Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Old House, Old Tales @ Lorong Tai Seng

I should have taken a better shot of this house where I spent most of my childhood days in !

A house that stood alone in a fenced up private estate in Lorong Tai Seng (now known as Tai Seng Link), off Upper Paya Lebar Road in the eastern part of Singapore.I must have taken the photos on this posting with my S$10 no-frills camera that I bought in the 1960s.

It was my first camera, albeit a toy-like plastic model that I came across at a sundry shop along Lorong Tai Seng. No zoom. No adjustment feature at all. Just aim and shoot, preferably with the sun behind the photographer !

My House and Home

It was a longhouse of sorts. Four bedrooms and a living room in their midst on one side, and a long and wide corridor running parallel to the rooms.   We did our cooking (at both ends), washing and hanging of wet laundry, reading and bonding at the corridor.

When my fifth uncle 'migrated' to Kuala Lumpur in the 1960s, my mother, brother and I continued to stay on at one end (the left, facing the photo) while my first aunt and family occupied the rest of the premises.

The living room had a long rectangular table and an altar where my aunt made her offerings and prayers to our ancestors and earth-deity on festive occasions.

At one far end of the house was my first aunt's kitchen, and I remember how my mum used to help my aunt to slaughter fowls.   My aunt could not bring herself to slit open the necks of the hens and ducks for the blood to ooze out.

Mum was young then ( in her 30s ), and her fatique after her long day at work did not show up when she went about helping my aunt in preparing the ingredients, kneeding and moulding of the dough.

Mum and aunt would talk about anything and anybody that crossed their minds while working together through the night.

I used to help my aunt to lay out the offerings on the day of prayer, and subsequent with the burning of incense papers. Next, I would enjoy partaking what aunt could please me with - peanuts, rambutans, kuehs, etc from the offerings.

My second aunt stayed on the other side of Lorong Tai Seng, about 400 metres across from where I lived; and dropped by occasionally to strike up conversation with whoever was present.

The occasional sparring was rather enjoyable, and often laid bare an insight into my ancestral archives, and the idiosyncrasies of my paternal grandmother, father, et cetera.   When three or more of them gathered together, it could be fairly 'rowdy'.

Sometimes, the session could end abruptly when the conversation got on someone's nerves.   No sooner had they cooled down than they found it was time to start another session.

Such was their readiness to forgive and forget each other abrasive carelessness that I wonder to these days why the later generations had to take offence at each other over who had the right recollection of their ancestors' idiosyncrasies and credits toward the well-being of the siblings.

Aik Leong Heng Rubber Factory

We were privileged to live alone in the huge estate because my uncle worked for the owner on the recommendation of my grandfather.

The owner had originally approached my grandfather to help managed the business as my grandfather had made a name for himself while working for another businessman at No. 13 ( or 37 ? ) Boat Quay (beside the rear complex of the former parliament house).

I managed to visit the premises before the 2-storeyed shophouse was demolished to make way for the new parliament complex. 

My grandfather had declined the offer as he was getting on in age, and offered to train my first uncle for the position.

The owner originally started with 1 rubber factory and 1 smoke-house ( see below photo ) in the estate.

When the owner decided to build the second smoke-house parallel to the rubber factory, he talked my first uncle into demolishing our original old house; and promised to rebuild a replacement further back to make way for the business expansion.

Mum told me that the owner did not fulfill his promise in totality, and my uncle had to salvage building materials from his workplace to rebuild the house.

My paternal grandmother was the matriach of the household at the original old house before she left reluctantly for my ancestral village in Guangdong, China to avoid further abuse of my grandfather's properties by his brothers and families.

According to mum, we were considered the richest in terms of land capacity in our Seah village.   The properties were taken over by the government without any compensation when the communists took over China.   It was in the 1960s that the ancestral residence was handed back to us when the descendants in Singapore were able to adduce ownership of the ancestral properties.   My fourth uncle had managed to seek help from the Seah Association for laying claim to the ancestral lineage and properties.   My sixth uncle and family were residing at the place when I last visited it in 1997.

Incidentally, my original surname should be spelt as Seah as against the current Sia.   Again, mum said that this was my dad's decision to register all siblings with his wrongly-registered surname, that is Sia  to avoid future administrative complication.

For more pictures of Lorong Tai Seng, you may log on; and search under Lorong Tai Seng.

The Community

Suffice it here to bear in mind some of the references for future follow-up with the Survey Department, if necessary: Acc No. SP002346, Microfile No. NA 1411, Sheet No. 172_6, PhotoCDNo. 20050000701-0022-3312-1223.

Meanwhile, I have drawn the following sketch-map to orientate you, hopefully, as I proceed to unfold my fond memories of the kampong.

The community was largely made up of Chinese ( Teochew, in particular ) and Malay.   The Malay villagers were clustered together in a small kampong that straddled a short stretch of Lorong Tai Seng at the midst of the community, behind my house.   There was a mosque in the middle of the kampong where the villagers gathered together for their regular prayers and festivities.

It was a largely peaceful and friendly lot until 13 May 1963 when racial riots broke out between Chinese and Malay at certain parts of Singapore.   There was no upheaval at our end, but the fear of a possible spillover intensified with each passing day during the curfew period.

