Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Nantah Arch

I was driving along Jurong West St 93 recently and came across a very famous landmark for Singaporeans of my generation; the old Nantah Arch. This simple but elegant piece of architecture was a familiar sight to many NS boys of my time who went to Safti and 6th SIR (Tanjung Gul Camp). It was the main entrance to the old Nanyang University prior to its redevelopment to the present Nanyang Technological University. On our way to Safti and Tuas, we would pass by this arch along the old Upper Jurong Road.

Recent photo of the Nanyang Arch in front of Yunan Park

Old picture scanned from the book, Singapore, An Illustrated History, 1941 ~ 1984, Information Division, Ministry of Culture

Today, I would like to share some information about the old Upper Jurong Road with my young readers. Again I remind readers that this is purely based on my memory and subject to errors of course.
Tuas Village used to be a nice quiet village famous for its seafood. It was also the terminal for Green Bus no. 175. I have been told that its present location is near to the Tuas Amenity Centre along Tuas Basin Link.

Tanjong Gul Camp - From Tuas, there was a dirt track which went through some really ‘ulu’ (rustic) terrain leading to 6th SIR or Tanjong Gul Camp. In fact this was the first army camp I ever stepped into. I was visiting my elder brother, David, who was posted to this camp as a recruit in 1970. According to my latest street directory, this camp is still standing at Pioneer Sector 2.

Jalan Bahar Camp – the buildings are still there today but look to be unoccupied. My friend Simon Chu did this BMT (Basic Military Training) here. This place always reminds me of my own BMT 5 km running test. We started from somewhere across the road and ran all the way to Chua Chu Kang cemetery and back. As we had to leave camp (Safti) rather early (in the army, it’s always a case of rushing to wait), I did not have time to ‘do my business’ properly. Finally, I could not take it anymore. Fortunately, there were lots of bushes nearby and I had toilet paper with me (but no entrenching tool though). Anyway, I passed (the test that is).

Benoi Road – We had our 10 km running test here. The start point was near the junction with Upper Jurong Road. The route took us to Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim, Pioneer Circus, Pioneer Road and back to Benoi Road. The Beatles song, The Long and Winding Road, kept playing in my mind as I struggled the grueling 10 km even though the roads were quite straight actually.

Nanyang University itself was a popular attraction for shutterbugs because of its unique Chinese period architecture. Below are 2 photos from my personal collection.

1970 photo of my brother James and cousin Richard Ng by the Nantah Lake

1969 photo of my old friend Simon Chu was taken next to the clock in front of the Admin Building. This photo was taken during our cycling trip which I blogged about earlier.


Seraphim said...

Greetings from NTU!

Looking at your photos of the lake and the Chinese Heritage Center, the place hasn't really changed much.

Your post makes me feel like taking a stroll there now ... heh

Victor said...

Wah Chun See, how many siblings do you have? You've mentioned about Chun Chew, Patricia, David and James. I know, I know. At that time got no "stop at two" policy.

Another thing - the curious monkey is dying to know whether Chun Chew and you have Christian names.

Anonymous said...

The Nanyang Arch was an important landmark when we returned to camp at Pasir Laba. There was a Chinese school opposite to the Arch and a small Chinese village

The long bus ride from jalan Jurong Kechil could kill - boredom lead to sleeping on the bus. Once overslept and ended up at Tuas Village and time being of the essence, you get cold sweat for fear of getting charged by the SAF...."Under Section XXX contary to the something of the SAF ACT...."

Besides the Nanayng Arch, I used the other landmarks as indicators of the remaining distance to SAFTI such as a) the tall brick chimneys of Hong Kah, b) wireless masts field after Jalan Bahar junction with Upper Jurong Road, and c) "Married Quarters", a block of flats opposite Singapore Discovery Center (still there but given a more upbeat name for housing Bangla foreign workers.

Lam Chun See said...

Victor, altogether there are 5 of us, not counting the 2 that left before I was born.

You quite sharp hor. Even got all names right. Chun Chew and I do not use 'Christian' names. He is Buddhist, I am Christian.

Lam Chun See said...

Peter. Do you remember a sort of crescent to the left, just before Nantah; where the bus will make a short detour before coming out to the main road again? Inside, there were several old (single-storey?) houses.

As for landmarks before coming to Safti, the main one for me is Lokyang Village. Your mood will get lower and lower as you pass each of these landmarks. Finally the bus rounds a sharp bend, the bright lights of the sprawling Safti complex appear out of the darkness of Upp Jurong Road; And resignation sinks in as you prepare yourself pschologically for another week of toil and drudgery.

Anonymous said...

Actually people those days had many children, nine to ten kids were not uncommon. My mother was quite a sickly woman since young, otherwise I would certainly have more siblings.

For NTU, my elder daughter studied there and the hostel she stayed was two students sharing one unit It was rather old one, the functional type. My wife and I seldom visited her. During one visit, we went to have our lunch at the old canteen nearby, the food were so-so. Later on my daughter was not too happy of the hostel and moved back home, traveling long distance for classes at NTU.

Anonymous said...

Chun See:

Cant recall about the "crescent" - were they brick or attap buildings? I remember a Jurong Crescent and beside it was the a Malay mosque, if I got the thing right.

Lokyang Village - was this the one which had a water-tank on top of a hill. I went back there a few times when my son was at SAFTI MI - yep the hill/water tank is still there.

