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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Geylang Serai

Geylang Serai area as I know in the 50s was along Geylang Road from Paya Lebar Road to Jalan Ubi. There was a Malay kampong by the side of Geylang Road. Due to lower ground level and poor drainage, it was often flooded on rainy days. The houses were therefore built on stilts to prevent flood water from getting into the houses.

Attap houses in Geylang Serai Malay kampong
Source: National Archives of Singapore

There was also a Malay Settlement called Kampong Ubi somewhere in Jalan Ubi. It was further inland and was not quite visible from the main road.

The land between Changi Road and the Geylang Serai market was a trolley bus terminus. It operated between Tanjong Pagar and Geylang Serai. The trolley bus was operated by electric power from two overhead wires as shown in the photo below

Singapore trolley bus
Source: National Archives of Singapore

The trolley bus terminus was later used by the Changi Bus Company as an interchange for bus services between Capitol Theatre and Changi Village and vice versa. HDB flats, Geylang Serai market and Taj cinema was buit in 1960s. I remembered during the Puasa month, there was a young Indian muslim hawker who styled himself 'Raja Lelong'. Everything he sold from clothing, household wares, accessories etc were at cut-throat prices.

At the present Malay Village site was a row of single storey timber shophouses facing the HDB flats. Behind the shophouses were many locked-up stalls. They were built very close to each other with a narrow passage in between. It was a fire hazard then. Fortunately, there was no fire.

Geylang Serai shops facing HDB flats

Geylang Serai looking from Joo Chiat Road before Malay Village was built.
Source: National Archives of Singapore

Geylang Serai looking from Joo Chiat Road now with Malay Village behind the sign post.

Geylang Serai locked-up stalls

Unique road junction where four roads meet
Geylang Serai/Geylang Road/Joo Chiat Road/Changi Road
Source: National Archives of Singapore

At Geylang Road opposite Onan Road was a row of shophouses. It consisted of a Chinese medicine shop, a wholesale banana shop, and two eating houses and another shop. One of the eating houses was Lai Tai Mohamadan Restaurant selling the popular Halal 'mee hongkong' for muslims. It was always crowded. When that block of building was demolished, the restaurant moved to Lor 101 Changi. Business was not the same anymore. The other eating house had the most delicious and finger licking soup kambing in town. I liked to eat the kaki and the tulang, yummy

Lian Tai Mohamadan Restaurant
Source: National Archives of Singapore

Residents from Joo Chiat crossed over to Geylang Serai for food and shopping. The goods there were cheaper than elsewhere. The spicy Malay food was good too besides the Indian soup kambing. The landscape has been transformed and the past is now a memory.