Mata Ikan

19 05 2008

Back then in sixties and seventies, vacations were, for most Singaporeans, a luxury. And for most of us who were fortunate enough to take vacations, the idea of a vacation wasn’t flying off to some exotic overseas destination, but renting a holiday cottage of sorts by the sea in Singapore’s east.

I had the good fortune of having parents who being civil servants, had access to some of the resources of the civil service. A favourite of my parents being the civil service holiday bungalows in the rustic village of Mata Ikan, not far from Somapah village, off Upper Changi Road. Many of the old villages in the area have since given way to the runway of Changi airport. The only information I have been able to find about the area seems to be at

There isn’t much I can remember of the area except the market in Somapah village, the bungalows which sat on stilts, the Mata Ikan river, from which you could get a rich catch of catfish, and the muddy seabed … What I remember most was the very high wooden slide in the compound of the government bungalows from which gave me a fair share of splinters.

On the tall slide, Mata Ikan Nov 1971

On the tall slide, Mata Ikan Nov 1971

Mata Ikan Nov 1971

Mata Ikan Nov 1971

Mata Ikan 1973

Mata Ikan 1973




34 responses

6 05 2009

I guess I was living at one corner of Somapah while you were having vacation at the bungalow… I was a very poor kid at that time.

My family used to stay at Mata Ikan at one corner of a small hut rented from someone. We shifted to Somapah when I was 3 year old due to the government land policy. Mata Ikan is now an industrial estate.

My mum used to bring me to Mata Ikan on a basket attached to her bicycle. For a short while, she worked at a factory shed there making cushions out of coconut husks. Sometimes she would talk about the “ang mo choo”, meaning western houses, in that area. I never had the chance to see them.

My memory of Mata Ikan is now very poor. I had vivid memory of Somapah though, since I stayed there till 15 years old. The market that you talked about could be the one just after turning in from Upper Changi Road. There were quite a few shophouses and coffee shops around the area too. It was pretty much a self-sustained town, with outpatient dispensary (with dental clinic), open-air cinema, medical halls, lion dance association, bookshops, bicycle repair shop, photo studio, shops selling clothes, barber shops, restaurants etc. Nevertheless, it was a village still, and many houses had wells for water. My house did not have electrical supply even when I moved out of the village in 1985. We had to use wood for fire for cooking initially, though we changed to cylindrical LPG later on. Lighting was by kerosene lamps.

6 05 2009
The wondering wanderer

Koh, thanks for sharing your memories of life in Somapah. Do you happen to have any photographs of the area? Yes, the market I mentioned is indeed the one at the junction with Upper Changi Road. There is one thing that I recall now, with you having tickled my memory of the area around the market. There was a General Practicioner’s clinic that my mother visited to have a fish hook which had got caught in her knee when she was climbing up a rock wall by the sea shore, removed, that was probably nestled among the shops you mentioned. Somehow, I also have a better memory of the market, and a scene from it which remains with me is one of stingrays being displayed for sale at one of the fishmongers – my first memory of seeing stingrays.

7 05 2009

Remeber, I was very poor at that time, so no camera… Luckily there are some old pictures at

The GP’s clinic was indeed situated close to a row of shophouses. It was located up a small slope called Jalan Somapah Timor. It was opened in 1962. Opposite the clinic and across the road was an open field with some cattle for diary purpose. Beside the clinic was a PAP kindergaten, my first school. Opposite it was a small police post.

The market was an open-air market. Some of the vendors had shops with wooden top for their goods; the rest would place their items on ground sheets.

8 05 2009
The wondering wanderer

Thanks once again Koh. I did find some photos at the Picas site. I don’t really remember much else in relation to what you mentioned, except for the market being an open-air market. There was someting interesting I found online in relation to the dairy farm you mentioned … Maybe I’ll ask my parents if they remember that, and I’ll probably rummage through their old photographs to see if there are any of the area.

16 08 2010
The lost idyllic coastline of Tanah Merah « The Long and Winding Road

[…] parents often took weekly breaks during the school holidays at nearby the government bungalows at Mata Ikan (they had not been as fortunate as their friends who had access to the wonderfully big bungalow I […]

28 10 2010

I also miss my kampong.Until nw i still want to find picture of Somapah,Telok Mata Ikan & Padang Terbakar 😦 .I stay behinds Ah Bee shop

29 10 2010
The Changi Village that I loved « The Long and Winding Road

[…] excursions from the holiday bungalows that my parents often stayed at during the school holidays at Mata Ikan and Tanah Merah before the idyllic coastline they were set in was lost to land reclamation that […]

5 11 2010

my first sch was the PAP kindergarten too. i used to stayed in a house at jalan somapah timor, where the airport was separated from my place by a major road..still rem often seeing and hearing plane flying over my house. Also rem the days accompanying my mum to the market near my kumpung, eating chicken rice in this shop for i think 50cents per pack. but unfortunately i can’t rem exactly where my old hse use to be located.

