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May 19, 2013
The Wiggins Teape Group advertisement in the 1960s was entitled:
"To help make Singapore what it is today - mountains were moved".
Percy Carpenter's painting of "Singapore at Sunrise from Mount Wallich in 1856" is one of the best records of the settlement of that time. But today (1960) Mount Wallich cannot be found. Where has it gone? It was completely removed in 1887 from the area of the present Cecil Street and Maxwell Road junction to fill in Telok Ayer Bay which in this picture is the inlet fronting the main street shown - Telok Ayer Street.
|Bird's-eye view of East Coast, Singapore reclaimation in 1976|
Please check out 'Shenton Way - Then and Now' blog about Mount Palmer here .
The large building shown at the end of Telok Ayer Street was Singapore's first post office, situated on the river in front of the present Treasury Building.
|Waterfront view of Singapore c 1925|
|The Legislative Assembly House at Empress Place c 1954|
Marina Bay Financial Centre
On 15 May 2013, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially opened the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC). He posted on his Facebook update at:
I felt good to see this project completed. I was involved in its inception in the late-1990s, when I was in MAS. Banks and financial institutions here were expanding rapidly. We decided to build a world-class business and financial hub in Marina Bay. The MBFC was the largest land parcel the Govt had ever sold at that time, and big risk for the developer to take. But the economy revived strongly after 9/11 and SARS, and the MBFC took off. Today 30,000 people work at the MBFC, and it is a beautiful addition to Marina Bay. - LHL
The Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC), as with all over Singapore, is work in progress ... always building, always developing, always changing for a better Singapore for generations of the future.
May 16, 2013
|Photo Courtesy: MediaCorp Singapore|
The TV documentary series produced by The Moving Visual Co. and hosted by author Neil Humphreys:
1. Sexy Property
2. Sexy Nightlife
3. Sexy Gardens
4. Arts and Entertainment
5. Transport in Singapore
6. Expat Paradise
In the final episode, Neil Humphreys finally arrives at the epicentre of new Sexy Singapore. Nothing epitomises the dramatic changes that have taken place like Marina Bay. In the 5 years that Neil left, the area developed with high-end skyscrapers and resorts. The Sail, Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer, Marina Barrage and more - all appeared in a very short space of time.
This episode on Channel News Asia "catchup" is available here .
Singapore’s seamless infrastructure, cleanliness, safety and gleaming outlook provide an irresistible lure for many seeking to live here. In this episode, a committed expatriate goes in search of the Singapore Dream, and shines a light on our westernised appeal. What is the “Singaporean Dream”? Is the love of Singapore ultimately in the eye of the beholder?
Return to a Sexy Island is ostensibly a travel guide with humorous commentary and reflections running throughout. Seen through the eyes of a “ang moh” (Caucasian). Beginning at, where else, Marina Bay Sands, he journeys around the island to see the sexiest bits of New Singapore. Forget the heat, mud and rain, Neil gamely walks, cycles and takes the bus and MRT.
Singapore got sexy and the country s best-selling author got jealous. After five years chasing echidnas and platypuses in Australia, Neil Humphreys returns to Singapore to see if the rumours are true. Like an old girlfriend getting a lusty makeover, the island transformed while Humphreys was away.
Singapore is not just a sexier island, it s a different world. So Humphreys embarked upon a nationwide tour to test that theory. He went in search of new Singapore, visiting only locations that either did not exist five years ago or had been extensively rebuilt, renovated or revamped in his absence. From the cloud-topped heights of Marina Bay Sands and Pinnacle@Duxton to making ill-advised bomb jokes at the subterranean tunnels of Labrador Park, Humphreys walks, cycles, kayaks and swims across a rapidly evolving country, meeting Guinness-swigging aunties in Resorts World Sentosa, eccentric toy museum owners in Bugis, political activists in Aljunied and a security guard at Marina Barrage ready to tekan anyone who crosses his path. In new Singapore, Humphreys discovers a country still grappling between the economic rewards of progress at Biopolis and Fusionopolis and the historical cost at Bukit Brown Cemetery. With Humphreys characteristic honesty and wit, Return to a Sexy Island provides an insightful account of new Singapore; its best bits, it ugly bits and, most importantly of all, what it s really like to pee in the world s best toilet.
Taufik Batisah, "Singapore Idol 2004" said:
"The rock star of authors in Singapore. His never-run-of-the-mill quips on this little red dot will either make you boil or chuckle like a little boy on nitrous oxide. A rebel with a cause you may call him, he explores and documents facets of the Lion City that you may find taboo or plainly refute to acknowledge. Despise or embrace his coherent perspective, I am one of the lucky ones to have found a friend on this "Red Haired" man. Or, more accurately, he should be referred to as 'Sir' Neil Humphreys.
