15 Feb – The fall of Singapore

15 Feb 1942 marked the The Fall of Singapore.

Chinese New Year 74 years ago was sombre and no one was in a celebratory mood.
Japan brought World War 2 to Singapore and occupied us for the next three years.
water rationing singapore

Fast forward to 21st century, Singapore is prosperous, families have the freedom to choose their lifestyles.
Basic food, sanitation and accommodation needs are fulfilled, we worry about career advancement, PSLE, COE and holidays.

I keep reminding my kids how fortunate Singaporeans are today.

But the World is not so safe. Terrorist bombings, radicalisation, North South Korea and South China Sea tensions are teachable moments for the kids. No one owns Singapore a living and we should not take Singapore’s peace and progress for granted.
Kranji War Memorial

** Every 15th Feb, SCDF’s nationwide siren, sweet potatoes and Total Defence comes to mind.
No one can guarantee that basic necessities like water and food will be available during period of tension.

Eating sweet potatoes is symbolic of the tough times which families encountered during Japanese occupation. Food was scarce, sweet potato and yam became sustenance substitutes.

Some schools are still letting kids taste sweet potatoes in school today but kids might not understand the significance. We heard some schools even let kids grow their own sweet potatoes (West Spring Primary School)

Those who grew up in the 80s and 90s, will have experienced water rationing.
Someone will inform households that water-tap will be cutoff at certain hours. When the water truck rolls into our neighbourhood, it was a novelty to bring buckets down to queue for water. (Although parents will have already stockpiled water beforehand hee hee)

We learn from young that water might not always flow from our tap.
Water rationing might be due to drought (Youtube link about water rationing in 1963), or if Malaysia decided to cut off Singapore’s water supply.

During Mahathir’s reign in the 80s and 90s, it was not uncommon to find newspaper articles of Malaysia politicians threatening to cut off Singapore’s water. (Newater is another teachable moment for the kids)

At 6.20pm on 15th Feb, sirens will blared across Singapore. During an emergency (War or terrorists), sirens might warn us to hide indoors or shelters as part of Total Defence campaign. Do you know that some MRT stations are also bomb shelters? (more details on SCDF website)

I hope kids will only experience war in Call of Duty.
the Fall of Singapore

To commemorate the 74th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, a series of heritage tours and talks has been organised (schedules here, but mostly booked)

We have a few other recommendations for families :
– Visit Kranji War Memorial
– Eat sweet potato
– Implement your own water-rationing at home, perhaps for 4 hours. (It might be too cruel to cut off internet :p )
– Discover nearest bomb shelter (MRT or HDB) in your neighbourhood (your storeroom not counted)

Every household can do the following activities :
a) Learn about CPR and evacuation (know how to react during earthquake overseas)
b) Rehearse your fire evacuation drill, or get a first aid box.
c) Blood donation, adult volunteers are always mobilised during emergencies to donate precious blood.


Singapore is not going to War, but do we know how to respond during an emergency?
How can we let the next generation know that the World out there is not as safe as Singapore?
Do you have any other tips and ideas to share?


ps.. pop by 2014 Total Defence exhibit “What will you defend?

Sungei Road Thieves Market

Some call it Thieves Market or Sungei Road Flea Market.
Older folks will call it 结霜桥 (Hokkien for Frozen Bridge, not related to Walt Disney cartoon) with reference to the old ice factory.

It goes by a lot of names but it remains a heritage and landmark along Sungei Road.

Daddy brought two kids along to check out some goods before the area is torn down for good. Thieves Market is located at the inter-junction of Larut Road and Pitt Street (GPS 1.305145, 103.856316)

(Image credit Google map)

Crowded weekends, and potential customers checking the goods. In the old days, the items peddled here were stolen, thus the “Thieves Market” tag.
Sungei Road Flea Market

One person’s junk is another’s treasure. You can find old Army attire, watches, VCDs, phones, wallets, fans and old cooking utensils.

If you can afford a McDonald meal, it is not necessary for you to employ your bargaining skills. The old uncles will automatically discount for you when they see you hanging around with kids.

Our loot (pun intended) :p
– binoculars – $5 discount to $3
– Wrestling WWE RAW Vcds – $5 to $2.50, buy more get more discounts too haha

Thieves Market provide a meagre livelihood and more importantly a connection point for the folks. Soon, this area will be torn down for future developments.

Another piece of Singapore’s history will walk into the dust.

Do take note that this area is very hot and we were drenched within 10 minutes. If you are visiting for nostalgic reasons, 30min walk will cover the whole area.

Refer to map above, Daddy recommends you take a slow stroll along Rochor River for Sungei Road’s next famous icon.

