On the first travel to Singapore, it was in standard two.
As it was a big event for a boy of eight, after 50 years has gone by, glimpses of the events on trip were still vivid.
The date written at the back of the photographs helped pinpoint the trip to the month of May.
Though it would be 3 months before Singapore separated from the Federation of Malaysia, when we reached the Johor-Singapore causeway that morning, I remember Dad and Uncle Hia talking and if they needed documents to enter the island state. As I recalled this conversation of the adults, I had thought that the trip was made post August 1965. However, the date at the back of the photo, help to clear the doubt and point to May.
The journey started the evening before by car from our hometown in Menglembu. We travelled in a Toyota owned by 5th uncle.
The event for the trip was that 5th uncle’s second child, a son of a few months old was found to have medical problem and was recommended for treatment at the Singapore General Hospital. He married in May27, 1962, and the first child was a baby girl. The mother would be flying from Ipoh to Singapore in a day or two. Our contingent would travel down early so asto meet mother with baby when they arrived in the city state.
As dad was familiar with Singapore as he had visited the city a number of times, 5th uncle had probably asked him to help on the trip.
The members travelling by car were Dad and Uncle Hia, mum and 1st aunt, 4th brother and myself – 4 adults and two young boys.
As dad was managing the Shell petrol station business then, the car was checked and filled full tank at the petrol station early that evening. We left after dinner and the journey took us 12 hours or so.
I slept most of the journey as we were travelling by night. As we headed south, we had to cross the Muar river on a car ferry, as there was no bridge then.
We are travelling in the dark most thro the night, and I recall on reaching Ayer Itam we came to a lighted multistory building, a sort of a land mark of sort at a turning where we turn right on our south bound ourney.
We arrived in Johor Bharu at dawn, and headed to the causeway to clear the checkpoint. It was there where the conversation if a pass or paperwork was need to enter the city state.
Among the places -
- Hotel at Tanjong PagarWe stayed at the 4 storey Tian Yi Jing Hotel天 一 景酒店at Peck Seah Street. The escalator had the double layer fence type gate. The rooms had ceiling fans, and windows with half-curtain.I remember we left piece of clothing behind at the hotel. It was my home made jacket by mum (冷衫).
- Kereta AyerRecall that we had dinner at the open air food center at the busy Peal Center area –珍珠坊. A vagabond unkempt beggar with long hair was grabbing the leftover food in the next table with his bare hands.
- Haw Par VillaAmong the many legendary and mythical figures from Chinese history and folklore that dad narrated. I learnt of Sumu tending to flock of sheep while in exile in Siberia, 蘇武牧, of Jiang Taigong fishing with the bait above water, 姜太公钓鱼。There was the infamous 18 levels of hell, punishment meted out according to the degree of severity of sins and immorality committed while in mortal life.The visit to Haw Par Villa perhaps planted the latent interest in Chinese history and culture in this young mind.
- Singapore General HospitalWhile the elders we at the medical center, we wandered outside the building. I recall next to the ward was a steep grassy slope. This was probably the next facing the sid of Outram-Tiong Baru.
Well, that was the first trip to Singapore 50 years ago in 1965. The next trip to the Lion City was eight years later in 1973. It was a vacation trip organized by the school. This time around we needed a passport.
i) - Dad’s early travel to/thro Singapore
In June 1940, as a member of the Ipoh Yuke Choy School high school graduation class he visited Singapore and stayed at the YinWo Hakka Association.
In Oct 1948, on his journey with grandmother to Meixian, Songkou in 1948 to attend to grandfather’s late estate he would have transited in Singapore. A few years later and probably in 1951-52, he accompanied 6th uncle in transit at Singapore on his way to New China.
Perhaps his first trip was around 1928, when he was 4 years old. He probably transited in Singapore while on his journey to the home village in China, with 2nd grandaunt.
ii) Hotels in Tanjong Pagar
The Chinese hotels in Tanjong Pagar - 新亚旅店and 天 一 景were trusted hotels the family stayed when they transit in Singapore on their way to China home village before the War.
A record in granddad’s accounting booklet noted -
EuYanSang Ipoh, Oct 1946 wired $750 Straits dollars Mr Huang Zhaomin of Xin Ya hotel in Peck Seah Street, Kerea Ayer, Selat for preparation of boat fare and other use.
Singapore was written as Selat 石叻 in Chinese then.
This was probably for the final journey of grandpa to China, after a sojourn of close to 50 years in Nanyang. Among the members of this trip were sons, 4th uncle, 5th uncle , and grandson – Brother Pang 鑫权.