Archive for April 1st, 2009

From Amusement Park To Cement Park

Probably some youngster find the word “Gay World” amusing like someone posted in the STOMP site regarding the Gay World Hotel.

I’m surprised that there are still people not aware of the Gay World existence in Singapore. Of course Gay World is short for Gay World Amusement Park, one of the 3 main Amusement Parks in Singapore. You have probably read about my post on New World Amusement Park.

Gay World Amusement Park was originally known as Happy World Amusement Park in the 30s. Happy World was the last one to be built in 1936 after Great World (1932) and New World (1923).

How Happy World looked like in the 50s;

You can even see the British Flag then in the above photo.

Let’s take a look at Happy World Amusement Park over the years;


The Happy World Amusement Park, commonly known as 快乐世界 by the locals, was founded by George Lee Geok Eng (of George Lee Motors fame), brother of philanthropist Lee Kong Chian. He invested $350,000 to open this amusement park then in 1936.

It was a form of nightlife entertainment where East meet West, located at the junction of Geylang and Mountbatten roads. You will normally find cabaret performances, ronggeng, movies, gaming and arcades, wayang and cultural shows and even trade shows in this amusement park. It was one of those must visit places for courting couples in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Like New World, those unforgettable places of visits include dance hall where one could have a dance with taxi girls for probably twenty cents, and the popular ghost train ride;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS


The Happy World Amusement Park was used for the Singapore’s first trade show – The Engineering and Trade Exhibition.


A 1941 Japanese Map showing the Happy World location between Geylang Road and Grove Road (now known as Mountbatten Road);

Credit : Lim Shao Bin 2004 Photos of Singapore

The Straits Chinese China Relief Fund Committee of Singapore organised a modernised bangsawan (a traditional Malay opera)  for 3,000 babas and nyonya in Happy World, to raise funds for China war effort leading to WWII.

1942 to 1945:

Even during the Japanese air-raids hit Singapore in January 1942, business at Happy World continued, and the cabaret had blackout dances (with no lights) to escape the Japanese bombings. Of course this has nothing to do with the recent Earth Hour haha!

The Japanese also turned the Happy World into gambling den. As these dens were precluded from raids, the bright lights at the Happy World continued.   The Japanese were not allowed in the gambling dens but they could patronise the cabarets and nightclubs in the Happy World.  The gambling dens were closed after Japanese surrendered in 1945. The Happy World was also used as a military workshop during the Japanese Occupation.

1950s to 1960s:

After the war, the amusement park continued to operate. But what I remember best about the Happy World was the frequent fire broke out in the park. In 1962, fire broke out twice in 2 months, destroying the theatre, part of the cabaret and 26 stalls. In fact, more blazes happened in 1972, 1976, 1977 and 1988.

Stalls were burnt in 1958 at Happy World;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Mr.Sin Ma Chai, those elderly Cantonese will know who he is, performed at the Happy World in 1963;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS


The Gay World;

The Happy World was renamed as Gay World Amusement Park (繁華世界) in 1966. The word “Gay” here means “joyful”, “carefree”, “bright and showy” and only until probably later, it means “homosexuality”. Some of the main tenants were Eng Wah Organisation, Datoh Rajah Theatre and Cabaret, Tai Thong Restaurant and New Happy Cinema. By the way, the park used to have 4 cinemas, including one open-air one – Happy Theatre, Silver City and the open-air Victory Theatre. Do you remember the other one? Sin Wah Emporium, later became part of Emporium Holdings, and Tai Thong Restaurant, were my only haunt there. I went to Tai Thong Restaurant for their mooncakes.

The New Happy Theatre;

The Gay World Amusement Park ticket;

Credit : The Straits Times.

Way before the National Indoor Stadium was built, the Gay World Stadium was once the greatest covered stadium in SEA. This octagonal shaped stadium built for boxing and other sports could seat 7,000. The Gay World Stadium was later renamed as Geylang Indoor Stadium. It was even the venue for Malaya’s first badminton Thomas Cup in 1952.

The Gay World Stadium;

In 1973, the Gay World Stadium was one of the venues for the SEAP games. Boxing and wrestling fights were the popular sports held there and most paid only20 cents to see wrestlers like Tiger Ahmad and King Kong in the ring. The Gay World Stadium also held circus shows occasionally.


Even with free admission to the park, it did not attract enough visitors. The park was badly maintained and rats were seen running about. Only 1 of the 4 cinemas remained and probably only screening Tamil shows.


By 2000, the Gay World was in an abandoned state. There was no power or water supplied, and only about 40 tenants carried on business using portable generators.

The last days of Gay World;

In 2001, the bulldozers came and the Gay World and the Geylang Indoor Stadium were demolished. The site was zoned for residential development,  however, this does not material even till now. In 2004, the Nicoll Highway collapse sent one of the 2 concrete making plants there working non-stop.

Today, the two concrete-making plants and the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System site office are located there.

I’ve always wondered with 3 amusement parks in the past, why can’t we accommodate the last amusement park at Geylang – The Gay World Amusement Park and the Gay World Stadium (or Geylang Indoor Stadium). Why must we keep demolishing all these nostalgia amusement park in Singapore just for residential and commercial development?

A 1956 City Map showing the Happy World Park;

Credit : Singapore Improvement Trust, Survey Department

A 1976 Chinese Edition Street Directory showing the Gay World Park;

A 1988 Edition Street Directory showing the Gay World Park and the Geylang Indoor Stadium;

A 1998 Edition Street Directory showing the Gay World Park and Gay World Hotel:

Credit : Chief Surveyor, Survey Department, Ministry of Law.

The aerial view of the Happy World Park and the octagon shaped Stadium in the 50s;

Credit : Editions Didier Millet, National Archives of Singapore

Now the Geylang Indoor Stadium no longer exists though the name still remains at the Google Map;

The bus stop now stands in front of the old Gay World entrance;

The fence up area and those trees inside make the Gay World Park disappears from one memory.

The Cement Plant in the old Gay World Park as seen from the Geylang Road;

Another view of the Cement Plant as seen from Mountbatten Road;

The Cement Trucks queuing up along the Geylang Drive;

Credits : All photos above


Blog Directory & Search engine singapore blog directory Personal Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory
I am a Supporter of

Blog Stats

  • 1,267,567 hits
April 2009