For the last 3 months I have been working with National Heritage Board on the Bukit Timah Community Trail. This is the 3rd community trail I have helped to research and write for NHB. The first 2 were published last year - namely Balestier and Jalan Besar Community Trail.
This year, NJC approached NHB to consolidate a previously published set of 4 trails done by NJC as part of a cultural mapping project. As such, I got the opportunity to research deeper into the area which my dad and sisters grew up. It's also the first place where my mom lived after coming to the "mainland" from Pulau Ubin. I guess that's how my mom and dad met. They often recount stories of the places they dated around Bukit Timah.
Bukit Timah is a place close to my heart having gone there every Sunday after piano class at Jalan Jurong Kechil. My neighbor and babysitter also moved there when I was 12. My granddad lived off Sixth Avenue almost all of my life. I travelled down Dunearn Road and back on Bukit Timah Road everyday when I was studying at Whitley Road. Both my sisters studied at Nanyang Girls High School off King's Road where we would often go to Coronation Plaza afterwards. One of them later went to Hwachong Junior College also off BT.
Of course Bukit Timah Hill was our favourite haunt, not to mention Botanic Gardens where countless photos of me toddling around with swans and orchids fill the albums of my childhood. Beauty World was my favourite lunch haunt after piano class where my aunt will drive me. There was a rental bookshop in there that started me reading and gave me a constant source of Famous Five and other Enid Blyton books when I could not afford to buy them. The food at Beauty World top floor food center was of course famous. Later in my working life, my parents would often pick me up after work and we would eat the famous fish soup at Bukit Timah Food Center beside Pei Hwa. The sugarcane stall uncle was a family friend just as the sze char stall aunties are family friends from my grandparents time or simply people we know after decades of patronizing them.
Bukit Timah has so much memories for me. My first anniversary dinner in Singapore with my fiance was also at sixth avenue at the Brazilian churrascaria restaurant. When I was working on the other end of sixth avenue at the Holland/Jelita area, my parents would often drive us to the sze char shop near sixth avenue and pick up food on our way to my sister's place.
So much memories and only a trickle ended up in my little brochure about Bukit Timah. It's really just a highlights tour so I do apologize if your favourite haunt is missed out. Personally I could write a book about Bukit Timah and I might just end up writing a autobiography!
Yesterday at the launch, 2nd Minister for MICA, Dr Vivian B himself also grew up in Bukit Timah. In fact, he studied at NJC and is now MP for the Bukit Timah-Holland area. From reliable sources, he enjoyed the booklet immensely, hopefully as much as I did.
The launch took placed at Memories at Old Ford Factory. A fantastic place. Do check it out if you have the chance. It's not quite accessible but a short walk from the busstop really.
As part of the launch, it was my job to train some NJC students to guide the VIP entourage and media around Bukit Timah on a bus tour. There were 2 students on board as bus commentators and at selected sites, stationed guides give further elaborations and perhaps a short walk around. It was not an easy job, training guides. We provided visual aids and colorful stories. The caretaker's son at the Hoon San Temple was especially thrilled the minister visited. The kids though nervous had fun too. I am rather proud of them to have carried it off at such short notice, never mind the little mistakes here and there. It is over and we feel elated.
Apparently, I have been informed that my face appeared on the papers today, beside the NJC guides when they were introducing Masjid Al-Huda at Jalan Haji Alias yesterday. My dad kindly informed me that I looked like a schmuck. Hah probably too busy trying to make sure everything is going well to take note of photographers!
I must thank the many people who helped me. Lam Chun See and friend Peter Chan of Good Morning Yesterday and yesterday.sg were tremendous sources of oral history. My dad was of infinite help of course, driving me around to recce and providing me many stories. Victor Yue and friends at Taoism Singapore were absolutely helpful. Of course Ronni Pinsler who provided the picture of the Turf Club. What would I have done without them!
At the end of the day, where would I be without azure_v, my colleague at NHB who pulled me into the project. All the work she had to do, proofreading my careless mistakes and going through photos and layout. Hopefully she gets her well deserved break soon!
For a copy of the Bukit Timah Community Trail brochure or any of the previous Jalan Besar or Balestier publications, feel free to leave a comment, email or twitter me and I can pass them to you.
Photos of the events can be found at my flickr set.
Bukit Timah Heritage Trail Launched, Channel News Asia, 23 July 2007
小册子助解武吉知马社区历史, Xin.sg, 23 July 2007 [Newsclip Video]
Take a stroll along Bukit Timah, Straits Times Interactive, 25 July 2007
寻找武吉知马的文化地图, Lianhe Zaobao, 24 Jul 2007
New History Trail for Old Bukit Timah, Straits Times, 24 July 2007
Read full article here