Nestled amongst lush greenery in the middle of an urban jungle of apartment blocks, there are birds singing and chickens running freely as the breeze rustles through the trees. Walking through the shopping strips and streets of Singapore it is hard to imagine such a place would still exist in this modern and hi-tech city, as the government continually bulldozes and rebuilds, leaving behind no trace of the cities historical past. Very few people in Singapore actually know of its existence, hidden away about 200 yards from the highway.
In the 1960s, when Singapore split from Malaysia, the government implemented policies in the newly independent state and moved people from kampong style villages to hi-rise public housing apartments, but somehow Kampong Buangkok, also known as ‘Singapore’s Last Kampong’, was spared redevelopment and still stands today, with a threat of disappearing in the near future as the government plans to reclaim the land from its owners.
Built in 1956, the village is located at Kampong Lorong Buangkok in Hougang, which is in the north eastern region of Singapore, and lies between a canal and a construction site of newly developed apartment blocks. The land was bought in 1956 by Sng Teow Koon, a traditional Chinese medicine seller, and at the time there were already 6 houses built on the swampy piece of land. He set up home with his family there and rented out the land to people to build homes and the area developed into a kampong, housing 40 families by the 1960s. The land was handed down to his children, one of whom still lives there, Ms Sng Mui Hong, and she has bought up most of the now abandoned houses which still stand in the kampong. The original land has shrunk by almost half it’s size and there are now only around 6 families still living there, paying minimal rent whilst electricity, running water and garbage collection are provided by the government.
Walking along the dirt road of the kampong, it is beautiful to see families still living in the traditional surrounds, with large gardens surrounding their houses and beautiful flowers in bloom amongst the greenery and it feels like a world away from the rest of Singapore, as it is so peaceful and tranquil, and I imagine it would have been beautiful when it was filled with life in the past.
It is saddening to think that the government plans to demolish and redevelop the last piece of history, possibly in the near future, and relocate the residents to sterile environments in comparison in small apartment rooms. I hope that this tight knit community can enjoy their peace of paradise for years to come and that Singaporeans can visit and remember a simpler way of living from the past, before the casino’s and shopping malls overtook the city.