Johor Bahru, Malaysia May 2018: Its pretty well known that Singapore was ruled by the British for most of the 20th Century, finally handing back the colony in 1968. Shortly afterwards a fleet of bulldozers sought to rampage across the Island tearing down primitive jungle, Malay Kampung villages and just about anything else in their path as Singapore embarked on an era of change. Not everywhere though saw the face of a bulldozer. Sembawang, on Singapore’s north coast seems to have been spared, well a small area of the town right on the coastline as Google Maps shows. An area that’s close to a shipyard and with road names like Queens Avenue and Malta Crescent, one suspects there maybe some colonial connections to discover.
Another routine border run between Johor and Woodlands, although with just a week or so before the American president and North Korea’s Mr. Kim descend onto Singapore Island, the authorities at Woodlands are understandably more jumpy than usual. A longer interrogation as they add up all the passport stamps, comes to nothing and I’m on my way once again. Woodlands to Sembawang MTR then bus 882 to Sembawang Park, information courtesy of Google Maps, which so far has been accurate to the minute!
Sembawang Park is where the bus drops off. well kept, impeccably clean and right next to a giant shipyard. Yes, a few pretty big ships are anchored just along the shoreline facing the Malaysian coast. Perhaps more interesting is a good view of a traditional Kampung village of the type that used to be prevalent here on Singapore Island pre- 1980’s. A sight to behold as a thick jungle background offers protection from overbearing swanky condominium towers.
The little white sand beach here isn’t going to win any awards on the international stage, but I suppose its sufficient as a weekend picnic spot with wavelets lapping at the shoreline. The park itself isn’t large by any means but a pleasant enough stroll to while away half an hour or so. The paths run parallel to a what looks like a top secret installation, the Singapore Navy at a guess since according to Wikipedia the whole place has naval and maritime connections right from the early British occupation era. The perimeter fence surrounding a dockyard here pretty much prevents prying eyes from looking in unless one stands on a table, on raised ground from the parks picnic area!
Here’s a look at Sembawang Park, its Cannon Ball tree, the beach and a colonial mansion…
Aimlessly wandering through this park and suddenly one comes across a colonial style villa, or perhaps it can be classed as a semi mansion given the size of the building. There’s a few of them here and at a guess I’d say former residences of British Naval Officers. All looks quite original in this rather sleepy little colonial estate. Oh, and there’s an old bunker, perhaps an air raid shelter, a remnant from troubled times. Several of these properties are laying empty sadly, waiting for the highest bidder to show a hand no doubt – yes, I bet living here in these former British houses is going to cost plenty!
Its an interesting hour wandering around the area, combined with a visit to somewhere else, Changi Beach for example, then its a pretty nice day out from Johor. Wikipedia has a good write-up on Sembawang here.