Friday, September 28, 2007

Bukit Timah Heritage Trail 6 - Beauty World to Bukit Panjang

Upper Bukit Timah Road runs from Clementi Road to Bukit Panjang Road. In the old days before the BKE (Bukit Timah Expressway) and Tuas Second Link were built, most Singaporeans traveling north to Malaysia would have to use this road which joins to Woodlands Road. Thus, as part of this series on the Bukit Timah Heritage Trail, I will (probably) also follow the same route and end only when I reach the causeway.

Actually, I don’t know much about this area. So, in this post, I will just try to list the places that once stood here and let my regular readers – especially Peter and Chuck fill in the details. Later, in subsequent posts, Peter, having grown up in this area, will share a couple of interesting stories about the places along this trail.

So what were some of the familiar landmarks as we make our way northwards from Beauty World?

1. Bukit Timah Fire Station

The most famous landmark here of course is the Bukit Timah Fire Station at the junction with Jurong Road. Today the buildings are still there but I think the station has shifted to a more modern station in nearby Bukit Batok new town.

Just before coming to the fire station, you would pass by the Amoy Canning Corporation and another rubber factory on your right. You will also see some flatted factories near Hindhede Road. This rubber factory is smaller that Lam Choon Rubber Factory at Anak Bukit (see previous post). I found some photos in the National Archives website which I think are of this factory. You will also see a huge Green Spot bottle outside the Amoy Canning premises. Today, this stretch of road is mostly occupied by new condominiums.

After Jurong Road you will pass by two famous factories on the high ground to your left. These are Ford Motors and Hume Industries. I have previously blogged about my university vacation training at the Ford factory which has been recently converted into a museum. The Hume site is now (what else but) another condo.

2. Hillview Road

As you passed Hillview Road, you will not miss the Chartered Bank building on your left. At night, it was especially prominent because of its brightness in contrast to the dark surrounding. This road led to the Princess Elizabeth Estate where Chuck used to live in. On the left would be the Union Carbide Factory which the locals referred to as Tian Tor Long (battery factory) in Hokkien.

3. Dairy Farm Road

This used to be a very rough dirt track which led to the dairy farm at the foot of our highest hill, Bukit Timah Hill. I have one interesting story to share. Once I dated a girl who lived here. This was during my army days. One evening I sent her home in our family car; an old Mazda Capella. Next morning, I discovered that one of my wheel hubs were missing. You can picture how bumpy the road was. I began to empathize with those daring young men who used to date my elder sister during my kampong days.

4. Chestnut Drive

I know practically nothing about this place except that my old friend Chuck used to study at a secondary school here. The only time I came here in the old days (early 70’s) was when we had AG (anti-guerilla) Warfare training during my Section Leaders Course days in Safti. We pitched our base camp near a rubber plantation at the edge of the jungle, and each day we were sent for ‘patrols’ in the jungle. Those days, the jungle was quite ‘authentic’, and I remember crossing some streams with very clean water. At night, we slept in our bashas with our ‘wives’ (AR15) strapped to our wrists to prevent them from being stolen by our irritating corporals.

5. Bukit Panjang

Continuing our journey northwards, you will finally come to the junction with Chua Chu Kang Road and Bukit Panjang Road. There were rows of shops on both sides of the road. There was a rather busy kampong on the left just before the junction. During those last few months of my NS days in Mandai Camp, my buddies and I occasionally came here in the evenings for some makan and shopping. I seem to recall a pasar malam atmosphere and even a primitive cinema here. Strange; whenever I think of this Bukit Panjang Village, I always picture the Chong Pang Village at Sembawang. There must be some similarities. Or maybe it’s because I only visited these two places at night for shopping and makan.

This is the old cinema I told you about. It's called Sin Wah Theatre. This photo and the two previous ones are from National Archives Collection.

Those days, I was staying in Farrer Road. On Sunday evenings, I would to take a bus back to my camp, 30SCE in Mandai Road . I would either take a bus to Coronation Plaza and change to SBS no. 171, or I would take TIBS no. 181 right to the end of its route at Bukit Panjang, and then change to SBS no. 171.

And thus we come to the end of one of the longest roads in Singapore. One quiz question before I leave. What is the Hokkien name for Bukit Panjang?


