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Much of my free time in recent months has been spent on my second book - the fieldwork and research phase is largely done, and I’ve moved on to the more challenging writing phase, in which I try to craft and chisel something coherent out of the mountain of material I’ve gathered. 

Hence, this blog will be a lot quieter - but I’ll still try to post once in a while, and share a little about the book I’m working on. 

Yes, this book will be about Singapore history. 

Here’s an abstract from 1851 which I will be putting into my manuscript: 

While some Malays were collecting rattans and cutting wood in a piece of jungle near Mr. Dunman’s plantation at Serangoon, they were alarmed by hearing a tiger making his approach through the underwood. They immediately commenced a retreat, but had not cleared the jungle when the tiger came up with them and singling out the fattest man in the party sprang upon him. It had dragged the body some distance ere the man’s companions recovered from the fright into which they had been thrown, and pursued him with their parangs, on which the tiger dropped the body and retreated. The poor man was found in the agonies of death with his throat and face severely lacerated. The body was brought away, but the tiger, it would appear, was determined to have his meal, for the same night he carried off a Chinaman at a short distance from the scene of his morning’s exploit. The Chinaman’s friends on making a search found the body, with one of the legs wanting… The same animal killed another man in the next week.

(This wood engraving is of another tiger encounter in 1835, experienced by Superintendent of Public Works and Convicts George Drumgoole Coleman and his group of convict labourers, but it was so well-drawn I had to put it here.)

On the evening of Friday 12 May, as part of this year’s Singapore HeritageFest, I gave a talk on 200 years of Singapore transport and urban history.

Like previous talks, it drew on material from my book Jalan Singapura: 700 Years of Movement in Singapore. This time, however, I included findings from ongoing research for my next book.

I also introduced audience engagement, inviting them to answer two questions on their mobile phones:

1. What is one enduring memory you have of Singapore land transport, which no longer exists?

Some answers:

- Riding Bendy Buses in eastern Singapore

The Bendy Bus used to run in Tampines as part of Bus Service 67. Credit: Shankar S.

- The “ding dong” speed limit warning in the old Crown / Cedric taxis

- The train from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands and beyond

Photo credit: EquatorialSky2.

- The first railway track! In one of the walking tours, I was brought to this underpass near the pinnacle hdb, I was told this was part of the first railway track. That was what led me to do my own reading up on it, and Eisen’s book shed useful insight in this area

- The old non-air-conditioned SBS buses with the sliding windows. If you didn’t close them on time or couldn’t close them when it rained, the rain will fall and collect on the tracks of the sliding windows and dribble onto the seat and onto the floor which I remember was the industrial aluminium flooring with the anti-slip pattern

2. What is your biggest wish for Singapore transport / urban development?

Some answers:

- Can eat (on public transport)

- To not further disrupt the nature for more roads and mrt networks

- 24 hour public transport

- magnetic levitation

- Bike path connecting each district

- More diverse rail transit modes like bringing back trams, use of monorails beyond Sentosa, etc…

- A wider variety of bus models please

- Abolishment of “Jaywalking” for more pedestrian friendly streets

- ...I would love to see a museum of transport in Singapore with life size vintage vehicles

I wish Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was converted into Singapore's very own museum of transport. Credit: Alicereneztay.

Hear, hear!

2022 is coming to an end, so here’s my year-end tradition of posting 12 photos, one for every month of the year that has just passed.

January: The last link to Nee Soon’s agricultural past.

February: The last of Boh Sua Tian.

March: Sunset on an abandoned road.

April: Reviving a lost tradition.

May: Searching for calm.

June: In pursuit of roadside gods.

July: A school gone silent.

August: A tribute to a dying industry.

September: Receiving the Nine Emperor Gods.

October: A dragon to send off the Nine Emperor Gods.

November: My parents are together again.

December: Tracing a fragment of railway history.

See 2020 and 2021’s photos here and here.


Here’s to a better 2023.

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