Singapore’s last surviving village17 August, 2010 by Yan
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.