This was especially heightened when one of the villagers was battered to death when he rode his motorcycle through riot-stricken area.   His families stayed within 50 metres from my house, and the once cordial relationship was never the same after the incident.

I heard of attempts by organised groups of Chinese from elsewhere who wanted to attack the Malay community, but were dissuaded by Chinese gangsters on the watch for possible intruders.   If not for the notoriety of the gangsters in Lorong Tai Seng, the memories of the community could have taken a turn for the worst.

Lorong Tai Seng was the bane of the Singapore Police Force, and I heard that detectives were fearful of walking into the community unless they were adequately prepared for their missions.

Several major crimes were traced to hoodlums lurking in Lorong Tai Seng or the adjoining Jalan Ang Teng, on the other side of Airport Road.    Fights and self-imposed curfews by rival groups were prevalent in those days.

There were several coffee-shops along the busiest stretch of the road ( nearer to Upper Paya Lebar Road ).   They were mostly packed from the early morning hours till about 10.00 pm ( some as late as midnight ).   Tables were mostly taken up by groups of middle-age or older men playing chinese chess, smoking, talking and/or listening to the once popular Rediffusion 丽的呼声 radio service of Singapore.

One might walked into such a typical coffee-shop for a respite only to find himself being caught in a fight between two rival groups negotiating at one corner of the shop. Tables were flipped over with chairs and glass bottles sent flying through the air before you could realise what had happened and scurry for cover.

However, all would be over within minutes! The injured (mostly the innocent folks) would be attended to by the luckier folks, the mess removed, and the hustle and bustle of the coffee-shop would creep back again.   That was the way of life at Lorong Tai Seng!

There were ten or so coffee shops at Lorong Tai Seng.   The first shop was located at the junction of Lorong Tai Seng and Upper Paya Lebar Road. More specifically, it was located on the left flank of Lorong Tai Seng as you walked into the kampong.

I remember the beautiful buns that I used to buy on running errands for my cousins.   Sixty cents for a big meat bun, thirty cents for a small meat or char siew bun and ten cents for the small red bean ( Tau Sar ) bun in the 1960s and, probably, early 1970s.

The coffee shop also had a teochew porridge stall ( Ah Yeow ) that was well patronized by both the young and old who loved the sweet-potato porridge, shark-meat fried with salted vegetable, chilli or hot spices and fermented black beans, bean-curds soup, etc.

Adjoining the coffee shop was a 'mama' or Indian sundry shop, followed by a laundry shop, a narrow lane that led to the wet market ( the chwee-kueh was cheap and good, ten cents for three pieces ), a chinese bookshop, a pub of sort, a wooden clog-maker/seller, a sundry shop cum aquarium, and a quail-rearing cum seasonal merchandise ( such as lanterns and durians ) shop.

Next, another coffee-shop that my dad used to frequent with my fourth uncle when my dad was alive, a provisions shop, a minimart, Lam Huat Provision Shop ( owned by Lee Boon Chew and Ah Tiong ), a provisions cum fruits/sundry shop and another coffee-shop ( Lau Hou kopitium, literally referred to as Tiger Coffee Shop ) with the popular Ah Teck teochew porridge stall as the main sub-tenant.   The stall owner was originally Lim Poh Choon.   After his death, his wife and second son, Si Teck ( lanky and hunch-backed ) took over the rice stall.

I understand from my relative that owner Lau Hou is still living at Bedok despite several surgical operations at the time of this editing ( 26 August 2012 ).

This row of tile-roofed and concrete-walled shophouses was separated by an unnamed street from the next block of two-storeyed shophouses that were built after a major fire way back in 1954 that completely razed down a 4-storeyed building that killed one of the granddaughters of Mr Ang Tai Seng, for which Lorong Tai Seng was named after.   The ground level was the original wet market, while the upper floors were residences.   The wet market was relocated to the back-lane behind Lau Hor kopitiam.

The two-storeyed shophouses comprised Ah Poh coffee-shop ( better remembered for the Hainanese curry rice/meat porridge and Shi Lin Teochew porridge cum chi char noodles that its two tenants served ), followed by a salon on the upper floor, a noodle-making shop and another coffee-shop ( Mui Heng ) that I used to frequent for its sole tenant - a wanton noodle stall which was subsequently replaced by a Hainanese chicken rice stall ( Thirty cents for a packet of rice and a chicken wing in the 1960s ! ).
Mui Heng coffee shop was better remembered for the Ah Hui Cher  Fried Kway Teow and Ah Pai Fruit-stall that took up spaces close to its shopfront.     Opposite the fruit-stall was Jalan Haliman Kedai that linked Lorong Tai Seng to Airport Road.

Below picture shows the newly-completed shophouses built over the site destroyed by the fire on 10 August 1961.   It stretched from the junction of Jalan Haliman Kedai and Lorong Tai Seng to somewhere opposite the 'the wooden clog-maker'. Picture by courtesy of National Archives of Singapore, 10 August 2012.

