The Mysteries & Memories Of Tanjong Rhu

The Mysteries & Memories Of Tanjong Rhu

“Did You Know” mysteries include: 1. The Tanjong Katong Fort was used to be an unknown U-Shaped concrete in the old days
2. A fountain is built on a popular triad meeting place; 3. A strange rock is said to relate to bloody killing and resembles a tomb
4. A mysterious death case whereas a boy’s body was “slotted” at a narrow drain right in front of a police quarter

Where Tanjong Rhu got its name from?

Located at the southern tip of the Singapore mainland, lies the quiet & peaceful but mysterious Tanjong Rhu. A well known place in the past as one of the earliest seaside entertainment centre during the 60s, but is almost forgotten by many from the current generation now. Why is this place known as Tanjong Rhu? Not many people; including the older generation, know exactly where this name derived from. Many could only know the word ¡¥Tanjong¡¦ means ¡¥seaside¡¦ in Malay, but what about the word Rhu?

Finally we came to know of a senior Malay friend who used to spent his early childhood past times there, his name is Ali, aged 50. Ali have explained to us that the word Rhu was the Malay name of a kind of tree, which were very commonly seen along this stretch of land during the early days. He further explained that this tree resembled very much like the look of a huge Christmas tree. Well, this certainly reminds me of how Changi got the name from it¡¦s the magnificent Changi tree of course.

1. A sketch of Katong park in the old days where it was a coconut plantation; 2. The Katong Park today;
3 & 4. SPI investigators leading and narrating the interesting historical fact bits on Tanjong Rhu

1 & 2. This platform used to be a popular performance stage in the old days; now it is more of a decor in the park;
3. SPI was checking out the boundary of the reclaimed land. It was a water front across this drain
4. Now with the road expansion, the land was created and the swimming facility was gone
But between the highway and the drain is a little buffer area, now used as a space for dog exercise called Dog Run Area.

Katong Park in its heydays

Our first stop of the day was at the famous Katong Park. This is certainly one of the oldest park in Singapore, and along the main walkway in the park, historical pictures and write-outs have been placed for visitors to understand more about the glorious history of this area. It was remembered very well that this park used to be packed with people during most weekends in the past. The main attraction was certainly the beach which was located right in front of the park. Together with a big entertainment stage, ample rest shelters, children playground, a cafeteria and a big fenced up safe swimming zone at the beach. Today, the park was a drastic difference as before, it¡¦s now quiet, peaceful and almost forgotten. The abovementioned facilities in the park were demolished since after the land reclamation has taken place. And now a secret which not many people came to know about this park¡K¡K

1. The water front used to be a swimming club; 2. The two warehouse like buildings are WW2 Japanese factories

Fort Tanjong Katong

During the 18th century, the British have in fact built a fort here, and named as Fort Tanjong Katong. And did you know that some remains of this fort can still be seen in the park? To find it, simply look for the park¡¦s only public toilet located at the inward most of the park, and you will find the fort remains within the small square barricade painted in green. Click here to read more about the fate of Fort Tanjong Katong.

Apart from this Fort Tanjong Katong, there was also an almost tragic happening that occurred here just nearby the former Ambassador Hotel in 1963 whereby there were 3 sabotaged bombing by an Indonesian terrorist group; however there¡¦s no casualty occurrence. And now another secret here about this hotel¡K. (Photo about the news). This hotel was previously one of the popular beach hotels in this area during the 60s. However, ever since the land reclamation taken place and subsequently closing down of the beach, business has dropped. And it have changed its name from Ambassador Hotel to Duke Hotel, and then to Katong Park Hotel (a budget hotel) before it finally closed down and demolished.

1. Artist impression of the Fort Tanjong Katong. Here is a photo with more information.
2. An anatomy of the details of the fort; 3. The cross-sectional view

SPI was checking out the old fort. Now the fort was re-buried again, only recently. It is sad that it could not be seen anymore
Notice the tree in the first picture? It has a dumped pile of ruins possibly from the excavation of the old fort or elsewhere

1. You can still find pieces of rusted iron ruins as historical artifacts as dump under this tree. Close up here.
2 – 4. These chunks have a mix of types of bricks and material, all cemented as a big chunk. Close up here.

