Sunday, July 26, 2015

[Singapore Parks] Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park: A Walk in the Park

During the 1970s and earlier, a mention of Kallang River or of any rivers in Singapore would have brought a frown to people's faces. Such rivers or "longkangs" are truly filth pits. Foul-smelling water; filth consisting of everyday rubbish to bloated animal carcasses.

So to even think of getting close to the water was out of the question. Prior to 2011, the river was nothing more than just a canal. It was a straight concrete-based canal that was a reflection of what Singapore was like in the 70s and 80s - effective but not exciting. Much of this mimicked what Singapore was like then too. Nothing but concrete structures.

From a silty, dirty canal, this part of Kallang River along Bishan was transformed into peaceful oasis with a meandering river. Completed in 2011 and launched on 17 March 2012 by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the waters are now teeming with fishes and kudos must be given to our water agencies who were able to not only keep the water clean, but to start the entire process of transforming the boring concrete canal into such a lovely site and sight.

The focus of this park is not only about the transformed canals, but also about the other facilities on offer. The cycling and running track along the parameters of the park; the nice, cosy restaurants and a spa tucked within the lush leafy garden; inline skating rink, and a dog park (There was not even enough money for people to feed themselves, what's more or dog, or even a dog park) for dog owners and their friend to have a bit of exercise.

With this success, the government has announced the next canal beautification project along the Bishan and Braddell Road. This 1.8km stretch of canal will be redone to include elevated viewing decks and a meandering river. The construction will be completed in 2018. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Visiting the Istana

Singapore crest at the gates of the Istana

Panoramic view of the lake

Sri Temasek

The frontage of the Istana

Entrance to the Istana

Well developed trees lined the road to the Istana

Standing Guard

Sunday, July 12, 2015

[Singapore Islands] Pulau Semakau: An Island in the Sun?

Marine Transfer Station
The Singapore government recently launched the Phase II development of Pulau Semakau on July 11, 2015. This increases Singapore's capacity to "meet waste disposal needs" for the next 20 years. (1) Refuse was previously dumped at Lorong Halus just off Old Tampines Road till 1999. (2)

Visiting Pulau Semakau

I visited Pulau Semakau in 2013 as part of an organised trip. By then, the island was already a landfill. The guide shared much about the biodiversity in and around the island, but nothing about the island's history. It was a talk by Anthropologists Dr Vivienne Wee, Dr Geoffrey Benjamin, and Ms Normala Manap that opened my eyes to the value of these southern islands.


The island was believed to be rich in history. In 1991, a group of explorers found pottery that were probably more than 200 years old. Dr John Maksic opined that part of a clay jar found could have even been from the 12th century.  (3) 


In 1977, more than 600 villagers were ordered to move to mainland Singapore. From thereon, the island laid uninhabited, though not totally. When Dr John Maksic visited Pulau Semakau in 1991, a Malay couple - Mr Rani bin Omar and Mdm Minah bte Gap was seen living on the deserted island. (4)

They shared that:-

a. The villagers of Pulau Semakau and Pulau Seking were closely related. They attended each others' weddings
b. They collect fresh water from the larger island of Pulau Bukom

In a more recent article, Mdm Minah shared about how both she and her husband fought off Indonesian interlopers when they were staying on the island alone. Mdm Minah's son shared his pain of losing the island. He thought that the new government led by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew would continue to allow them to live peacefully on the island. The late Mr Lee had also visited the Pulau Semakau and had promised the islanders modern facilities such as "police post, community clinic and Malay school". Instead by the 1970s, the islanders lost their entire island when they were asked to move. (5)

Interestingly, Former Senior Minister of State Mr Sidek Saniff had previously taught in the Island's school in 1958. (6) There was only one school - the Pulau Semakau Malay School and it was said that the school had been in existence since before World War 2. (26) 

Here're some highlights of Pulau Semakau over the years.

Police were alerted to a fight between Malays and the Chinese. The Chinese coolies were working in the lime kiln there (7) 

The British government issued identity cards to the islanders (8)

The islanders, consisting of Malay fishermen and Chinese traders, built themselves a school for 30 Malay students. But no teachers were available to teach these students (9)

The Pulau Semakau school was finally opened. The Pulau Semakau Malay school started with five Chinese and 25 Malay students, all learning the Malay language. The Chinese residents of Pasir Panjang contributed $700 to buy timber, attap and cement to build the school while the Malays helped in the building. (11) (12) (16)

With the school up and running, other islanders from Pulau Sudong, Pulau Sebarok and Pulau Senang had asked if the school could also take in their children (10)

The population of the island was at about 350 islands. It was also listed that in 1940, The Singapore Rural Board thought that the island was uninhabited (13) As the island was inhabited, the Board had thus agreed to buy a water boat and build water storage tanks for the islanders. (14)

A floating medical dispensary coupled with a nurse would provide medical service for the people every Wednesday (15)

The Mobile Film Unit would show their films on the islands to provide the islanders with some entertainment (16)

The government had decided to build Quarters for teachers, Postman and Postal Agency and Sundry shops.

