Kampong Bugis or 火城

When you mention 火城 in the past, most people will know you were talking about Kampong Bugis or Kallang Junction. Specifically 火城 referred to Kampong Bugis instead of Kallang Junction. But why named it 火城 (Fire City – direct translation)? It’s probably due to the installation of the Gas Work at the Kallang Juction or Kampong Bugis.

So when Kallang Gas Work started? Maybe 1861, take a look here. Maybe it’s easier to know the Kallang Gas Works ceased operation on 23 Mar 1998. This big blue cylinder is really a landmark at Kallang. Most people will know of it’s existence in the past.

Let’s take an aerial view of this blue cylinder from an old photo;

Photo Credit : National Archives, PICAS

This was how it looked in 1961. Take note of the surrounding buildings and landmarks.

Take a look at this very old street directory;

Credit : Singapore Street Directory, Chief Surveyor

The Gasworks was shown clearly on the map. Below is another old street directory showing the Gasworks location and it’s surrounding;

Credit : Singapore Street Directory 1976 edition, Chief Surveyor

So what memories did it bring back for me?

1. Chicken shops at Kallang Junction

These are the row of shophouses located along the Kallang Road near the junction of Crawford Street shown number 2 in the above map. There were a couple of shops selling chicken and eggs. I remember my godmother and godsister brought me there to buy those eggs that were about to hatch. They used to check it by holding the egg against a light bulb. The popular coffee shop was a much later event.

2. Kwong Fook Chinese School

This was a local Chinese School where my father once studied there. Its premises were now occupied by the Tai Pei Buddhist Centre;

3. Old houses along Kallang Road

These were the old houses located along Kallang Road towards the Gasworks before the Hindu Temple shown on the left below;

Photo Credit : National Archives, PICAS

4. Hindu Temple and Trespass Sign

Photo Credit : National Archives, PICAS

The familiar red white stripes on the side wall of this Hindu temple is another landmark just before the Kallang Gasworks along Kallang Road or Kampong Bugis. This Manmatha Karuneshvarar Temple was built just after the gasworks were established.

Also you will find this no trespass sign if you pass by that place at that time;

Photo Credit : National Archives, PICAS

To others, the Kallang Gasworks may made them recall the 1964 Racial Riots;

Photo Credit : National Archives, PICAS

So what is left behind now? Here is how the Kallang Junction looks like in 2005;

Photo credit : Wikipedia

See the blue cylinder was gone (above photo). What you can see now is the remains of one of the gasholder located at the Car Park of Kampong Bugis;

Map credit : Mighty Minds, Singapore Street Directory

See how this gas holder looked like in 1900;

Photo Credit : National Archives, PICAS

The other remains are the hardware used in Gasworks incorporated into this Spirit of Kallang Sculpture;

Photo Credit : Nusantara.com

You will find this sculpture on the left if you are driving along Crawford Street towards Beach Road.

And this is how the place looks like now in 2007;

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34 Responses to “Kampong Bugis or 火城”


  1. 1 profkingsfield2004 Monday, July 30, 2007 at 11:18 am

    There were two other landmarks which remained wheras the row of shophouses were torn down. They were:

    1. Firestone Rubber factory; just after the entrance to the old Kallang Civil Airport. When I was a child I loved to climb the external iron staircase (still visible from the road) to get to the top floor. Building still stands.

    2. The other was thye UOB godown facing Kallang Road and after the bridge. which was turned into a furniture warehouse. Now I see a condo under construction.

  2. 2 Lam Chun See Monday, July 30, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    When my kids were young, we used to go to Kallang River Park very often. While they play by the river bank, I would go for my brisk walking exercise. I usually stop just beside this Kallang Gasworks, next to the Rochore Canal to do some stretching and other exercises. I have many photos and video even but, regretfully, none of the gasworks.

    But maybe in 20 years time, my children can blog about it. Haha.