A delicious bowl of Laksa (结霜桥叻沙) awaits at Block 27 (S200027), and one bowl is not enough. The boss did not scrimp on the cockles and fishcakes even though one bowl cost only $2 (YES Two Dollars!)

No wonder there is always a queue at Sungei Road Laksa.

– Do checkout 星期二特写 (Tuesday Report)’s feature about Thieves Market this Tuesday (14Oct) at 1030pm Ch8.

– Sungei Road Thieves Market is opened from 1pm to 7pm
– Sungei Road Laksa is closed on the First and Third Wednesday every month

Queenstown Heritage Trail

[ Media Invite ]

MRT stations Redhill, Queenstown and Commonwealth greet us everytime our train exit from Outram’s tunnel. Queenstown is not new to me, but I understand little about its history.

When Li Yong from Queenstown Heritage extended an invitation to tour his neighbourhood, it was an offer I could not reject. Besides, we heard Tanglin Halt will be redeveloped soon.

The first MRT stations in Singapore were mostly overhead, offering passengers a glimpse into the neighbourhood and communities.

Queenstown (女皇镇) was popular with Poly students (bowling), during my working days (Char Kway Teow at Margaret Drive) and its upmarket condominiums are attracting people back to this mature estate.

Our trail’s starting point was at Queenstown MRT, and we quickly realised how much has changed. We face the decommissioned (1) driving centre, Queensway Cinema has already been torn down.

Queensway Cinema’s Dhoby Surround system was a BIG thing in those days (before THX, DTS and what have you)
Old cinemas Queenstown
(image credit My Queenstown Heritage Trail brochure)

With the boarding and cranes all around, it suddenly dawns on us, things are moving fast in Queensway, and in Singapore.

“My Heritage Trail at Queenstown” will last 2 hours, and along the way, we heard a number of Firsts for Queenstown!
– first pool and sports complex
– first HDB flats( 7 and 10 storeys)
– first Public branch library
– first neighbourhood shopping centre

Why is the town call Queenstown? Li Yong explained to us that it was named after England’s Queen Elizabeth II. Ironically, she visited Toa Payoh town in 1972, and not Queenstown 🙂
(Queenstown Myth buster)

What makes our Heritage trail interesting is the nuggets of stories, and first hand account by Queenstown’s own residents. Every piece of heritage, be it stories and hearsay (even myths) pass on from generation to generation, it adds richness and depth to Queenstown’s heritage.

Refer to map below, there are 5 trails to cover Queenstown (Princess, Duchess, Mei Ling and Alexandra, Wessex and Tanglin Halt, and Commonwealth).

** Refer to map below for Queenstown icons’ numbers

(image credit My Queenstown Heritage Trail brochure)

Let us start with a Coffin (what!)
Yes, (12) Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market was the coffin shaped (棺材) market, and it was a landmark in Queenstown during its living days (pun intended).

Some residents find this venue bad luck, maybe superstitious?

(10) Queenstown Public Library was the first branch Library in Singapore. As we tour its history, we understand mobile library was setup in void decks last time. And children could celebrate their birthdays in library then!

Love the exterior “bow-tie” design, and we are glad that Queenstown Library has been earmarked for conservation.

Then and now, memories shared.

We spotted old library cards and appreciative letters penned by library’s fans.
Did you know that Queensway Public Library was only air-conditioned in the 70s.

Fast forward to 21st century, air conditioning is now a granted in Singapore.

Modern and spacious interior.

Love the mosaic wall and old style lift!

Video : We took the lift just for Fun!

Next to the Library is a dormitory for foreign workers. It used to be (11) Queenstown Polyclinic, offering residents easy access to healthcare and dental care.

(image credit My Queenstown Heritage Trail brochure)

These two Churches (The Fisherman of Christ Fellowship, Church of our Saviour) used to be cinemas! We might be asking why Queenstown (or other mature estates like Ang Mo Kio and Bedok) need to cluster the cinemas together 🙂

.. and Sengkang still has no cinema after 10 years…

(13) Venus and Golden City Theatres ceased operation in 1985. There was a fountain between them too.

(image credit My Queenstown Heritage Trail brochure)

We cross the road, walk under the MRT track, and into Stirling road.

Mr Mahmood recounts his childhood tales with us. His Stirling road unit was only $15k in the 60s! You got to hear him share his story about the circus and elephant.

(16) HDB’s first blocks were also constructed here in Stirling road. Count the number of floors, and you will understand why the residents call it Qik Lao (Hokkien for 七楼, 7 storey)

(14) Mujahidin Mosque’s golden dome looks especially majestic in the evening.