Shaminin Flint, author of the "Inspector Singh Investigates Mystery Series" said:
"It is often said that an outsider sees truths that a local cannot. Neil Humphreys' witty, insightful, warm-hearted take on life in Singapore (warts and all) proves that point over and over again".
Chew Gek Khim, executive chairman, The Straits Trading Co. Ltd said:
"Singapore is lucky to have Neil Humphreys - an ang moh visiting places we have never been to, recounting histories we are unaware of and, most importantly, showing us how to laugh, love and forgive all the imperfections of this little island we call home."
Neil Humphreys said: "When I left Singapore in 2006 and returned 5 years later, everything has changed."
His catchy book title "Return to A Sexy Island" and the TV documentary series of the same title could not describe Singapore as a "sexy island" before he was born.
As a blog to express on this topic, I would like to share nostalgic memories of the Singapore skylines over 50 years ago when few filmmakers were attracted to Singapore for location filming for outdoor scenaries.
《风雨牛车水》 "Stormy Chinatown," the film will not be unfamiliar among nostalgia friends who grew up in Singapore in the 1950s or earlier.
The Chinese film starred by director Yan Jun (严俊) , Li Lihua (李麗華), the main filming location in Singapore. This film was released for the first time on September 18, 1956, creating a sensation.
Chinese New Year atmosphere in the Chinatown area: decorated in the entire region, and a variety of shops, miscellaneous shop are newly renovated and there are a lot of holiday goods and snacks.
Very wide range of real Chinatown district, north of the Singapore River, south to Maxwell Road, east to the Cecil Street, west of New Bridge, about 2.6 square kilometers. Basically, this range is where the center of Singapore.
The early years of no running water facilities in Singapore, the city's drinking water mainly by ox cart as from the countryside to the city center, and then transferred from the city center around the city. Chinatown is located in a central location, the supply of water to the cattle-cart area called " 牛车水" (Bullock Cart Water).
In 1954, the Chinese film 《馬來亞之戀》 was produced by a Hong Kong film company for location filming at Chinatown, Singapore.
Selected photos of Chinatown included in the film "Moon Over Malaya".
Another old film for tourist promotion and publicity for Singapore in the 1950s was "Moon Over Malaya."
Moon Over Malaya, also known as 椰林月 or The Whispering Palm, was shot in Singapore and Malaysia. It was produced by Kong Ngee, founded by the Ho brothers (Ho Khee-yong and Ho Khee-siang). Shaw Brothers, Cathay Organisation and Kong Ngee were the three major studios in Singapore in the 50s. The Nanyang Trilogy by Kong Ngee in 1957, was shot in Singapore and Malaysia. Moon Over Malaya, the most acclaimed of the three films, was in Cantonese and starred Patrick Tse, Nam Hung and Patsy Kar Ling. The other two films of the trilogy were Blood Stains the Valley of Love and She Married an Overseas Chinese.
|The publicity poster of "Moon Over Malaya"|
It is noticed from the video clip that the tourist spots in the film "Moon Over Malaya" were the places of interest in Malaya in the 1950s. There were too few tourist attractions in Singapore in the past. Most foreign filmmakers did not find it worthwhile to include the scenes of Singapore in their films.
Singapore wasn't a "sexy island" decades ago. Neil Humphreys could then not help to show the world the things to see, to do, to eat, to enjoy exciting new stuff as a tourist destination for everyone. Singapore as an unique and fun place to remember for everyone today.
May 9, 2013
Once upon a time in the 1960s, Bukit Ho Swee kampong in Singapore was well-known as a notorious place.
The residents in the kampong were associated with Chinese triad society, attap and wooden huts, poverty, frequent gang clashes and mostly illiterate and uneducated Singaporeans. It is a blessing for me to have survived through Bukit Ho Swee in the early years in Singapore.
It was a very different society in Singapore where there was lawlessness; daylight public gang-clash in the streets without law and order like the "wild wide west" using long parangs and other weapons but not rifles. As a young boy at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, I had personally witnessed a few of these horrendous "pia chwee" (gangland lingo for clashes by different groups such as "08", "24" and others).
Jalan Bukit Ho Swee (Bukit Ho Swee Road in English) wasn't born until after the Bukit Ho Swee fire on 25 May, 1961 when the homeless fire victims need public housing built as "emergency flats".
