When Singapore split from Malaysia in the early 1960s, the government implemented a number of policies to rapidly modernise the newly independent city-state. One of them was to move all the people from Malaysian-style kampong villages to the high-rise public housing apartments. Somehow, one of these traditional villages was spared from the bulldozer and survives in 2012. It’s called Buangkok, but is better known as “Singapore’s last kampong”.
The first time I heard of Kampong Buangkok was in a New York Times article, “Singapore Prepares to Gobble Up Its Last Village”, published in January 2009. Since the Singapore government has the power to reclaim the land at any time it’s inevitable that it will be redeveloped, but as of April 2012 the village still stands.
Kampong Buangkok is located in northeastern Singapore between a canal and a construction site. Thick trees and bushes shield it from view, but a few handwritten signs point the way. Follow the dirt road and it will lead you between the dozen or so wooden houses with tin roofs that make up the village. A world away from the high-density apartment blocks that most Singaporeans call home, the kampong houses have large gardens and some families even keep chickens.
Visitors are welcome to walk around the public areas, but Kampong Buangkok is not a living museum – people really live here – so please do respect their privacy and don’t take photos of people without their permission. Instead, say “hi” and see where the conversation goes; many of the residents are eager to discuss their unique village and what the future may hold.
New housing developments are already encroaching on Kampong Buangkok, so it’s just a matter of time before the last kampong is history, too.
How to get to Kampong Buangkok: As you might have guessed, Kampong Buangkok is not served by the MRT. The easiest way to get there is to go to Serangoon MRT station, then transfer to bus #70 or 103. It’s about a 15-minute ride and you want to get off at the bus stop at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul on Yio Chu Kang Road. From there, cross the road and follow the stairs down to the canal with a paved jogging path. Follow the unpaved road behind the jogging trail that leads into a tree-filled area, and you’ll eventually see the hand-written Kampong Buangkok sign.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 3rd December, 2015.