Kampong Lorong Buangkok: Old Singapore Life
Just a few days ago, my kids and I visited Kampong Lorong Buangkok, the last kampong in Singapore. “Kampong (or kampung)” is the Malay word for village. (And “Lorong” means lane.) As part of learning about Singapore folk tales, we wanted to get a glimpse of where and how Singaporeans used to live before the advent of the now-ubiquitous HDB estates.
Thanks to directions given in blog posts at onelesscar.wordpress.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, we easily found our way to Lorong Buangkok. From the Shell petrol station along Yio Chu Kang Road (opposite St. Vincent de Paul Church), we took the stairs down to Gerald Drive.
The first things we saw were construction materials and trucks. My first thought, “Oh no! They’ve already demolished the kampong! We’re too late!” Not wanting to go home ‘empty-handed,’ we walked down to Lorong Buangkok, hoping to see what may be left of the kampong. Along Lorong Buangkok, we saw a few small wooden houses, one big wooden house on stilts (with airconditioning), a small road side shrine, a big banyan tree and a vacant lot piled with broken appliances and other junk. We were disappointed, thinking that was it.
Thankfully, we saw a hand-painted directional sign that pointed us to the narrow, non-asphalted road into the actual kampong. As we walked in, it was as if we were transported to Singapore past (or to a small town in rural Philippines): old wooden houses built close to each other, weathered couches and tables in the yards, colorful flowers growing wild along the winding road, above-ground power lines, aerial TV antennas, and dogs lazing on the road.
It was midday when we visited, and the kampong was very quiet, almost deserted. We didn’t know how to react to or interact with the residents if we saw any, since it felt like we were making a tourist attraction of their homes. I didn’t take many pictures, and I put my camera away every time I saw someone. We came across a middle-aged woman sitting outside her front porch. She looked our way, and I smiled at her. She smiled back. Ah, just as I imagine how kampong life should be.