03 May 2010

Where Is 5-1/2 ms Pasir Panjang Road?

Despite the title of this post, this is not a quiz.

Last week, my friend Chun See received an email from someone in UK. In the email, the writer commented, "We lived at milestone 5-1/2 at Pasir Panjang, not all that far from Haw Paw Villa, better known to us as Tiger Balm Gardens."

Knowing that I work around that area, Chun See asked if I could make out its present location. Considering the title of this blog, how could ever I pass up such a challenge?

First Step - Check the 1963 Street Directory

The first step is obviously to check the 1963 street directory. I am quite sure that Chun See also has a copy of this street directory but perhaps he simply forgot to look it up. Old street directories always have the milestone (ms) markers indicated on their maps. The map of the stretch of Pasir Panjang Road between 5 and 6 milestone markers is reproduced below:

I have circled the 5 and 6 milestone markers in red in the map. (Incidentally, the map indicates the markers as 5 MP and 6 MP respectively. MP probably stands for "milestone post" but I am not sure. In the old days, each milestone location actually had a stone post painted in red, white and maybe black impaled into the ground at the roadside. The milestone number was also painted on the post. I think there were also milestone posts for half-mile points as well. I would love to show you a photo of an old milestone post but sad to say, I failed to find one. Anyone can help me out here?

From the above map, 6 ms was at Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Gardens) while 5 ms was between Yew Siang Road and Pepys Road. You could tell that 5-1/2 ms would be probably near South Buona Vista Road, i.e. the location numbered 2 in the map.

Second Step - Conduct a Location Visit

Next, a location visit to the area is a must. This I did last Saturday. First I went to the 5 ms area near Yew Siang Road. This is where a beautiful old bungalow still stands today, i.e. the location numbered 1 in the map.

View of the old bungalow from Pasir Panjang Road (direction of red arrow in the map).

The bungalow looks even more lovely from Yew Siang Road (direction of red arrow in the map).

Incidentally, I found an old lady sweeping leaves on Yew Siang Road just outside of the house. Now she certainly did not look like a cleaner employed by the NEA. (She probably has been sweeping the road regularly and is obviously someone who believes in keeping the environment scrupulously clean.)

I parked my car and talked to her in English. I said I would like to take some photos of the bungalow. She asked me why and I explained that I wanted to post the photos on my blog. She did not understand what a blog was so I said it was on the Internet. She did not know what was that either. She revealed that she was the owner of the bungalow. She probably thought that I was a property agent or an interested buyer of the property. Luckily, she didn't chase me away with that broom! :p

After completing my mission at Yew Siang Road, I went to the South Buona Vista junction to take a photo of the row of pre-war shophouses there from the direction of red arrow in the map. Most of the shophouses there are now restaurants and bars.

I wonder how many people nowadays know that this place used to be 5-1/2 ms Pasir Panjang Road?


yg said...

victor, i think 5 1/2 m.s. was near pasir panjang paradise where i used to see couples 'lumpsing' at night. my tuesday walking kaki used to live in that house at yew siang road. that lady you met must be his sister. he will be able to confirm where 5 1/2 m.s. was. i will check with him when i next meet him.

peter said...

u forgot beside street directory, prominent landmarks were important to people who could not read or in possession of a street directory.

Somehow, when you tell some one like, "3 bus stops after XXX you see one temple, you get down next bus stop, you walk straight you find one kopi-tiam where got one man wear white singlet....." one gets to his/her destination. Today, if you tlel me block number XXX, i get lost. Even taxi drivers tell me but when you ask taxi driver where to find girls in Pacific Mansion today, they know what you ask and which block.

peter said...


Opposite thei row of shops, you see one big public carpark, there was an old hotel here and one Malay kampung. Opposite the Mobil station you see one Christian XXX in a bungalow (beige or yellow colour #300???), that one got historical significance during WW2.

Lam Chun See said...

Hey Victor, thanks for the detective work. But you undersstimated your friend leh. In fact checking the 1963 st directory to locate 51/2 ms was the first thing I did. But I was hoping you could check out the old building there - which you have done a great job.

Lets hope the building you identified is in fact the one he was referring to becos he did not give much details.

Icemoon said...

The UK writer should tell us the prominent landmarks around his house. Like if he lived along the Gap road (South Buona Vista), whether he remember Buona Vista Village, with the market and Malay kampong. If he lived closer to Chwee Chian Road, he might remember the Chinese temple.

Great work Victor. Your enthusiasm is unmatched. You could have done the investigation on a working day but you made a special trip on weekend?

