Singapore’s last rural village is about to disappear

It is Singapore’s secret Eden, a miniature village hidden in trees among the massed apartment blocks, where a fresh breeze rustles the coconut palms and tropical birds whoop and whistle.

With just 28 houses in an area the size of three football fields, it is Singapore’s last rural hamlet, a forgotten straggler in the rush to modernize this high-rise, high-tech city-state.

But apparently not for much longer. The village, called Kampong Buangkok, is slated by the government for demolition and redevelopment, possibly in the near future. When it is gone, one of the world’s most extreme national makeovers will be complete.

Kampong is a local word for village, and also defines a traditional rural way of life that Singapore has left behind.

The big overhaul began in the early 1960s. As the decades passed, a clamorous tropical settlement reinvented itself as a spic-and-span outpost of the developed world. Now 90 percent of the population has been moved into government housing, and many people have moved at least once again as the city continues to change.

“Everything is up for redevelopment,” de Koninck said. “Even downtown, things that were developed in the 1960s and 1970s are already being torn down.”


“Even if I want to show my children how I was brought up, I can’t show them,” said Ho Why Hong, 50, a taxi driver, as he searched for Kampong Buangkok. “Everything is torn down.”

“When we were growing up we didn’t lock our doors,” he said. “That kind of trust we had. Everyone knew each other. Any stranger who came into the kampong, we knew.”

In modern Singapore, few neighbors know one another, said Sarimah Cokol, 50, who grew up in Kampong Buangkok and now lives in one of the apartments that people here call pigeonholes.

“Open door, close door,” she said in the terse speech of no-nonsense Singapore. “After work, go in. Close door.”

No need to keep the village in a glass case or turn it into a mini-Disneyland. As much as some scolars – and tourism promoters wish to. Records and studies of their past are detailed. Singaporeans are more concerned with what they’re on their way to building.

That’s complex and demanding enough.

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