Monday, December 31, 2007

To everything there is a season

Recently, I was interviewed by a Reuters reporter who asked if I thought the government should retain Singapore’s last remaining kampong in Buangkok. She was surprised when I said I was not in favour of keeping it just for the sake of nostalgia. If land-scarce Singapore had better use for the land, why keep it?. Anyway, she did not quote me in her article, choosing to quote my friend Victor instead, who apparently held a different view from me … best not to speculate on her reasons.

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

It’s nice, and possibly even healthy to indulge occasionally in nostalgia. But at the end of the day, (I hate that cliché) we should remember that nostalgia is not the same as regret; neither is reminiscing equivalent to missing. As wise King Solomon wrote in the book Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (including tired clichés)

There’s time for ice balls, and there’s a time for Haagen Daas,
A time for open air theatres, and a time for air-conditioned cineplexes;
A time for public swimming pools, and a time for water theme parks;
A time for night soil buckets, and a time for modern toilets;
A time for rubber band shooters, and a time for Xboxes;
A time for slide rules, and a time for PDAs.

It’s called Progress, and progress is not something we should regret. Kampongs and ice balls belong to yesterday. They should only be resurrected in history books and nostalgia blogs like Good Morning Yesterday.

Have a Blessed 2008 dear reader.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Chun See from one of your UK friends for the entertaining and enlightening blog throughout 2007 - we look forward to clicking onto you during 2008 - Happy New Year (Western calendar!) to you and the family.


Zen said...

A very Happy New 2008 to all the GMY fraternity. I would be happy if a genuine kampong is retained for Singapore posterity but would there be people willing to stay there, on knowing that the younger generation is rushing head on to book the heavily demanded HDB flats. It is unlike the forbidden city in Beijing or the Great Wall of China or other ancient buildings which any removal would be deemed as unthinkable. If majority of Singaporeans truly want a real kampong in the likes of Chinatown, little India or other conserved buildings, I think the government would likely oblige, even then I am afraid it may end up like the present Malay village - just a show piece for tourists to see.

Anonymous said...

I'm also not in favour of retaining something just for the sake of nostalgia. There must be other reasons. Many people may say they want to retain but also ask them if they willing to help.

Anonymous said...

U forgot soemthing Chun See

Today when u date a girl, you go Dutch and u dont have to send her home or pick her - just name the loctaion to meet. That's progress!!!!Hmm should have been born 30 years later LOL

Tom said...

Tom said...
Happy new year to Chun see, Zen, Peter, Victor, chuck,Brian, fr, and every ones family, and a Happy new year to every one who reads good morning

Aiyah Nonya said...

A Happy 2008 to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Happy New Year! Keep on blogging

Anonymous said...

Chun See, please "Carry On Blogging" ...remember the "Carry On" film series in the 60s :)

GMY is one of the few heritage blogs which has already secured real estate in cyberspace because land price on earth is soaring and too prohibitive to keep the old stuff for memory sake or resurrect. Cyberspace is the best alternative virtual storage space for heritage and outdated stuff people pull down to replace with buildings of revolutionary and modern concept and design.

Happy New Year 2008 to everyone.

Lam Chun See said...

Hey Thimbuktu. That's a very refreshing way of looking at memories.

That's why at the recent blogging talk at RSVP, where you were also present, we invited senior people to share their stories on I mean, if you don't want to write too much, just an occasional piece, you might as deposit it at or GMY where more people are likely to read it.

By the way, friends, my friend James Seah has a website called YoungOnce Place, where you can share your old photos - i.e. photos of yourself when you were young - with other likeminded friends. Do pay a visit to his website here. Actually, I suggested to him that it would be more interesting if people posted Before-After type photos, but he prefers to let people remain anonymous. Take a look for yourself.

Francis Ho said...

Very Best Wishes to you and your family for 2008. And looking forward to meeting you soon!

Thanks for keeping up with this wonderful blog! Always a nice warm visit here. ;)

Zen said...