7 11 2010
The wondering wanderer

Wow … Jalan Somapah Timor! 😀 Thanks for sharing … did you live at the area closer or further away from the market area at Somapah Village?

9 11 2010
No longer the land that Fairy Tales are made of … « The Long and Winding Road

[…] were deprived of the use of the wonderful holiday bungalows along the idyllic Tanah Merah and Mata Ikan coast that lay to the south east of Changi Beach, and many of the former quarters within what had […]

20 11 2010
gervis chua

I was born and grew up at Mata Ikan, of course belonged to one of the many poor fishermen families, most of us went to Min Zhong Public Primary School where our English teachers had to use Teochew to teach us the subject!! When I told this story to some of our uni friends, they were all aghast. But it was true, it happened in Singapore in the 60’s. Of course we kampong folks had a good laugh when we talked about it at our occasional gathering.
Yes I used to envy those “atas” people enjoying themself at the bungalows and Telecoms chalets. Our school used to hold our sport day events at one of those bungalow compound, imaging how big they were.
MM Lee visited our village and school in 1963, it was a huge event and i represented the school to garland him. Unfortunately i did not ask for the picture when the school was torn down, but that picture was hung in the school office for as long as the school live. ……..

21 11 2010
The wondering wanderer

Wow! Great to connect with another person from the area … thanks for sharing! It’s wonderful that you were the one who put the garland on MM Lee … perhaps you can find a copy of the photograph at the National Archives … Do you happen to have any memories to share of the Somapah Village area? Wondered around what was the Mata Ikan and Somapah area recently and was pleasantly surprised to find that there is a little part of Somapah Road that is still there … 🙂

21 11 2010
gervis chua

BTW, why are you so interested in Mata Ikan and Somapah? The name denote “Ulu”. Must admit i was quite shy to tell people i was from there. Do you know of anyone staying there?

22 11 2010
The wondering wanderer

I had many wonderful memories of the area from my childhood and was a very different world from the Singapore of today. I recently met a nurse who attended to my mother who lived in and grew up in Somapah Village … What I remember most of Somapah Village were a GP’s clinic where my mother had a fishing hook which got embedded in her knee while climbing up a seawall at Mata Ikan removed, and the wonderful market where I had first set sight on sting rays which were displayed at a stall at the entrance to the market area …

23 11 2010
gervis chua

I always think when one reach 50, he or she will tend to reminisce the past. i guess you are somewhere there? except for those uni and early working years, i was back to another kampong not far from Somaph, one of those houses next to Seralang camp. can’t help but once a kampong boy will always a kampong boy. so if you will to ask me anything about Mata Ikan, i should be able to give you most of answers you want. BTW, when u talk about mata ikan, we refer to the small fishing village at the end Somapah Road to be exact. Place where the market, open air cinema and the clinic was Orchard to us then, we mata ikan people were not quite the same as the street smart ‘city dwellers’. i think we were much poorer and simpler, and Teochew was the only language we spoke even if u don’t belong to that dialect.

24 11 2010
The wondering wanderer

I guess I am a little young to start reminiscing about the days gone by then :). I am actually about half a decade short of that … most somehow think of me as older when they read my posts, and think of me as too young to be reminiscing about the past when they see me in person … there are actually a few clues as to how old I am in some of my posts … Nice that you are always a kampong boy – that’s all too rare these days … Mata Ikan is indeed that fishing village at the end of Somapah Road … the Somapah area I associate with the area due to it being the gateway to Mata Ikan and beyond during my days of fun in the sun …. have many wonderful memories of those forgotten places ….

23 02 2011

Hi Guys,there need no be a lampong boy but there are kampong girls too.I use to stay in jalan somapah timor where the cow farm was.Use to run around playing with neighbours and going to their houses.well at that time the houses were not locked and everyone chatted freely.even when a child goes missing,parents will know where to find them.I really miss staying there.Getting up early in the morning,going to the market with my grandmother,where everyone seem to know each other.oh i studied at the PAP kindergarten,was once rushed to somapah OPD for immediate dressing as i was hit my a car.In the end the uncle who hit me was my dad’s friend.Well guess it was my mistake,rushing to cross the small road after going to the provision shop to pay for the monthly groceries my grandmother ordered.Well after i was knocked everyone rushed to help,that the kampong spirit man……