Moving on from Mui Heng coffee shop, one would have to walk across an open space ( about the size of a basket-ball court ) best remembered for the staging of many election rallies, teochew wayang shows, and most-of-all the night when Singapore first premier, Mr Lee Kuan Yew declared open the newly-built shophouses that replaced those destroyed in the fire.

At one corner of this open space was a make-shift stall selling Mee Teh at 5 cents a bowl !

It took me many years before I managed to find the dessert being sold by someone else in Singapore ( Tan Hock Seng Cake Shop, 86 Telok Ayer Street ).   It was not a close match of the one at Lorong Tai Seng.

It was here in the 1960s when I first witnessed the disastrous impact of workers going on strike in Singapore.   I was bemused to witness some workers with hoods ( for fear of reprisal from other workers ) clearing rubbish from the row of rubbish bins placed at one end of the open space whilst their fellow workers went on strike.   At another corner was a red-painted storeroom with some manual fire-fighting equipment for the residents to use in the event of a fire.

That open space led to a big black-painted wooden cum thick wire-meshed  gateway to the rubber-factory compound where I lived until 1978.

Running parallel to the corrugated iron-sheet fencing from the first gateway to the next gateway (anti-rust coated metal gate) was another row of two-storeyed concrete shophouses.   My dad had stayed at one of the upper units reserved for workers from the rubber-factory when he was dying from cancer as it was cooler and more comfortable up there.

Nearest to the 'black' gateway was the busiest Keng Juan Hin  or more popularly known as Ah Hin coffee-shop owned by the Seet family.   Above the coffee-shop was originally the Ang Heok ( Red Leaf ) Salon owned by Ah Heok.   It was taken over by another owner who renamed it as  Pei Pei Hair Salon.   The senior Seet used to pass over to me some unsold buns that he laboriously made at the rear of the shophouse in the afternoon.   Such was his kindness and empathy, but I only got to know his surname after his death when his third son ran into me at a meeting at the Marketing Institute of Singapore, then located at Anson Road.

I recalled watching the many nights of open air table-tennis sessions that the junior Seet had with the eldest son of the Hakka family who owned the traditional medical hall Ren He Tung next door.   I understand the eldest son is practising at Sims Drive.

Next to the medical hall was a rice storage facility owned by the biggest provisions shop in the kampong, Tian Hup Chan.   It was located opposite the Tai Seng Christian Church, probably the only church in the kampung when it started its service along a Malay-named street that led from Lorong Tai Seng where the People's Action Party Branch cum clinic was located, to the Airport Road.

Incidentally, Tian Hup Chan now runs a wholesale flour business at Tembelling Road (Joo Chiat Area).   Tai Seng Christian Church is now located at Yio Chu Kang Road, near Serangoon Sports Stadium.

Next to the rice storage facility was the popular Meng Lee Teochew pastries shop.   I understand it had since closed down after a few years of operations at its new location at Jurong West Street 42.   The third son opened Lido Bakery and Confectionery at Ang Mo Kio Street 61, but it had since moved out.  This shop space has since been taken over for another trade by the new tenant.

On every Monday, Wednesday and Friday; we would hear loud clanging of gowns and beating of drum streaming out of the Soon Hin Siah next door.   

It provided ritual music in the event of any member's or his next-of-kin's funeral. 

Occasional fights happened among competing troupe members when two or more troupes were involved at a funeral service.  I was told that Soon Heng Siah is now located at Geylang.

Luckily, the weekly practices were only held at 8.00pm; otherwise the neighbouring hair salon would have lost most of its clients over time. The noise pollution was unbearable in present days' level of public tolerance!

Further down the row lived the family of Lim Cheng Huat or more popularly known as Ah Yi.  There were always wooden crates stacked high up to the roof in the main area of the shophouse.

One of the few chinese barber shops ( less than five ? ) in the community was located next door, but I never had my hair-cut done there.   My mother brought me to another barber further away for my first few cuts, and I used to walk up along the now-defunct road leading to Airport Road on my own until I moved out from the kampung (old habits die hard?).

Liang Yew Siah, once re-located in Braddell Community Building at the junction of Serangoon Avenue 2 and Serangoon Central, was originally located next to the barber shop ( the former ); and used to hold its practices on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.   The teochew instrumental music was more receptive to the ears of the nearby residents.     An upload from Youtube will always be nostalgic:

I heard that Liang Yew Siah ( see premises with a flag-pole in below photograph ) has since been disbanded, and de-registered due to dwindling membership.

The last shophouse in the row ( Picture by courtesy of National Archives of Singapore, 10 August 2012 ) was a beauty salon ( Pei Kwan ) that was related in ownership to the barber shop next to Liang Yew Siah.    From Soon Heng Siah through to Pei Kwan were single-storeyed shophouses.

Crossing over a lane meant for lorries to move rubber bales in and out of the smoke-house was another cluster of attap-cum-aluminiun, and largely single-roofed shophouses.

I am less clear about the mix of residents and shopowners in the next cluster as I seldom walked past the premises except when my favourite Yong-tau-fu stallholder stopped by at about 2.00pm every day.   The soup was great, and I used to pay 10 cents for 3 pieces of the home-made stuff that the aunty carried on her shoulder with a bamboo pole.