I am beginning to surf for information leading to underground cities(Canada), floating houses(Holland) and floating airport(Kansai/Japan) worrying about Singapore lack of land area to accomodate a forcasted population of 6.5 million in the near future. Though I could not do anything about it, other countries solutions to this problem seem to ease my mind, giving hope to the future of this country. I would not be surprised to find another city slowly emerging from beneath Singapore. Already much oil storage space, SAF facilities (especialy imflamable items), MRT networks, roads and others have gone underground.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Chun See and All Friends here!

yg said...

hi mr lam,

thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your comment.

i have had read the postings (in your blog) that you referred to.

best wishes for the new year.

Victor said...

Journalists usually already have a storyline in mind when they set out to gather information for writing an article. Often, they would ask leading questions to get you to give them the answers that they want.

Let me illustrate with a personal experience that happened more than 18 years ago.

I was at Robinson's Dept Store looking at an unwrapped white shirt which I intend to purchase for my wedding. Out of nowhere a reporter appeared, identified himself and proceeded to interview me. He asked, "What things do you look for when you buy a shirt?"

I replied: "Check that no buttons are missing, no flaws or blemishes in the fabric and the sewing is done properly."

Next day in the Sunday Times, I was quoted in an article titled "Men are more fussy now when shopping".

What the heck!!!???

Regarding Kampong Lorong Buangkok, you can say all you want. But when the land needs to be acquired, what you said won't matter at all.

JollyGreenP said...

Happy new year all with a special thanks to Peter, Victor and Chun See for the time I spent with them a short while ago visiting Changi. When I was younger my pals and I used to joke "eeh, nostalgia isn't what it used to be!". Now I am older but probably no wiser I probably disagree with my younger self. Progress is a good thing and Singapore has made good progress in the years since I lived there and it is a pleasure to see that progress on my return visits. However, it is good to go back and look at some of the old places I used to know and which have not changed out of all recognition, I feel that it gives me an anchor and reference point. In these days of environmental concerns and consideration of carbon footprints can we afford to sweep away the old just to make way for the new or should we be thinking about renewal and repair and updating of what we already have. A case in point might be the demolition of the Equatorial Hotel on the corner of Bukit Timah Road and Stevens Road only to replace it with an almost identical building. Is there any sense in that?

So, yes let's have progress but be sure that it really is progress and let us make sure we have lot's of photos to rememeber (and blog about) before everything is knocked down and replaced.

Victor said...

Jollygreenp - It was a joy for me to have lunch with you and visit Haw Par Villa together that day.

For Singapore, a lot of re-development are based on economic or commercial considerations, especially for privately-owned properties. The rising property prices in the last several years had made it more profitable for owners to sell the hotels which are subsequently developed into high-class residences. Other examples are Marco Polo and Ladyhill hotels.

The same profit motive is also driving the current en-bloc redevelopment frenzy involving relatively new condominiums in prime districts.

Lam Chun See said...

What carbon footprints? In Spore only $$$ matters. Now they are frantically building hotels to cope with the increased tourist arrivals. And they are busily tearing down homes in perfectly good condition and forcing some people to sell their flats against their wishes.

Zen said...

At one point many Singaporeans were greatly alarmed when the government started to demolish a part of Chinatown to build HDB flats, but luckily it realised its mistake and stopped just in time after much public outcry. At least now the locals and tourists can have a historical and lively part of Singapore to look at. After thoughful restoration, with a skillful 'cosmetic make-over', Chinatown now has a new lease of life.

Lam Chun See said...

I fully agree with John (Jollygreenp) that we should take lots of photos to remember places. Which is why like what he is doing in York, I am also doing in Spore as explained here.

Anonymous said...

I do a fair bit of work on heritage projects here in the UK and the main point is of these projects is to find new uses for the wider community and also to enrich their lives - 'Man cannot live by bread alone' underpins much of the heritage restoration and development work here - but this is a recent movement of the last few decades here in the UK. We often bemoan the rampant development and destruction of heritage that went on in our UK cities until relatively recently so its up to Chun See and others in Singapore to keep a light alive on the potential good that might come from preserving something of the past.