    Until quite recently, I still go for my exercise there. But it’s becos my son has his kayaking trg there, and I go to fetch him in evening. But then becos of the Circle LIne construction, they have shifted the training to MacRitchie so have stopped going there for about a year.

    • 3 Kian Monday, February 25, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      Greetings! Chun See,

      i had posted the following in this blog recently and hope you can assist.

      Hi all! Great to feel the Kampung Bugis spirit going!

      I’m a member of Waterways Watch Society located under the Merdeka Bridge, opposite Kampung Bugis. http://www.wws.org.sg

      Currently, we are designing a bike learning trail around Marina Reservoir and require old photos of the area in the guidebook. It aims to provide an experiential learning to evoke participants the sense of connection to our land and water. Sowing a seed to grow their love for the environment.

      The route cover topics from History, Geography, Environmental Science and Biodiversity etc, embarked from Kallang River to Singapore River. This is not for profit and we are a volunteer group. You are welcome to join us too!

      Photos will be credited to contributors and personally i can arrange a bike/ kayak tour in the Marina Catchment for you and family in appreciation!

      Do email me at wwsedu2@gmail.com

      with gratitude

      Kian

  3. 4 laokokok Tuesday, July 31, 2007 at 7:36 am

    YOu are right Peter, Firestone has slipped my mind completely….sigh….

    Chun See, Rochore Canal is rather fall from Kallang Gasworks right? That canal is near to Sungei Road or Sim Lim area? The Kallang Riverside Park now is so much cleaner compared to the past when those old houses were still there at Kampong Bugis.

  4. 5 HamBearGer Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    On the first map, there was a road called Sumbawa Rd. On this road,
    the traffic flow is reverse, you drive on the opposite side, American style.
    On the second map, there was a ice factory at Padang Jeringau, with a Nantah style “gate” across the road. Opposite Kwong Fook school is a mecca for pirate taxis. Every morning, all the pirate taxis will gather there and the drivers go around touting for passengers.

    I remembered the chicken shops along Kallang Rd. The shops place stacks of eggs and freshly hatch chicks along the walkway. Once I on the way home, my mum and I passed by the place, I was so fascinated by all the small little yellow colour chicks that I stand and stare at them for a long time, refused to move on. My mum has to drag me away.

  5. 6 laokokok Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 7:39 am

    Thanks HamBearGer. That Sumbawa Rd was no longer there right? Probably what’s left is 1 clinic named Sumbawa Clinic at Block 1 Beach Rd. It will be nice to see a photo of that Nantah style gate – is it that metal gate?

  6. 7 HamBearGer Friday, August 3, 2007 at 8:52 am

    That’s right. Sumbawa, Nam Lock, Kampong Soopoo, Padang Jeringau….are all gone. The gate of the ice works is made of wood. It was put up by the owner. Forgot the name of the ice making company.
    Another interesting point to note is that small bumboats and tongkangs travelled up to Rochor and Kallang River to discharge cargoes. Lorries, mobile cranes and coolies working along the river side is a common sight.

  7. 8 Samantha Tuesday, September 4, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Oh man! What a find your blog is!!I’m so glad I stumbled upon it:) What memories it brought back. Hmm… am about 4 years younger than you hahah! Do you know about the PWD (Public Works Department) staff quarters along Kallang Road? There used to be a malay kampung just round the back of the quarters and that’s just along the Kallang River (?) and the staff quarters face the entrance to the People’s Association! I stayed there til I was about 14 years old. Oh boy! I watched NDP fireworks at my door steps. And oh the Kallang Roar! The mass of soccer fans (or fanatics) just surging pass my front gate after a glorious match against Malaysia. And those who drive and illegally parked all along the road and fields near my home going to the matches…the malay boys would race to open car doors for 10 cents tips! And there was even a keramat (spelling?)..prayer place just behind my home then!I think the keramat is still there (it was there a few years ago whe I went back). Everything else was gone (turned into a park) even the two huge mango trees that used to be in my front garden :(

  8. 10 dotty Monday, April 14, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Hi! SO glad to chance upon your site! Love the memories it evokes – but I am very sad not to be able to share your pics with my parents. They have passed away. I am actively searching for pics taken from views of Blk 4 Beach Road of Kallang or Rochor River or any of those lumber mills or ship repair facilities. I hope you have them somewhere. Thanks!

