Saturday, April 11, 2015

Birdwatching in Tampines Eco Green (April 5, 2015) - Part II

My blog article continues off from where i left off , [Birdwatching in Tampines Eco Green (April 5, 2015) - Part II] with pictures of birds i saw in this consolidated blog article, from Easter Sunday on April 5 and  March 29.
Common Kingfisher in Tampines Eco Green
Common Kingfisher 

Common Kingfisher in Tampines Eco Green
Common Kingfisher with its catch, a small fish !

Purple Heron in Tampines Eco Green
Purple Heron 

Rufous Woodpecker in Tampines Eco Green
Rufous Woodpecker 

Baya Weaver in Tampines Eco Green
Baya Weaver and their pretty nest 

Pink neck Pigeons in Tampines Eco Green
Pink neck Pigeons

Sooty headed Bulbul in Tampines Eco Green
Sooty Headed Bulbul 

Sooty headed Bulbul in Tampines Eco Green
Sooty Headed Bulbul
There is healthy population of Sooty Headed Bulbul in Tampines Eco. I noticed that they have either red or yellow vents. This is because of they are from different subspecies

Asian Brown Flycatcher in Tampines Eco Green
Asian Brown Flycatcher

White-breasted Waterhen in Tampines Eco Green
White-breasted Waterhen 

Baya Weaver in Tampines Eco Green
Baya Weaver

Brown-throated Sunbird in Tampines Eco Green
Brown-throated Sunbird 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Birdwatching in Tampines Eco Green (April 5, 2015) - Part I

It was Easter Sunday on April 5 and what better day to spent it birdwatching and to try to get a shot of the strawberry finch in Tampines Echo Green after attending morning Church service. I was also at this place on March 29 and will post pictures of birds i saw in this consolidated blog article.

When i arrived, there were already rain clouds overhead and in the horizon, with it heading this direction. True enough, within the next 15 minutes, it poured. Luckily i was close by a shelter where i waited for it to pass. It must be a blessing as after the rain, i had some great sightings including my first sighting of a Blue-winged Pitta and a Slaty Breasted Rail in this lovely place.
Blue-winged Pitta in Tampines Eco Green
Blue-winged Pitta 

Blue-winged Pitta in Tampines Eco Green
Blue-winged Pitta and its lovely colors 

Blue-winged Pitta in Tampines Eco Green
Blue-winged Pitta
Slaty Breasted Rail in Tampines Eco Green
Slaty breasted Rail 

Slaty Breasted Rail in Tampines Eco Green
Slaty breasted Rail 
Yellow Bittern in Tampines Eco Green
Yellow Bittern 

Yellow Bittern in Tampines Eco Green
Yellow Bittern 
The aftermath of rain also brought an opportunity of seeing raptors perched on tall branches to dry their feathers before they fly. The one i saw drying its feathers was a Brahminy Kite and it looked very majestic !
Brahminy Kite in Tampines Eco Green
Brahminy Kite drying its feathers 
Brahminy Kite drying its feathers 
Long tailed Shrike in Tampines Eco Green
Long tailed Shrike 

Stork-billed Kingfisher in Tampines Eco Green
Stork billed Kingfisher 
Blue throated Bee eater in Tampines Eco Green
Blue-throated Bee eater 
To be continued, as i have still more bird pictures of April 5 and March 29 to post up.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour (My Queenstown Heritage Trail) -Part II

My Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour experience continues where i left off from my previous post (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour -Part I) with a trip next to Stirling Road where Mei Ling Estate is located.

