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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.

Paid a visit to Tay Guan Heng Joss-Sticks Manufacturer at 4001 Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 1. I had seen online posts about its impending closure, so I wanted to see the place for myself before it was too late.

The humble factory space houses a dying trade that has endured four generations. The family business was founded in the 1930s, and specialised in giant, traditional joss sticks made of cinnamon wood clay, burned during Chinese festivals such as the 7th Lunar Month.

Like the paper offering industry, this business produces intricate, but transient, works of art that last only as long as the festivals for which they are dedicated.

During my visit, I was fortunate to meet the proprietor, Mr Albert Tay. He readily shared about his work, showing me old photo albums of the business’ glory days, and clay sculptures and dioramas on display on shelves.

The business will close at the end of November. Why, I asked. “A lot of pressure… a lot of stress”, Mr Tay shook his head sadly.

Until then, work carries on in the factory, to fulfil final orders.

Tay Guan Heng is open Mondays to Saturdays, 11am to around 4pm or 5pm. It is closed on Sundays.

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