Passers-by would, however, never miss the first shop making aluminium wares.   The beating of the aluminium sheets into the desired shapes could be heard 200 metres away where my house used to be then.

Complaint was not the order of those days. A freelance physician, Siow Peh stayed next door.   His house was probably the only one with an upper storey as he had two wives (both were sisters) staying under the same roof.   His other neighbour was a rattan-weaving craftman and baskets supplier.

Next in line was a lanky tailor.   There were other shophouses down the front part of the cluster, but I was too young to understand what particular business or trades that they were involved in.   I remembered two uncles were illegal bookies, one of them with a make-shift shopfront.

Others had several tenants living within their supposedly shophouses.   The cluster stretched from the lane leading to the smoke-house at one end to the first bend (slightly to the left) of Lorong Tai Seng where several houses and characteristics of the malay community could first be sighted.

This was also the corner where a small sandy road meandered itself through a large cluster of chinese villagers living in less than desired level of habitation and sanitation. The entrance was marked by a contrasting well-managed society - Hock Siew Huey.   The entrance to Hock Siew Huey is blocked by the tree in the photograph.

Many residents had to queue to collect their water supplies from public taps. Several houses shared one common bathroom.   Common toilets were smelly, unsightly and without flushing facilities.   Fights and quarrels were common among neighbours.   Tenants were largely at the mercy of the landlords.

Hong San Keong   鳳山

At the far end of Lorong Tai Seng ( nearer to Paya Lebar Airport ) stood Hong San Temple which has since been renovated, and made accessible from Defu Lane 12, off Eunos Link and Airport Road.

As is usual for all temples dedicated to Jiu Huang Da Di 九皇大帝 ( legendary brothers by blood who had perished at sea ), the temple comes alive during the 9th lunar month when volunteers and other devotees converged on the premises to celebrate the return of the deities from the sea.

The volunteers have to observe certain austerities way before and during the celebrations.   These include strictly vegetarian diets and abstention from sex.   Residents in the neighbourhood tended to follow some of the practices, and spread out elaborate offerings during the processions of the deities and their entourage.

It has always been a spectacular night to behold when the deities are sent off on the 9th day of the ninth lunar month, even though the magnificent contributions by the various troupes have been significantly scaled down nowadays.

You may refer to for more information on the Nine Deities.

The foregoing was my attempted narration of one flank of the stretch of Lorong Tai Seng from end to end, well almost.  I am less clear about the other flank.  But, I vaguely remember some of the shops in the following order (starting from the junction of Upper Paya Lebar Road and Lorong Tai Seng:

  • Traditional chinese medical shop where the owner's son used to run a bridal car (Mercedes Benz) rental business.  This was also the place where residents rushed their children supposedly infected of  the Swine fever that caused panic in Singapore in the 1960s;
  • A shabby make-shift sort of shop selling sundries...... ;
  • An open space that led to two businesses - a bicycle-repair shop on the left, and a sawmill of sorts selling cement, wood planks, sand, et cetera;
  • A provision shop Buan Kee Zhan 萬記棧 or Chin Teck Chiang  was next in line.   I remember the well-built Teochew owner who was always dressed in blue-striped loose pants with a broad belt of sorts.  Not forgetting that he had two charming daughters too; and
  • Two more shops ( one of them being Chai Cheong, a sundry shop ? ) followed in line, but I could not figure out what they were like.   Next was the newly-erected row of shophouses that replaced the old shophouses destroyed in a fire in 1963 (?).

Prior to the fire incident, the old shophouses included one or two shoe shops, a bicycle-repair shop, two textile shops, a TCM shop ( Teck Eng Hua ? ) that my mum held the owner-physician with high respect for his precise diagnosis and effective prescription - always, a general provisions shop ( similar to a minimart of present days ) which was popularly referred to as Kee Hup Chang, and two or more sundries shops ( one owner-aunty nicknamed Tow Gay Mun ) before one stumbled into the wet market that stretched all the way to the lane that led onto Airport Road. 

The PAP branch 2-storey premises was the first landmark when one crossed over from the wet market.  It was probably built after the fire, and housed the government's only clinic for Lorong Tai Seng on the second storey.  I am not clear what it was like prior to the fire.

Next to it was the popular Siak Chin sundry shop.  It was positioned directly opposite the 'black gate' that opened into the vast open space that three rubber factories and my house were located.

The neighbouring shop, Song Huat sold pressure lamps, keroscene cookers, and other lighting accessories.  A crockery shop, Mui Heng  was next in line.

Chin Ah shop which sold grated coconut, cooking oils, and grains was the immediate neighbour.   Next to Chin Ah was a chair and table hiring shop Hup Guan owned by Mr Ong Chye Hock.   His son, Ong Mah Leong is now operating it in Upper Paya Lebar Road.

Next-in-line was a repair shop for electrical appliances and radios under the name Chye Meng Electrical.   A textile shop followed.  One of the owner's son, Ah Meng was a good friend of my cousin, and he did not carry on with his father's business - I tried his 'kway chap' stuff in 1981 opposite Ang Mo Kio swimming complex after a swim, but he had since stopped his food fare.

