An ‘Eastie’ Goes Up North

By : Nur Hafizah
30 April 2014

Having been a proud ‘Eastie’ all my life – aka one who stays in the East – I’ve never thought of heading out to the other ends of Singapore. Yes, it’s amazing that within this small city-state of ours, you can actually find clear regional identities. I have always believed that my side of the island has everything one needs… great food, awesome recreational spaces, buzzy shopping malls. So for me, heading to the ‘faraway’ west and north is as good as travelling out of Singapore!

But it wasn’t till I was doing some research on different neighbourhoods that I felt the call to go up north and visit Woodlands. The more I found out about its rich history, the stronger the call (plus I found out that there’s a bus that goes from the east straight to Woodlands Town Centre!).

Old Woodlands

Did you know that Woodlands got its name from the rubber trees that once grew abundantly in the area? Looking at it today, a bustling town, it might be hard to imagine that much of its landscape used to be covered with wild vegetation and the common habitation was attap housing. Woodlands had several kampungs, such as Kampung Lorong Fatimah and Kampung Marsiling. But these were cleared to make way for industrialisation and public housing, and so by 1972, the first 1,300 housing units of Woodlands New Town were completed.

Kampung Lorong Fatimah was probably one of the last kampungs in Woodlands to be cleared – it was around even till the late eighties until just before the construction of the Woodlands Checkpoint extension.

The kampung was located off Woodlands Road and some of the houses were built on stilts, being near the shoreline. It was really close to Johor – the only thing separating the kampung from Johor was the channel of water. It must have been convenient visiting neighbours to the north back then on sampans and koleks (small wooden boats), with no snarly traffic jams to contend with.

For its part, Kampung Marsiling, located across the old Marsiling Road, stretched from the area at Block 32, all the way to Block 168. If my check with Google Maps is correct, that spans about 2km! Kampung Marsiling was considered the village of the business people – so the houses weren’t anything like the poorer squatter villages. When the kampung was cleared to make way for housing development, its residents were relocated to public housing flats nearby.

Kampung Marsiling

A ‘Kampung’ Park

While there are no longer any kampungs in Woodlands today, there is a park in the town – Woodlands Town Garden – built in 1983 that my friends say has preserved the look and feel of the old kampungs of Woodlands.

Woodlands Town Garden

So this ‘Eastie’ gal headed up north to check it out one fine afternoon and was she surprised by what she saw!

I saw pergolas and pavilions that look like they belong in a Chinese garden or Malay kampung. I’m not sure if this was intended when the park was designed, but the undulating ‘levels’ of the park accentuated its rural charm and made walking through the park feel like wandering in a rice paddy field!

View from the third “level” of the park

Got to love sandy playgrounds – the boys were digging a hole to keep their secret treasures

A little Chinese garden bridge

“Malay huts” as shelters

I found it interesting that there were not any seats in the Malay huts – kind of makes you feel like taking out a straw mat and ‘lepak’ing on it while savouring tropical fruits. Which was what I saw some people doing, except they were munching on potato chips.

And if you’re feeling up for a little bit of exercise, there’s a little spiral staircase that gives you a vantage view of the entire park.

Up, up….

And there! I might have been imagining it, but I thought the air was a little fresher at the top

After all that walking, I rested at one of the Chinese pavilions. The serene view reminded me of the days I spent in my aunty’s kampung in Johor, just sitting on the benches admiring nature. With the sun setting quickly, it was time to leave – it was hard tearing myself away.

How polite. Thank you, I did!

I must say, as an ‘Eastie’, I was pretty impressed! I wouldn’t mind going all the way to the north again and have a picnic in the park.

The trip up north also got me thinking that I should venture out of my comfort zone and travel to different ends of Singapore to check out what I have been missing out by staying close to my home in the east. Maybe the Bishan – Ang Mo Kio Park next? I know Punggol Park is beautiful, too. And there may be other undiscovered gems around the island.

‘Living the Kampung Spirit’ Exhibition

Since it’s Labour Day tomorrow, why not drop by the Woodlands Town Park to have a “kampung style” picnic with your family? And while you’re in Woodlands Town, you could pop by ‘Living the Kampung Spirit’ exhibition at the open field next to Admiralty MRT Station – it’s well worth the trouble. The plans for the new “modern kampung” to be built in Woodlands will be on display then, and it ends on 2 May. Not much time left – so hurry!

Are there interesting places and parks near your home, too? After this trip, I’d love to explore more new places! Drop a comment on the MyNiceHome Facebook Page.

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