Saturday, November 30, 2019

[Demolished Buildings] Government Printing Office

1993 map showing the Singapore National Printers Ltd. - Department of Geography
The building was formerly known as the Government Printing Office till 1973 - Department of Geography
Photo of The former Government Printing Office taken by Mr Lee Kip Lin - National Library Board

The Government Printing Office was first established in 1867. (National Archives of Singapore, 2018) The office was first located in High Street before relocating to the Upper Serangoon Road building in the 1930s. 

Every important document that the government had needed (From annual reports to secret reports) to use were printed in this building.

"It functioned as the Singapore Government's central organization responsible for all printing work from Government Gazettes, Bills, Ordinances, School and Government examination papers and syllabuses, directories, departmental annual reports, Legislative Assembly debates, statistical publications, scientific works, official forms, revenue receipts, account books, registers, to invitation cards, publicity posters, booklets and pamphlets." (National Archives of Singapore, 2018)

It is also said that during the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese took over the building to meet their own printing needs. (National Archives of Singapore, 2018)

The building continued to be used after the war "until 1 April 1973, when it became a private printing company and subsequently renamed as Singapore National Printers (Pte) Ltd." (National Archives of Singapore, 2018)

The first two directors of the company were Mr Kwa Soon Chuan and Ms Julia Yeow Geok Imm, both of whom were civil servants. (National Archive of Singapore)

The present company is now called Toppan Security Printing Pte Ltd. (Toppan, 2019)

- Why did the government choose to locate the office at Upper Serangoon Road? 
- During the Japanese Occupation, which department took charge of the printing office?


Department of Geography. 2016. Singapore Then & Now. National University of Singapore. Retrieved on November 30, 2019.   

National Archive of Singapore. 2018. Retrieved on November 30, 2019.

National Library Board. 2009. Government Printing Office. Retrieved on November 30, 2019. 
Singapore National Printers Pte Ltd Agenda & Minutes of Directors' Meeting.
National Archive of Singapore. Retrieved on November 30, 2019.  

Toppan. 2019. Retrieved on November 30, 2019.

Friday, May 3, 2019

[School] Upper Serangoon Technical School

Source: National Archive of Singapore.

Upper Serangoon Technical School. "Where is this school and what have they achieved?"

It was the 60th school that the current government had built. Other than that, what I had previously read about the school from former students' account did not give the school a glowing review.

Interestingly as I dug deeper, the rich history of the school and the many exciting stories started to draw me into the school's story.

The school has a number interesting stories. For example, the school song was written by a local band called The Bambinos. A number of alumni are also the whos-who in Singapore.

For more in-depth reading about the school, do click on the link.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

[Food] Bak Kwa in Nanyang

One of the many big Bak Kwa sellers in Singapore
A radio presenter once asked, "Why do people give bak kwa as gift during Chinese New Year? How about giving a basket of fruit? Or perhaps New Year cookies?" Well, you can. But it is just not the same. There is a certain prestige in offering packets of Bak Kwa to your loved ones. But where did the bak kwa story all started? 
The Bak Kwa Story

Bak Kwa is said to be a Hokkien delicacy. Like many food of the past, the people had little and meat was a delicacy. Without refrigeration, How can they ensure that the meat they have can be eaten months later? Well, what the Hokkien Chinese was to slice the meat thinly, marinated them with ‘sugar and spices, air-dried and cooked over a hot plate'. It made a good treat for all at the dinner table. (9)

Bak Kwa in Singapore

It was said that Kim Hock Guan (金福源) is the very first Bak Kwa stall to set up shop in Singapore.
The late owner Mr Lim Chwee Guan had clocked in more than 50 years of barbecuing pork slices by the time he retired in 1960. (7) He located his shop at Rochore Road and together with his brother, Hock Guan were said to be "the first in Singapore to start the pork grilling business". (7)

When not in Singapore

Bak Kwa is such an important part of us. These small flavourful pieces of Bak Kwa accompanied mountaineers David Lim and Khoo Swee Chiow through their record-breaking Himalayan conques. (3) Mr Khoo even brought along Bak Kwa for his North Pole trek where he rewarded himself with two mouth-watering slices of bak kwa for every 100km that he completes. (11) 

