With the help of an old map, and some sketchy memories of the village at which we would stop over at to get our supplies for the fishing and crabbing trips we used to make to the jetty at Sembawang end, as well as some old photos of the area courtesy of Mr Derek Tait, author of “Memories of Singapore and Malaya” who spent some of his childhood years in Singapore in the 1960s, and some from the National Archives, I was able to get a better impression of what Chong Pang was like in the 1970 and early 1980s. Taking a walk around the area, I could perhaps retrace some of the steps I had taken down the streets of Chong Pang, as I must have done in the early 1980s with Paul, an apprentice with Sembawang Shipyard, whom I had befriended during a six month stint I had with Sembawang Shipyard. Paul had come over from Kulai in Southern Johor, as many of the shipyard workers once did, and rented a windowless room in a wooden shack, which he once showed me. The wooden shacks of Chong Pang, as well as of Canberra Road, housed the thousands of Malayalees and Malaysians who worked at the shipyard. In the mornings and evenings, Canberra Road would be filled with streams of these shipyard workers dressed in the light blue coveralls of the shipyard, cycling to and from the shipyard.
Today, the area where Chong Pang once stood bears very little evidence of the bustling village that once occupied the area. Most of the roads associated with the village have disappeared: the main part of the village centered around Chong Pang Road and the roundabout where the Sultan Theatre stood and around which some sumptuous hawker fare could be found in the evenings, is now a clear plot of land, that is, based on plans for the area, to be used for the construction of a sports and recreation complex. The roads on the other side of the road, where I remember there was a market of sorts, have similarly disappeared, a “Land for Sale” sign sticking out prominently where wooden shop houses once stood.
There is maybe some evidence of Kedondong Road – what appears to be remnants of a paved road peeps out from the grass where the road once joined Sembawang Road. Further north, what used to be a fork in the road, the right branch being the continuation of Sembawang Road, the left, Canberra Road – which led to the Naval Base and was later the road leading to the shipyard which inherited the former naval dockyard after the pullout of the British forces. The gate that stood on Canberra Road still stood for sometime after as evidence of the former Naval Base. Canberra Road has since been widened, bearing little resemblance to the Canberra Road of old. A Catholic church, Our Lady Star of the Sea, which has since relocated to the Yishun, used to stand at the corner, near the start of Canberra Road.
The only part of the area that is maybe still recognisable is just south of where the village was: the Jalan Tampang and Jalan Legundi area, where the rows of shop houses still stand. The row along Jalan Legundi used to house the Cola Restaurant, a popular place for steaks, which later became Jack’s Cola Restaurant.
A more recent landmark in the area, what used to be a rather run down looking Sembawang Shopping Centre, on the opposite side of Sembawang Road from JalanLegundi, was put up in the mid 1980s and was a popular destination for shoppers looking a bargain on music CDs. The shopping centre has since been rebuilt, and the chain that was build on the back of the sales of music CDs has closed, a victim of online music downloads. North of the area, a new public housing estate, Sembawang stands where the swamps around the Sungei Sembawang once stood. There is an area which is named Chong Pang in Singapore, left perhaps as a reminder of the old village, some 3 miles south of the village, bustling it is with a market popular with people living in the area, but nothing like how the old village was.