Costing $10,000, the islanders welcomed their first postal agency. (18) 

The Ministry planned to build a water tank to arrest the acute water shortage issue during the dry season. (19)

The Yang di-Pertuan Negara Inche Yusoff Ishak visited the island, and planted a coconut tree to commemorate this event. The Penghulu of the island, Inche Abdul Jalil bin Kerip pledged the island's loyalty to Singapore's government. (20) (21)

A new Community Centre was built. (22)

The Penghulu receives a Public Service Star medal. (23)

The Singapore Armed Forces started to use the island for its live firing exercises. (24)

Indonesians were still allowed to move freely amongst Singapore islands. (25)

The population of Pulau Semakau was said to be 1,826 residents. (26)

It was reported that the island was to be developed to house a petrol chemical complex. Swamp, foreshore and seabed would be reclaimed. (27)

More talks about developing the island. Now the reports state that it would be used for shipbuilding and other marine-oriented industries. (28)

Old graves were exhumed and moved to Mount Vernon Crematorium. (29)

Villagers were required to move away from their island. (4)

The island was deemed by the newspaper as a 'relatively undisturbed' island with coconut tree and fishing villages. (30)

By now, the villagers of Pulau Semakau have been moved to the mainland and the island has become a dumping ground of waste materials dredged up from the sea. (31)

A decision was made to join both Pulau Semakau and Pulau Seking. At this point, the newspaper report had still mentioned that it was done to house a international petroleum centre. (32)

First mention of Pulau Semakau being a offshore refuse dump. (33) 

At this point, community centres are still bringing their residents to the southern islands (Including Pulau Semakau) for tours. (34)

The newspapers mentioned that the island is now uninhabited "with only one watchman living there". It was also reported by a NUS professor that corals lying around the island have already been damaged since the early 1960s due to reclamation work done on the island. Soil dug up from the building of the Central Expressway, and earth spoils from Pulau Seraya Power Station were also dumped into the sea off Pulau Semakau. (35)

If things did not seemed bad enough with the island being used for waste disposal, the government shared about their plans to build a toxic waste plant on the island itself. (36)

Still on its environment, it was reported that marine life was thriving in and around the water of Pulau Semakau and that the artificial reef that was built using old tyres and cement was a success. (37)

Adventurers claimed that they have found artefacts of more than 200 years old along the beach and also other parts of the island. (3)

Then Environment Minister Mah Bow Tan said that the offshore landfill will see Singapore through to 2045. (38)

Parliament agrees to the reclamation project of the island. (39)

Former Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim announced that Pulau Semakau would be ready for anglers and nature lovers to visit. (40)

Pulau Semakau has been further expanded to meet the demands of Singapore's waste disposal. (41)


