Monday, May 17, 2010

Kampong Buangkok: Last Village of Singapore

Source: Motochan

Kampong Buangkok: Last Village of Singapore

May 1, 2010

Earlier today, I made the effort to check out Kampong Buangkok, Singapore’s last kampong (village). Neil Humphreys wrote about it, as did New York Times. Countless others have also visited the village that spans across land the size of 3 soccer fields and tucked off Lorong Buangkok via Gerald Drive, at the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5.

Follow the sign down the rabbit hole...

Follow the sign down the rabbit hole...

Otherwise known as Selak Kain (Malay) or 罗弄万国村 (Simplified Chinese), Kampong Buangkok has withstood Singapore’s past 4 decades of rapid urbanization, and till today continues to be home to over 20 families who pay cheap rent to its landlord, Madam Sng Mui Hong. Under URA’s 2008 Masterplan, the land area that the kampong is on appeared to be slated for redevelopment. Its days were obviously numbered, so I thought I’d do my part in curating this small but otherwise important piece of Singapore’s fast disappearing historic landscape, and give my Olympus E-P2 a workout.

And so I spent 2 hours on a Friday morning under the hot morning sun exploring this almost forgotten corner of our island. Most of the villagers appeared to be out at work, which unfortunately reduced any opportunities for interaction with them. Neither incessant mosquito and sandfly attacks nor pesky guard dogs (whom I sent yelping back into their compounds) could spoil my morning excursion, as I snapped away, photo after photo.

Houses of Kampong Buangkok

13 Lorong Buangkok

13 Lorong Buangkok

19B Lorong Buangkok; a double-storied house, the most opulent and  well-maintained amongst the houses of Kampong Buangkok

19B Lorong Buangkok; a double-storied house, the most opulent and well-maintained amongst the houses of Kampong Buangkok

25 Lorong Buangkok

25 Lorong Buangkok

Makeshift porch of a villager's home

Makeshift porch of a villager's home

Outdoor kitchen

Outdoor kitchen

Main porch of a Chinese villager's home

Main porch of a Chinese villager's home

29D Lorong Buangkok

29D Lorong Buangkok

Life around the Kampong

I certainly felt the slowdown in pace of life the moment I stepped on its dirt tracks. It was actually quiet – I couldn’t hear any traffic. Here at Kampong Buangkok, Man and Nature co-exists. As I walked around, I saw butterflies, lizards and more varieties of birds than just crows and mynahs. There is a certain rustic charm that our urban jungle – despite the best efforts of NParks – cannot offer.

A trap set by a villager to ensnare merbahs (singing birds)

Hibiscus & Monk Statuette

Hibiscus & Monk Statuette

Ripening mangoes within a villager's compound

Ripening mangoes within a villager's compound

A rooster peeks out of his enclosure

A rooster peeks out of his enclosure

When I was still a young ‘un, up until I was 10, almost every weekend, my dad would drive the family up to the Lim Chu Kang kampong in his classic burgundy Volkswagen Beetle to spend the day at our grandparents’ chicken farm. I would drop large red firecrackers into old rusted oil barrels and watch those barrels jump up or have holes torn out of them. I would swing on the worn tyre hanging off the tree in the backyard. I would play hide-and-seek with my cousins or be dazzled by my grandfather who often brandished his bat gun to impress his grandkids. Kids these days? They just stay glued to their iPhones, PSPs or Nintendo DSes. Bah!

My visit to Kampong Buangkok brought back many such fond childhood memories. I wish I was into photography back then – those photographs would have been an extremely insightful look into how I viewed my world as a kid. You can bet that I’m going to be teaching my kids photography once they’re big enough to handle one ;-) .

Other resources on Kampong Buangkok

There’s been some calls for the government to conserve Kampong Buangkok. I disagree, and believe it would be more helpful for the government to delay indefinitely its plans for redevelopment, and simply allow the village to remain as it is, for as long as there will be residents willing to maintain such a way of life. At least other kids will have a chance to experience kampongs in person, instead of through textbooks, videos and blog posts like mine.

As a parting note, check out the following 2 links for some interesting stuff on Kampong Buangkok. If you’re interested in the rest of my photo shoot, pop on over to its flickr photo set.

Trees of Kampong Buangkok

Trees of Kampong Buangkok

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