I actually saw the construction of the PIE around 1973, think it was Upper Jurong just before the Jalan Baha and Jalan Boon Lay junction. If I look back at today's street directory, that stretch of Upper Jurong Road and the wireless mast fields where the SOKA Cultural Center is now.

I also suspect the stretch between Jurong JC and Hong Kah Flyover was once Upper Jurong Road.

Coming back to Nanyang or Nantah U as it was called during my time. My Chinese SAF buddies went to this place where the medium of instruction was in Chinese. When we met up a couple of years ago, many told me they could not get employed after they graduated in 1978. So many became towkays and remisers.

Anonymous said...

The wireless mast field is opposite the Soka Centre, now ocuppied by blocks of unoccupied HDB flats. Short stretch of abandoned Old Upper Jurong Rd and moss covered bus stop can still be found between Jalan Bahar and KJE.
Used to be illegal parking lot for lorries. The place was blocked off since last year.

Anonymous said...

Your mention of the 10km route from starting from Benoi rd reminded me of my reservist in the mid 90s. There was disbelief on the part of some of the younger reservist in my unit when I told them of the 10km run that SISL & OCS cadets had to go thru'. What made it difficult was that it had to be done in No.4, combat boots, SBO with M16 and luckily only the inner-liner of the helmet. The helmet in those days were not like those "German" helmet that we have today, just one piece of hard plastic rubber. It is exactly like those worn by the GI in WW2 and vietnam with a hard metal outer casing and a detachable plastic inner liner. The passing time for SISL was 70 minutes. I am not sure if it was the same for OCS.
It was physically the single most demanding test for SISL. After each trial run, I could feel your bones protruding thru' yr bones because I was simply so dehydrated.
My SISL coy was quite "unlucky" in that on the same day of our test, a trainee in 160 Bn died during the 10km run. Thereafter the 10 Km run was suspended and subsequently abolished. We felt very unlucky as we could have skipped it. That was back in 79. The other 2 SISL coy, Mike & Quebec and probably a couple of the OCS coy in SAFTI managed to escape the test.
As mentioned before, the difficulty is that it is done in almost FBO( full battle order).


Lam Chun See said...

Anon. You can also considered to be lucky becos you are the last batch to enjoy this privilege. I don't think anyone who has gone thro' the 10km can forget. I was 'privileged' to go thro both the 5 & 10 km twice becos I was disrupted after SISL and then went thro the 9-month OCS all over again. Each time I barely scraped through.

When I was in Mandai 30 SCE, some wise aleck in Mindef came up with this idea of activating 1 operational company (or battalion??) at short notice to go thro the 10 km test WITHOUT WARNING. I believe only 2 persons in the whole coy passed.

Lam Chun See said...

Yes, I know of that stretch of Jurong Rd bet. Jln Bahar and KJE/PIE. It is sealed off now. But the stretch from KJE/PIE to Bt Batok is still open. This used to the the Hong Kah area where we had lots of topo exercise.

BTW Peter. Still game to go for that trip to check out the old Jurong Rd and take some pictures of whatever's left before they clear it up as well - which shd be pretty soon I'm afraid.

Kelvin Quee said...

Thank you for sharing so much about NTU and old Singapore.

I'm a current student and NTU and I'm wondering why in the world they drained the old Nanyang lake? It must be a really beautiful lake back then.

Does anyone know?

Lam Chun See said...

There's one interesting thing about Jalan Bahar that I forgot to mention. If you travelled along Jln Bahar those days, you will see some Surface-to-air missiles on the slope of a hill to the west. They were white in colour and I presumed they were dummies. Wonder if anyone can confirm this.

Lam Chun See said...

Becos my daughter is now studying in NTU, I occasionally drive there to fetch her. As I drive along the hilly terrain, I am convinced that some of the sections of what is now NTU, esp, the rear/northern section, must have been our army training grounds in the 70's.

I recall one occasion when we were doing our section training - you know those 'enemy on the right, Charge!' stuff, I saw some students hostels nearby.

Anonymous said...

White colored missiles?

Yes they are dummies (unarmed) and the current SAF practices is the same today. You see the same over at Seletar Camp (Seletar East Camp near the coastline in the days when the British handed over the Bloodhound missiles to SAF in 1968).

So the ones you saw at Jalan Bahar were dummies. The ones you saw were meant to protect RSAF Tengah during the 1970s.

Exact location Chun See? Chinese cemetery area?

Anonymous said...

Actually there is a SAF missile unit inside NTU grounds. You can see it on your right as you drive into NTU. Maybe 2XX Sqdn which belongs to RSAF.

Lam Chun See said...

I think the location would be bet. Nayang Ave and Civil Defence Academy. Probably, today's Lor Danau, off Nanyang Ave. Yes, they were white in colour.

gerad said...

The post was indeed insightful. I had lived around that area for the last 10-20 years. Could you trace out the original route of the road from the old Nanyang Arch into NTU?

Lam Chun See said...

Gerad. In fact it is my aim to retrace the entire Jurong Rd from Upp Bt Timah Rd to Tuas. So much has changed and so much of it has been lost. The present stretch of Upp Jurong Rd definitely is not the same as in the old days. And I still have not figured out the present location of Tuas Village where Green Bus 175 ended.

But problem is no time ... :(