Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Singapore, 1960s – Casuarinas (by Tim Light)

A Casuarina is a kind of tree, but I didn’t know that when I was a small boy in Singapore.  But one of our favourite destinations was a tea house on the East Coast called “Casuarinas”. 

I can’t say exactly where it was, but I remember something about the journey, and its situation.  From the Bukit Timah area we would drive into the City, and then along the Nicholl Highway, along Upper Changi Road, past the prison, and then we would turn right to get onto the East Coast, and somewhere around there, perched on top of a bit of a cliff, was Casuarinas.  It might have been on Nicholl Drive, but my 1963 street map doesn’t show it.  The other clue was constantly being buzzed by very low flying jets from a nearby RAF base, presumably Changi.

Can anyone say where this place was?

I don’t remember anything about the building, and anyway we would always sit outside and be served tea and sandwiches or scones under a parasol.  The refreshments were served on nice china with silver cutlery – very English.  There was a nice elevated view over the sea, and all in all it was a very pleasant experience.

There were steps down to the beach, so my brother and I would scoff our sandwiches and head down to the beach to explore.  I was fascinated by the rock pools that contained small fish and crabs.  I managed to smuggle a tiny crab home one day, and was disappointed when it didn’t survive in our fresh water aquarium.

It’s most unlikely that Casuarinas would have survived very long after we left.  Extensive development on reclaimed land would have left it a long way from the sea, and possibly even under the tarmac of the new Changi Airport.

Sadly I don’t have any photos of this charming place.  All I have are a few misty memories.

Chun See continues ……

Our regular guest-blogger, Peter Chan throws some light on this mystery:

“When you travel down Tanah Merah Besar Road, after the junction with Tampines Road, you go down the “valley” and up the top, then down the “valley” until you reach Nicoll Drive junction. There was a sand pit on the left of Tanah Merah Besar Road (just before the junction) …….  Once you turn into Nicoll Drive, on your right was Casuarina Motel (later called Aloha Rhu Village opened in 1971) – got Hawaiian waitresses dressed in grass skirt – then next was this Singapore Handicapped Home or Cheshire Children’s home.”

Here's a 1974 photo of the Aloha Rhu.

Here's an aerial view of the junction of Tanah Merah Besar and Nicoll Drive. The white patch next to the sea was the Aloha Rhu.


veii said...

It's such a pity that charming little features like this Casuarina place have all been lost. They would have given a very different atmosphere to Singapore had they been preserved together with their surrounding environs. Not sure how that could have worked with other pressing land needs, but if a way had been found, the whole country would be a much better place.

Tim said...

Yes - Singapore needed to change to make it a better place for all Singaporeans, but in some cases they threw the baby out with the bath water.

peter said...

When you are in T3 Changi Airport, go up to the seocnd floor and walk to the waving gallery near a restaurant.

You can see the truncated Tanah Merah Besar Road. Where you are standing in T3, is where Aloha Rhu wa slocated. I blogged about it last time.

peter said...

I read from some officially sanctioned documents that when it came to land reclamaiton in Singapore during the 1960s-19670s, the HDB was the appointed government agency. HDB cut down all those the hills in the Bedok/Chai Chee/Tampines/Siglap areas for reclaiming the East Coast Park and Marine Parade to Marina South.

Later it was discovered that the HDB cut down too many hills, leaving a surplus of earth. Of course they had to find a new use for it right? Luckily the PSA were in the midst of doing their own reclamation on the western half of Singapore. So the earth from the east was now dumped into the Keppel Road area beginning with the sea off Shenton Way.

If only we were careful back then on the amount of earth we needed, we would not have lost more hills than required in the east.

Tim said...

Thanks for the extra info, and the photos. The arial photo could well be the Causuarinas that I remember. There is a suggestion that there are tables and parasols outside, and the location next to a small cliff seems to fit.

JollyGreenP said...

Back in 1957 this stretch of coastline contained a WWII pill box overlooking a superb sandy beach we often used for swimming and the cliff was to the right of the pill box as you looked out to sea. This beach was about a ten minute walk from the Lloyd Leas estate. On one visit there was a very high tide and the water was very choppy with a storm brewing so we lay on the sea wall watching all the garfish swimming up against the wall. Suddenly we heard a whistling swishing sound and looked up to see a water spot whirlwhind heading in to the bay. My mother urged us all to go into the pill box as the water spout came nearer and we watched it in safety as came in to a few yards from the sea wall and then turned and followed the coastline down towards the city.

Because it was so close to Lloyd Leas this beach was one of our favourite swimming spots and everybody from Lloyd Leas called it Paradise Beach.

Zen said...

Lot of effort is made for Singapore to be international - best in public housing, airport, busiest port, hub of asean and so on. But at the end of the day, we forget that we are just a small island country with limited land mass and almost without natural resources.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Brought a tear to my eye remembering Aloha Rhu Village that my parents sometimes treated us kids to. Anyway the old Changi area was our hangout. It all seems like another planet now. *sigh*

Joe said...

Yes, I remember this place. I went there for dinner once in the early 1970's and the pretty girls wore brightly colored hawaii outfits and the area was lit by tikki torches.
I sat at a table near the cliff side and you could hear the waves plus the hawaiian music played at that time.
I liked the atmosphere very much and I have not come across any restaurant in singapore that could beat it.
How I wish someone had photos to share.

Unknown said...

I remember Casuarinas. In 1965. It was run by a Lady called Miss Elkington who always wore a white dress. Always remember chicken curry on Sunday and Campbell cheddar cheese soup. It was a place to stay before your hiring was ready. Have so many memories of Casuarinas.

Unknown said...

My fondest memory of Changi Beach is the mobile fish and chip stall on a bus always at the car parks beside the water.

The best fish and chips and prawns and chips. The smell of the seafood and chips being freshly fried still makes my mouth water.

The bus was well patronised by locals and the RAF Changi servicemen

Maggie Hamand said...

I was in Singapore as a young child in 1963-1964. My Dad was a civil engineer working for the government, presumably something to do with the RAF base you mention. We stayed in a guest house/hotel called Casuarinas near Changi, in the annex which was an old wooden house by the sea. We used to have a bath in a tin tub in front of a fire in the surprisingly cool evenings. Once I was running along the path to the beach when I almost trod on two black cobras which were sunning themselves on the step. There were several odd characters staying in the hotel, it was another era then. The Taneh Merah Besar road really was red, it was a dusty red track. People often ask me if I want to go 'back' to Singapore but I can't go back, nothing would be recognisable with the six-lane highway and the reclaimed land.

Patrick said...

Came across this blog while trying to search for a place or road called Casuarina and luckily I landed here. I have some old film footage of a rocky beach front restaurant with short green and white fence dividing the garden and the concrete floor and by reading from the posts here, I think the film that I have is Casuarina.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Casuarina club from the very early 1960s, when I was a about 7 years old and my parents would take us there to swim.