From burning ground to army base

Apart from this Katong Park which is a historical landmark of this area, there is another landmark here which is much older than the park. It¡¦s the Singapore Swimming Club, which was located just down the Tanjong Rhu Road. This club was initiated by a group of European young beach swimmers, and was officially formed in 1894. It started off with a simple small attap hut by the sea, and progressively upgraded to a first class premium private facility today.

Besides the Singapore Swimming Club, is the Waterside Condominium. Long before the construction of this condo took place, this area was an abandoned piece of land with extreme thick vegetations and I always remembered small scale bush fire was quite a common happening during hot weather. However, the old timers would surely remember this was the place where you could see many ruins & remains from the World War 2 British army. I remember some of these include a couple of tall and long warehouses, bunker shelters, a 7 storey high observation tower and some ruins from the British Army residences. I recalled my experience about discovering the old and soiled British Army uniforms inside one of the biggest bunker shelter here during one of my young days exploration here.

1. Observation tower that used to guard along Tanjong Rhu seaside.
2. In the past before archeological excavation, residents already noticed existence of the strange U-shaped concrete structure
3 & 4. Information about the War Years

Kampong Arang the charcoal village

Our journey now cut into a smaller road named as Kampong Arang Road, which is located directly opposite the Main Entrance of the Singapore Swimming Club. An innocent-looking small road you may say, however, did you know that during the 60s and 70s, this road was almost as busy as can be? During these years, there were many small and some big scale industries here, all were taking the advantage that this spot was a designated loading and unloading port for small vessels.

The name Kampong Arang refers to charcoal village or small town. Yes, this area was a popular charcoal trading area in the past whereby seagoing import / export as well as packaging of charcoals to places like Thailand and Indonesia were carried out here. Besides the charcoal trading, other industries include small scale ship-buildings / repairs / engineering can be found here.

1 & 2. In the old days, one can see piles of charcoal piling up on the river shore; 3 & 4. The charcoal factories as in 1986

1. A hand-drew hand that shows the interesting spots around the place;
2 & 3. Kampong Arang, it was a charcoal village in the past. The river was used as a canal to shuttle the goods. Now it is totally changed
Rumor said it used to have one huge fire broke out overnight. Many were caught in the sleep and burned to death.
4. Sampan Place, it used to a factory making Sampan. Now it is completely urbanized

Black Panther spirit

And did you know that there used to have a small shop here which manufactured coffins? Now a secret here which not many people know about it¡K¡K During the 70s, there was an island-wide hunt for a black panther who was escaped from the zoo, and this animal was finally caught here! Can you imagine the distance which this panther escaped from Mandai Zoo to Tanjong Rhu. However, the story doesn¡¦t end here. Not long after the animal was captured, there were sighting as claimed by some people that they saw the Black Panther spirit at the nearby casuarinas trees. Rumors started to spread, but not much people willing to believe what they heard. The mysterious big black cat indeed, but the fate of this Black Panther was not known today.

This is a resemblance of the black panther that broke free from the zoo. Some myth of black panther can be found here.

This is the place where the block panther used to hide when it was escaped from the zoo.
Can you spot the two spirit trees? One of them is said to have sighting of the black panther spirits lurking around.

Haunted primary school?

In no more than 50 metres from the casuarinas trees, one will never miss another mysterious looking area with broken down facilities lying inside the premise compound, overgrown vegetations, deserted, un-maintained basketball courts and the sign placed at the gate showing Singapore Christian Conference Centre. This was the former site of Tanjong Rhu Primary School in the 60s to 80s until the school was closed down. During the early days, this school was popularly rumored as the ¡§haunted¡¨ Tanjong Rhu Primary School; especially at the dental clinic located at the ground floor. Well, the look of the school compound now somehow fits the rumor. We went there to view the other side of the school compound backyard by detouring into the housing estate area. Eerie looking banyan trees and a cracked-walled caretaker house were seen from here.

1. This premise used to be the former Tanjong Rhu Primary School in the 60’s and 80’s.
The primary school was infamously rumoured to be a ‘haunted’ school in the past
2. The haunting hotspot was at the dental clinic at the ground floor. 3. You can see an abandoned basket ball playground over the fence
4. Now the location is for Singapore Christian Conference Center; by the almighty name of the Lord Jesus, no demon can reside around

The backyard of Christian Conference Center. In the old days, this eerie looking land used to a hot-bed for ghost stories
You could easily imagine altars were placed under the so-called spirit tree, with a yellow cloth wrapped around
Now the place is cleared away from any superstitious ritual item; so gone are the fear and ghost stories instilled by the demons

In the last two photos you can see what might used to be a shrine packed with idols for worship. Now, the shrine is cleared and cleaned.

