A journey through Tanjong Pagar in 1970

23 02 2018

There is always and element of romance connected with train journeys, especially the leisurely paced journeys of the past with which one can take in the magical scenes along the way that one can only get from railway journeys. LIFE Magazine’s Carl Mydans, a legendary photograph whose work spans several decades and includes an extensive coverage of Singapore prior to the war (see “A glimpse of Singapore in 1941, the year before the darkness fell“), took one such journey out of an independent Singapore some 3 decades later, capturing a Singapore we can no longer see but through photographs of the era. The set, also includes scenes along the journey to Bangkok, along with those captured at stopovers made in West Malaysia’s main urban centres.

The photographs of Singapore are particularly interesting. There are some of the old harbour, and quite a few of the twakow decorated Singapore River along which much of Singapore’s trade passed through. There are also several street scenes, once familiar to us in the area of North Bridge Road. A couple of quite rare shots were also taken at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station including one showing a steam locomotive of a 1940s vintage, which the Malayan Railway operated until the early 1970s. There are also images of the steam locos captured during the journey.

The photographs of West Malaysia are also interesting. The replacement of rubber trees with oil palm as a crop, which had been taking place in parts of the peninsula from the 1960s to reduce Malaysia’s reliance on rubber and tin was in evidence. This is something that I well remember from the road trips to Malaysia of my early childhood. Another familiar scene from those trips were of the padi fields, which the trunk road passing through Malacca seemed to weave through. This is something Mr. Mydans also seemed to have captured quite a fair bit of.

The departure platform at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station with a prewar relic of a steam locomotive.

Malaysian Customs Inspection at the Departure Platform.

The Supreme Court and the Padang.

Hock Lam Street.

Corner of Hock Lam Street and North Bridge Road.

North Bridge Road.


The old harbour (Marina Bay today)

View of Clifford Pier and the Inner Road, and Outer Roads beyond the Detached Mole. The view today would be towards Marina Bay Sands and Marina South.

Another view of the harbour – where Marina Bay Sands and Marina South is today. The Harbour Division of the Preventive Branch of the Department of Customs and Excise (Customs House today) can be seen at the lower right hand corner.

A rainbow over the harbour.


Boat Quay and the Singapore River

Walking the plank. Coolies loaded and unloaded twakows by balancing items that were often bulkier than their tiny frames over narrow and rather flimsy planks that connected the boats to the quayside.

A view of the stepped sides of the river around where Central is today.

Boat Quay.

Coolies sliding crates that were too bulky and heavy along the plank.

Lorry cranes were sometimes used instead.

But more often than not manual labour was used.

A view of the “belly of the carp”.


The Journey North

(with stops in Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Bangkok)

A steam locomotive at what looks like Gemas Railway Station.

More steam locomotives (at Gemas?).

Inside the train cabin.

Train along a shunt line.

Rubber estates and rubber tappers were a common sight – even along the roads up north.

So were water buffaloes and padi fields.

Padi field.

Another view of a padi field.

Oil palms taking root. A drive to reduce Malaysia’s dependence on rubber and tin from the 1960s would see oil palms colour a landscape once dominated by rubber trees.

Another cabin view.

A break in the journey – a view of the Stadthuys Malacca.

Jalan Kota in Malacca.

View of the Malacca River.

The Arthur Benison Hubback designed (old) KL Railway Station .

Another view of the south end of the KL Railway Station – with a view also of the KL Railway Administration Building.

A southward view down Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin (ex Victory Avenue) with the KL Railway Station on the left and the KL Railway Administration Building on the right, also designed by Arthur Bennison Hubback.

The Railway Administration Building and Masjid Negara.

A view down Jalan Raja in KL with the BagunanSultan Abdul Samad on the left.

Another view down Jalan Raja in KL with the BagunanSultan Abdul Samad on the left and Dataran Merdeka on the right.

Sungai Siput Railway Station.

The Penang Ferry from Butterworth.

A view of Butterworth.

George Town – with a view towards the clan jetties.

The Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang.

Air Itam and the Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang.