23 02 2011
The wondering wanderer

Wow really? Thanks for sharing that! Must have been fun growing up in the area! Glad to know that you were well attended to after being hit and not too badly hurt … 🙂

22 04 2011

I am a somapah boy.Attended PAP kindergarten,changkat changi ….Maybe some of you are my classmate…if the present First Lady was once your teacher.
The open air cinema ticket was 30 cents at one time for adults.
I love the char kway teow ,mee rebus ,chai tow kway and later barchormee..
Hor fun cost S1.50.Somapah hawkers cook well .
Bring along an egg to LAU LEE fried kway teow besides pap kindergaten and he will charge you only 20 cents for the plate.
Until today,I use to dream of Somapah,my home ……

27 01 2012

boh sing
Yes I remember,20cts ticket for children to enter the open air cinema.There was a coffee shop just at the entrance,a drink stall,a sweet n tidbit stall and not forgetting my favourite corn ice cream.(ling,ling…)
To the right of the cinema,there is a bald patch where children gathered to play marbles then across a road there was a row of shophouses-coffee shop(I loved the hainanese teh-ci,still could not find any that taste so nice until today),dentist,chinese drug store(hainanese),Yong chang dept store(selling necessaries like hair cream,toiletrolls,hangers,pails,towels,bags umbrella etc),hairdressers for male/female,Ban Li coffee shop,tailor,chinese drug store(Kwek),Bay mah dentist,Dr.Sheng Clinic. then a police station.I used to play with children from these shops.Well no more in touch.Immediately behind the Singapore cinema is the Kwang Boo Martial Art association where one could learn Chinese Kung fu from many great kung fu masters and not forgetting the nightly lion dance sessions.Too much things to write got to sign off until some other time.By the way I just stayed beside the cinema.

5 03 2012
Changi Ten Miles

I stayed quite close to Min Zhong Public Primary School. I remember the school sell a small bowl of laska for around 10 cents. That Edison above has good memory. I hate the lion dance practice as it was quite disturbing when you were watching in the open air cinema.

3 04 2012

I was browsing online for info on Mata Ikan and stumbled upon your blog. The reason for my search on Mata Ikan is to help my mother search for her family as she was given away as a child and her longing wish has been to find one of her relatives.
My mother’s parents stayed at 821E Mata Ikan and she was born in the year 1949.
If anyone reading this comment knows of anyone who stayed around the area or the family which resided at the address I would appreciate if you could help me.
I and maybe many of us grew up knowing our family members and having the love of parents, my mother however never had this childhood. Please help me, help my mother find her parents or siblings.
Thank you all in advance.

31 12 2012

Perhaps you can try your luck and find out from Min Chong Sports Club Association ,as many old members staying in Mata Ikan are still around.I have left the Association lately.However,I am still in touch with some of the Mata Ikan folks.How I wish I can be of help to you to fulfil your wish.

12 06 2012
Gervis Chua

Hi Changi Ten miles, i lived near and studied at Min Zhong Pub. Pri. Sch too, we were probably neighbour once.

13 09 2012

simply glad to hear old friends or neighbours talking about somapah road.My childhood days are back in sight.Thanks for the memories. Anywhere,we used to run a store beside the bicycle shop. Cheers…

17 09 2012
Changi Ten Miles

Hi Edward, are you referring to Cai An?

31 12 2012
agongkia mother once want to match make me to someone related to Cai An when I was very young and I am shy to go.I regretted not obeying my mother .

17 09 2012

Hi Changi Ten Miles, i was residing next to Cai An. Used to run a department store called Hup Lee.Simply missed those days with my kampong friends.

25 09 2012
Changi Ten Miles

Hi Edward, now I recall. But I remember that door of the shop always “half shut” and looking very dark inside.

29 09 2012

Hi Changi Ten Miles,I guessed you must be below 40years old. That scene happened when the area was zoned for re-developmentment and when we are preparing to re-locate.

31 12 2012

Start with He Hin kopitiam,Ah Hui shop,PAP kindergarten/Clinic,bicycle shop , shop( couple with 1 cute boy,likely Edward and 2 girls,likely Hup Lee),Cai An,Choon Song shop,Medical shop,Bata shoe shop,Tong Ho,bicycle/casette shop….
Dun know whether my memory is correct.

Happy New Year folks.

9 01 2013

Happy blessed 2013 to you and all ex-kampong folks.Your memory is most commendable after all these years. I was rather surprised Hup Lee did not carry much weightage at that times…….anyway let the memory lingers on.

4 10 2012
Changi Ten Miles

I am slightly more than 40. In fact my friend (same age as me) also say the same thing when I checked with him.

25 12 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New year to all my kampong friends…….

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