  9. 11 laokokok Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Thanks Dotty. I don’t think I have them but you may check the site at National Archives of Singapore, PICAS at;

    http://picas.nhb.gov.sg/picas/public/internetSearch/

  10. 12 dotty Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Hi Laokokok,
    Many thanks! Managed to get a few images of the 90s. I replayed alot of images of my childhood during the 70s in my mind over and over again. The rattan making shops, road side hawker for “Bird’s Nest Drinks”, Durian stalls at muddy Rochor River Bank, Ship repair facilities at Rochor/Kallang Rover, Soya Sauce Industry along North Bridge Road etc. Oh, I missed them so much! Your blog bought tears to my eyes. I missed my parents alot and my childhood days!

  11. 14 dotty Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Mr LaoKokok,

    I spent the last few days reading every post of your blog and the links to other bloggers from this site. It is thumbs up, toes up, leaving me in awe… fantastic site. It brought back many memories for me and in the process, tears and laughter. Many thanks for your contribution in preserving memories for alot of Singaporean like me. As I pause and think in this stage of my life and look back to the past – I am very glad and thankful that I have got something to hold on to – your blog and pics. Sometimes, I am very proud of our nation to have progressed this fast – but sometimes, I wished that the old and the history will stand waiting for me to revisit before they are permanently removed and destroyed. Again, your site has done great in the preservation of history. Thanks and keep it up.

    Regards, Dotty

    You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you’re down there.
    — George Burns

  12. 15 laokokok Friday, April 18, 2008 at 6:46 am

    Thanks Dotty for your compliment. Very glad to know that you like my blog.

  13. 16 Tisu Girl Saturday, June 7, 2008 at 12:50 am

    There used to be another of this big blue gaswork tank just opposite my old house at Blk 77 Commonwealth Drive. After the block 80 or was it blk 79, where the malaysia railway is still operating now. I could see it from my kitchen. I lived there in the early 90s and we always joked about what happen if that thing were to explode….:p Can’t remember which year was it demolished, probably about the same time as the one in Kallang Junction…which year was that?

  14. 17 Icemoon Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 2:12 am

    If anybody wants to see Tisu Girl’s gas tank, here is it.

  15. 18 CM Lee Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Hi Laokokok,
    Thanks for posting this blog, it certainly brought back many happy memories of my childhood and teenage days spent in Kallang.
    In fact i grew up in a zinc roofed, wooden walled house in Nam Lock Street, only have to move out in 1982 when the government acquired the land back. The Kallang river basin then was one huge muddy swamp with thick bushes like a mini jungle and that was my frequent playground for catching spiders and longang fish, immune to the foul smelling,blackish waters. Besides the gaswork, another major industry there were the timber sawmills. The biggest one stretched from Nam Lock St to Sin Koh St, and many people there like to use it as a short cut between the two streets. The other one was next to Kwong Fook Chinese School. Another common sight at the Kallang river at that time was the many floating timber logs lined up together like one huge floating platform. There were two block of workers quarters for the gaswork staffs, the red bricked two storey ones behind the Hindu temple,which are still standing today (for Chinese staffs) and the single storey white walled ones (already demolished) that was next to the then community centre were for non chinese staffs. I could go on and on. Once again thanks for the memories.

    • 19 sharon Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      Hi CMLee
      Do you remember the Hainan coffee shop just beside your house..and the Hokkien Mee stall which was opened in the morning along Nam Lock street ?