Anonymous said...

Are you focusing on what's no longer around?

I don't know any but I do know of
three places which are still at the Chestnut Drive area, no doubt renovated/expanded/rebuilt over the years:
1. Church of St Joseph (1846)
2. CHIJ Bukit Timah (1955)
3. Boys' Town (1948)

Anonymous said...

Chun See,
The road opposite the fire station is called Old Jurong Road and not Jurong Road.

Boon Siew Motors Sdn Bhd had a branch at the at the former Hindhede factories area as far back as the late 1970s. The showroom later moved to Commonwealth Avenue. I bought my first Honda Accord 1598cc from here.

As early as 1978 Bukit Panjang Village was the place where the first Porsche car showroom in Singapore could be found.
I test-drive the 2 seater Porsche 911S but at $69,000, it was beyond my budget. I like dreams though.

The original 3 petrol stations opposite the Amoy factory were SHELL, Mobile & Esso, just like it is today. I think they were there as early 1959, one of them was called Joo Seng, the SHELL Station.
Those were the days where $10 could go very far. We paid on credit using petrol vouchers.

Anonymous said...

Sorry my first Honda Accord was 1608cc and not 1598cc.

Anonymous said...

When TV first came to Singapore, a TV tower was built at Bukit Batok Hill. It was a majestic landmark n I thought it resembled the Eiffel Tower from far, especially driving northwards from 7 ms Upper Bukit Timah Road.

My father used to take us up there n before the vegetation became so thick like today, one could see as far as Jurong Industrial Estate, Mandai hills and sometimes on a clear day, the Straits of Johore. There was a small Indian kampung at the foot of the hill at Jaln Sesuai - one of my classmates lived there and I used to play at his house. We were very fond of the goats, especially the mother goat and her kids. U see in those days, Indians kept goats for their milk and their meat for "Kambing Soup". My friend T. Sasikumar used to cry everytime his father took one of the older goats away to be slaughtered. So that's the reason I cant bear to keep cocks and hens in my house.

Lam Chun See said...

Peter. Thanks for the additional nuggets of information. I thot it was Old Jurong Road, but forgot to check and correct.

Your comment about cocks and hens reminds me I should blog about our 'old cock'. The guy must be at least 7 or 8 years old. I have photo of him with my youngest who she was maybe Pr 1 or kindergarten. Now she's in Sec3.

Lam Chun See said...

HH. Yes, I am focussing mainly on old stories; whether they be places that have become extinct; or existing places.

Peter will be sharing some stories about 1 or 2 of the places you in future articles.

Lam Chun See said...

Maybe I should elaborate on the TIBS 181 terminus at Bt Panjang. In those days, we did not have nice big bus inter-change like the present one at Bt Panjang. So the buses will make a U-turn and park along the main road in the Southward direction.

Anonymous said...

I think the terminus is the present ESSO station before the flatted factories (if you drive down from JB). There was a row of concrete one-storey shophouses and a road leading into a Chinese kampung. The next block was a 2-storey row of shophouses, fmaous was Ming Chong Bookstore which sold all sorts of staionery stuff.

The battle for the minds of Singaporeans never became so close unless we take a look at the PAP and Barisan Socialis political parties. The PAP and Barisan Socialis Bukit Panjang branches were housed in the present row of shophouses before the SHELL Station.

One end of the row was PAP and the other end nearer to the SHELL Station was Barisan. I was told the Barisan branch was actually the PAP branch in 1959 before the political split. So there were two Meet The People's session every Wednesday night, one for the PAP and the other for Barisan.

Anonymous said...

Dairy farm Road was the first private condo in the area. Before it became a condo it was the Gammon Malaya Ltd site plant. This was the place they built the huge water pipes and concrete beams. There was a black fence something similar to RSAF Tengah's present fence, surrounding the site.

The Salavation Army Church used to be the Salavation Army Home in the 1950s. One storey building.

Anonymous said...

Chun See
The NAS photo above the Sin Wah Cinema is in the direction of JB. I got a similar photo taken in 1967 but looking towards townside, on the opposite side of Bukit Panjang Village. Actullay Bukit Panjang Village refers to the ESSO Station side and not the Bukit Gombak side.

Anonymous said...