A residence separated the textile shop from another row of shophouses that stretched all the way to Hock Siew Huey:

  • Charcoal shop;

  • One and only goldsmith;

  • Sundry cum furniture shop ( Tua Ti );

  • Bicycle shop; and

  • Two or more shophouses located in-between some residences completed the rest of the historical walk-through.

The old has gone, and in its place there stands new buildings now..........

The once popular Bright Cinema in the vicinity has since been demolished, and in its place there now stands this commercial building, Guang Meng Industrial Building in the distant.

Gazing from where the Bright Cinema once stood, across Upper Paya Lebar Road, towards the direction where the site of my old house has since been taken up by Charles and Keith Factory.

Incidentally, Lorong Tai Seng was named after a rich landlord, Mr Ang Tai Seng.   The road-sign has since been removed with the closure of the road as a result of development of Tai Seng Industrial Estate.   New roads such as Tai Seng Drive and Tai Seng Link derived their names from the original Lorong Tai Seng.   With permission from Ann Phua, a descendant from the Mr Ang Tai Seng; I am very happy to reproduce a photograph taken in April 2012 of some of the many descendants from the patriach:

Do You Know ?
  • Cheng Hong Siang Tng, originated from Lorong Tai Seng.  It took over the premises vacated by Liang Yew Sia when it was started in 1974 by a group of public-spirited residents to provde help to the needy.   I met Ah Lee (Ref: 39866969 / 69287836) the sole son of the late Tan Lor Yam (Secretary, 1979) once in mid-2010.  I was in the vicinity of Arumugum Road on 26 November 2010 when I met one of key committee-members, Koh Meng Heng co-ordinating the activities of a major event of the Siang Tng.  I recognized Mr Koh to be the son of a medical hall ( Yong Heng Tng 永興堂 ? ) along the minor road, Jalan Haliman Kedai which connected Lorong Tai Seng to Airport Road. 

Let's get connected on Facebook for more on Lorong Tai Seng !

This post was first published on 4 June 2008 at 20:58.


Moi said...


I find your blog very interesting and super informative. I like to ask if there was an address 754-0 Old Airport Road in Lorong Tai Seng because I lived there methinks when I was 4 years old.
Bernard Chua

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...

@Moi I did reply to you in an earlier email. Received ?

Anyway, it was common in those days to have such addresses. Mine: 325-8 :)) A check with Singapore Post might help to verify the address that you're seeking. I don't really know Airport Road very well.

Incidentally, Airport Road was not in Lorong Tai Seng. It ran parallel to LTS instead, and was linked at one stage by Jalan Halaman Kedai.

LG said...

Hi David,

I stumbled upon your blog while trying to find articles on Lorong Tai Seng, the long lost childhood playground of many who grew up there. I am impressed with your description of those shops along LTS, starting from Upp Paya Lebar right up to Swee Lim zhi char. My house is located one lane after LTS, just before a Shell Petrol Station and it is also where you will find the Chendol stall, Satay Bee Hoon, Duck Porridge, Hokkien Prawn Mee and Char Kway Teow most of which were formerly from Airport Road. Thanks for bringing back those care free days ! We left for Bedok sometime in 1979 and since then the place has never been the same again.

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


Yes, Yes ! Those were the amongst the best that I had the privilege to indulge in.

I had traced the Lou Mee to Bedok Reservoir Road Hawker Centre, but was disappointed with the experience.

Always wonder where my favourite Fried Prawn Mee ( 2 brothers ) and Braised Duck Rice had gone to .... SIGH !

The Char Kway Teow was excellent ! It was the talk of those days in my family --- a Nantah graduate frying kway teow for a living.

The Kian Kang (?) clinic could still be found along Upper Paya Lebar Road, after Little Road towards the direction of Upper Serangoon Road.

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


I forgot to add that my Malay primary schoolmate ( Elling South Primary School ) stayed at the unnamed road too.

And, so was the aunty who washed the clothes for my first aunt.

LG said...

Hi David,

Wow ! Ok, The Fried Hokkien Mee brothers are still around and now doing business at Circuit Road Hawker centre beside the big canal in Macpherson, the stall is nearest to the entrance from Aljunied Road. Go check it out. Sad to say i have also try to locate the braised duck, lor mee and satay bee hoon stall but to no avail. Is Alias the name of your Malay schoolmate ? His house is just at the end of the unnamed road and the house also double as a barber shop. Btw, my house is just behind the braised duck stall, does that rings a bell? cos, we may actually know each other....ha ha

LG said...

Hi David,

Oh really ! The Kian Kong Clinic is the last unit in a row of brick houses on the right side of the unnamed road as you enter from Upper Paya Lebar and my house is the 1st unit ! Your schoolmate name is Alias ? His house is just at the end of the unnamed road, a short cut to Jalan Hadaman Kedai vis the charcoal shop if you can still remember. Ha ha...we may actually know each other....

The Hokkien Prawn Mee brothers are still around and plying their trade in Circuit Road hawker centre besides the big canal, stall is located nearest the entrance from Aljunied Road...oh how i miss the Braised Duck and Lor Mee ......

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


THANKS for the update. Will check out on the Prawn Mee. Been there several times, but never realised that.

