Little Things of Singapore’s Kampong Life You Didn’t Know
Credit: zannelhz, ryancheng80
After all the trips to Kampong Glam during our school days, do we actually know anything notable about the true kampong life and history? For some of us, we probably heard of stories from our parents or grandparents; about the shenanigans they were up while living in kampongs. Fear not if you don’t remember, because we’re here to dish out some fun facts of the life before HDBs!
The land was once a swamp
You might’ve heard stories of the old marshlands of Punggol, or crocodile farms before the lands were claimed and made into buildable grounds for our modern HDBs. The last kampong sits on one of these places of Singapore’s geographical history! The land was purchased by a traditional medicine seller – Sng Teow Koon, in 1956, who rented out small plots of land to Malay and Chinese families.
Back in the ‘60s during the construction of the first few HDBs, people were adjusting to the new lifestyle of living in a high-rise apartment. In the transitional shift from a quiet village to the bustling pace of the city, some chose to return to a slower paced of living. The rent was at $3 per month; you could rear your own chickens and grow a small farm, share foods and chat with your neighbours in the breezy evenings! Not much has changed fortunately, as the rent was as low as $10 per month in 2007.
Flash floods were regular occurrences
When you think of flash foods, you might associate it with Orchard during those heavy rainfall seasons, remember the basements and carparks partially submerged? It felt like a disaster that only happened once in a blue moon, but you’d be alarmed to learn that flash floods were common incidents back in the past!
So much so that, Kampong Lorong Buangkok is also known by its alternative name – Kampong Selak Kain; which meant the action of pulling up one’s clothing (kain) as you’d do during a flood.
Not the usual layouts
If you thought rainy days were the best for some quiet time, think again if you’re living under a zinc roof! Sibei loud pitter-patter, just like when you’re in your car during a heavy rain, but much bigger. But not all kampong houses were made of zinc roofs and wooden walls! Attap houses used to populate older kampongs; made from attap palm, they would turn into thatch roofs and walls. #kampongsmarts
Oh and of course, the origins of many kampong spooky encounters, the Outhouse! The unfortunate sightings of something during the late night were also common, and many residents would have their own tactics if they need the loo past dusk. Yikes!
Our short-short history
As kampongs recede into local history as a bygone era, one ascended into the status of Legends and Mythos, we need to remember that many of the older folks had lived their entire childhoods and teen years in kampongs. The history is still fresh and tangible, the remnants of such livelihood still stands firm in the last kampong of Singapore. We would encourage a visit, however it’s a place of residence not a tourist destination.
If you’re determined to see this living history, please be mindful and respectful to the people living there!