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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.


professor said...

The only landmarks I remember about Geylang Serai was this "UMNO Building", the police station (now I think it's City Plaza). Now known as PKMS Building. That was Changi Road in the old days (There was no Sims Avenue from Paya Lebar Fire Station to Siglap Hill although Sims Avenue existed from Kallang MRT Station to Paya Lebar Road). It was a 2-way street up to Siglap Hill (near a church). Soemwhere up on that hill is an unusual "loop" which STC the bus company used as a way to u-turn back towards town.

PChew said...

City Plaza replaced Singapore Hotel where every afternoon there was a popular tea dance. Geylang Police Statiom was located between Sungei Geylang and Geylang Road.

yg said...

don't have much memory of geylang in the early days. remember visiting one of my malay friends who lived in a kampong in jalan ubi in the early 70s. the roads were rather narrow then.

these days, go to geylang serai temporary food centre for its nasi briyani.

Ismail aka Pak Mail said...

I was born in Singapore and now residing in Kuala Lumpur. I grew up in Jalan Sawi nearby Geylang Serai. My auntie lives at the flats off Joo Chiat Road. I often visits my auntie when I was a kid. Those photos you uploaded reminds me about the days when I have had a good time as a very young boy. Thank you.

Thimbuktu said...

Thank you Philip for this nostalgia blog on "Geylang Serai", a place you grew up in Joo Chiat in this vicinity which you have the childhood experience and lots of fond nostalgic memories of Geylang Serai.

I am not familiar with Geylang Serai but I had an uncle who lived in Joo Chiat Place and owns a furniture shop, Kee Kah Hock. My cousin was born at Joo Chiat Place and now runs the shop.

Geylang Serai was a rustic kampong in the 1960s and my Malay friends and classmates grew up there.

My favorite Malay food of nasi lemak, kueh kueh, lontong are still available in Geylang and had my fill of "makan" there whenever I visit the place.

PChew said...

I know your uncle Kee Kah Hock. He was the Chairman of Joo Chiat Community Centre. I am not sure if your uncle's furniture shop is still at Joo Chiat Place.