Monday, 30 March 2015

Mosaic Playgrounds of Singapore.





OK, I may have only lived here for a short 2 years but I have tried to explore this small island and get to see the real Singapore. For those Singaporeans growing up in the 70s and 80s childhood playgrounds were different to those of today's children. Here in Singapore, amongst the HDBs, children had slides and climbing frames magicked into Dragons (the most famous and iconic) elephants, characters from fairy stories, birds and even fruit. These were decorated in brightly coloured mosaic tiles and sitting in a sea of sand (I'm such the local cats loved that!)

With the building of HDBs, as the old kampong villages were demolished for concrete villages in the skies in the 1970s, they were designed with playgrounds for the children to enjoy and let their imaginations run free, where their actually bodies could no longer do so with such ease. The early playgrounds were quite utilitarian however, in 1974 the Housing Development Boards introduced new designs to help form and secure the Singaporean identity. The most iconic and well know design, as mentioned, were the dragons (1979) and these were designed by a HDB landscape designer named Mr Khor Ean Ghee. In total he created over 30 of these playground designs. A big thanks to this gentleman who through his designs has kept me busy for many a week as we traversed the island in search of children's memories.

Come the 1980s nursery rhyme themed playgrounds were introduced with rabbits, tortoises etc and then fruit, watermelon, mangosteen and more. Then there were the Singapore heritage themed builds, kelongs, trishaws and bum boats. Mr Koh worked for HDB from 1969 until the 1980s In 1988 there were new generations of playground designs, the nuresry rhymes themes - clocks, old lady who lived in a shoe, fire engines and even Humpty Dumpty. By 1993 sadly no more of these homegrown mosaic playgrounds were built, as new constructions were many from plastic and metal and imported from overseas, a generic pattern that we can see all over the world.

Sadly many of these playgrounds have been demolished either for new housing developments, roads or replaced by modern metal and plastic equivalents. Initially we heard about the dragon playgrounds that have become somewhat famous here, with replicas popping up all over the island, Sentosa and even as a lantern in this years River Hong Bao festival. Many locals we spoke to either thought they had disappeared completely or that just one dragon remained, but after researching we discovered 4 still remained, so we set out to track these down.  On the way we discovered other characters that remained so the task grew.

Some of our Singaporean friends have revisited these with their children, which I love to hear about and others have told us of their memories of playgrounds now vanished, as well as a few photos of themselves in times past. Now below are listed those that we have found, in various states of repair. Who knows if there are more out there? Please let us know!

Dragons.

These were introduced in 1979 as as apart of the 'Adventureland' playgrounds. A series of 5 different themes playgrounds which also included the dove and the metal cage, not sure which the other 2 were?

Block 57 Pipit Rd. This was the first dragon discovered and quite by chance as we were actually at the address to take photos of the Van Gogh void deck art gallery http://www.singaporetales.co.uk/2015/02/void-deck-art-social-creatives.html  but as we rounded a corner of the HDB we came face to face with a dragon! A doubly successful day as we knew we were planning to dragon hunting.




The next 3 we tracked down all in one day.....


Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 a very short walk from the Ang Mo Kio MRT. This is a much larger dragon, but as with the Pipit rd one, the old sand pit it once sat in has been replaced with rubber tarmac.









Toa Payoh, Lorong 1, Block 240. This one again just a short couple of minutes from Braddell MRT. Another small dragon like that of Pipit Rd but what I liked about this one was, that next to it sits a modern metal and plastic climbing frame/slide. It was good to see the old sitting alongside the new and still much in use.






Toa Payoh.  Close to the junction of Lorong 6 and Kim Kheat Link. Finally but by no means least probably the most famous and iconic of the dragons, the well known large dragon of Toa Payoh sitting within a large expanse of open ground and still with its original sand pit surround. Whilst we were there a father watched on as his young daughter played on the slide, a sight that could of been anytime in the last 40 years. Ask many Singaporeans where the dragon playground is and they will probably mention this one. Indeed as we exited AMK MRT a friendly uncle asked us what we were doing, when we said looking for dragons, he told us we were in the wrong place, he didn't know of the one 5 mins walk away







Clocks

Designed in 1988 to represent children nursery rhymes.

176 Boon Lay Ave. The first clock we spotted was purely by chance as we passed by on the bus and saw a rainbow decorated HDB. We quickly rang the bell and hopped off to investigate and guess what right next door was our first Clock mosaic playground. This one sadly neglected and cordoned off. Clearly this hadn't been used in a long time, it stood sadly in its original sand pit, which was overgrown with grass and weeds. A sad sight, clearly unloved, with a much newer, shiny and larger playground next to the Block next door. I wonder at the fate of this clock. I hope someone appreciates it and lets it live on.






Bishan St 13. Block 514C. Right next to the MRT. Now this clock playground couldn't be any more different to the forlorn unloved one of Boon Lay. Here this one sprightly sits next to the food centre by the entrance to the MRT. Again still with its original sand pit however this one is spotless and shiny. The sand is swept and raked daily and it smiles happily on as the children play on it. Indeed we even tried this one out!





Fruit

Watermelon. Tampines Ave 5 Blk 858. What a sad sight met us here. It may say no entry and indeed we didn't enter but we did take a sneak peak over the metal fencing! I can only hope that they are renovating and not removing the watermelon. Hopefully that are 'making safe' and replacing the surface to something more 'kid friendly'






Mangosteen. Just a short few feet away from the watermelon sits these two fun mangosteens, some of my favourite fruit. Hubby works very close by and he has Singaporean friends that live very close to here as well and yet they knew nothing of these playgrounds. It was interesting to see the graffiti inside the fruits - very un-Singaporean!