It was the same for mountaineers from the NUS Centennial when they had bak kwa fried rice while getting themselves ready for their ascent to Mount Everest. (6)

When there was no Bak Kwa, people sent on overseas missions had dreamt about it. SAF personnel who were in Acheh to help out with disaster relief for months on end had even fanned rumours that container loads of Bak Kwa were coming their way. (7)

Different Types of Meat

At times, businessmen tried to be creative such as by bringing in different types of meat - emu meat bak kwa. (1)  Now, Bak Kwa comes with all kinds of meat to tickle your palate. From duck and mutton, to even crocodile meat. (4)

Day of Old
Dr Gwee Yee Hean had reminisced,  'I remember in the 1950s, when there were firecrackers, two bak kwa stores, Bee Cheng Hiang and Kim Hock Guan, which were opposite our shophouse on Rochor Road, and many other shops, too, would compete wit h one another to see who could light up more and louder firecrackers on New Year's Eve. 'Afterwards, the ground would be all red from the exploded firecrackers'. (2)

Interestingly, illegal Bak Kwa sellers were making themselves a tidy profit as late as 2002. It was critical enough for Ministry of Environment to remind the public not to buy from these vendors. (8)

Popular Culture

Bee Cheng Hiang made its presence felt in Singapore's locally-made movie - I Not Stupid. The movie, produced in 2002,  talks about a Bak Kwa empire that was threatened by competition. (5)

A movie that revolved around competing Bak Kwa shops - Perfect Rival also made its debut in 2011.


The words of a Straits Times writer sums it best - "A house without bak kwa during Chinese New Year is like a firecracker without a fuse". (10)


1. Eat your heart out. November 12, 1997. The Straits Times. P53.

2. Leong, W. K. January 24, 2001. When traditions come and go. The Straits Times. 

3. Lim, D. November 24, 1996. Terror and Triumph at the roof of the world. The Straits Times. P6.

4. Mandon, L. Z. Jan 17, 2017. 11 Weird Bak Kwa Flavours In Singapore To Skip The Queues At Lim Chee Guan.

5. The Business Times. Nothing stupid about this. February 8, 2002. P19.

6. The New Paper. May 9, 2005. Calm before storming the summit. P26.

7. The Singapore Free Press. June 3, 1960. The portly pork man with wide appeal has now retired. P19.

8. The Straits Times. February 2, 2002. Makeshift 'bak kwa' stalls not hygenic. P8.

9. The Straits Times. February 5, 2005. Fact & Fiction.

10. Tong, K. February 1, 2004. Nothing can replace bak kwa. The Straits Times. P16

11. Yeo, A. February, 2002. Bak Kwa booster for Khoo on North Pole trek. P7.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

[Roads] Lorong Hablor (Yio Chu Kang, 10 Milestone)

What do we know about the area of Lorong Hablor


Meaning of name: Road of Ducks?

Lorong Hablor appeared in official road maps from 1969.

The road has been replaced by the Seletar Expressway and Tampines Expressway. The road Lorong Hablor now no longer exists. In the past, Lorong Hablor was split into two separate dirt tracks that adjoined Boh Sua Tian Road. The area saw the establishment of various villages including one Chinese village called Lak Xun (六巡) Village. (Li, Ng, Mae, & Zhu, 2017) 


Most of the amenities were located along the main road of Yio Chu Kang Road, while Lorong Hablor was about one kilometre away. Thus, those staying around that area had to be self-sufficient. This meant that located around Lorong Hablor were sundry shops, repair shops and even three Chinese temples just along the same lorong. There was also a company selling cylinder gas called Swee Bee Wireless Company, located at 79 Lorong Hablor. (Advertisement, 1983)

Live animals, fishes and crops

There were fish ponds where villagers grew their fishes for sale. (Map, 1970) The villagers had also rare pigs, chickens and geese. (Yap, 2015) There were also rubber and coconut trees.


