Monday, October 22, 2007

Nantah as she was 37 Years Ago

Last Monday, I fetched my daughter to NTU (Nanyang Technological University) where she is doing her 2nd year in Biological Sciences course. It was actually a public holiday, the previous Saturday being Hari Raya Puasa. I decided to pay a visit to the Nantah Lake to see if it was still the same.

Looking at the two photos below, you would agree that this is one of the few spots in our tiny island that has been untouched by time. In fact, Nantah itself had undergone two name changes; first to Nanyang Technological Institute and later Nanyang Technological University.

In comparison, the surrounding area has undergone tremendous changes. The road that once led from the Nantah Arch at Upper Jurong Road has disappeared. The kampong-like environment has been replaced by high-rise HDB apartment blocks. A new highway has even emerged right in front separating the NTU campus from its previous entrance. And a replica of the famed Nantah Arch has been constructed in the Yunnan Garden.

The top photo is of my late parents taken in 1970.

Nantah then and now (01)

Nantah then and now (02)

The iconic Admin Building and the Yunnan Garden in front of it have also been preserved. I believe they now call it the Chinese Heritage Centre. The top photo is scanned from the book, Singapore, An Illustrated History, 1941 ~ 1984, Information Division, Ministry of Culture.

Nantah then and now (03)

Nantah then and now (04)

Previously there was a garden clock on the ground in front of the Admin Building. Now there’s a fountain. The guy in the photo is my old friend Simon Chu. We took this photo in 1969 during our crazy cycling trip around Singapore.

Nantah then and now (05)

Nantah then and now (06)

I saw a group of well-dressed people posing for a group photo in front of it. They must be former students back to capture some old memories.

Nantah then and now (07)

The Yunnan Garden too has not changed much. In fact, it has improved because the pavilions and other structures look very well maintained. The Yunnan Garden looks rather empty. The students are probably too busy to utilize it. Maybe this is a good place to visit for some peace and quiet and exercise. Below are two photos taken in 1970 or thereabouts of me and my brother Chun Chew (Zen) in front of this structure (I don’t know what you call this).

We never dreamed at that time that our photos can be displayed on the internet for the whole world to see. I don't think even the futurologists ever imagined that there would be such a thing call the internet back in 1970.

Nantah then and now (08)

Nantah then and now (09)

Nantah then and now (10)

Check out Dr Tan Wee Kiats posts about the Nantah Arch here and here.


Anonymous said...

37 years is a long time and I think the photos were taken during a family outing. People often quote the saying 'old wine in new bottle', but for Nantah case it should be 'new wine in old bottle'. The old wine being Nantah with its famous Spirit and contents had long been consumed, and the subsequent new refills, no matter how good, are still replacements. However the old bottle is well maintained - polished, shining, looked good, with many decorations and hopefully new wine is value-added.

Lam Chun See said...

I am really glad that the management of NTU has the foresight to preserve parts of the old Nantah. One of these days, I must pop in to visit the Heritage Centre.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually my wife also spent some time in Nantah. At that she was studying in NUS but they had this thing called Joint Campus and so she and some of her Malaysian buddies stayed at the hostel in Nantah. Once, on the rare occasion when my father-in-law visited Spore, we brought him to NTU so that he could see where her daughter stayed during her varsity days.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Lam, I happened to stumble upon your blog today while googling for something else. I really like your blog. Thanks for preserving your memories and sharing them with the younger generation of Singaporeans. I myself was born in 1973 (in fact today's my birthday *:), and I'm already finding quite a big generation gap with people born in the 80s.

Everything in Singapore is really changing so fast. I took some of my wedding photos in June 2005 at the spot where one of the IRs is being built now - the empty area in front of the Esplanade. I can't imagine that my husband and I had just taken the photos 2+ years ago, and now the place is gone. No more bushes, no more grass, next time we'll have to point to the IR and tell our children, that's where we took our photos. Wow... sometimes I feel as if there's no time even to breathe it seems.

Regarding the Yunnan Garden, it is really very nice. My husband and I went there for a walk on a weekend morning, and it was quiet and peaceful. Every time I spotted an interesting tree, I could just stand there for minutes gazing at the tree. But there was one disappointment though. I saw a condom and its packaging on the side of a pavement somewhere in the garden. Given the place being so quiet, I suspect that such an incident is not rare. I wonder if anyone can stop such incidents from happening in future. It really affected my enjoyment of the garden that day. *:(

Anyway, I would still want to go there for walks now and then. I just hope I won't have any such 'finds' again. *:b

God bless,

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Pat. Welcome to GMY. Glad that you liked the stories I have posted here. Do check out the other stories. I have posted more than 200 stories since I started GMY in Sep2005. Many are contributions from guest bloggers.

I have recently written one article expressing the same sentiments that you have said. (Link). It attracted quite a few comments from other readers.

Anonymous said...

HI Mr. Lam....reading you article about the god old days, I still remember my kampung days and the filthy toilets I once used. I lived around Mandai Road near to the Upper Seletar Reservoir. The toilet that I have were being used by 2 families.Worst of it all, the toilet is a bucket system where the night soil collector will come by anytime to collect the waste without warning! At times when I'm doin my business, the night soil collector would suddenly grab the bucket below me without warning that gave me rude shocked and embarrasment! Well that year was from 1964 ( year that I was borned) to 1984 (year that my family moved to Yishun). I could still remember during the Hari Raya when I invited my friend to my kampung house, I prayed hard that they wouldn't wanna use the toilet coz I think they'll probably fall sick seeing the disgusting side of the jamban or toilet as most of my friends live in flats and private housing! Looking back, I do smile at times recalling back the good old days.

Lam Chun See said...

Thank you for sharing that interesting bit about the old jambans. I bet your kids will find that a bit hard to believe. Can't imagine today's children using the bucket system.

But did you post your comment on the wrong article accidentally? I thot it would have been more appropriate for my earlier article; Tribute to a Humble Profession

Anonymous said...

I thought it was far-fetched story until I came across a friend's mother who lived in the ulu before. So used to squatting, she replicated the same "style" when she moved into a HDB Newtown flat. Instead of sitting, she decided to climb up the toilet seat and squatted. Her DIL was so pizzed with her that quarrels broke out between husband and wife.

Anonymous said...

I found this youtube has the image of Singapore from 1958, including Nanyang University partially completed.

Mont d'Or said...

The above film clip is a rare gem. Thank you for posting.

Every morning, I start the day with a coffee and coming to this site to check out new articles to recharge myself for the day by looking at the old, nostalgic and familiar, to face a brand new day of unknown, unfamiliar and rapid changes.

Thank you Chun See for your time and efforts to keep up this great site. I am Blessed!!

Suggestion : include the the film clip in the Nantah article itself or have a central place to store the links to such rare film clips.

Lam Chun See said...

Thank you for your suggestion, Mont d'Or. I'll get to it sometime.

alenayeo said...

Hello Lam Chun See,

This was a lovely article. I am Alena, a student of NTU. I am currently looking for people who are willing to share stories about the Yunnan Garden in the past since it has been renovated and looks completely different. Would you be interested to share your memories and stories in a short documentary?

Please let me know (: We would like to bring more life into the gardens after it has been cut off from the HDB blocks by the highway.

Alena Yeo