Could you possibly post the opera estate section of the 1969 street directory? Any 1960's pics or memories would be great - especially the ahma's night market in that area.


Lam Chun See said...

Peter. Yes, that photo of the shops is in the direction of JB just before the junction. If you look at the photo at the Picas website, you can see a road sign with arrows pointing to CCK and BP roads. It is a relatively recent photo; dated 1986.

Des. I am sorry I don't have the 1969 street directory. I referred to it at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library at NLB (11th flr). And it is not on the open shelves. You have to fill up a form and ask the staff to get it for you.

Anonymous said...

if u drop chun see your email contact, I will be happy to share the street map. I am covering the east coast area for my childhood memories also. Opera Estate was like a swimming pool when there was a hevay downpour. My aunt's house had 1 ft of water.

Victor said...

>Next morning, I discovered that one of my wheel hubs were missing.

Good excuse to go back to her place again the next day, Chun See.

Lam Chun See said...

And I certainly would like to go back again today, but .....

Anonymous said...

U too much....wanna remind Chun See of "First Love"? Actually at our recent Pre-U 2 class gathering at someone's house, apart from knowing who "kay-o", the word went round that 35 years of separation from each other since school days, two persons (now recently divorced + with grown-up kids) met again and re-married.

It's a touching story....until someone gently reminded me that one girl who was keen on me during school days recently got divorced and was asking whether I still around. Mine you she's a Vice Presidnet of a US bank in Singapore. Victor, should I or not meet her again?

Anonymous said...

There was a mosque facing the Ford factory along Upper Bukit Timah Road. Now it's just another plot of empty land.... can anyone recall that?
Chun See... I think I will try to answer your question about the name of Bukit Panjang. I got a few ex classmate living there. They called it 'Ya Sua Buay' or 'Yor Sua Buay' translating into a hill for goats.

Lam Chun See said...

And I certainly would like to go back again today, to see the kampong but it is no longer there. What were you guys thinking?

Chuck, I vaguely remember that mosque. It was very small right? Or is my memory playing tricks?

Hokkien name of Bt Panjang. Actually, I was thinking of 'chap ko chio' or 10 Mile Stone. But thanks for that extra info.

Anonymous said...

Yes correct there was a small kramat and some chinese and Malay squatters living on the side of the railway track (going up the gradient towards 8 miles fire station but before the U-turn into Old Ford Motor.

In 1967 there was a horrible accident at the foot of the railway bridge at Fuyong Estate (the Upper Bukit Timah Road towards Johore). Traffic slowed down and at that time, it was Upper Bukit Timah Road had 2 lanes. I saw a motor-cyclist ran over by a lorry and his neck was got in between the rear tires. His head was twisted in such a way that the eyes faced his back instead of looking in front. It was so horrible sight and I even forget it till today. I was on my way home in my father's car and I had a good look through the window. The time was 7.05pm.

Victor said...

Peter said: Victor, should I or not meet her again?

How can? It's a no longer just a matter between the two of you. Many people may be hurt.

Anonymous said...

Peter, regarding the accident, I think there were several motocyclists taking shelter from the rain when a lorry lost control and smashed into those poor, defenceless chaps. After the accident, there are signs advising motocyclists not to take shelter under overhead bridges and flyovers. The authorities then constructed a safety barrier under overhead bridges and flyovers for the motorcyclists if they need to take cover from the rain all over Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Sometime when we hear some beautiful love songs, we would reminsce our past romantic life, and would wonder how is that we ended up this way? Has destiny got a part to play? Well, past is past, it can only reappear in our memory or retrieve it from our dreams, and meanwhile we have the face the present realities of life.

Anonymous said...


I have sent my email address to Chun See


Anonymous said...

thanks for the photo of Sin wah theatre at bukit Panjang vilage. Brings memories. I satyed in Jalan teck Whye from 1958 till 1978. Subsequently at a house near the post office till perhaps 1976.I am 65 yers of age today. I also remembered Tien Wah theatre at Bukit Timah 7th mile stone ( Beauty World). Old memories. There was body building club in the kampung opposite the St joseph church at 9th mile Bukit Timah. I use to train there for some years from 1967 till 1973. Nice memories (

FamilyPack! said...

Hokkien name of Bukit Panjang is it called Zhenghua or Cheng Hwa?