Monday, October 16, 2006

Places I Remember (1) – MacRitchie Reservoir


I was indeed glad to read the announcement in the papers last week that the National Parks Board plans to upgrade the MacRitchie Reservoir next year. Apparently there has not been any major upgrading for 40 years. As such, the landscape has not changed much from what I could remember of the place from the sixties.

In my secondary school days, our school used to hold our annual cross country races there. The jogging track has largely remained unchanged except that they have put in more gravel and so it is less muddy and slippery on rainy days. I remember many of us slipped and fell when we came to the steep slopes and got ourselves covered with mud. The muddiest section was the stretch leading up to Lornie Road next to the golf course. The mud also had a distinct pungent odour. Every time, I smell something like it, my mind goes back to those school days. I also remember our cross country champion by the name of Mirza Namazie. He was a state runner and none of the boys could even get near to him at the finishing line.

When I was working at Philips Factory in Lorong One Toa Payoh in the late 70's and early 80's, my colleagues and I used to go jogging at MacRitchie every Wednesday after work. After the run, we would adjourn to a nearby hawker centre for dinner. Needless to say, we more than made up for the lost calories. Our favourite eating place was the Whitley Road hawker centre located under the Thomson Road-Pan Island Expressway flyover. The other favourite was the food stalls at the Lake View Estate which was demolished a couple of years ago.



For the past one year, I have been going to MacRitchie Reservoir quite regularly. Ever since my son’s kayaking training was shifted there from Kallang River last year, I have been going there about twice a week to do my brisk walking exercise and fetch him home in the evenings. Lately, my old friend and fellow office tenant, Chuck has also joined me.

The biggest drawback with the MacRitchie Reservoir is the traffic system. If you drive, it is very difficult to leave MacRitchie by its sole exit during the evening peak hour. The constant stream of vehicles speeding down Lornie Road towards the Thomson Road Flyover makes each attempt to leave an exercise in faith. On days when there are big events like cross country races, the problem becomes even worse. There was one occasion when a school bus broke down on the steep slope just before the exit causing everyone to turn around and leave by the entrance near the Thomson-Lornie Road junction.

MacRitchie41 - Exit

This is the steep slope where the school bus broke down blocking all traffic from the exit to Lornie Road

I remember a time when the traffic in the area was much lighter and the environment much more peaceful. This was in the early sixties when I was studying in the nearby
Braddell Rise School. In front of our school, where Braddell Road met Thomson Road there used to be a circle. There were some beautiful red seal palms planted in the circle. Of course there was no viaduct linking Upper Thomson Road to Lornie Road in those days.

The stretch of Lornie Road between Thomson Road and Caldecott Hill was narrow and winding with plenty of vegetation on both sides. It was at this spot that I caught one of my biggest spiders.
Catching spiders was one of our favourite pastimes those days.

MacRitchie44 - Lornie Rd

The portion of old Lornie Road where I caught my spider is still there but no longer in use.

In primary school, our teachers occasionally brought us for ‘excursions’. I mentioned one such excursion to the Botanical Gardens in a previous post. Today, I want to share with you a very interesting story related to another excursion to the nearby MacRitchie Reservoir.

I was probably in Primary 2 or 3 at that time. I remember lining up in twos and crossing the road to MacRitchie Reservoir where the entrance was. As we passed the car park, I notice a familiar Hillman. It was the same one that my parents hired to fetch us to school. In Hokkien we call it ‘pa-ong chia’. At that time, I was too young to take public transport on my own; and so my parents engaged one of the villagers by the name of Mr Ang (but we know him by his nickname Ang Niao Che, or ‘Red Mouse’ in Hokkien) to fetch my brother and I and some other BRS students to school.

Our driver was quite a cheeky young man. Every morning he drove us from our kampong at Lorong Kinchir towards Braddell Road along a dirt track which later became Lorong Chuan. As we approached Braddell Road, we often saw a pretty lass drawing water from the well on the right side of the road (where the CTE would be now), and our driver liked to tease her.

So that morning, as we passed the Hillman, I saw a couple smooching inside. Can you guess who they were? It was our driver and that pretty lass by the well. Apparently, the Red Mouse had progressed from teasing to kissing. Anyway, the story had a happy ending. Not long after, our Mr Ang married the girl in the Hillman and presumably, they produced lots of little red mice and lived happily ever after.

MacRitchie40 - Haze
This photo of a very hazy MacRitchie Reservoir was taken this afternoon when the PSI or Pollutants Standards Index was an unhealthy 130. In the 70’s, a very popular rock group by the name of Deep Purple had a big hit titled Smoke On The Water. Thanks to our Indonesian neighbours, we have our own Haze On The Water.