The villagers who stayed around Lorong Hablor included small time farmers and poultry owners to fishermen. There was a mention in the newspaper of a Malay fisherman who stayed at 179-A Lorong Hablor who drowned in the Seletar River while pushing his sampan out to sea. (Fisherman's fatal fall, 1982)

Toh Clan

Mr Toh Ngo Tong in his interview with interview with National Archive of Singapore claimed that most who lived around Yio Chu Kang 10 milestone had similar surnames – Toh. (Toh, 1985)   


Sin Cheng Chinese School was located along Lorong Hablor. The school could have been named after a Hokkien Chinese businessman Tan Sin Cheng who owned trading companies and a rubber factory in Penang, Malaya in the 1900s. (Ho, 2009)
Environmental Issues

The government had not forgotten the villagers who were staying in the rural area. The then Minister of Health Chua Sian Chin mentioned that in the spirit of keeping Singapore pollution free, the government had already replaced the bucket and overhanging latrines with “water-seal latrines or septic tanks where feasible”. (Clearing the air for a healthier Singapore, 1971)


It was reported that a sudden Sumartran squall ripped through the village in 1983. The strong easterly winds packed speeds of 80 km/h and lasted for an hour, brought down coconut trees that damaged the roofs of at least two houses. (Mohan, 1983) One of the homes affected was the Ong family. (This week, 1983)


The three temples found along Lorong Hablor were Feng Shan Tang (凤山堂), Fa Jin Dian (法进殿), and Quan Sheng Gong (全盛宫). In 1945, the three shrines came together to form the Hong San Chin Huat Temple Association, or Feng Shan Tang. As the Association was not able to buy their own plot of land, they then combined with Sam Ann Fu (三安府) and the Longxuyan Jinshuiguan Temple (龙须岩金水馆) to form the united temple Liuxun Sanhemiao Temple (六巡三合庙), named so as the other two temples were also previously located in Lak Xun Village. They are now located at 8 Ang Mo Kio Street 63 Avenue 9. (Li, Ng, Mae, & Zhu, 2017) 

In 1983, a mosaic layer broke into the Hong San Temple and took away a donation box containing about $200. He was arrested shortly after. (Mosaic layer jailed for stealing temple money, 1983)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

[Buildings] Oh What Rubbish!

The humble Rubbish Chute, who do not know what that is? Well, you'll be surprised that this is not totally common in the household of people around the world.

I had interacted with a foreign student who had stayed in Singapore's high-rise apartment for three weeks. He was here for an exchange programme. He shared about how he had to bag his rubbish everyday and from his 10-storey apartment, made his way down to the rubbish bin to dispose of his rubbish. He only found out that there's a rubbish chute in each apartment only on the last day of his stay. We laughed over the gaffe but in truth, we forget that having rubbish chutes in high rise is uniquely Singapore.

I'd also just returned from, my holiday in Sarawak. I stayed in a condominium which I'd booked through Airbnb. In this condominium, residents are able to also dispose their refuse on the level that they are staying. However, it's not a rubbish chute that they have, but elongated squarish green rubbish bins enclosed in a rubbish area.

Forfar House. Source:

So the Singapore version of the rubbish chutes is truly unique to our country. In-home rubbish chutes have been ever present in public houses since the 1950s. An example of rubbish chutes in a high rise flat can be seen in an article lauding the launch of this now famous building called Forfar House. This public block of flats was built by the former our public housing authority - Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). (Minister to open sky flats tomorrow, 1956)

"All kitchens are served by built-in refuse chutes running the full height of the building and discharging into removal bins at ground level".

That's me in 1977. Can you find the opening of the rubbish chute?

Of course, rubbish chutes are not unique only to Singapore, but with more than 80% of our population living in government-built high rise apartments, most of us would have experienced the use of rubbish chutes.

Modern Day Rubbish Chute Found In the Lobby Area

Over the years, there were interesting stories coming out from it, and it's not just rubbish we are talking about.