Incidentally, the former Tai Seng Duck Rice stall owner ( nearer to Mattar Road ) was the elder son of the Mutton Soup Stall owner at Lorong Tai Seng. I cannot remember what he is now selling ( economical rice ? ).

One of the Charcoal shopowner's brothers was Bobby. Understand he had left Singtel about 3 years ago.

You just reminded me of my classmate's namej, I think I knew him by ' Ali ', probably.

There was a art gallery on the opposite side of your house.

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


I remember visiting a dentist behind the Duck Rice stall.

Your father ?

LG said...


Yes, the art gallery is directly opposite my house and my dad is the dentist ! His shop is diagonally across from Bright Cinema next to Ice Seller shop. Anyway, he passed away back in 1973 and the shop folded. David , sorry for the double post earlier, cos, i had some problems leaving a comment yesterday. You seem to know the place very well even though you were from the inner part of LTS, i assumed the pond on your map is "Eng San Ti", where we as kids treated it as our swimming pool in the hot afternoon and i remember there were actually 2 ponds, 1 is unused and said to have " Chwee Gui " back in those days !

LG said...


Oh I forgot to add that my dad is known as " Chui Kee Kow " as in Dentist Ah Kow ! in the kampong, so i believe your mum/dad/aunt/uncle would have actually know him....ha ha not that he is very famous but i guess he is the only dentist around LTS during that time.

Oh and i would like to add that do you still remember the Popiah man, Durian stall, Fruit Stall, Teochew Mee and also the Chinese Mutton Soup and wild bore stall at the sidewalk as you enter LTS ?

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...



More info is coming in, AND Archived for future recollection --- that's the intention of my efforts.

Yes, my family members were on close terms with your father. I was too young to make friends, only recollection is that he used to be in light-coloured shirt and dark-coloured pants, Right ?

Bua Pah Lai, the fruit-stall's ease of reference was near the entrance to LTS from Upper Paya Lebar Road. One of the stall-owner's sons was my classmate at Elling South Primary School. They had a terrace house at Jalan Bunga Rampai, near the present entrance to Bartley Secondary School, my alma mater. Another elder son had a shop selling fruits at Ang Mo Kio St 61, off Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6.

What happens to my favourite Popiah, any idea ?

Wild boar stuff ? Oh, my favourite too. But I remember uncle selling it on an ad-hoc basis, right ?

The more popular teochew mee was along the dark lane leading to the wet market, near the pork-sellers. One of the sons was physically-handicapped, but very good in making bouncy fish-balls !

Durian stall ? The uncle with his tricycle selling other fruits in-between durians seasons. Unlike nowadays, we could find durians only about twice a year, around June and December.

Keep it flowing, and bring others that you're in contact with on board. We must build up this heritage.

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


Oops, a slip of my memory already ! Bah Pah Lai's son was my schoolmate at Bartley Secondary School, and not my classmate at Elling South Primary School.

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


Eng San Ti was further in, after the Malay kampung. I guessed it was half-way between the kampung and the Nine-Emperors Temple. YES, there were rumours of Chwee Kwee then ! Correct, there were two ponds, side by side.

The pond on my map was, however, one of two ponds that were exclusively used for ' soaking ' newly-made white rubber bales. The one in-front of my house was filled up very much earlier on --- there were catfish and snakes. The rubber factories were behind two ' kong kuans ', remember ?. There was Meng Lee Confectionery in-between, remember ? The lanky uncle who was very active with the PAP branch. The elder son used to operate one Lido Cake Shop at Ang Mo Kio St 61 until 2005 ( ? ).

My recollection of most happenings was based more on listening in when my elders were conversing back then.

LG said...


Ha ha...this is just fantastic, it sure felt good to talk about those kampong days, yes, we should keep this heritage up. I will pass your info to those i am still in contact and i believe they will add more fond memories of those days gone by.

Yes, you were spot on! my dad always don a white singlet and black pants when he is practising his dentistry. You have super memory David !

Bua Pa Lai is the most well known fruit seller back then and yes, the durian uncle sells durian only when in season.

Meng Li Cake Shop ! Yes, that is where you will find all the Teochew Biscuit and cake, wow, you won't be able to find any right now. I remember the 2 Kong Kuan and they always have Teochew Opera smack right in front of the Kong Kuan during festive period.

David, do you happen to know anyone from the Ang family whose house is next to a provision shop behind Lau Hor Kopitiam ?

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


GREAT ! I look forward to more contributions ....

Yes, I do connect with Ann Phua who is my FB friend. I got her permission to upload her family photo on my blog. I think her cousin has just stopped operating Tai Seng Turtle Soup at Upper Paya Lebar Road, opposite Tai Keng Garden.

FYI, Lau Hor is still very much alive despite a series of operations. Stays at Bedok or Bedok Reservoir area.

Yes, I remember your father fairly well. He extracted my teeth at both locations, the shop next to the Ice Seller was when I was older.

The Ice Seller fixed the light fracture on my left wrist after much pleading from my mother. Those were the days when people were less commercialized in their parading their skills.

LG said...


