Discovering Old Changi Hospital (2019)

1 07 2019

Update : Registration has closed as of 7.06 pm 1 July 2019. As pre-registration is required, no walk-ins will be permitted. 

More on the series: Discovering Singapore’s Best Kept Secrets


The disused buildings of the former Changi Hospital have, since the hospital’s colsure in 1997, been the subject of persistent rumours that stem from a misunderstanding of the buildings’ wartime history.

The hospital, which began its life as RAF Hospital, Changi, was among the most highly regarded in the RAF medical service. It boasted of some of the best facilities, and the environment it provided was ideally suited to rest and recuperation. Occupying buildings of the Changi garrison that were perhaps the least troubled by the occurences in Changi from Feb 1942 and Aug 1945, it was only in 1947 that the hospital was set up. Two Royal Engineers’ Kitchener Barracks buildings built in the 1930s were turned into the hospital to serve RAF Changi after the air station was established (in 1946). A third block, which became the main ward block, was added in the early 1960s.

Suported by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), the visit provides an opportunity to learn more about the former hopsital and its misunderstood past. It will also offer participants a rare opportunity to take a guided walk through parts of the property.

When 
13 July 2019

How to register

Do note that spaces are limited. As this is a repeat visit, kindly register only if you have not previously participated.

Participants must be of ages 18 and above.

A unique registration is required for each participant – duplicate registrations in the same name will count as one.

Registration shall be made using the form at this link (closed as of 7.06 pm 1 July 2019).

A confirmation will be sent to the email address used in registration one week prior to the visit with admin instructions to all successful registrants. Please ensure that the address entered on the form is correct.


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The skateboard ban of 1978

22 09 2013

Passing by Somerset Skate Park and watching a skateboarder in action, I was reminded of a time when skateboards first made an appearance in Singapore some three and a half decades or so in early 1976. Then, there were no skate parks catering to skateboarders to speak of and many would take to footpaths and even the streets. This was until a ban was imposed on skateboarding in public places including parks and void decks in May 1978 when I was in Secondary 2 – with the police warning that they would not hesitate to prosecute anyone caught as skateboarding was thought to be not just a nuisance, but also a dangerous activity. With a rink in Sentosa which had been popular with skateboarders (it was also possible to rent skateboards there) deciding to also close their doors to skateboarders not long after that, many skateboarders had to turn to secluded spots. One such spot was right at the top of Fort Canning Hill – there was actually a underused roller skating rink built in the clearing by Fort Gate which did become quite popular with skateboarders.

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Over time, skateboarding did start to gain acceptance as a pursuit with several community centres offering courses, with a even a display of it during Chingay in 1989. There are today several skate parks to skateboard in including the one at Somerset which was opened in 2006.





Off a little street in Singapore

19 04 2013

Off the busy and lively streets and as much an ubiquitous part of Singapore’s urban landscape as shophouses were, the back lane often took on a life of its own in that Singapore seem almost to have forgotten about. The back lane, besides being a hangout for hoodlums and a centre for undesirable activities, as is often depicted in popular culture, were also where children played and where honest tradesmen conducted their businesses. Unsanitary as they may have appeared to be, the best makan (food) around could often be found from makeshift food stalls set up in the back lane – the back lanes close to Rex Cinema with nasi padang, chendol and Indian rojak to die for, comes immediately to mind.

A reminder of back lanes past? A charcoal stove sits silently in a back lane.

A reminder of back lanes past? A charcoal stove sits silently in a back lane.

Back lanes would once have been the centre of life off the streets.

Back lanes would once have been the centre of life off the streets.

Despite being associated with the shophouses that characterised urban Singapore, back lanes came into being after many of the shop houses were already up. Shophouses were initially built back-to-back and it was only following an amendment to the Municipal Ordinance in 1909 that back lanes came into being and back lanes had to be retrofitted at the back of existing shophouses in a massive scheme starting from 1910 which went on well past the end of the war. The scheme to part of the backs of  shophouses was seen as a necessity not just to provide much needed access for fire-fighting between the tinderboxes of the overpopulated shophouses, but also to allow for basic sanitation to be provided .

Bicycles parked along a back lane. Back lanes were added after many of the shophouses were already built following the passing of the Municipal Ordinance of 1909.

Bicycles parked along a back lane. Back lanes were added after many of the shophouses were already built following the passing of the Municipal Ordinance of 1909.

The back lanes which were to eventually allow space for water to be piped and sewer lines to be run, initially made it easier to conduct  the unpleasant business of nightsoil collection (which actually went on right up until 1987). As compensation for land lost due to the back lanes, the Municipality reconstructed the backs of the affected shophouses and the spiral staircases which served as secondary exits and fire escapes we see at the backs of shophouses today were added in as part of the reconstruction.

A (sealed-up) night soil port - would once have been covered with a flap through which night soil buckets were collected and replaced by nightsoil workers.

A remnant of a forgotten past: a (sealed-up) night soil port. It would once have been fitted with a flap through which night soil buckets were collected and replaced.