What looks like the Leong San Tong in the Khoo Kongsi in George Town.

The Penang Hill funicular railway.

More padi fields.

Possibly southern Thailand.

Bangkok.

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Growing up too soon in Bangkok?

17 09 2013

A very young child “minding” a food stall at a market found along the busy Asok Montri Road (photograph taken in October 2011).

JeromeLim IMG_6486s





The golden glow of the Golden Land

6 05 2013

Suvarnabhumi Airport is probably one the the few airports in the world to which I don’t mind getting in early to catch a flight out. Besides the array of quite affordable food that is available at the terminal building, there is also the wonderful architecture of the terminal building to marvel at, particularly when the westward facing end of Concourse F catches the light of the setting sun. Bathed in the glow of sunset, the concourse of the airport, the name of which in Sanskrit translates to “Golden Land”,  does literally turn into a golden visual treat. The terminal building was designed by German born American architect Helmut Jahn and was completed in September 2006.

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After dinner conversations

4 05 2013

And yes, nobody really talks to each other anymore …

277A0277b9.13 pm 29 April 2013, Chonburi City, Thailand





An uncoloured exploration of an unfamiliar place

2 09 2012

I found myself in a place I had previously not ventured to, the area centered around Sukhumvit Road where it passes through Chonburi, at the end of last week. As with any new place I was glad to have the opportunity to wander around unfamiliar streets with a camera, spending an hour or so I had before having dinner, in an uncoloured exploration that I felt would best capture the essence of what certainly are very colourful streets.





The view out the window this morning

31 08 2012

It is always a wonderful thing to be able to wake up to a magical sunrise as the one I got up to this morning in a world other than one I am familiar with …





A walk down a street of contrasts and contradictions

10 01 2012

Bangkok is a city that I never seem to tire of. The opportunity to wander through its ever so lively streets is something I always find hard to resist. The streets offer a wealth of opportunity for photography and for people watching, and where there I never fail to find something that does catch my eye. The streets, particularly of the new Bangkok, are also one where the contrasts and contradictions that is Bangkok becomes very apparent. It is on the streets where traditional street trades thrive next to the towering blocks of offices and glittering shopping malls, where McDonalds and Starbucks have become as much a part of the landscape as the pushcarts that once dominated the streets, and where a flow of Hijab clad women can be seen streaming past symbols of a trade Bangkok is all too well known for.

A walk or even being stuck in traffic allows a peek into the world of contrasts and contradictions that is Bangkok.

An interesting stretch with a wealth of contrasts and contradictions is a two and a half kilometre one in new Bangkok that I recently took a stroll through from the much venerated Erawan Shrine at the corner of Ratchadamri and Phloen Chit Roads, to first of a series of the many Sois that turn off Sukhumvit Road – lanes that are always waiting to be discovered. It is a walk that I had done almost three decades ago, one that sans the shade provided by the Bangkok Skytrain’s elevated track and the towering blocks that have since sprouted up seemed to be down a very different avenue. What is apparent today are the open arms with which the city and its people, still rich in tradition, have welcomed the new world with – with the unmistakable signs of Christmas dressing up much of the new world I could see in the lead up to what is a western festival.

Signs of the times. A close-up of a Christmas tree at one of the many new malls along the stretch with symbols perhaps of what Christmas has become all about in much of the Asia that has chosen to embrace it.

A group of high school students outside one of the newest shopping malls along Sukhumvit Road, Terminal 21, seen through Christmas and New Year decorations. As with much of the world - the new world finds ready acceptance with the young.

A young daughter of a street food vendor enjoys a meal from a food vendor of the new world, as her mother prepares to welcome her first customers of the day.

The draw of street fare is still there despite the arrival of the new fare found in more comfortable premises.

Grilled fish on display at a street food stall. Street food does still have its place, being a choice for many for its affordability even as McDonalds and air-conditioned foodcourts have set themselves firmly in place.