1. Chan, L. E. July 11, 2015. Singapore's waste disposal needs get a boost. Channel News Asia. (Accessed on July 11, 2015)
2. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. The DNA of Singapore. (Accessed on November 24, 2014)
3. The Straits Times. October 4, 1991. Adventurers find ancient artifacts on Semakau. P26.
4. The Straits Times. October 6, 1991. Deserted Island is Home to Rani and his Wife. P12.
5. Marsh, J. May 24, 2015. Forgotten Singapore: evicted islanders grieve for lost paradise. Accessed on July 11, 2015.
6. The Straits Times. March 31, 1993. Just when you thought it's safe to step into the water.
7. The Straits Times. March 26, 1923. Affray at Pulau Semakau. P8.
8. The Straits Times. November 14, 1948. Mobile teams help register. P1.
9. The Straits Times. July 24, 1950. They Built a School. P7.
10. The Straits Times. March 6, 1951. They have to go by boat to School. P10.
11. The Straits Times. January 9, 1951. 5 Chinese boys to learn Malay. P15.
12. The Straits Times. January 3, 1951. 5 Islanders get own school and unity. P7.
13. The Straits Times. August 22, 1952. Island that's not in the book. P9.
14. The Straits Times. June 20, 1952. Now they can have water.  P9.
15. The Straits Times. March 1, 1954. A Battle Begins in Singapore Today.  P8.
16. The Straits Times. March 7, 1955. Advertisement. P9.
17. The Straits Times. February 2, 1955. Advertisement. P5.
18. The Straits Times. September 7, 1957. Advertisement. P10.
19. The Straits Times. August, 1959. Better Condition for 3,000 Islanders. P11.
20. The Straits Times. February 1, 1960. Tree to mark visit. P1.
21. The Straits Times. February 1, 1960. Inche Ishak to islanders: We have plans to help you. P4.
22. The Straits Times. September 10, 1963. New Community Centre. P4.
23. The Straits Times. May 1, 1965. List of main Singapore awards. P9.
24. The Straits Times. February 29, 1969. Artillery firing. P8.
25. The Straits Times. August 21, 1972. Indonesian islanders join in joy of sea carnival. P27.
26. Sidhu, K. S. June 3, 1973. The island folks and men who guard them. The Straits Times. P10.
27. The Straits Times. July 30, 1975. Go-ahead for reclaimed land in Changi. P9.
28. The Straits Times. April 27, 1976. Semakau to be turned into big marine base. P5.
29. The Straits Times. April 26, 1976. Advertisement. P24.
30. Byramji, N. October 1, 1978. The unspoilt islands for walks in the wild. The Straits Times. P1.
31. Chee, L. September 9, 1980. Marco Polo removing 'high spots' in Singapore. P13.
32. Lim, J. September 21, 1982. $600m reclamation to join two islands. The Straits Times. P1.
33. The Business Times. March 23, 1988. Plan to use Semakau for offshore refuse dumping. P2.
34. The New Paper. August 1, 1988. Southern islands picnic. P38.
35. Liu, M. February 26, 1989. Govt will prevent dump site from polluting sea. The Straits Times. P14.
36. de Silva, G. October 7, 1989. Singapore looks at setting up of an offshore toxic waste plant. P44.
37. Goh, J. October 17, 1989. Man-made reef lures marine life. The Straits Times. P22.
38. Nathan, D. September 23, 1993. Another $1b landfill if rubbish keeps piling up, says Mah. The Straits Times. P3.
39. The Straits Times. July 27, 1994. 350 ha reclamation off Pulau Semakau gets nod. P.20.
40. Hooi, A. March 9, 2005. Fancy a nature trek at Pulau landfill? The Straits Times. P5.
41. Wee, C. F. July 12, 2015. Biggest rubbish dump grows bigger. The Straits Times. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

[Sports] International Running Events in Singapore

Runners at the starting line

In Singapore, there are running events literally every month of the year. The recently-completed Osim Sundown Marathon 2015 saw the participation of about 26,000 runners who hailed from land both near and far.

With government's two prong approach - a push towards healthy living and revenue from sports tourism - much effort has been put into putting these races together. From running through the breath-taking Marina Barrage, to long stretches of the East Coast Parkway, most parts of the run were pretty pleasant. Certain roads were also closed to accommodate these events.

Breath-taking night view of the Singapore Indoor Stadium

Singapore's First International Marathon

The first Marathon ever held on Singapore's soil took place on December 5, 1982. (1)  It was a major undertaking as many roads were required to be closed. Starting from Connaught Drive, the race then meandered around Singapore. Passing through the various suburbs of Geylang Road, Paya Lebar, Ang Mo Kio, Thomson Road, Orchard Road and finally to the National Stadium. (2)

This arrangement would have caused a lot of disruption to the lives of Singapore and thus, would be the catalyst for the government to come up with a better way of doing marathons as the years go by. Now, all running events are held in and around the Central Business District area, Marina Bay and East Coast Park to minimise the level of disruption caused be road closures.

Also, the event was pretty much exclusive to those who have a higher level of fitness as there was only one race - the Full Marathon - 42.195km.

Marathon in Current Day Singapore

Races nowadays are more inclusive as instead of a single Full Marathon event, there are also shorter races such as the Half Marathon, 10km, 5KM fun run, and even children's event. (3) These running events can draw in more than 20,000 runners. (4)


1. History of the Marathon in Singapore. November 17, 2014. Accessed on July 5, 2015.

2. The Straits Times. December 4, 1982. Advertisements Column 1. P3.

3. Channel News Asia. July 5, 2015. Sundown Marathon sees 26,000 participants. Accessed on July 5, 2015.

4. Lim, J. July 5, 2015. Athletics: Participants laud new race category at Sundown Marathon. Accessed on July 5, 2015.