Short break at Queenstown Community Centre, which has a resident Cantonese Opera troupe. We visited their Chingay preparation in 2012.

We took this overhead bridge into Tanglin Halt.
The “Halt” in this estate’s name means “STOP” for the trains.

Train spotting used to be available for the residents until 2013 July, KTM has since moved their terminal from Tanjong Pagar to Woodland.

Tanglin Halt’s flats are 10 storeys, hence 十楼 (Hokkien Chap Lao).

The media group queuing up for Barber and Saloon service at Block 39. We even spotted a MP’s clinic (hint Dr Neo).

“High Class” Jali Jali’s barber shop is a museum by itself. So many old school artifacts don Encik’s shop.

Auntie Alice and Shirley share their growing up years in Tanglin Halt. Tanglin Halt is a very friendly neighbourhood, where everyone is always ready to help (亲裁感).

Auntie Alice shared how first time flat dwellers are paranoid about the “taller” flats, and she did not want to go near the windows initially.

(31) Church of the Blessed Sacrament with her iconic folding-roof design.
Sri Muneeswaran Temple which first started as a shrine for Malayan Railway employees.

Only in Singapore, can you find different religions practicing side by side in harmony.

We noticed a lot of shades and greens around this area.

Enjoying our relaxing walk through Commonwealth Green Park.

Old estate, but colourful facade on the flats.

(29) Malayan Railway used to run through this neighbourhood. Li Yong shared how kids used to throw stones at the trains, we wonder how residents got used to the train’s loud rumblings. (Read about our KTM Heritage tour along Bukit Timah, and JB trip)

Since 2013, this “Green Corridor” is now a favourite track for families.

(30) Three storey buidings from SIT (Singapore Improvement Trust), some of them were constructed between 1961 and 1964. I love the bungalow feel, and the generous amount of window space reflects their surrounding landscape and fauna.

The greys provide a huge contrast to the colourful HDB blocks behind.

(32) Old Tanglin Halt Neighbouhood Centre, old provision shops. The proprietors have been in business from 40 to 50 years, imagine their collective memories of Queenstown!
Good food Tanglin Halt
(image credit My Queenstown Heritage Trail brochure)

Thin Huat’s bosses have even appeared on Channel U’s 100% Singapore (百分百新加坡 Episode 1, Chapter 2, at 8min) programme. Our family is in Chapter 7 on old-playgrounds, Heritage too :p

New and Old development.

I ended my Queenstown Heritage Trail with Nasi Bryani lunch (Block 49). Take note meals are not part of the Heritage tour, but there are a lot of “famous” food inside the hawker centre.

Looking at the map again, I doubt we have even covered one third of what Queenstown has to offer!

(image credit My Queenstown Heritage Trail brochure)

There are more to explore:
– Hakka cemetery
– Ridout Tea Garden (McDonald)
– There is a VIP block 81
– Queenstown Remand Prison
– Alexandra Hospital
– Hock Lee bus riots
– Queensway shopping centre – shoes and jerseys

More details and stories about Queenstown :
My Queenstown Blog (very informative, just like history lesson!)
Queenstown.org.sg website
– Engage Queenstown on their Fanpage
– Find out which other buildings in Queenstown are conserved by URA

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

“My Queenstown Heritage trail” is available on the last Sun of every Month, and FREE.
No wonder most are fully booked 🙂

– Full listing (five Trails) with map is here
– Book online
– Call 9176 9891 or Queenstown Community Centre at 64741681
– Grab a copy of “My Queenstown Heritage Trail” brochure (available at CC), and know more about Queenstown
– Trails might be more suitable for kids above 5, as it involves a lot of walking

* other Singapore Heritage trails can be found at NHB’s link.

Glad to catch up with James too, his blog has a lot to share about Singapore’s heritage. Do pop by Pei Yun’s review of Queenstown trail too, she has listed all the bloggers’ links.
James Seah

We embarked on a 2 hour trail of Queenstown estate. The walk brought us back 60 years in time! This would not have been possible without Queenstown Heritage team’s passion and dedication.

Thank You Team, I really appreciate your time and commitment to document Singapore’s history! You have even updated Margaret Drive’s famous food stalls’ new location YEAH!
Famous Food Margaret Drive
(image credit My Queenstown Heritage Trail brochure)

The next time we commute on the train, look out of Commonwealth and Queenstown stations. Singapore’s first satelite town is constantly evolving. Pop by our SengkangBabies album for more sights, sounds and smell from Queenstown.

** disclaimer. Remuneration was received to cover our time and expense