Ok, I guess i don't have any recollection of anyone by the name of Ann Phua, as you know during that time we all know each other by our nick names our parents has given us. If i am not wrong the Turtle Soup first operated as a street side stall at the entrance of Lorong Tai Seng just in front of the bicycle repair shop and later a guy by the name of " Or Bin " as in black face, ran it out of a coffee shop in between the quail eggs cum mooncake shop and Lau Hor Kopitiam, there was this coffee shop that sells tim sum of something like that only in the morning.

Btw, do you still recall the " Ti Wan " as in ice kacang shape as a ball covered with syrup ? There is this stall that operates only in the afternoon just outside Lau Hor that sells it and also the all time favourite Yong Tau Foo stall just beside it where you can have several helping of the soup ? Oh and also the carrot cake man opposite the Yong Tau Foo , there is one more carrot cake seller just at the entrance of Jln Hadaman Kedai opposite the PAP branch too....ha ha seems like we are in a time capsule !!!

LG said...


Yes, the ice seller is well known to fix sprains, fracture and dislocations and most of the time you can hear people screaming , either having his fracture fixed or his tooth extracted by my father, we sure are a noisy neighbourhood !!! If it's today, we probably have the police paying us endless visits !

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


Nostalgic !

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


You're right about the turtle soup's development. I was told that the coffee shop was the regular 'joint' that my dad and 4th uncle ( his younger brother ) used to chit-chat over coffee before and shortly after I was born. My dad died when I was only about 1 year old !

Ann Phua is the daughter of the 2nd son of Mr Ang Tai Seng. You heard of Si ( 4th ) Siah whose house fronted the vast open concrete space beside the wet market ?

Ice Balls ? FYI, I do think of uncle and his chandol occasionally to these days !

The Yong Tai Fu stall-owner stayed near Hock Siew Huay, adjoining the Malay kampung. Initially, husband and wife tended to the stall. Subsequently, wife and children took over the operations. They shifted and operated the stall near ' Ah Pai ' fruits stall, near the junction of LTS and Jln Halaman Kedai.

The fried carrot-cake at Jln Halaman Kedai was much softer, but had a deeper share of the radish flavour than the older one near 'Lau Hor' kopitiam. Opposite this 'Lau Hor' kopitiam's carrot-cake stall was a Mee Chiam Kueh stall, remember ? Beside the carrot-cake stall was the Otah Kuehs stall. Slightly behind the carrot-cake stall was the popular Fried Twisters ( U Char Kueh or Yew Tiao )and Butterflies stall.

Beside ' Lau Hor ' was the popular Kway Chap stall (5 cents for a bowl of ' kway ' ), and next to it was the ' Cheng Tng ' deserts stall ( 5 cents for a bowl of red beans ! ).

I simply love to commit these memories before dementia sets in, hahaha ....... ! THANKS for your prompting.

LG said...


Yes, I heard of Si Siah, the open space you talking about is the carpark for the market stalls holders in the morning ? If so, that is my soccer pitch, we used to play soccer ( with plastic ball ) in the evening !

Oh yes, how can i forget about the you char kueh stall, the nonya kueh and also the kway chap and cheng tng ! Not forgetting the Mee Chiang Kueh especially the skin thin and crispy one with the peanut underneath's taste is just heavenly ! I have tried some of these in the various coffee shops around singapore, but none came close to it.

I remember a prawn noodle stall after the You Char Kueh stall just along the wall of Ah Poh Kopitiam and also a Cantonese lady who is known as " Mui Chair " as in elder sister Mui in Cantonese. She got another stall in the wet market opposite Ah Boon Tow Huay Chwee stall. She's got this special mee siam with dark coloured gravy made of hey bee and tamarind which taste so good that i will always finished off every drip of it.....I miss it so much even up till this day.

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...


Oh Yes, the prawn mee. Opposite the Cheng Tng stall, who laid out tables and chairs along the side wall of Ah Poh kopitiam. He had many children, and stayed in a big attap-house just outside the perimeter fence of my house. Behind his house was one corner of the Malay kampung. Probably, the only prawn mee with liver added for the higher price point of 50 cents.

Not much recollection of the mee siam. Probably because I don't fancy much of mee siam.

Tow Huay Chwee ? Yes ! The daughter married the eldest son of one ' Seow Peh ', a physician staying in a double-storeyed house next to the aluminium wares shop. Opposite the only Goldsmith shop in LTS, remember ? No ? What about opposite ' Tuah Tee ' family's provision shop ? One of the brothers owned a furniture shop next door.

Back to the Tai Seng Turtle Soup stall. It took over the coffee shop known as ' Luh Hian Hng ' literally, meaning 6 Flavours Garden ?

LG said...


I have just taken a closer look at the Ang Family Photo you posted and realised that the gentlemen in yellow pullover seated second from the right is actually my brother in law !

The lady in purple just behind him with the wide smile is known to me as " Lee Che " as in Eldest Sister Lee. I now see a few familiar faces but just couldn't put a name to it and I also spotted my 2 nephews right behind standing in the last row. I used to play at my bother in law house which is just after the entrance of the unnamed lane between Lau Hor and Ah Poh Kopitiam.

Ha ha real small world isn't it ?

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...