Victor said...

You mentioned catching spiders in MacRitchie Reservoir area but you seemed to have forgotten one favourite pastime you must have had during your time besides going to the movies, i.e. pak tor or courting in the reservoir grounds.

Come on, admit it. No wonder the place brought back such wonder memories for you.

Chris Sim said...

It's quite amusing Chun See, the way you described how the Mr Red Mouse met his mrs and how they went on to have little mice of their own. Hee.

But let's come back to MacRitchie. I dunno what notion Victor has, but to me, MacRitchie is simply a place where I had my X-country runs while in school. But thanks for your post, I'd probably drive there and take a look ...

While you were busy catching spider, I think Victor back then used to "catch monkey" (Liak Kau in Hokkien) in MacRitchie, never mind that he's a monkey himself. Who knows? Maybe you were one of those he caught blissfully smooching some SYTs back then? Wahahahaha....

Anonymous said...

You mentioned the parking problem at MacRitchie Park. I am not going to be very popular for telling others that there is a simple solution to this problem -- simply park at the private residential estate (Lakeview Estate).
How to get into the estate?
Instead of turning in at the usual entrance to MacRitchie, drive past the entrance for 200-300 metres. I usually park at the small road in front of the former Home of the Sisters of the Poor. You can also park along the roads in the estate.
This is all quite legal --- I wouldn't be telling you this if it weren't legal to do so. Of course, don't obstruct anybody's gate when you park in the estate.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks for the suggestion Wee Kiat. I am aware of this place you mentioned. In fact it is quite near to the canoeing centre. But it is not very suitable in my case because it is very far from the toilets where the boys go to wash up and change into dry clothes. I often fetch my son's friends as well and it is no fun having 4 or 5 wet sweaty boys in your car, I can tell you.

Anonymous said...

While talking about 'Liak Kau", let me tell you a story. I had a primary school classmate, a Malay boy named Mahmud, whose father manned a water pump in MacRitchie reservoir. His home was actually a government quarter located in the reservoir itself. You know what is his favourite past-time - 'Liak Kau', especially during the night. Those who Pak Tor at night must beware of a "third hand", noting that there are many peeping Toms and lechers around this place.

Chris Sim said...

Right Zen. Victor used to be one of them.... I have no hard evidence... but knowing the playful monkey... I guess it's pretty so. Let's hope Victor dun read this. He seems to be in a foul mood because of a broken ankle. Wahahahaha...

Lam Chun See said...

One thing good about the haze. Very joggers and traffic. I saw 2 huge monitor lizards coming to the waters edge when I walked along the boardwalk. Too bad did not have my camera with me.

Victor said...

Are you sure you didn't mistaken a couple taking a (doubly) illegal skinny dip in the reservoir for 2 huge monitor lizards, especially with the thick "smoke on the water"?

Lam Chun See said...

One thing very predictable about my friend Victor is that, no matter what topic you blog about, he is able to link it to romance/sex. When I wrote this post, I knew the first comment from him would be about courting couples. Nevertheless, I am still surprised that he is able to link monitor lizards to skinny-dipping couples. All those 'think out of the box' training that our civil serpents have gone thro have not gone to waste.

Victor said...

Thanks for that compliment, heh.

Anonymous said...

With the present 'Hollywood' culture permeating into all segments of our society, it is difficult to avoid this topic called Sex, especially males. Males would be associated with monastries- if they dare to detach themselves from this colourful subject. I forgot to mention that my Malay school-mate was indeed a real pro (liak kau) because did his job by perching on tree-tops whereas you fellas, at the most, are amateurs.

Lam Chun See said...

Looks like my regular readers are not foodies. I thot the mention of the Whitley Rd and Lakeview food stalls was bound to stir up some memories.

Edward said...

Hi Chun See, I think the circle where Braddell Road met Thomson Road was called MacRitchie Circus.

Anonymous said...

ah! i remember whitley rd hawker...called "tiank kio kar" :)

I was born in toa payoh hospital in the late 70s, and my grandma (who used to stay at simon road) moved to serangoon in the early 80s, so Im very familiar with all the sights and locations chun see has described (albeit the more modern setings....)

when i mentioned this blog and lor chuan / kinchir to my aunt, she said "ya ya, that place was very smelly, the rubber smell, where now the new tech park building is" hahah

Lam Chun See said...

Your aunt is right. But the smell that people cannot forget about the Lor Chuan of old is the stink of the crocodile skins from the factory there. Just after the junction with AMK Ave 1 if I remember correctly.