the straits times writein: kampung’s last stand

Kampung Lorong Buangkok, Singapore’s last surviving village, is located in Hougang on the north-eastern side of Singapore. When I went to visit – my dad drove me – out of curiousity recently, it was the first time I had seen anything so unlike the rest of Singapore. 

The tall buildings across the road seemed like from another world. Dogs lazed on the grass, serence and calm, and cats snoozed under the furniture on the porches. 

Most of the simple single-storey houses had their doors open. That was a surprise to a city girl like me – these people trusted their neighbours enough to leave their doors open the whole day. 

Residents of the kampung simply smiled and waved a ‘hello’ to me as they passed. The must have presumed I was a visitor because no one stopped me. 

Contrary to popular belief, the houses were inhabited not just by the elderly, but also by working adults and their young children. 

That Saturday, most of them stayed indoors, out of the scorching sun, but a few were on their porches, taking in the peace and beauty around them. There was also a small group of children playing outdoors. They were playing kuti-kuti, a game using tokens and pebbles. 

Some children living in the city demand Play Station Portables and computer games from our parents, but these children at the kampung, no older than 12, were contented with playing a game using a few pebbles from the ground. They did not need video games to entertain themselves. Neither did they require many things to be happy. It was quite a culture shock for me. 

As I was leaving, I noticed there was at least one parked car beside each house and one was even a Mercedes. Owning a car in Singapore, much less a luxury model, is not cheap. Residents of Kampung Lorong Buangkok are not living there because they could not afford to move out, but because they want to. 

It is a pity there are no other villages left in mainland Singapore. All of them have been replaced by Housing Board flats. As I watched a mother with her two young chuildren, I realised this was the only place that we can visit to see how our grandparents lived. Unfortunately, the space where this last kampung in Singapore stands will be occupied by more flats in time to come. 

As I left the kampung that day, I found myself, hoping that life could be just like it is in the kampung – easy-going, relaxed and where everyone trusted each other. 

-The Straits Times: IN magazine 
 Monday 28/03/11 

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