Tiong Ghee Temple and Boh Beh Kang village 

Located at 1085 Stirling Road, this temple was rebuilt in 1973 after the original village temple in Bo Beh Kang  (无尾港 or No Tail River when translated from Hokkien) was demolished to make way for the Mei Ling Estate. Mr Ang Beng Tet, 86 years who was long time resident here in the past, shared with us in Hokkien of how in the 1920's, the Ang's and Lee's bought land in in this area from prominent Teochew leader, Seah Eu Chin for the purpose of resettlement of their fellow clansman. The elderly Mr Ang went to recount as a young boy stories of bombing and rationing during World War II.
Tiong Ghee Temple 

Local resident Mr Ang sharing his stories
Bo Beh Kang  (无尾港 or No Tail River when translated from Hokkien) got its name of the stream and fresh water swamps that dominate the terrain, but locals could not locate the source of that water. It was also land dominated by cemeteries at the hill known during British colonial days as Bukit Pandan Kechil asseen in the map below of 1924, but to the Chinese locals as Hong Lim Hill (named after prominent Hokkien leader Cheang Hong Lim for his donation of land as cemetery grounds). The other hill in this area was called Hong Yin Hill had orchards and plantations. In 1928, Lee Gek Poh and Ang Kim Swee bought a 7 acre land from Seah Eu Chin Estate to establish a village for their kinsmen to resettle away from their overcrowded attap village in Geylang. As Chinatown became overcrowded, other residents move to this thriving and growing village. The former burial ground and farmland at Boh Beh Kang village were eventually cleared to make way for public housing post war and by 1968, the Hong Lim burial grounds exhumed and flattened for more housing.

Chinese Cemetery at Bukit Pandan Kechil aka Hong Lim Hill
(Municipal Map of Singapore 1924)


First Point Blocks of HDB

Just opposite the temple are blocks 160 and 161 Mei Ling Street which holds the title as the first point blocks built by the Housing Development Board in 1970. However it doesn't look at all like a point block. The reason was probably it was the first prototype which is consistent with the spirit of Queenstown Estates of being first in trying out new types of units of public housing.
First Point Blocks of HDB at Mei Ling Street


The Butterfly Block 

The unique facade of Block 168A Queensway led to it being nicknamed the "Butterfly Block". On this block we got to meet one of the old time residents who was one of the original residents in 1973
168A Queensway aka Butterfly Block

Butterfly Block - Block 168A
A retired teacher, Paul Fernandez, 74, has been living in a four-room flat at the 5th storey of Block 168A Queensway since relocating from a dilapidated wooden hut at Upper Bukit Timah Road 40 years ago. He originally applied for the flats in Farrer Road but got this instead. A former teacher of St. Gabriel's Mission School in Upper Serangoon, he shared that this area had once a reputation of being a gang infested area and shared stories of a coffee place called Jumbo Coffee house which was in place to be for teens in those days. 

Another anecdote he shared was after moving into his flat, he had to spend money to do further repairs due to cracks or poor workmanship. He shared that this was probably due to the haste as a result of growth in providing public housing in the early years. 
Paul Fernandez, resident of  Butterfly Block (Block 168A) 

Alexandra Hospital 

Built in 1938 as a British Military Hospital just in time for World War II and with the growing presence of colonial British forces in the Far East, it was well equipped with the latest medical  equipment of that period. The site was chosen also for its close proximity to the railway lines so that the wounded could be transported to the hospital quickly. On the final day before the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942, the Alexandra British Military Hospital was one of the sites which tragedy struck with between 150 - 200 patients and hospital staff were senselessly massacred by advancing Japanese forces.

Many theories were given on why this massacre happened.This included Japanese soldiers were going after a group of retreating Indian soldiers who had been firing at them from a location near the hospital. Another explanation given is that the massacre took place in the heat of battle because the Japanese troops wanted to revenge their fallen comrades (e.g. especially those who killed in a huge fireball set off by retreating British forces).



I really enjoyed this trip by the passionate volunteers of My Community (My Queenstown) especially the visit to the mystery bunkers the most. I wish them all the best and I will be looking forward to them opening more tours in their neighbourhood which as many many gems waiting to be shared or rediscovered.

