Tracing village's roots to TCM seller

2.30PM Business director Mary Koh (background), 40, explores Kampung Lorong Buangkok with her children Ashley (centre), 10, and Ayden, seven. The site has been slated to make way for a major road and two schools in the future. Landlord Sng Mui Hong r
2.30PM: Business director Mary Koh (background), 40, explores Kampung Lorong Buangkok with her children Ashley (centre), 10, and Ayden, seven. The site has been slated to make way for a major road and two schools in the future. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
2.30PM Business director Mary Koh (background), 40, explores Kampung Lorong Buangkok with her children Ashley (centre), 10, and Ayden, seven. The site has been slated to make way for a major road and two schools in the future. Landlord Sng Mui Hong r
Landlord Sng Mui Hong raking rubbish out of a drain, which snakes around Kampung Lorong Buangkok, in an attempt to keep the floods away years ago.TNP FILE PHOTO

The origins of Kampung Lorong Buangkok can be traced back to 1956, when traditional Chinese medicine seller Sng Tow Koon acquired a 1.22ha plot of swampy land near present-day Gerald Drive, off Yio Chu Kang Road.

He leased pockets of the land - about the size of three football fields - to Malay and Chinese families for them to build their houses.

Over time, a kampung, or village, developed. At its peak, the kampung housed a total of 40 families, many of whom worked at the nearby Woodbridge Hospital or factories.

Today, there are reportedly 26 households remaining.

The land was passed down to his children. The landlord today is his daughter, Ms Sng Mui Hong, 65. Ms Sng leases out parcels of the space for between $6.50 and $30 a month.

The kampung, which is on private land, is not a conserved site.

In Parliament last Tuesday, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Intan Azura Mokhtar called on the Government to preserve Kampung Lorong Buangkok as a conservation site or heritage education site.

Located in Ms Intan's Jalan Kayu ward, the site has been slated to make way for a major road and two schools in the future.

"Surely we can explore ways where the kampung can coexist (with) and, in fact, enhance and bring value to urban life," she said in Parliament.

It could be integrated within the two schools planned and play a role as a "community living lab" where students can learn about the country's shared history, culture and traditions , she added.

Many of the people who are now living at the kampung are elderly folk. They are used to curious visitors who want to catch a glimpse of the place before it disappears.

Still, privacy remains important. All the households declined The Sunday Times' request for an overnight stay.

"You can ask around all you want, but I think you won't have any luck," said Ms Sng last Wednesday night, with a laugh.

The kampung is also known as Selak Kain, which meant "hitching up one's skirt" as people used to hitch their skirts up to wade through floods whenever there were flash floods in the 20th century.

Kampung Buangkok's postal code was 1954, when Singapore still used only four digits for postal codes before Sept 1, 1995.

It has since been changed to a six-digit postal code, but an old sign found there bearing the old code remains as a nostalgic reminder.

Ng Huiwen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 08, 2017, with the headline 'Tracing village's roots to TCM seller'. Print Edition | Subscribe