The long road to Somapah

26 06 2015

Excerpts of an interview with Mr Lim Jiak Kin:

From the late 1950s to the 1970s, I had a relative who lived in Mata Ikan. This was close to Somapah Village where my mother’s best friend lived. Her second son was my second brother’s god-brother.

The approach to Somapah and Mata Ikan was via Somapah Road, lined on the left and right with rows of shophouses. I remember a tailor, as well as a corner shop where my mother’s best friend ran a permanent wave salon. The salon was air-conditioned – a big deal in those days and it was where we always stopped on the way to Mata Ikan.

The idyllic setting of Mata Ikan village as captured by Singapore artist Harold Ong.

The idyllic setting of Mata Ikan village as captured by Singapore artist Harold Ong.

I also remember that there were shophouses opposite the permanent wave shop, in front of which were some very good food stalls. One hawker sold fish porridge and another sold fried oysters. The stalls were relocated to Changi Village when Somapah was resettled. Right next to the permanent wave salon was an open-air cinema.

Somapah Road, at its junction with Jalan Somapah Timor (National Archives online catalogue).

By the side of the cinema there was a little slope where a number of stalls had been set up. This was where the morning market was held and where freshly cooked food and fish were sold. The fish would probably have been brought in from the sea at Mata Ikan, one or two kilometres away. Driving past the market, you would come to a child and maternal clinic. Farther in there were holiday bungalows, corporate as well as private ones.

Mata Ikan 1973

A playground at the Government holiday bungalows at Mata Ikan.

After stopping by the salon, we would head to the end of Somapah Road. That was where we would find the last house by the sea, a house of wood and attap typical of a Malaysian beach hut, standing under a coconut tree.

That was our main destination, a provision shop run by a good friend of my father’s. He was a relative of sorts, having originated from the same ancestral village in Hainan as my father. This man and his Teochew wife lived at the back of the house and kept chickens, reserving the best of them and also their eggs for my father for the Chinese New Year.

Across the path from the provision shop was a small shed. That was where my father’s friend turned crushed cockle shells into a ‘dough-like’ kapor to be sold as whitewash. Packed into wooden crates measuring one foot by one foot and two to three feet high, the kapor would be put on sale in paint shops. Competition from low-end, but superior-quality paints introduced by established paint-makers, had seen the trade gradually dying out.

I remember that the population of the Somapah area was mainly Chinese. Among the various dialect groups was a large Hainanese community and I can recall the Hainanese-run Kwang Boo Kok Suat Thuan. The head of the association was one of the founders of the Long Beach Seafood Restaurant that used to operate in the now long-gone Bedok Rest House.

Kwang Boo Kok Suat Tuan on the Changi 10 Mile Facebook Page.

I have many fond memories of my trips to Somapah and Mata Ikan. It was an outing that to a young boy, seemed almost like an overseas trip. Not many people had the opportunity to travel to the beach by car in those days. We would head there in an Austin A40 with the registration plate SC 644 that my mother would drive. There would be five of us; my parents, my two brothers and me, and we would take the drive on Sundays when my father was free.

Somapah Village was one of the main settlements in the area and served as the gateway to some of the villages that lay along the old coastline.

Somapah Village, in the National Archives online catalogue.

The drive was a long but scenic one. It seemed a long journey even in later years when made on board a lorry that left from the Capitol Cinema, near where the Bata shop was. Sitting on a plank in the back of the lorry about an hour into the journey, I would always look out for the “阿弥陀佛” (a mi tuo fo) temple opposite the Bedok Army Camp, as a sign that we were nearing our destination, the site of the picnic we were attending.

As a city dweller living in a two-storey shophouse with only the very dangerous Odeon car park to run about in, I felt like a caged dog being let loose when we went to the beach. It always meant getting my feet wet, picking up shells and sitting under coconut trees – a real treat that to this day I can still picture in my dreams.

More memories of Somapah Village and Mata Ikan

The site of Somapah Village is now occupied by the campus of the recently erected Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). The heart of the village stood at the meeting of Somapah Road, which has since been realigned, and Upper Changi Road.  Mata Ikan, was a holiday destination for many in days when it was the fashion to take vacations by the sea. Its site would be close to where Changi South Ave 3 is today.

What has happened to the magical Tanah Merah Coastline ...

Approximate locations of some of the missing villages of the Changi / Somapah area.




12 responses

27 06 2015

Hi Jerome, thank you for sharing this detailed nostalgia related blog ” The Long Road to Somapah”. I have the pleasure to link your blog to the “My Home in Simei” group on Facebook. Somapah was formerly the present Changi Simei constituency where the residents of the private landed properties, condominiums and HDB housing estates now live. Well done and keep up happy blogging of Singapore memories. Best regards.

4 11 2015

My apology but I hope to clarify so as not to mislead.
Simei HDB is not any part of Somapah and i would consider it as part of Jln Tiga Ratus to be perfect.I was a Somapahan and went to Changkat Changi , now stay in Tampines which is also part of the former Jln Tiga Ratus.

30 06 2015

Hi Jerome,

This is very informative….

I was born & grew up at the Changi Prison Quarters (my dad is a retired Prison officer) & Kampung Darat Nenas was just behind where my late granddad used to reside. But this places are long gone & most probably forgotten…

Really miss those times when I’d the chance to see, smell & experience a totally different ambiance compared to now…

Keep it up, Jerome! GodSpeed…

1 07 2015

Thanks Jerome, enjoyed it. Brought back a lot of happy memories.

3 07 2015
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Glad to know Bill 🙂 Were you from the area?

28 07 2015

Hi Jerome,
Very grateful for your detail down memory lane description.
I grew up in Gulega road, next to Somapah Village in the 60’s and move out of the village in 1988.
The facebook of Changi 10 mile is also filled with lots of wonderful memoeries like yours.
I am always looking forward to all the wonderful photos and stories like yours.
Everywhere i go, i always look out for the chance to share this great facebook page,
All with the joy to share this collective memories.
If only………
Someone or some bodies could put all this collective memories into a living archive, filled with photos, Paintings , drawing sketches of this fast disappearing memories of ours….
Wouldn’t that be great, for all the pioneering old folks,
If nothing else , one last glimpse or longing look of the journey taken, collectively….

25 06 2016

Hi Jerome do you keep that water color painting of Harold Ong?

27 06 2016
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

It is a postcard of the painting that I have gervis.

20 03 2017
Rosslyn Yeo

Hi Jerome

Thank you for the goood old memories 👏
Just wondering if the tailor shop you mentioned
Could it be Lee Wah tailor?

10 04 2017
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

I am not sure, let me ask.

22 05 2019

The memories of my childhood came flooding back after reading this post.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s in the area of changi 8 3/4 mile, now known as simpang bedok.

Life was so much simpler then…

5 02 2023

Hi Jerome or anyone who replies on this blog page,

Thanks for sharing all your insights. I am on a quest to locate my biological parents or even any information about my birth place or where I come from. I hope if anyone here can be kind enough to share insights about this Somapah Village ,Mata Ikan Village and especially Siak Kuan Road.

Please reach out to me .


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