Back lanes offer a doorway into the past.

A back door – back lanes are more recent than the shophouses the backs of which now open into them, Many were fitted after the shophouses were built.

Back lanes do exist today, in the many places where shophouses have survived – over 6000 shophouses have been conserved on the island with large clusters of them found in areas such as Tanjong Pagar, Chinatown, Katong/Joo Chiat, Jalan Besar and Geylang. While there are a few that still are alive in one way or another, most are silent and devoid of the life we would once have seen in them. The back lane however is still a place I often find myself wandering in – many have a lot of character as well a sense of mystery about them, and they are often where, despite the air of silence which now hangs over them, much colour, texture and a few little surprises, missing on the overly sanitised streets of Singapore, can still be found.

The back lane is where much colour and texture can still be found.

The back lane is where much colour and texture can still be found.

An abandoned motorcycle.

An abandoned motorcycle.

Plastic basins left to be drained.

Plastic basins left to be drained.

A signs warning against the mistreatment of cats in the back lane. The alley cat is still very much a part of the back lane scene.

A signs warning against the mistreatment of cats in the back lane. The alley cat is still very much a part of the back lane scene.

Back lanes these days serve as storage spaces more than anything else.

Back lanes these days serve as storage spaces more than anything else.





Sights sans sounds of Thaipusam in Singapore

20 01 2011

Thaipusam each year brings with it the colourful sights and sounds of tradition that is missing from much of the remade Singapore. This year, the annual event which takes place on the day of the full moon during the Tamil month of “Thai” has been somewhat overshadowed by the Hindu Endowments Board’s guidelines which advises devotees of the existing ban on the playing of recorded music and use of gongs or drums during the procession. Nevertheless, Thaipusam, sans some of the familiar sounds, does bring a burst of colour and life to streets which are otherwise coloured only by the rush of traffic. For more information and photographs of Thaipusam in Singapore, please read my post published last year on last years procession at this link.

Scenes from 2011's Thaipusam in Singapore.

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Have we knocked the Pedestrian Crossing Rules down?

26 05 2010

In deciding where to cross the road these days, we have become so used to seeing a sign placed some 50 metres away from a pedestrian crossing that tells us where we should really be crossing that most us us choose to ignore it, unless of course, there are physical barriers or where traffic conditions make it a necessity to use a pedestrian crossing. It is fairly common to see pedestrians dashing across the road under underutilised overhead bridges, roads where underpasses are provided like along the stretch just in front of Lucky Plaza, and even sometimes even where traffic conditions make it highly dangerous to do so. For many of us motorists, it has become somewhat of a nuisance and even a danger to us, as we don’t just run the risk of knocking some foolhardy pedestrian down, but of injuring ourselves should we, in braking suddenly, be rammed from the back by an impatient driver that is all too common in Singapore. There have been some enforcement along Orchard Road – which may have reduced the problem without eliminating it altogether and whether in the longer term, the enforcement is effective, is a good question.

Why you should use a pedestrian crossing?

This brings me some thirty-five years or so back in time to the 1970s when there was a huge effort to eliminate the problem, starting with a pilot scheme in 1974 as part of a “Keep Singapore Accident-Free” campaign to educate the public on the dangers of jaywalking as a prelude to the introduction of an anti-jaywalking law. The first we saw of the signs, which were circular, featured a red band across the silhouette of a man with one foot on the road (as they do now), was when I had turned ten, at a historic pedestrian crossing, Singapore’s first overhead bridge at Collyer Quay near Clifford Pier (which was installed in 1964). Four signs were erected, 50 metres away on either side of the bridge, and on both sides of the road. With this, the road immediately below the bridge was made a no-crossing zone.

Singapore's first overhead bridge was installed across Collyer Quay in 1964 (source: http://www.singas.co.uk).

It was however only on 1 July 1977, that the Pedestrian Crossing Rules that were being mulled over in the 1970s, came into effect, and during a two month campaign that followed to introduce the new law making it an offence to jaywalk, a large number of pedestrians were booked by traffic police officers manning many of the pedestrian crossings in the city centre, and issued with a warning. It was the year when I started going to school at Bras Basah Road, and I remember seeing the blue uniformed officers standing with a clipboard at the four crossing points at the junction of Bras Basah Road and Waterloo Street, where I myself had a close shave crossing the road, on almost a daily basis. During the initial ten day period, close to 32,000 warnings were issued. After the two-month honeymoon period, full enforcement was carried out from 1 September 1977 and jaywalkers were liable to be fined up to $50, and it was common to read about hundreds of people being booked and fined each day, and we frequently saw people who were booked arguing with the traffic officers. This went on for a few months before the enforcement was reduced and while it may have been effective in the short term, and perhaps can be seen to have helped in reducing the problem greatly, it didn’t eliminate the problem of jaywalking completely. Over the years, we have seen less enforcement being carried out, to the extent that many of us have forgotten that it is actually an offence to jaywalk.