see different parts of island Singapore. Let me illustrate with this oblique photo to recap our memories of Bedok Corner and Upper East Coast Road; as it was and as it is now.
Photo 1: Upper East Coast Road from 2,000 feet– 1960s and 2010
The history of Bedok South Road is interesting. Somebody at the URA must have found that the easiest way to “make” Bedok South Road was to follow the original alignment of the bucket-conveyor system which transported fill-material from the hills of Bedok and Upper Changi Road to the sea.
The former hills have become Bedok South Estate. Temasek Junior College looks to have occupied the grounds of what was once a kampong Chinese school. In the photo, I see blogger Yeo Hong Eng’s kampong-farm but I can’t find it anymore in 2010. Why call it Guards Avenue? There was a time when an off-site university campus existed on the reclaimed land. If you think Lorong Buangkok has the only well in Singapore, you will be surprised that somewhere in Bedok Corner there is still a fresh water well which dates back to the 1920s.
What other scenes can you recognize?
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