Animals

Dove. Block 10 Dakota Crescent. These are just a 15 minute walk from home but until recently I never knew these were here. Hidden away in the vintage Dakota Crescent where much will be demolished after 2016. What will happen to the doves? will these disappear too? surely perhaps they could be moved and placed elsewhere, saving them for the next generation of children that will grow up in the shiny new apartments that will replace this lovely community. This was one of the 5 'adventure land' playgrounds introduced in 1979 which also included the 'metal cage' in Tanjong Pagar. Love the tyre swings still very much in use, A thing I remember from my childhood, and also falling bottom first through the tyre, or getting wedged inside them!




Elephants

Inside the NS Home Team Chalet at No. 125A Pasir Ris Road. The elephant trunk is a slide! He we had to go slightly off piste to track this elephant down in his jungle home. 







Sadly 3 of the other animal playgrounds were demolished. You will no longer be able to play and slide on the former Pelican, Rabbit or Tortoise as they were demolished in 2012. Only living on in photos and "big kids" memories. These had been the earliest of the these mosaic playgrounds built in 1974.

Bumboat. Elias Rd Block 623. Last but by no means least we travelled to Pasir Ris for this sampan/bumboat, a somewhat different feel to those of the others I felt.




We have also found dinosaur playground at Toa Payoh but these aren't mosaic, and we've heard of older playgrounds apparently in Woodlands which are again of dinosaurs and a kampong village, so will hopefully be taking a look soon.

Now these are the only mosaic playground we have still found in existence, if anyone please knows of any more please let me know.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

2 years in Sing - Memories


Well our visitors have left and life is returning to normal, although what is normal these days is very different to just a short 2 years ago, when we were still living our 'normal' life in the UK. Just as our visitors arrived we passed our 2 year anniversary of living in this country. Oh how quick time has passed, and still it keep racing faster and faster, now more so with a huge question mark over where we will be in a few months time. But I don't have time to dwell on that, there's so much more I want to see and experience, who says there's nothing to do in Singapore? that makes me so angry when I read and hear people whining about being bored - argh get out there, open your eyes and look!

Anyway I digress as I start to rant! This post isn't about the future but about the last 12 months, months 13-24 spent thoroughly enjoying myself. I will follow the same 'theme' as my reflections on my first 12 months.  http://www.singaporetales.co.uk/2014/03/twelve-months-in-singapore.html  And try with great difficulty to post just 1 photo a month for each month... Here goes....

March 2014 the start of year 2


Light Festival, Marina Bay
Long weekend in Melaka - vibrant and artistic UNESCO town

Whoops failed on just 1 photo already!! OK 2 photos per month... or........

April


Japanese Cemetery, not many people know this is in SG
Cambodia!!! Utterly in love with this country and the amazing, resilient and friendly people

May


Immaculate Kranji War memorial and cemetery 
Trip to Pulau Ubin coincides with Tu Pek Kongs birthday festivities 

June


Kidnapped by locals!! Jin Dong Fu celebrations
The first of many walks along the whole length of the Green Corridor

July


Although I've been numerous times this was the first time I completed the full MacRitchie loop, with Tree Tops included
Ramadan and we were lucky to have a tour around the Sultans Mosque in Kampong Gelam, visit onto the roof and break fast with our guides.

August


Trespassing! trip back in time as we discovered the remains of Istana Woodneuk. One of the highlights of the year for me
Singapore's very own Garden Festival

September


Myself and friends joined hundreds of others to take part in the Pink Ribbon Walk
Dinosaurs! the giant monitor lizards of the wetlands of Sungei Buloh

October


Another holiday of a lifetime! Australia  
One of the many Black and Whites of Singapore, this time at Seletar

November


Amazingly lucky to come across these 2 otters on a walk, just a few feet in front of us. Watched for a long time as they ate and played, completely unconcerned that we were so close
The Forgotten, or not temporarily misplaced, reservoir

December   OK utter fail here, 5 photos! you've no idea how difficult it is to choose!


snake no.1 at the Botanical Gardens
And no. 2 a Paradise Tree snake
Bright Hill Monastery
Celebrating the run up to Xmas here in SG with the Gardens by the Bay Winter Wonderland
Yes, I know spoilt! another holiday this time to Bali which coincided with the festival of Kuningan

January 2015


Off exploring with my friend, we travelled the island looking for the art galleries that decorate the void decks of the HDBs

The Little India Harvest Festival of Pongal

February 


OK I may have chosen the festival of Thaipusam in last years memories, but this for me is the top top highlight of my time here and if we're lucky enough to be here next year, I'll be going again - mind boggling
Discovering my inner child, with my friend we have visited all the iconic mosaic playgrounds that are still remaining here on the island, in various states of repair.

March 2015 the end of our 2nd year and the start of our next and so much more to experience, no slowing down yet!


A chance to dress up and celebrate a friends special birthday, with afternoon tea at the Fullerton Bay hotel, overlooking Marina Bay
Kusu island
Still wasn't lucky to watch Chingay but we did get the chance to see some of the floats as they passed by our condo.

So now we wait....... where will we be come the last quarter of 2015? I hope we have an answer soon. However until the back of my trailing heel steps off this island, one things for sure, I will be out there looking for something new. Don't ever tell me there's nothing to do and you're bored here!!!