Despite the new clothes that now adorn the area, the worn out clothes that it wore when I first walked down the street is still very visible. For some reason, the clinical new world is one that seems to hold the grimy old world in a tight embrace, taking it with it on the journey into the new world that is to come. There is no doubt that Bangkok, more than any other South-East Asian capital, has ample room in its quest for modernity for the traditions it was built upon, both religious and cultural. Despite the signs of a Christian feast all around – the city is still one where its traditional religious observances and practices are very much intertwined with daily life. The Erawan Shrine at the start of the walk is one where this can be observed as steady streams of devotees to Phra Phrom kneeling to make offerings in the incense filled air at each of the Hindu deity’s four faces outnumber the flow of gawking tourists the shrine also attracts.

A steady stream of devotees make offerings through the day at the Erawan Shrine.

Resident dancers at rest at the Erawan Shrine. The dancers are engaged by devotees to Phra Phrom who have had their prayers answered.

A performance by the resident dancers of the Erawan Shrine.

Further down Phloen Chit Road, at the junction with Wireless or Witthayu Road, is a marker of a previous world that refuses to go away. One that takes us back to when much of the area was owned by Bangkok’s foremost real estate developer, Nai Lert. Resembling what many have referred to as a stone cannon stuck in the ground, a somewhat ungainly looking stump is the surviving one of six that Nai Lert had used to mark the boundaries of the land he owned (based on information at the British Embassy’s website) – part of which he sold to the British Government which had its embassy there until it was sold not too long ago to have a new shopping mall built. The marker now looks out-of-place in the shadows of the glass and steel that now threatens to engulf it.

The surviving "upturned cannon" that served as a marker to the boundaries of Nai Lert's property.

A set of flyovers appear towards the end of Phloen Chit Road – those of an Expressway doesn’t seem to have eased the crunch on the road that the flyovers now cast a huge shadow over. It is just beyond this that a railway level crossing marks where Phloen Chit Road ends and Sukhumvit Road begins. What greets the eye as one looks down the tracks is a scene typical of the railway lines in this part of the world – and one that reminds us of a Bangkok that the modernisation of the city hasn’t been able to shake off.

The new shopping malls sit side-by-side with the Bangkok that was more once more commonly seen. Food stalls squatting along the railway tracks where Ploen Chit Road meets Sukhumvit Road.

The many Sois off Sukhumvit Road that soon come up are a wonderful world to explore and where many more of Bangkok’s contradictions await discovery. Wandering through the lowest of the odd-numbered Sois, you would be forgiven for thinking that you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up on the streets of the Middle East. Stepping back out into the main streets, one quickly realises that one’s feet are firmly planted in the City of Angels as one is quickly reminded of that side of Bangkok that the city is unfortunately infamous for.

The many Sois off Sukhumvit Road also offers many a tuk-tuk driver an opportunity to escape from Bangkok's traffic.

Besides Starbucks, the is a choice of the many watering holes for something a little stronger.

The short walk through the contrast the different worlds soon takes me to one of the latest developments on the stretch – Terminal 21 – one that promises to take the shopper on a retail journey to places far and wide. For me, it wasn’t the new mall which took me on a journey, but that two and a half kilometre walk that preceded my visit to the mall. It was a journey that perhaps started with a walk down from the docks of Klong Toey some three decades before and one that I still am taking through time, through space and through the many contrasts and contradictions of the fast changing world that I find in a city and in a part of that city that has never ceased to fascinate me.

Rambutans at a street vendor's stall off Sukhumvit Road. Beside the tourist oriented street vendors along Sukhumvit Road, there are many others that colour the streets which still cater to the local population.

Haggling with a street vegetable vendor.

The streets also offer many opportunities for people watching - a young lady in a contemplative mood seen through the maze of street food vendors.

A popcorn vendor pushing his cart down the sidewalk.

Pushing a different cart - a street vendor (smiling) helps an unfortunate motorist along Sukhumvit Road.

A dough fritter vendor at work.

Cobbler, cobbler, mend my shoe. A shopper seeks help from a sidewalk cobbler for a broken heel.

A shelter for that which provide shelter. Parasols of a street vendor rest resting against a telephone booth.

A column of motorcylists facing a very lengthy wait at a major intersection supporting themselves with the help of the kerb.