How to sign up

The Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour is part of the My Queenstown Heritage Trail series and the trail is opened to the public and interested participants can register for the free, guided tour through www.myqueenstown.eventbrite.sg, myqueenstown@gmail.com or call Queenstown Community Centre at 64741681.
Dawson & Alexandra Heritage Tour      (Every last Saturday of the month)
Tanglin Halt & Duchess Heritage Tour  (Every last Sunday of the month)


Bloggers who have blogged about this Tour:

Places by Ocean Skies
Give them roots and wings by loveourchildrennow.sg
Missus Tay's Journal by missustay.com
Blog to Express 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour (My Queenstown Heritage Trail) -Part I

I was invited on Saturday April 4, 2015 to the launch of the Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tours which is part 2 of a series of the guided walks of the My Queenstown Heritage Trail, walks that are specially curated by researchers and volunteers of the civic society group, My Community. The last one I attended was the Tanglin Halt and Duchess Trail which was launched in July 27, 2014 and i truly enjoyed myself and pen down my thoughts about it in two blog articles:
Queenstown Heritage Trail - A walk down memory lane (Part I)
Queenstown Heritage Trail - A walk down memory lane (Part II)

Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour

The meeting point was Queenstown MRT Station and  Mr. Kwek Li Yong (President of My Communty) welcomed us and for practical crowd control reasons, broke us into two groups which were then led by volunteers, Choo Lip Sin and Huang Eu Chai. I tagged along with Eu Chai, but in a number of stops, both groups converge to listen to the stories of the residents. Like the last tour i attended, we started our tours at 9 am armed with a lovely do-it-yourself walking booklet that provided beautiful imagery and detailed explanation of the various iconic landmarks. However, what was different this time around was each of us was provided with a radio receiver and a ear piece providing a better listening experience. When utilised, our guide Eu Chai can speak through his microphone piece and i could hear every word he says using this device, despite the noise of road traffic. It allowed me to take more pictures and explore while still paying attention. What a neat device and a big difference it makes it enhancing the overall tour experience !

Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour (Queenstown Heritage Trail)
Handy booklet and radio receiver

Former Forfar House

Our first stop is the Forfar Heights, where in the past the former Forfar house was once the tallest public residential building at 14 storeys (hence known to the locals in hokkien as  十四楼. Officially opened in 1956 by the Singapore Improvement Trust ( SIT ), the British colonial agency in charge of housing and the predecessor to the Housing Development Board (HDB). Architecture wise, it was design in a modern zigzag style blocks and comprised of 106 apartments. Of interest is the word Forfar and its meaning. Forfar is a town close to Glamis Castle, ancestral home of Queen Elizabeth and where his sister, the late Princess Margaret was born. To the locals back then, this blocks hold a dark tale of after the former Forfar house was opened, it became a well known place to commit suicide.
Forfar House (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
The former Forfar, 14th storey and zigzag features and the building that replaced it
(Former Forfar picture from National Archives) 
Forfar House (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
Forfar's dark past 

Princess House

One of the flats within the vicinity of the Queenstown that remained relatively untouched in the rapid redevelopment of this area is the Princess House, a 7-storey flat along Alexandra Road named after Princess Margaret and which was designated as the offices for the Singapore Improvement Trust ( SIT) but became the headquarters offices for the Housing Development Board after Singapore gained self-Independence. Later in 1972, it housed the Ministry of Health and later for Ministry of Environment. To the locals in 1973, it was the place to go to get their hawker license or for it to be renewed.
Princess House (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
When it was under Ministry of Environment and today 
Princess House (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
Mr. Lim Kim San with Prince Phillip on the top floor of Princess House
in 1965 when building was the headquarters for the HDB  
The picture above shoes Prince Phillip (husband of Queen Elizabeth) on the rooftop of Princess House in 1965 with Lim Kim San who led the Housing Development Board in the building of many public flats in its early growth years. Both can be seen surveying the Queenstown landscape that has since changed with the exception of Princess House of course !

