Kampong Buangkok

Singapore’s last surviving village

17 August, 2010 by

Kampong Buangkok is often regarded as the last surviving village in the otherwise modern city of Singapore. Kampong, in Malay means Village and it certainly rings a certain old world charm in 21st century Singapore. Being part of the younger generation of Singaporeans, I readily admit that I never got the chance to visit a kampong, much less live in one. I decided to visit Kampong Buangkok to relish the chance. It’s a place which might vanish off the face of Singapore, anytime the government decides to do something else with that small piece of land.

Back in the days, living in Singapore meant village life. Kampong Buangkok was just one of the dime a dozen villages scattered throughout the island. The kampong was initially a swampy piece of land with only 5-6 homes. But since 1956 it evolved into a kampong after being bought by a Chinese trader known as Sng Teow Koon. By the 1960s, the village housed about 40 families.

Currently it’s home to 28 families (18 Chinese and 10 Malay) consisting of workers and mostly elderly residents. They pay about $13 in rent (super cheap rent by current day Singapore standards). Amazingly, for that price, electricity, running water and garbage collection are provided by the government even until now. Post is provided by a postman on a motorcycle once a week.

To almost all Singaporean of the older generation, a kampong will certainly bring back fond childhood memories and nostalgia. I always hear vivid tales recalled by my grandparents on how simple life was back then. Having great kampong friends that last for a lifetime and the kampong spirit (roughly translated means bonding and helping beyond the call of duty). Quote from kampung residents: “We left each others door’s open. That was the kind of trust we had.”, that is the kampong spirit.

Surau Lorong Pampong Buangkok.

Visiting Kampong Buangkok
Located at the very obscure Lorong Buangkok, the road is out of reach from normal sight unless one dives straight into the road itself. Most people consider Gerald Drive as the indicating road to reach Lorong Buangkok.

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Getting There
I would still recommend a car or at least cab ride for this trip, as Kampong Buangkok is located somewhere in the middle of 2 neighborhoods. The easiest landmark that I could recommend everyone to refer to is the Church of St. Vincent de Paul right opposite Kampong Buangkok.

If a car/cab ride is not an option, the next beat way to visit this kampong is via a ride from the MRT subway with a transit by bus.

Bus numbers 70, 70M, 103, 103M, 854 will be able to drop you right opposite the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, giving you the easiest access to Kampong Buangkok. I recommend taking the MRT subway ride to Yio Chu Kang Station (NS15) and transit to buses 70 and 70M. The bus ride itself will take approximately half an hour to reach the designated bus stop.

It is not too hard to find your way to Kampong Buangkok, just go beyond the canal beside the bus stop and follow the road.

Beyond this point, its all dirt road into the kampong.

At Kampong Buangkok
Please bear it in mind that you are actually visiting actual families living quarters, so try to be discreet and tone down on your noise when maneuvering around and enjoying the rural sights. Some folks are friendly enough to hit up a small conversation, telling you some history about the kampong and their selves.

You will start to see the houses scattered all over the place, after all this is a village no?

Some families take pride in sprucing their house to make it as pretty as possible. This particular family belongs to one of those.

While some others are less pretty and more normal. Gets the job done though.

In addition to the usual wood houses, one will notice that some of the other houses are made of brick.

Most are still wood though.

L.B.K. stands for Lorong Buangkok Kampong.

Word of Caution:
This is after all, private property and most families prefer not to have their pictures snapped or their own houses barged in. So please exercise some common sense and caution when trying to trespass certain areas or there is a chance that you might get chased out by ferocious looking dogs and owners. Basic courtesy always helps in getting by most situations.

There are also in fact some areas in the kampong that are supposed to be guarded by the wild dogs lurking there, residents have warned us not to try walking too far beyond the kampong boundaries or risk having chased and bitten by the stray dogs. The dogs are ferocious enough to deter us from going near them to take pictures.

"Please Stay Clear"

Some of the houses are empty during normal working hours. But usually guarded by ferocious looking dogs, or cats in this matter.

When in doubt, just try not to trespass or better yet, call out and get permission to gain access to the otherwise private places.

Most families enjoying their own quiet time and slow pace of life. I do admit that my existence brings a certain aura of annoyance to them.

Things To Do
Other than walking around, basking in the atmosphere of a slow pace life and experiencing how Singapore feels like decades ago. The next best thing you can do is to carry a camera and take some interesting shots. That is what most visitors are doing anyway.

Flock of birds are already a rare sight in Singapore, what rarer than circuit connections.

How did the residents manage to hang their bird cages so high up remains a mystery.

Random fan decoration.

Yet another fan decoration. This time a yellow ladybug version.

Random painting. Please do not pick them up without permission.

Great opportunity for some flower shooting.

Probably a hand dug canal to deal with the often flooded Kampong Bungkok.

As of June 2010, Kampong Buangkok is still around and thriving, despite a of couple announcements from the Singapore government which claimed that the Kampong was due to be demolished and redeveloped in the near future. How much longer will Kampong Buangkok be around, that I am not sure. But I definitely recommend the place to anyone who is interested in embarking in a trip back to the past. Savor what this living piece of history can offer. Visit it soon.

Addicted to film, Yan shoots with a black Nikon Fm3a. For special occasions, Yan shoots with a Mamiya Sekor TLR.