Kampong Lorong Buangkok
by Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia
Kampong Lorong Buangkok (sometimes styled “Buang Kok”1), located off Sengkang East Avenue, is the last rural village on mainland Singapore. Sng Teow Koon, a traditional Chinese medicine seller, purchased the land in 1956. Originally a swamp, land was rented out to Malay and Chinese families for them to build their houses. Over time, a kampong, or village, developed. At its peak, the kampong housed a total of 40 families; there are reportedly 28 households remaining.2 The land on which the kampong stands has been earmarked for redevelopment by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Concerned that the last vestige of traditional village life would disappear from Singapore entirely, some Singaporeans have called for the conservation of the kampong.3
A traditional Chinese medicine seller, Sng acquired the site of Kampong Lorong Buangkok in 1956. Back then, the village was home to just five or six families.4
In the early years of the village, new houses were built with help from neighbours. Residents had to transport sand from the nearby estuary to fill up the muddy grounds before construction could begin. This spirit of gotong royong (Malay for “mutual assistance”) also extended to other aspects of village life, such as weddings, sicknesses and funerals.5
By the 1960s, there were 40 families living in the village, and modern amenities such as running water and electricity were installed in 1962.6
Description and recent developments
The 12,248-square-metre plot of land, approximately the size of three football fields, belongs to Sng’s children. The land was inherited by his two sons and two daughters after his death in 1997. His youngest daughter, Sng Mui Hong, is the current landlord and the only child among the Sng siblings living in the kampong. Her siblings have moved to public housing estates.7
In 2007, the media reported that the land was valued at S$33 million. However, Miss Sng has maintained that she would not sell the land, and said that the residents were like family to her. In keeping with her father’s wishes, Miss Sng has kept the rent low, which ranges between S$6.50 and S$30 a month. For tenants who are short on money, she accepts fruits and rice as payment in kind.8
Comprising a cluster of zinc-roofed houses, the kampong has remained largely unchanged since its early days.9 There is a surau (prayer room) in the village,10 while chickens, cats and dogs roam freely. The residents grow fruits and vegetables such as jackfruit, banana, tomatoes, chilli and lime.11
According to a 2004 news report, there are 28 families living in the kampong, with 18 Malay and 10 Chinese households.12 Village matters are presided over by the headman, Awe Bin Ludin, who is also the person in charge of Muslim affairs. During the fasting month of Ramadan, he informs the villagers of their fasting and prayer times. In addition, he maintains the surau, conducts prayers, and collects money for surau repairs and offers of condolences.13
Sited on a low-lying area near Sungei Punggol (Punggol River), the village floods frequently during bouts of heavy rain and high tide. Its propensity for flooding earned it the nickname “Kampong Selak Kain” – selak kain meaning “lift up your sarong” in Malay.14 Despite reinforcement work, the village still suffers from occasional floods. A particularly bad one occurred in 2004, which led volunteers to erect a fence along the stream that runs through the kampong. However, these measures provided only temporary relief. To eradicate the problem, improvements to flood defences costing up to S$10 million were needed. However, the government said that it was “impractical” to spend this amount of money on the antiflood measures.15
Kampong Lorong Buangkok has received considerable public attention as the last rural village in mainland Singapore. In 2007, former Member of Parliament Ho Kah Leong held an exhibition to showcase his paintings of the kampong landscape. The village has also been a subject of study for student documentaries and projects.16
In 2009, the Urban Redevelopment Authority announced that, in its 2008 Master Plan, the site of the kampong had been earmarked for the development of a major road connecting to Buangkok Drive. Concerned that the last vestiges of traditional village life may disappear from Singapore entirely, some Singaporeans have called for the conservation of the kampong.17
Joshua Chia Yeong Jia & Gracie Lee
1. Closed to traffic. (1979, March 24). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Little Day Out. (2014, March 20). Kampong Buangkok. Life lessons [Blogpost]. Retrieved 2017, April 5 from Little Day Out website: http://www.littledayout.com/2014/03/20/kampong-buangkok-life-lessons/
2. McTurk, C. (2013). Parting glances: Singapore’s evolving spaces. United States: ORO Editions, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 307.336216095957 MAC)
3. Huang, H. F. (2010, September 5). Last kampung a tourist draw. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Jalelah Abu Baker. (2015, November 1). Last remaining village on mainland S’pore. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
5. Jalelah Abu Baker. (2015, November 1). Last remaining village on mainland S’pore. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
6. Ng, D. (2009, January 14). ‘If it happens, it’s just too bad’. The New Paper, pp. 2–3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Sim, B. (2007, August 5). S’pore’s last kampung worth $33m but landowner won’t sell. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Zaccheus, M. (2015, February 17). The clock is ticking for S’pore’s kampung houses. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
8. Sim, B. (2007, August 5). S’pore’s last kampung worth $33m but landowner won’t sell. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Zaccheus, M. (2015, February 17). The clock is ticking for S’pore’s kampung houses. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg
9. Last kampong standing. (2005, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 103; Ng, D. (2002, April 10). 3,000 sq ft house with 5 rooms… The New Paper, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Wong, L. (2009, July 4). Kampong Lorong Buangkok surau: General view  [Photograph] [Online]. Retrieved from PictureSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/pictures/
11. Singapore’s last kampong. (2007, December 22). The Business Times, p. 6; Tee, H. C. (2003, July 27). Buangkok blues. The Straits Times, p. 3; Rustic living – in this forgotten kampung. (2002, April 10). The New Paper, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. A village to call their own, come rain or shine. (2004, November 1). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Flood and family fights… kampung head tackles it all (between his two jobs). (2004, March 17). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Zuzanita Zakaria. (1999, January 19). A place and lifestyle trapped in time. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Mulchand, A. (2004, March 17). No spare $10m? Get out the changkul. The Straits Times, p. 2; A village to call their own, come rain or shine. (2004, November 1). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Chiang, K. X. (2008). Kampong Buangkok [Video]. Retrieved 2017, April 4 from YouTube website: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NicpZt03Now; Sleepy kampung draws visitors. (2004, March 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Ng, D. (2009, January 14). ‘If it happens, it’s just too bad’. The New Paper, pp. 2–3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Humphreys, N. (2006). Final notes from a great island: A farewell tour of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 174–179.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 HUM-[HIS])
Khoo, H. (2007, August 19). Owner of $33m kampung: My family ties are not for sale. The New Paper, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Koh, L. (2008, January). Village people. August Man, pp. 104—111.
(Call no.: RSING 052 AM)
Mathavan, S. A. (2007, August 20). Peace and quiet: priceless. The New Paper, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Mulchand, A., & Chan, C. (2004, March 11). Floods wash away kampung’s charm. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Mulchand, A. (2004, November 1). Floods, flies and a life of freedom. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Mydans, S. (2009, January 3). Singapore prepares to gobble up its last village. The New York Times. Retrieved 2017, April 4 from The New York Times website: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/world/asia/04village.html?_r=3
The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Streets and Places