Hock Lee Bus Terminus and the Hock Lee Bus Riot.

Our next stop we reminiscent about another incident that took place in 1955 along what is now Alexandra Road at the junction of Dawson Road, what was once the Hock Lee Bus Terminus. Workers of the Hock Lee Amalgamated Bus Company went on strike from 25 April 1955 seeking more pay and better working conditions. The were joined by supporters and Chinese middle school students, disrupting bus services. Things eventually went south and the aftermath of the violent confrontation was 4 deaths and numerous injuries.You can read more about this incident from various sources such as infopedia and wikipedia.
Hock Lee Bus Riots (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
Location of Hock Lee Bus Terminal 
Hock Lee Bus Riots (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
Hock Lee Bus Riot 

Alexandra Canal Linear Park 

We came to a spot where our guide Eu Chai, shared that the Alexandra canal was exposed and the water flow from Alexandra Canal towards the Singapore river. Of course, the canal still exist but it is now a covered one and that we are standing right on top of it.

Alexandra Canal (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
Alexandra Canal 

Princess Estate and public housing of the future

We arrived at the road where once Margaret Drive merges with Dawson and swings to Kay Siang. The changes came about as a result of the building of Skyville@Dawson, an Housing Development Board project. In the 1958 Street Directory, you can see the Forfar House been mentioned and also visible is the Princess Circus and an unexposed Alexandra Canal and a Margaret Road that is slowly taking shape. We are at the heart of Princess Estate. It was formerly a military camp called Buller Camp and surrounding village area before the Singapore Improvement Trust ( SIT ) took over and constructed  its flats between 1952 and 1959.
Princess Estate (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
New houses in Buller Camp, before it was renamed Princess Estate 

1958 Street Directory (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
1958 Street Directory
One map 2015 (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
Our route (source: Onemap)
Today, the place is yet again transformed and true to the ethos of experimenting with forward looking public housing, the Princess Estate where Dawson is located will soon open it doors to a new series of private built public housing that changes yet again the perception of how public housing should look like.
Skyville@Dawson - HDB Public Housing

Old temporary bus stop 
Margaret Drive (from the direction of Tanglin Road)

Bunkers of Buller Camp

Our next stop was my favorite stop of the entire heritage tour. It involves a climb into a forested area along Kay Siang Road where we were shown two buildings, one had a Banyan Tree slow enveloping it and the other, a building built into the hill which we were told was an ammunition storage bunker.
Buller Camp (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
A building that looks like the temples enveloped by jungle in Siem Reap
Buller Camp (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
A suspected bunker of Buller Camp 
Buller Camp (Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour )
Jurong Brick Works Brick 
Metal Water Bottle that looks quite closely to the one
issued by the British Army(found nearby)
The exact usage of it remains still a mystery waiting to be resolved, as currently all this are based on oral accounts of what probably the building in the woodland what used for. Just next door is a track and field that used to belong to the schools around the area. Maybe with more funding, an archaeological survey to find out artifacts around the area.

Kay Siang Road, where the bunkers lie hold significance as well as it close to Wee Kay Siang's house Ben Venue as seen in the 1924 map of Alevandra Road area.
Origins of Kay Siang Road
(Municipal Map of Singapore 1924)


Look for my next post where i continue exploring and sharing what i learned from the Dawson and Alexandra Tour as we visit more landmarks. Continued here >>> Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour (My Queenstown Heritage Trail) -Part II

How to sign up

The Dawson and Alexandra Heritage Tour is part of the My Queenstown Heritage Trail series and the trail is opened to the public and interested participants can register for the free, guided tour through www.myqueenstown.eventbrite.sg, myqueenstown@gmail.com or call Queenstown Community Centre at 64741681.
Dawson & Alexandra Heritage Tour      (Every last Saturday of the month)
Tanglin Halt & Duchess Heritage Tour  (Every last Sunday of the month)


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