      Chin

  16. 20 laokokok Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Thanks CM Lee for your fond memories on that area. The Hindu temple still standing there while most of the rest were gone

  17. 21 Ms.Chin Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Hi CM Lee,Thanks for your posting.Really glad to find this blog by Mr laokokok ,My family was renting a room at 6, Nam Lock Street.from a shoemaker landlord,we had so much happy childhood memories while staying there.I remember we used to go to the hindu temple to eat their desert whenever there is some prayers on.During those days..we don’t have a TV at home and our whole family would walked to the Kampong Bugis CC to watch our favourite variety show . We also got to know a hainanese family who was running a barber shop just in front of the street.,and we would hang around with their kids.Unfortunately,couldn’t get in touch with this family after my family moved to the Chai Chee apartments and I have move to M’sia after my marriage.

  18. 23 Celeste Chan Monday, June 20, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Hi Ms Chin

    I am very happy & surprised to read this msg. As I stayed in 6 Nam Lock Street and the shoemaker is my daddy. Yes those are the happy memories in Nam Lock Street. If your family rented a room from us that is really long time back which I have forgotten about it. Can I know more about you or who you are ?

  19. 24 Celeste Chan Monday, June 20, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Hi CM Lee and Sharon

    I am also surprise that both of you do know about things in Nam Lock Street. Both of you also stayed there before ?

  20. 27 Celeste Chan Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Hi Chin

    Hi so happy to receive your reply. I think I can remember your dad trying to recall. Yes my dad name is Heng kor and my sister name is correct. I am youngest in the family, Ah Lai. Don’t know if you can remember me. My elder sis is Ah Chen. If I ask my mum & elder sis, I think they will definitely remember. This is my email address –
    chan_lailin@yahoo.com.sg Hope to hear from you (from email).
    Bye

  21. 29 Peter Lim Monday, April 9, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Chance upon this blog from my neices.I attended 1 year’s of Chinese education at the Nam Kwong school at Nam Lock St. in 1955.

    • 31 Choo Meng Foo Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 12:57 am

      I had painted from the photos and exhibiting them at Orange Thimble.

      Don’t miss out.
      I will be delighted if you could collect them. Thanks.

      It will be a great help if you could spread the word too.

      The exhibition
      5th – 29th July 2012
      Opening Hours:
      Monday Close
      Tues – Thurs : 9:30am – 9:30pm
      Fri – Sun : 9:30 – 11:00pm

      Meng Foo

  22. 32 SG true blood Monday, February 25, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Thank you so much for this blog!

    I used to live in Kampong Bugis when I was born, though I don’t remember too much as we shifted, I still remember the cows on top of the walls of the temple. And brings back memories.

    Everything is torn down. Very bitter sweet. Things were so good in the past.
    As things go… it seems that this camaraderie is being torn down and destroyed, just like the wonderful buildings and recollections. We have done very well for so long… too bad everything may just self-destruct and in 10 years, we no longer recognise Singapore anymore.

    These memories are what makes Singapore a home, and what makes Singaporeans, Singaporean.

    It’s really sad, really. We are not mere economic digits.

    Reading your blogs brings up such poignant emotions.

    Thank you.

  23. 33 Kian Monday, February 25, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Hi all! Great to feel the Kampung Bugis spirit going!

    I’m a member of Waterways Watch Society located under the Merdeka Bridge, opposite Kampung Bugis. http://www.wws.org.sg

    Currently, we are designing a bike learning trail around Marina Reservoir and require old photos of the area in the guidebook. It aims to provide an experiential learning to evoke participants the sense of connection to our land and water. Sowing a seed to grow their love for the environment.

    The route cover topics from History, Geography, Environmental Science and Biodiversity etc, embarked from Kallang River to Singapore River. This is not for profit and we are a volunteer group. You are welcome to join us too!

    Photos will be credited to contributors and personally i can arrange a bike/ kayak tour in the Marina Catchment for you and family in appreciation!

    Do email me at wwsedu2@gmail.com

    with gratitude

    Kian

  24. 34 Kathrin Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this excellent blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to new updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon!


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