Bukit Ho Swee derives its name from Tay Ho Swee (1834-1903), a prominent figure in the Chinese community in 19th century. In the early days, the landmarks of this area included a disused Chinese cemetery and a large number of squatter huts. Gradually this area became one of the most crowded attap slums in Singapore. Here, the poorest population of Singapore – hawkers, labourers, members of the secret societies and the unemplayed – found shelter.
As a former Bukit Ho Swee fire victim who grew up with my family since I was born in 1948 , I could tell the stories in the first person on this personal blog to share. I do not have stories and intimate memories to tell about other places in Singapore though.
What has transformed Singapore almost 5 decades since her independence on 9th August, 1965?
On a sunny morning on Sunday, 4 May, 2013 with nothing much to do, I took an unscheduled walk down memory to Jalan Bukit Ho Swee as I happened to be in the Tiong Bahru area.
The route from Blk 2, Taman Ho Swee (Point A) to Jalan Klinik (Point B) as marked blue on the above map. The route on foot from Point A to Point B along Jalan Bukit Ho Swee was short; but the nostalgic childhood memories to travel the journey over 50 years is full of learning experiences to remember.
The stretch of Jalan Bukit Ho Swee shown on the left of the photos above are beyond recognition. There was a lot of greenery, tall trees and and also a shady park and playground for recreation by the residents. The neighbourhood was tranquil and peaceful. Not this way in the 1960s when the 5 blocks of "emergency flats" was over-crowded with full of activities like an "urbanised kampong".
For these same spots about 50 years ago, I could not describe in words in any language for our young readers to imagine how the place was like. Many of them wasn't born yet, they told me.
With the help of archived juxtaposed photos posted here on the blog from elsewhere on the Internet and especially the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) and contributors with thanks and acknowledgement.
I vividly remember the staircase from Block 7 to climb up to Block 9 where I once lived in the 1-room "emergency flat" at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee.
These "emergency flats" were demolished in 1988 (thanks to Facebook friend Choon Lee for additional information) and replaced by the high-rise, upmarket HDB apartment renamed as "Boon Tiong Apartments" in the following photos.
|Blk 8C Boon Tiong Apartment was formerly Blk 9, Jalan Bukit Ho Swee|
Thanks to Larry Lee for the YouTube video on Bukit Ho Swee to share here. The same stories about Bukit Ho Swee with different perspective and focus on different memories and different journeys for everyone.
Block 4, Taman Ho Swee - Then
On 23 September, 1961, guests and Bukit Ho Swee fire victims at the official opening of five blocks of 1-room "emergency flats" by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. In the above archived photo (Photo credit: NAS) was Blk 4, Taman Ho Swee under construction.
Block 4, Taman Ho Swee - Now
Shops at Blk 4, Taman Ho Swee
I had coffee at Sin Lee Coffee Shop with the proprietor, Mr Thiang Boon Hin, 66 years-old with a chat. He is the original tenant rented from HDB since the shop at Blk 4, Taman Ho Swee was completed over 50 years ago. He was formerly staying at Tiong Bahru and now stays with his family above the shop.
The elderly stall-holder, a veteran selling prawn mee and "lor mee" was also at the shop for as many years.
Many friends who grew up in Bukit Ho Swee shared fond nostalgic memories of the kind and friendly lady's stall at Taman Ho Swee since they were children.
|The location of the former Bukit Ho Swee Community Centre in 1982 (below)|
|The 3 blocks of HDB flats built at Jalan Klinik under Phase 3 of Bukit Ho Swee estate in 1960s.|
A walk down memory lane at Jalan Bukit Ho Swee which is unforgettable to share on this blog.
Reminisce the past is different from living the past. To share fond nostalgic memories of our places, people and events which are stored in every individual's "memory bank" to inspire, to encourage and to motivate.
Personally speaking, the past is gone and is history. I cannot repeat the Bukit Ho Swee fire over 5 decades ago. A lesson to be learnt from past experiences which happened beyond the control of circumstances of natural calamities such as tsunami, earthquakes, typhoon, etc.
We can only live the present as Jalan Bukit Ho Swee which younger generations of residents to make it a better place for the future with hope and work together peacefully in Singapore. A better vibrant community to live harmoniously.
"Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past which can bridge to the future" - Mattie Stepanek, BrainyQuote .
The old Bukit Ho Swee which people knew is the close of a chapter of Singapore's unglamorous history of notorious places in the past such as Toa Payoh the "Chicago of Singapore", Lorong Tai Seng and some parts of Chinatown ganglands. The heartlands in Singapore today for a better society of the future.