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Existentialism-- Just a bloody good excuse to go riding...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Last One Standing

Kampung Lorong Bunagkok:
A little further up on the left is a dirt road leading to it
By now a ton of people must have visited the last village left on mainland Singapore. As usual, I'm always slow... but twirling along the maze of Punggol Waterway today, I just happened to exit where the road leads to this quaint little pocket where time stood still.

The closest to seeing something like this is probably on Pulau Ubin. To which most of us are no strangers. Still laid back compared to the rest of Singapore but even there, with all the buildings pretty much from the days they were first built, the degree of commercialization is rather apparent from the weekend crowd there.

Bike rentals and eating places choke up the area near the jetty vying for business with an aggressiveness that runs counter to the other wise idyllic setting of the place.

Here it's a little different. Wasn't sure if it was actually ok to just ride through. I mean, while interesting to everyone else, afterall its still a stretch of residence. Putting myself in their place, I certainly wouldn't want to feel like some zoo exhibit with folks every so often looking in...

Took a cautious approach and everyone along the way seemed friendly enough. Reckon they are probably used to it  by now. Passed by a house which I almost mistaken as what might be a small restaurant... 3 tables outside with everyone eating and talking. Took me a minute to realize this was actually a family meal at the verandah in the cool evening air, probably extended family and neighbours too.

A mak cik came out to put more food on the table...  Talk about that kampong spirit... Right here right now! Can't be any more authentic.

There were a few cars as I made my way into this short stretch.... it was a strange feeling as there is hardly ever a place nowadays where sedan wheels are still crushing gravel underneath. My 23c Panaracer Extremes weren't exactly the type of tires to be traversing here either. Yea.. those new 32c gravel-proof cyclo tires didn't fit with the fenders in place....

Read from all the other sites, this isn't a very big area, so I decided to get down and push the bike along and soaking in the air around here. As much as the earlier Punggol Waterway is nice, there is just something about being in a more natural, hmm rustic environment? Maybe its just my imagination and sense of nostalgia... but the air sure seems fresher. Crisp. Maybe it could have been just due to the earlier rain... Trying not to be bias.. but guess I already am ;)

Still cautious, despite getting all smiles from the villagers here, not wanting to be some inconsiderate urban klutz trotting without a care into people's houses, I made small talks with some of them...

...while I was left wondering inside my own head how on earth our government forever in the name of "progress" has left this idyllic spot alone while towering buildings of apartment blocks and amenities are suffocating the surrounding area like everywhere else on this island.

There's even a road sign from the 1979-1995 era. A time encapsulated in my mind when skinny 9 yr old me was riding a too big rickety coaster brake bike all over the island catching fish and spiders.

Signs like these with the 4 digit postal code were my "way-points" getting home or remembered so that next time going back to the newly discovered "best spider catching spot" would be easy.

Not many left... I know a couple of these old signs still in Jalan Kayu where the farms and nurseries are and probably another few more somewhere in Lim Chu Kang and Neo Tiew.

One of the 7 wells here.. most of them are closed up.
I was looking for a well when I struck up a conversation with someone who lives there. Over the next 10 minutes I learned a little about the history of the place.

Apparently there are "no plans" to develop it for now. Poking a bit more when this Mister seemed comfortable to rattle off, I have a gut feeling that the authorities are just taking a softer approach but nevertheless one with a certain element of indirect pressure in the hope that these remaining 13 families here will somehow decide to sign on the dotted line and sell the land they are on.

Well it seems that the regulations governing this place would fall within the clauses of the Land Act from 1965. Buying back the land from them would mean basing the value of that time. Seriously! As one of the most expensive city in the world who in their right mind would want to sell it back to the government at 1965 pricing!  Ok some did... over time due one reason or another people have moved away. From 120, its now down to just this 13 families still holding on.

The well(s) I came to see (yea where to find wells in Singapore these days! Things like these get us urban bumpkins all excited eh) are all pretty much closed up. I wouldn't even have known and much less taken a picture (above) if it was not pointed out to me. Reason being, the authorities came and told the folks here that they will be bringing them piped water in buried plumbing.

All I saw was exposed surface pvc piping that certainly wouldn't last long in this climate. As if reading my mind, he lamented

"Yea they come here meeting with us, talk until like damn nice lah.. What will dig and then bury the water piping so we can have fresh water... Now? You see lah... all exposed one. The FT engineers all came see, look, look then go back. Never do anything. Where got underground. Somemore dig up area      never put back. All the dust! Aiyoh..."

Seeing that I was intently listening, he continued...

"Best part you know arh.. right after these pipes.. they come cut the land up on paper, draw here draw there then tell us they going to build HDB again. One meter away from these piping arh.. Yea the ones in front of you now... all the construction vehicles will be pouring in day in day out...
You ask people living here how to comfortable lah. Right or not?
I go work come back every few months.. everytime come back something will change. I don't know man... maybe next time I come back my house also gone by then"
I detected a faint sigh behind his cloud of cigarette smoke...

Eyeballing the surrounding.. I was appalled at what these people will be going through when the excavators and vehicles start their onslaught.. Houses no more than few meters from all the dust and noise. Well.. if people here are uncomfortable enough, by then they might just "willingly" pack up and leave? Hmmm. Is that the plan?

Still I try not to be bias and be too fast to agree and condemn. Afterall I have only heard from one person but  all of these led me to wonder further... Has the recent voicing of discontent from matters like Bukit Brown being turned into a dual 4 lane carriageway caused the authorities to approach these sensitive issues from a different angle?

There are only a handful of people here, no? Well, yes and no? Actual number of folks might not be huge but some has gone to the National Heritage Board and the result is a petition signed by more than 3000 asking this place be preserved.

It is really hard to justify what's right or wrong or should we just go by things should be done for the greater good. To some, examples of nearby development represents what's best for everyone. Always fast to jump on the rationale that on this land scarce island, we simply can't afford to leave things undeveloped. Nice manicured parks and walkways leading up to wooden bridges with viewing galleries while joggers and park user's  modern apartment blocks are mere minutes away. A pattern repeated over and over and over. From East in ECP to Pasir Ris to Woodand, Kranji and everything in between... same old same old.

Along Punggol Waterway...
Me? I would certainly hope the place stay as is. We have been losing too much to the "modern Singapore". Maybe those of us that think this way might be selfish. But I honestly am finding it hard to get a place where I can break out some gears to brew a cup of tea and watch the world go by (preferably with no other human beings around which is almost pure wishful thinking these days). Every place is manicured with a thousand different prohibition signs not allowing this or not allowing that.    
Clean but Sterile.
               Orderly but Coldly mechanical


For now with dusk approaching fast, urban me with no anti-mosquito skin had to beat a quick retreat from the mozziekaze attack. Trust me... this is da real thang.. the damn prickers here are fierce! Reminded me of Poyan Range during army days..

Ok I didn't take that many pictures today but here's a link with has more on Kampung Lorong Buangkok.

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