There were fires that were started from flat dwellers throwing charcoal down the rubbish chutes in the 1980s. Those were the time where charcoal stoves cooking was still a norm. It was reported that fire incidents rose during the Lunar New Year period as people threw charcoal down the rubbish chutes. What charcoal? The new generation of Singapore will find this unthinkable now as very few households now use charcoal to do their cooking. But there was a time where family matriarchs professed that the food cooked by using charcoal tasted better. Charcoal stoves were used to prepare food items such as boiling soup to preparing loveletters.

"...the rubbish chutes, which have been conveniently built into their flats, are an important part of their property, to be utilised in a proper manner" (Ministry of Culture)

In the same news release, residents were encouraged to bag their refuse using plastic bags.

How times have changed!

Ministry of Culture. March 13, 1982. Speech by Mr Lee Yock Suan. Press Release. 
Firemen to give talk at CCs. February 25, 1985. The Straits Times. P9.
Minister to open sky flats tomorrow. October 23, 1956. The Straits Times. P7.
Public Housing - A Singapore Icon. Housing Development Board. Retrieved on: June 26, 2017, from

Sunday, May 21, 2017

[Food] Lai Wah Restaurant

When I first posted on Facebook about my dinner at Lai Wah Restaurant, I'd expected my friends to react to the post since this restaurant has been around since 1963. But I was pleasantly surprised that so many of them had personal stories to tell.

A few said that they or someone they knew stayed close to the restaurant. Another shared that this was his late grandmother's favourite restaurant where she'd celebrate her birthday. Yet another mentioned that he had his dinner here as his father's factory was nearby.

The recommendation of what food I should try came quick and furious - did you try the venison meat? How about the yam basket?

There were so many things we had wanted to order, just not enough space in our stomachs. So for my family of four, we ordered just four dishes - Venison fried with spring onions and ginger, garlic-fried kalan, seafood vegetable soup and their mandarin stewed chicken.

Well, the venison was indeed succulent and thinly sliced so that it's easy to chew. But the best dish was served last, and that's the mandarin stewed chicken. The stewed chicken was tender and that brought out a question from my daughter," Did they boil the chicken for long time?" I'm quite sure they did and the chicken tasted great. The chicken meat literally teared off the bones and the stew matched well with our bowl of rice.

But what is most important is that this is a heritage restaurant. One that generations have dined at. The restaurant kept to much of their 1960s origins as possible - Wooden signboard with carved gold wordings, old styled chairs and tables, and music from Teresa Teng played in the background. It was just so delightful that one can sit there and gawk at the incoming crowd. But of course, many a times you can't just walk in. You need to make a reservation in order to get a table. Yes, they are that popular. So if you have not tried their food, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

[Movies] The Way of the Dragon - In Singapore

Original Hong Kong Movie Poster

Bruce Lee's movie produced in 1972 - The Way of the Dragon - was Lee's debut into movie directing. It was a big deal in Singapore. It was shown simultaneously, midnight on Saturday, November 11, in only THREE cinemas - Odeon, Cathay and Orchard (Currently Orchard Cineleisure). (1) The movie was shown later in the open air Jurong Drive-in. (2)

Tickets were all sold out on its premiere night and the movie was so popular that the government had to warn the public against buying movie tickets from touts (3) All these happened even before its launch. But still, you can't stop the desire of the public. The public stood in line for hours but unfortunately, many could not get hold of the tickets. The tickets at the box office were sold at S$1, S$2 and S$3 and each member of the public was only allowed the purchase of 4 tickets.(4)

"Touts sold the movie tickets at DOUBLE the price and people were still buying off them", shared my father.  

This martial arts movie reached out to people of all ages, gender and races and was shown in the cinemas for about two months.


1. The Straits Times. November 9, 1972. World premiere of new Bruce Lee film in S'pore. P15. 
2. New Nation. December 19, 1972. Miscellaneous Column 2. P2.
3. The Straits Times. November 11, 1972. Bruce Lee Film Tickets Warning. P20.
4. New Nation. November 10, 1972. Advertisements Column 2. P15.