I went to Sembawang this morning. As a child, I’d lived in a little coastal fishing village called kampong tengah.
Background [taken from Virtual Tourist, NParks, and possibly other sources - ed.]: This 15-ha beautiful park with its rolling lawn, undulating terrain and matured vegetation was developed on a piece of land formerly occupied by the British Forces. Back then, there were coastal kampongs (Malay for ‘villages’) of Kampong Wak Hassan, Kampung Lubang Bom, Kampung Hailam, Kampong Tanjong Irau and Kampung Tengah.
Mature Tembusu tree, Sea Almond trees, Madras Thorn tree and the Malayan Banyan Tree align, what used to be Seletar Pier in the 1940s, here to shade the benches where visitors sit. Children enjoy cycling up the little “hills” and around the park.
Till this very day fishing and related activities take place along the beach in front of Kampong Wak Hassan and all along to the Sungei Simpang river mouth. Among the fishes known to roam here are the Diamond Trevally (Alectis indica), the Grouper (Ephinephalus tauvina) and the Flower crab (Portunus pelagicus).
At least till the 80s, there is an Indian temple along this part of Sembawang that burns the dead and drift the ashes into the Selat Johor. Fishermen believed this to be the cause of the emergence of the purple climber crabs (Metopograpsus sp. from the family Grapsidae) that will eat any dead animals they come across, and any living ones that they can catch and kill.
Interestingly, the construction of Sembawang Jetty in front of Beaulieu House (former residence of the then Admiral Beaulieu), with the stone walkway leading to it, was started by the British in the final phases of Naval Base construction. They never had time to complete it, however, before the Japanese Invasion of Singapore in February 1942, thus it was actually completed by the Japanese!
Kampung Wak Hassan was last destroyed in 1998 with remaining six Chinese families and one Malay family. Most of the population of the Sembawang kampungs was relocated mainly to nearby Woodlands, Yishun and Sembawang new towns in the 1980s. The Sembawang Jetty too is threatened by the proposed land reclamation. Quite a shame I’d say to lose a piece of history that involves unintentional co-operation of two warring countries, now at peace.
The following will be a story of my kampung life:
Entrance to Kampung Tengah via Andrews Rd. The white building behind used to be a warong, or a foodstall. Every weekend, abah (father) would fetch me from nenek’s (grandma) house on his blue vespa scooter, and we would drop by here for some kueh. Not always, though.
This is the road leading to Kampong Tengah on the right, and Kampong Wak Hassan on the left. There used to be a row of shops here and I would buy my favourite jeruk (preserved plum) and 10-cent Rocket ice-cream from the shop at the end.
This is Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang. My uncle, grandpa, abah and brother used to go here for their friday and eid prayers.
The bottle tree village, got its name from the bottle-shaped tree. So silly. I don’t know what kinda fancypants name is bottle-tree village. I’ve never heard of such a stupid hobbitlike name. They shouldn’t have done this to my kampong. :(
20 years ago, there were no railings. My aunties and uncles used to take me here as a child and we would fish for catfish during high tide. My uncle would also go swimming. During the lowtide, we would find clams and cockles on the soft muddy ground. My uncle had spotted a crocodile here before.
This dirt track was nothing like the one 20 years ago. it used to be very muddy. One period I was taught how to recite the koran by a grandaunt who lived 20 minutes away. I would walk here, with my muqaddam and rehal (koran holder) alone.
The famous Jalan Inggu, with the postcode bearing four numbers. My uncle would take me here to pluck young coconuts. We would cut open the coconut and drink the sweet juice.
During the rainy period, I would fold paperboats and let them sail in this little drain. grandma would be very worried because she couldn’t find me behind all the thick bushes. LOL.
Ah, the morning glory. you press the bottom part of an unbloomed morning glory and watch the flower “jump” out of its stalk. cheap thrill for us.
Jolly lollllyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!! My favourite lime ice-cream with milky filling.
But of course the famous shelters made of white cubes with blue dots on them. I’m glad they have left the shelters looking that way all these years.
The colonial houses nearby
I love my kampong, yaaaaaaaaaaaayyy!!! :D