About The Last Kampong
In cosmopolitan Singapore, everyone and everything is hectic and fast-paced. Yet in a corner of Singapore, exists a place where time slows down to a peaceful pace, and residents enjoy a simple yet relaxing lifestyle, content with their status quo.
This xanadu of greenery and nostalgia exists in the North-Eastern part of Singapore. Established in 1956, Kampong Lorong Buangkok is the last surviving kampong (Malay term for village) on Singapore’s mainland. The kampong was also known as Selak Kain, which meant ‘hitching up one’s skirt’ as people used to hitch their skirts up to wade through floods whenever the kampong experienced flash floods in the 20th century.
The land was first acquired by Mr Sng Teow Hoon, a traditional Chinese medicine seller, who rented out land for people to build homes. It was later handed down to his children, one of whom is Miss Sng Mui Hong, who is currently still living in the kampong. Kampong Buangkok used to house about 40 familes, but has since shrunk to the size of approximately two soccer fields with less than 30 families now. Each family pays a token sum of less than $30 to Miss Sng as monthly rent.
As the last surviving kampong on the mainland, Kampong Buangkok serves as a juxtaposition against the modern cosmopolitan city, highlighting the camaraderie and kampong spirit that is paradoxically absent in today’s world.
How To Get to Kampong Buangkok
Take buses 70 or 103 from Serangoon MRT Station and alight 10 stops later at Church of St. Vincent de Paul (B67079). Cross the road and walk towards Shell petrol station, as seen the photo below. You should be able to see a flight of stairs right next to the petrol station. Walk down the flight of stairs, cross the canal and walk straight. The Kampong is on the left side of the road.
Taking A Step Back In Time
Entering the premises felt like I was entering another world of its own. The area was very wide, spacious and peaceful, offering a stark contrast from the noise pollution produced by the busy main roads and construction site located a stone throw’s away.
The houses, mostly connected by dirt paths instead of the usual concrete pavements, are made of wood with zinc roofs that have been through a lot of weathering. It felt like taking a step back into Singapore’s past, away from the current fast-paced cosmopolitan world that defines Singapore now.
From the photos, you might notice that the houses don’t really have gates and barriers surrounding their houses, or if they do, the gates will usually be wide open. This is a rare sight that is hard to find in other parts of Singapore, even when the country boasts of one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
The Chinese and Malay families co-exist harmoniously next to each other, with a deep sense of trust and camaraderie among themselves. The lack of barriers and locked gates are a tangible representation of the kampong spirit which runs deep in the community, with residents being free to enter each other’s houses and helping each other out in times of need.
An abandoned television set in one of the forest gardens.Making use of the trees to hang their laundry lines.One of the birds kept by a resident.Greenery right at the doorstep.
Have you ever seen a four-digit postal code?
Kampong Buangkok’s postal code was 1954, when Singapore still used only four digits for postal codes before 1st September 1995. It has since been changed to a six-digit postal code now, but this sign remains as a nostalgic reminder.
A rare sight in Singapore: Electrical lines running above the houses.Deity statues beside a rusty fence.Dusty flowers which have probably been there for a long period of time.Cats lazing around in the afternoon.
Afterthoughts on Singapore’s Last Kampong
As the last kampong on Singapore’s mainland, not only does Lorong Buangkok serve as an important cultural and historical symbol, I feel that its camaraderie is also something that we can learn from. Residents there welcome each other’s presence and help each other out.
Even though HDB flats attempt to imitate the kampong spirit and induce cohesion among the residents, the camaraderie present is but only a feeble imitation of the kampong spirit. The kampong residents are friendly, with most of them easily offering me a smile or a cheerful “Hello!” when I walk past them. Now, that is something I feel that is hard to get from other Singaporeans.
Kampong Lorong Buangkok is a place that transcends time, with the community so united, pure and simple. Sadly, places with historical and cultural significance such as Bukit Brown Cemetery and the Bukit Timah Railway are being sacrificed in order to make way for further modern development, and it seems like Kampong Buangkok is headed in the same direction too, and hence our trip to capture these existing moments of Lorong Buangkok.
The dusty flowers, the abandoned television set, the pairs of clogs lined up neatly outside a resident’s house, the ancient postal code sign…even when Kampong Buangkok ceases to exist in the future, all these will serve as little pieces of mementos that will remind us of Singapore’s very last kampong.
Lastly, we wish to remind people that there are still quite a number of families staying inside the kampong, so please respect their privacy and try not to disturb them. Let them enjoy the privacy and tranquillity they deserve from the kampong, their xanadu, their home.
That may seem a bit ironic since we are featuring them. But we hope that we have satisfied your curiosity enough and offered an interesting insight, preserving the memory for future generations of Singapore’s very last kampong.