Lam Chun See said...

Victor. I just re-read your post. Your bungalow is located at 5 ms but my friend said he stayed at 5.5 ms. So how did you arrive at the conclusion that the bungalow in your photo is where he used to stay?

peter said...

chun see
yr friend said he stayed in a block of flats. He must tell u the prominent landmark. If he says on a slope next to Windy Motel, then it's somewhere nehind the Mobil Station along PP Road. if flat land must be next to chinese temple at chwee chian road

Victor said...

YG, where is Pasir Panjang Paradise and what is "lumpsing"? *Looking innocent*

The lady confirmed that her house was at 5 ms. I asked her where was 5-1/2 ms and she said it was at South Buona Vista Road. Double-checking against the street directory, I think she was right.

Victor said...

Peter, I believe that in the old days, there were not many prominent landmarks available (that explains the need for milestone markers then) but there were probably many men who wore white singlets. I am not so sure that the type of road directions that you have given would always lead to the right place.

Victor said...

Icemoon, I didn't purposely make a trip for this assignment. I was back at the office to work last Saturday.

Victor said...

Chun See, you should re-read my post more carefully. I did not say that your UK friend lived in the house at 5 ms. He probably lived around South Buona Vista Road which is at 5-1/2 ms of Pasir Panjang Road.

yg said...

victor, you understand hokkien, right? 'lump' in hokkien is 'hold tightly'. so, 'lumpsing' is to hold your partner tightly in a dance. paradise was near south buona vista road.

Icemoon said...

yg, I thought that was a typo and you meant 'lumping'. Wanted to ask did the car rock vigorously as well.

yg said...

victor, i have just confirmed it with my walking kaki. yes, 5 1/2 m.s. was the junction of south buona vista road and pasir panjang road. there used to be a kampong, comprising mainly malay fishermen and some chinese shop-keepers. where cold storage is today was a market. the fishermen would sell their catch near the market. the sea was then not far from the kampong.

yg said...

the old lady you spoke to is about 86 years old. the bungalow house has 7 rooms. the lady first taught at pasir panjang primary school. after that she was principal of gan eng seng, followed by principal of crescent girls' and then principal of raffles girls' sec sch.

Icemoon said...

yg, are you sure same lady? From Victor's account, the old lady did not even know what's a blog.

yg said...

icemoon, how many 86 years old senior citizens know what a blog is. she suffers from mild dementia.

peter said...


I stand to be corrected. "Lump" = Cantonese not Hokkien. Shld couples "lump sang lump seng" leads to kean slap.

You mean that old lady is Ms. Norris of RGS?

yg said...

peter, my cantonese limited to some colourful words only. no, the lady is chinese.

Thimbuktu said...

According to the street directory circled 2 on the map, I think this place used to be 5-1/2 ms Pasir Panjang Road if I'm correct.

My daughter attended the Pasir Panjang Hill Kindergarten (PPH Brethren Church) at Pasir Panjang Hill.

The bottom photo of the right corner of the shophouses shows the road turning into South Buona Vista Road in view of the National Community Leadership Institute (NACLI).

yg said...

the 7-room bungalow house has an interesting history. the owner had 7 children; the four surviving ones are all in their 80s or 90s. out of the 4, 3 are women. so, it is true; women generally outlive men.
the house was structurally affected by the tunnelling for the circle line. lta had pumped in tons of cement to prop up the house. my friend said they called it grouting.
the kitchen was damaged and lta got its contractor to replace it with a new one-storey building. don't know if victor notice that?

Lam Chun See said...

Sorry to inform you guys that the latest news I got from my friend is that their house was not at 5 1/2 ms after all. But anyway, glad that Victor's trip was not wasted and threw up so many interesting comments.

But too busy now to blog about it.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes, it's the journey Victor, not the final destination.

And with your postings, Pasir Panjang has renewed interest for me because one Mrs Cheong Hock Hai still lives in the area. She is a senior citizen who was a former Geography and Art teacher at St. Andrew's School and wife of Cheong Hock Hai, former school principal, St Andrew's and deputy director at MOE. She is, if I am not mistaken, in her late 80s or early 90s.

peter said...

she live sin guok avenue. my friend's mum. been to her house. bcos of thta i knew Pasir Panajng area

yg said...

peter and andy, this is really a small world; the mrs cheong, whom you both seem to know, is the elder sister of the lady sweeping the road. yes, she is 94 years old. i don't know her. neither do i know the lady in victor's picture. they have another sister who lives in kuala lumpur. i don't know and i have not met all three of them.