Hahaha, that's the way it is; nowadays, especially !

We have difficulties keeping up with extended family members. I used to joke that we may end up quarreling with relatives at work, on the roads, etc; and yet not the least aware of it !

There are more photos on LTS that I couldn't get the approval from the copyrights owners for uploading. SPH charges a bomb for using their photos already archived at the National Library.

I hope more former residents could come forward to share their photos to relive the legacy of LTS. We can always start a page on Facebook if more are coming forward to be connected via social media.

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...

Follow us on Facebook page,

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...

Read page B6 of Home Section, The Straits Times of 30 August 2013 on Memories take flight over 'wide swamp' - Residents recall Paya Lebar's civilian airport and kampung days.

Watch RazorTV on Growing Up In Paya Lebar,

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...

On 01-Sep-2013, at 11:56 AM, William Teo wrote:

Hi David,
I have just read your wonderful and extremely interesting blog on Lorong Tai Seng. Prior to this, I was not aware that you have blogged this biography since 2012. I only came to know about it after reading the ST on 30.8.2013.

To introduce myself, my name is WilliamTeo and I was also a resident of LTS. I had lived in LTS from 1 month old to age 33. My family moved out in 1974 after buying a HDB flat in Bouna Vista. My family operated a small provision shop selling grated coconut as described in your blog. The shop was "Chin Ah". Adjoining my house was a chair and table hiring shop "Hup Guan" owned by Ong Chye Hock. His son, Mah Leong is now operating it in Upper Paya Lebar Road. I believe you will remember that I had a youngest brother who was dumb (name "Eh Kow") and was mistakenly murdered by gangsters in Jalan Paya in 1971.

I remember you as a small boy, fair with rosy cheek and short hair but did not know you were staying in the rubber factory opposite my house. The rubber factory was called "Aik Leong Heng", right?

As I do not have a Facebook account, I would like to get in touch with you and also LG (Chwee Kee Kow's son) who had exchanged views with you, so that we, as old neighbours, could get together again. What's your mobile phone No? My Mobile No. Is XXXX XXXX. Do contact me anytime, David.

William Teo

Patrick said...

Hi David
after reading thru your blog, I felt that we are turning back the clock to childhood time. I would like to introduce myself, my name is Patrick and I stay at 194-A lorong tai send beside the 2 big pond as LG has mention. when I was 9 or 10 years old I was helping the Kway Chap stall beside Lau Hor Kopitiam. I still can remember every morning I have to go to bua pa lai stall to collect water. Mee Chiam Kueh stall is my you remember Ah Poh kopitiam have a hianan rice stall?

jojojojo said...

Hi David,

I came across your blog while reading up articles about this kampong. I believe my family stayed there before moving to hdb in the 70s. My grandfather just passed away and before he did, he told us many stories of the notorious gangsters in the lts kampong as he was one of them. Mostly in the 40s-50s when guns are easily acquired? And there seem to have two prominent gangs, sah ji kau (329) and chap sah yo. Any idea on those?

He also mentioned that he used to have an ice shop around, which he passed down the business to my uncle, any memories of that?

Sia Boon Sen aka David Sia 佘 益 德 said...

THANK YOU for your comments, JoJoJoJo.

I remember "329" gang to be more notorious, although the mention of "13 1" was equally frightful.

There was an ice supplier near the junction of LTS and Upper Paya Lebar. The uncle once treated me for a sprain on my left hand. Your grandfather ?

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just had major nostalgia reading this post! My memories are vague as I spend my summer & year-end holidays with my grandfather who lived at Tai Seng from the age from 3-9, I think. But I remember the Malay kampung, the turtle soup store, the goreng pisang stall, Dr Chee's clinic, the beauty parlour, the tau pok shophouse, the coffee shop, the mama store & the temple.

May I find out where exactly on your map the wooden clog shop was, as they were my grandfather's friends & were like my defacto "grand-uncles"? Our house was between their shop and the temple, in one of the side lanes and was the last house before you get to "Yan teng". I am sorry but I am only half-Chinese and my Hokkien is quite horrendous so I might be getting many words/names wrong.

But thank you so much for this. I had forgotten how much I missed my grandfather and the days in Tai Seng.

By the way, the sam sengs in Tai Seng (well, at least the ones who lived next to us) were very nice people and I have fond memories of them such that we viewed the police with much suspicion when they came around looking for them. Usually because they tended to come in the middle of the night & woke everyone up! LOL


David Sia B S said...


SORRY, I couldn't revert to your FB message as the threat was lost.

Please allow me to add here that the clog-shop was one of those shophouses nearest to Upper Paya Lebar Road ( on the right-side of the sketch ).

David Sia B S

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the nostalgic memories of LTS & JAT, David and others here. My parents operated a laundry shop in Jalan Ang Teng and my 1st uncle has a tailor shop there. I remembered we had one of the first color-tinted televisions on the block and everyone in the neighborhood came to watch. Dad took me kite flying after washing customers' clothes before sundown near the airstrip somewhere near our shop. Don't quite remember much because I was two or three years old. It seems like a dream. Would be interested to find out more as I have started to talk with my 2nd uncle from my dad's side.