Monday, January 16, 2012

Over Bedok Corner 40 Years Ago – Scene 1 (by Peter Chan)

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?


Brian and Tess said...

Peter - I well remember going for a flight in a Cessna from Payar Lebar in about 1961 - my father persuaded a friend who was a member to take me up. And in those days of course it was possible to spot aircraft at all of Singapore's civilian and military airfields - with some but limited security restrictions.

On my visit in 2009 I shared your frustration at seeing almost nothing of Singapore when landing and taking off from Changi - nothing I could actually recognise and apart from one short glimpse of an aircraft taxing at Payar Lebar (courtesy of our guide Chun See) I saw absolutely nothing of Payar Lebar. So one thing I certainly could not do on my visit was relive my airfield visiting days nor compare the modern Spore with the old from the air.

Tim said...

Terrific before and after photos. These really bring home the changes.

I loved the East Coast as a kid. It was still a bit wild and semi-rural. We used to visit an old tea house called Casuarinas, somewhere near Changi. Probably bull-dozed for the airport.

Please share more of your arial pictures, Peter.

Icemoon said...

I think I see Tanah Merah Kechil road and the cemetery at Hwa San?

peter said...

My cousin is a collector of heritage typewriters. He takes the trouble to restore them into good working condition. He has different models from Remington (like the one at NLB), Olivetti, Adler to name a few.

Lam Chun See said...

Having taken a good hard look at your present day photo of Bedok, I realize how sardine-packed our 'little red dot' is. I think it is simply madness for our govt to "plan" for a 6.5 million population.

peter said...

Yesterday, Minister Khaw Boon Wan blamed private owners for driving up the prices of HDB flats. Many "down-graded" because of enbloc sale or sold off their landed.

I am not surprise by his statement. This highly densely populated syndrome is because landed owners take advantage to profit from rising property prices. If you come to the the eastern part of Singapore (I think Bukit Timah and Upper Bukit Timah Road near Old Ford Motor fatcory are even worse), you find bungalow plots got planning approval from the government to sub-divde the property into terraced houses. Assuming previously the bungalow owner kept 2 cars, now a 3 unit terraced property makes it 6 cars at least. The "extra cars" have to park on the kerbside or over covered drains.

The photos only show the landscape as of now. What if the government had encouraged property development to continue unabated before they stop issuing building permits (Govt stopped this in Nov 2011)?

peter said...

Chun See

I dont see the problem of kerbisde parking and over-building in GCB (Good Class Bungalows) areas. Here you still find more vegetation and people dont park their Porsches, Volvos, BMWs or Jaguars on the road side. And maids dont need to walk the onwers' dogs on public space. Land sizs still from 8,000 sg ft upwards and prices start from S$12 million upwards.

Anonymous said...

Very nice! May I know where is the water well in Bedok Corner?


patcheon said...

I am also very interested to locate the well. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi may i know where is the location of the freshwater well in bedok?