Anonymous said...

Just happen to chance upon this site. I grew up in Pasir Panjang and had really fond memories. I previously live at 247 Pasir Panjang Rd. A grand old bungalow which has since gone and replace with town houses. I remember going to the beach behind the house to look for cockles and for swims. On days of very high tide, sea will come up the boat ram and my sisters and me will have fun playing. Sigh those were the days.

Unknown said...

I found this photo in a flea market in the UK. Does this building still exist on Pasir Panjang Road or, if not, are there other photos of it?

See the photo here: http://flic.kr/p/8DQD5z

Unknown said...

Just came upon this site after doing a search of Old Pasir Panjang. Presently, I am in Perth but I grew up in 51/2 mile in Kampong Sultan, which can be seen on the map.
I remember the old Seaside Hotel with a very good restaurant that you can sit outside and the carpark that had 'jagas' helping you park the car.
There was a communal kitchen and wayangs was a treat. The ebbing tide brought in bucketful of cockles. The neighbour across the road had a pet baby lion (if I was not wrong) and there was a local mata-mata whom we kids knew him and followed him on his rounds.

The above post has brought back alot of memories that reminded me what it was like back then. Thanks for the memories :)

Victor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victor said...

Thanks Frank for your comments. I am glad that this post had brought back fond memories for you.

Anonymous said...

Wow.... I used to live behind Pasir Panjang Road, in Zehnder Road. Lived in three different houses on Zehnder Rd... the last one was nearer to 6.25 MP on the other end, until the govt chased us all away.

Yes, 5.5 MP was at the row of shop houses there at the junction of PP Road and South Bouna Vista Road (the corner unit was a coffee shop). There used to be a zinc cinema at the junction. There was also a wet market on S. Bouna Vista Road near that junction.

Since Zehnder Road has been partially razed by the govt to give to Science Park 2, does anyone have a map of the old Zehnder Road?


Unknown said...

Dear mr,victor

Regard for you,mengikuti permintaan saudara this is my email: yunusm3974@gmail.com
This is story my father : mohammed daud bin shiddiq lahir di kampung bahru pulau seraya nama maknya Siti Jemah . Dengan adik beradik : Dolman ahmad, Namid and Dare. Pulau seraya is not far from pasir panjang about 15 menit by sampan . Then he lived with his pak cik Mohammad hussein Bomo . In indisen road 5,5 ms blok f no : 35 Pasir Panjang . Beliau sering jalan kaki pergi ke tiger balmn. Dia banyak cerita tentang " Horor in straits of singapore " yaitu tenggelamnya "prince of wales" a betle ship of england yang hancur di Bedil jepun .
He work to collect thousands of body victim and pick up them from sea every day. They were dead all , mostly ciang kai sek troopers so many youngest troopers died .
Now my father had passed away to be a part of singapore history . I went to Pasir Panjang last time . I just found tiger balm garden but Pulau Seraya and 5,5 ms not found . I asked to many people but nobody knew.
Thanks to mr, Victor , for help some insformation any one can give me , next time i goto singapore to check it again.
I,m Muhammad yunus lived in batam

Francis THEO said...

Hi ,
I am Francis , born and lived in Pasir Panjang from 1950 to 1979 .
My grandfather own a Chinese Medicine Shop and he was a Chinese Sensei ( Chinese physician ) aka White Hair Doctor.
If I am not wrong, the 5.5 ms was right in front of my grandfather's shop. Our shop is opposite the corner coffeeshop.
The owner of the coffeeshop ( junction of Pasir Panjang Rd and South Buona Vista Rd ) was Ah Yoke .
The marker of 5.5 ms was a concrete about 50cm X 50cm x 50cm, there were some markings on top of the concrete.
Unfortunately I don't have any photo and can't remember the wordings. Beside the concrete was a Red Post Box with E II R mark on the box.
The bicycle shops and our shop was burnt down in 1979, that when we move to Clement. The rest shops on the right and left eventually move out for the development of the port.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I can help, in fact I am searching for old photos about racial harmony during the period I was very young staying in Zender road

Anonymous said...

That house belong to a teacher maybe many sisters doing teaching I understand she is Ms Teo her face have slight birth mark, she teaches Chinese in Clementi Primary school at 7.5 miles Pasir Panjang road now a rehab centre, previously next to this primary have a children homes and a Salvation Army next to it. A lot of this kids study in Clementi Primary school.