The neighbourhood of Choa Chu Kang for instance, was once a rural grassland and in fact, home to many tigers. Tiger attacks were common in the mid-19th century, and the colonial government offered a reward of $20 for every tiger killed. This amount increased to $50, and then $100.15, due to the growing number of casualties. Many hunted these animals for reward, causing a drastic decrease in the predators’ numbers. By 1930, the last wild tiger was shot in Choa Chu Kang village.
Choa Chu Kang gets its name from the Teochew word “kang chu”. “Kang” means river and “chu” was the clan name of the first headman in charge of the gambier and pepper plantations growing along the banks of the nearby river.
Gradually, the attap houses, kampongs and street hawkers began to disappear as the neighbourhood began to modernise and flourish. Choa Chu Kang’s first neighbourhood was completed in 1977, with block designs and features reminiscent of its rural past.
Pasir Panjang also drew its name from a different language. The name is Malay for “long beach” or “long sand”. Pasir Panjang was once home to many fishermen who made their living along the coast, as well as farmers who cultivated plenty of pineapple, gambier, rubber and pepper plantations.
Numerous Chinese and Indian traders and shopkeepers also settled in the area. Around the 1920s, wealthy Chinese businessmen who were attracted to beachfront living arrived in the area and began building numerous bungalows and beach homes. This led to the moniker “millionaire’s row”, in reference to the Pasir Panjang coastline. More industrial buildings such as a brickworks and an opium packing plant also began operating in the vicinity.
Some may also be slightly familiar with Pasir Panjang’s older military past. In 1878, Fort Pasir Panjang was constructed as part of Singapore’s military defences. During World War II, a brave Malay Regiment, led by Lieutenant Adnan Saidi, valiantly fought to the death to defend Pasir Panjang ridge from the invading Japanese army. In fact, when their ammunition ran out, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat using their bayonets. This is known as the ‘Battle of Opium Hill’ today.
Following the war, Pasir Panjang evolved into a residential and industrial area, with new roads being constructed, and the building of a power plant to meet Singapore’s projected electrical needs.