A missing Block 13

Talking about this housing estate here, if you would have been observant enough, you might be asking¡K¡¨Hey, I noted the blocks here are from Block 1 to 14, but where is the Block 13?¡¨ Well, dear readers, there was indeed a Block 13 around, but that was during before it was demolished during the 80s for upgrading reason. Could it be just a coincidence that this block 13 was chosen to be demolished for the construction of a residential resting open space and a multi storey car-park, or could it be some ¡§other¡¨ reasons? Well, no one seems to bother about this doubt in the past.

1. Notice that this HDB estate has Block 13 missing; 2 – 3. This is Block 12 and Block 14 respectively
4. Then where is Block 13? It used to situated in the center of this open ground but demolished during an upgrade in the 1980’s
A block was rather named to be 14A than 13.

This is the original site of Block 13, now converted to a recreation area.
Is it a coincidence that this block chosen to be vanished for the addition of a leisure park or for its “inauspicious” nature of the no. 13?
You can find the original site of Block 13 is now replaced with some special designed structures:
Such as circular structures (Photos 1 to 3), a large fake red door (Photos 2 & 3),
many of metal poles that may be unnecessary for their practical use but look like gigantic pins pinning to the ground (Photos 2 – 4),
and last but not the least, the shape of the lamp poles that resembles the weapon of the God of Warrior (Photo 1)

At a first glance the design of this recreation area looks completely normal. We are not here to confirm anything certainly unusual;
It could just be a normal design of HDB flats and it is a pure coincidence that Block 13 was chosen to be demolished due to its location;
We leave it to the symbolotists and cryptanalysts out there to decipher any secret meaning underneath (if any).
E.g. If you look carefully at this photo, there seems to be some words on the washout area of the wall.
Please contact SPI if you believe you have found something strange or theories and facts that disprove otherwise.

A weird death position

From Block 13, we went over to Block 1 where I started to tell our guest about a mysterious police case happened at this location during the mid 70s. A young boy was suspected murdered and his body was found dumped in a ¡§slot-in¡¨ position in a small narrow drain just next to this block 1 on one early morning. Now, the interesting thing about this case was that no one know who is this boy and where did he come from. The most questionable query was Block 1 was in fact a designated living quarter for the police, and who would have been brave enough to commit such a crime at the ¡§doorway¡¨ of the police living territory?

At the nearby Geylang River, SPI proceeded to investigate that there used to be a causeway with a tide gate control house located in the midway across this river in the past. It was recalled there were night market or ¡§Pasar Malam¡¨ held here every weekends. But during the weekdays, the causeway was extremely quiet, dark and eerie in the night. However during the major clean-up exercise by the Authority in the mid 80s, this causeway together with the tide gate control house was demolished.

1. Block 1, this building is used to be a police living quarter in the old days. A weird death case just happened meters outside this quarter
2 – 4. A boy died in a strange “slot-in” position in a small drain. Some speculate it was a demonstration to challenge the police authority
Until today, nobody knows how exactly the boy died and ended up lying sideway stuck in a narrow drain

1. This is our modern-day drain that is much wider and bigger.
In the old days, narrow drain could have very confined gap just to fit in the body of a young boy
2 – 4. The investigators continued to check out the strange remains at the Geyland River

A strange rock

Our next stop was in fact at the hawker centre of the estate, and no, we are not going for our drinks there. We are there to view one of the strangest item found here; a standing rock. As far as I can recall, this rock was never meant to be found there in the early days, but it was somehow mounted right in the middle of these eating place after a major renovation of this market and hawker centre. Our photo-taking session too caught some curious people patronizing the hawker centre at that point of time. One friendly old man came along for a brief chat with us; he said that the location of this area was previously a cemetery! He further reiterated many people mentioned that this rock resembled like a tombstone, and an open space at the 2nd level of this hawker centre also resembled the look of a typical funeral parlour. Well, during the days of childhood days, it was heard that about the hawker centre was a former cemetery, but this has not been verified yet. The only thing that can be confirmed was the location of this standing rock was used to be a chicken slaughtering place in the market, and also recalled seeing chicken blood flowing along with the drain water every morning. In fact, on an old street directory map, the location used to be a community center.

