January 14, 2017
Once upon a time, the North East region was a trade and industry hub with pig farms thrown in for good measure. It may be hard to imagine those sepia-tinged memories today as the region has evolved into one of the most densely populated centres in the island city. The well planned urban complexes, the high rises, and the premium condominiums complete the picture now with recreational centres and green spaces. It is pretty much a self-contained area, hosting all the modern amenities and luxuries for comfortable living.
That being said, the region does have its share of curious interests.
Ang Mo Kio is the unofficial nerve centre of the region with a spattering of housing and green cover. Popularly abbreviated as AMK, you may be surprised to know that the literal translation of the name is ‘red-haired man’s bridge’. There is no bridge nor red haired men in the town. The translation refers to the colonial past and the Caucasian men who had a lighter colour of hair.
Although AMK has moved on from its trade and commerce origin, the neighbourhood has remained a fertile bed for start-ups, with the most prominent of them being Sheng Siong – one of the island nation’s largest supermarket chains.
An Air Base
Seletar may not appear on the radar of many tourist guides and maps. But look a little closer and you will find a neighbourhood that has had a very interesting past. Back in the day, Seletar was a fully functional air base for the Royal Air Force (RAF). In fact, the town had an airport too, completed in 1929, making it one of the first RAF air bases in the Far East.
The area is now being developed in line with its history. A brand new Aerospace Park is under construction that spans over 140 hectares. The price tag for the project is an impressive S$60 million.
A Breezy Recluse
Punggol remains one of the few open swathes in Singapore that has a breezy personality. Time seems to slow down a bit in the area when you visit it. But this is just a temporary present. Major work is underway to develop the area into a waterfront town offering the very best of living amenities to its residents. There are glimpses of that in the housing area that have been developed so far.
While the neighbourhood is one of the most peaceful, it does have its share of violent history.
During World War II, the quiet suburb witnessed a massacre of unarmed Chinese civilians by occupation forces at the norther tip. The event came to be known as the Punggol Beach Massacre. A war memorial stands at the location today and is considered a heritage site.
A Rich Mix Of Cultures
The North East may have a majority of Chinese residents, but the region offers a taste of other cultures as well. Serangoon contains a strong Indian presence as the area is close to Little India. Then there is a church in Ang Mo Kio that was built during the missionary years.