You are here
A colourful history
Ang Mo Kio's landmarks throw light on the town's unique past
For the blasé, Ang Mo Kio is just your garden variety HDB housing estate (albeit a very large one) that's home to shopping behemoth Ang Mo Kio Hub. But look beyond the concrete blocks, expensively renovated flats and flip-flop wearing residents, and this 29-hectare district has a heritage tale to tell - before its name became the local slang for Caucasians.
You'll be hard put to find any traces of rubber plantations when you drive through in your trusty Mini Countryman, but you can imagine how it used to be nothing but, planted by Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore in the early 20th century. They did that until rubber prices fell between 1922 and 1932, when many rubber tappers and labourers switched to farming instead.
In1973, Ang Mo Kio began its transformation into what it is today, complete with high-rise flats, and even Singapore's first government primary school - Ang Mo Kio Primary School, which opened in 1978.
The precursor of today's self-contained residential area was Kebun Baru Mall. Running from Block 226A to 226H, it includes flats, market and hawker centre. Kebun Baru Food Centre now houses the popular Teck Kee Cooked Food with its noodles and porridge, Qi Xiang with its fried noodles and nasi lemak, and the Seletar Sheng Mian & Mian Fen Guo.
Within Ang Mo Kio is Block 259 along Avenue 2 - a distinctive landmark as Singapore's only block of circular flats, designed by HDB and completed in 1981. This point block consists of 96 five-room flats, with four units per floor. In an effort to keep the flats cool during the day, the bedrooms face either north or south, while living rooms and kitchens face east or west.
Two large parks - Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West and Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East - provide the necessary greenery. The latter is smaller, but has a richer history as part of a rural settlement known as Cheng Sua Lai (Hokkien for "Green Hills Interior"). It was an agricultural kampung village that consisted mostly of Hokkiens, Teochews, and some Malays and Indians, but was demolished in the 1970s when residents were resettled into new housing estates.
Just along the fringes of Ang Mo Kio, you will also find the former Sembawang Hills Circus, where the Singapore Grand Prix was first held in September 1961. This sporting event organised by the Singapore Motor Club (SMC) ran along a loop that included the current Old Upper Thomson Road and a stretch of the Upper Thomson Road. Today, you can still drive your Mini Countryman along that same route - albeit at a slower speed due to the new speed cameras.
Drive carefully though, as one of the bends along the route - named the Circus Hairpin - was known as one of the more difficult parts of the circuit. In fact, a number of accidents and deaths occurred there, and officially resulted in the Grand Prix being discontinued after its 1973 edition.
Memories is brought to you by the new MINI Countryman - designed to start conversations, make new friends, add adventures, #AddStories.