This is the strange rock called in Jalan Batu market and cooked food centre (Batu means rock in Malay)
It has some history and mystery behind this rock. Firstly it used to have an original inscription but got covered by cement.
Secondly this rock was said to stand in a blood-bathed slaughtering market and its shape resembles a tombstone.
Therefore, even nowadays it is only a decor, it never meant to stand above ground for its blood-related history and tomb-like outlook
You can see that the design for this rock is a concept of submerging it in water.
Blue tiles and blue color eating tables, and mosaic pictures of marine creatures are surrounding the rock.
Conceptually the atmosphere helps washing off the blood and assuring it never arise above ground to become a tombstone
After all, it could be a pure coincidence for everything

1. It was said this rock to be sacred and people offered joss incense to the rock;
2. The fact is, these are spikes installed for fending off birds
3 & 4. On the upper level, it was said that the shop lots near the rock resembles a funeral parlour. But we think it could be a superstition.

Gangsters hangout

Just barely in front of the hawker centre was a well renovated small park with an overhead fountain. This place was certainly one of the favourite haunt for many youngsters during my younger days, as there was a community centre, basketball court and a roller skating rink here. However there was a little secret about this area as well¡K.. For it was also the favourite gathering ground for the gangsters. They met and gathered here almost every evening after 7p.m. till 11p.m. I recalled seeing them dressed up in black tucked out long sleeves shirts with white pants during festive seasons like Chinese New Year. Our secret way of living in harmony with them was in fact simply just ignore them, pretending they were ¡§invisible¡¨. When you stare at them, you will be in big trouble.

1. Before this fountain was built, this “agora” was frequented by many assembly of gangsters here;
The design of the fountain artwork was like three arms holding each other.
Some speculated it meant to be a symbol of peace among the three major secret society in the past of Singapore
2. However, the history indicates that factually it was just an upgrade project in 2002, unveiled by the ex-PM Goh Chok Tong
3.  These HDB flats in the old days can overlook the common ground at which gangsters meet and hang around
4. Some old physicians still remain; they were said to be patronized a lot by the gangster who injured in their fighting.
It is however a rumour of many injuries in the fights of the triad.
By the memories of the old residents, the physicians cooked their own herb remedies.
Some of them have family receipts that were quite effective.

Wonderland and the stone lion

Just before we ended out Tanjong Rhu trip, we took a quick turn into the the Kallang Park area where I have also shown the guests that there was a theme park here in the early 70s; known as The Wonderland. The first roller coaster in Singapore was in fact built in this park. Due to poor business after a renovation, the park was finally closed down in the 80s. Other significant past landmarks here includes a pair of majestic-looking stone lions which were relocated here from the Nicoll Highway during the 70s. However, these pairs of lions were later relocated again to Changi Airport, and finally now laid at the current SAFTI compound observation tower entrance area. The other one which most people have forgotten was the gigantic fountain which was built here in the 60s, but have been demolished as well to give way to the construction of the National Stadium compound in the 70s. However, the picture of this fountain was used as the badge icon of the Singapore Boys Scout.

1. This carpark next to Kallang Stadium was said to be the original site of the Wonderland theme park;
2. The location of the stone lion statue that once stood
3. At the entrance of  the Nicole Highway, a pair of Lion statues were placed; 4. An identical design of the Lion statue

Still Road Grand Hotel cut half

We have came to an end of the Tanjong Rhu exploration trip, however we have too take the opportunity to do a short visit to some of the nearby interesting structures as well; like the Still Road Grand Hotel which was ¡§cut¡¨ into half for the purpose of constructing the Still Road in the past, the ¡§peep¡¨ into the famous Chung Cheng High School pond which have been a talking topic in our forum, the abandoned section of the semi-detached houses along Still Road which was left incomplete for unknown reason. Our journey have finally ended after a quick view of the famous abandoned Katong Bakery red building and of course the irresistible legendary Katong laksa.

1 & 2. The Old Grand Hotel in Still Road was cut into two halves;
one side that still preserves the original structure is reputable to be a haunted house given its run-down appearance;
the other side is an operating hotel now under construction
3 & 4. This semi-detached house cluster got its side lot incomplete for some unknown reasons