Long-time residents of Dakota Crescent turn tour guides
Long-time residents of Dakota Crescent become tour guides to lead walking trails of their estate
The incessant quacking of ducks below his flat, the sight of baby crocodiles in the Geylang River and the damp smell of salt are memories that have made Dakota Crescent his "childhood lover" for 57 years.
But retiree Bilyy Koh and residents of the ageing estate are slated to move out by the end of this year due to redevelopment works under Mountbatten's estate renewal plans.
Residents can continue to rent flats at the nearby Cassia Crescent for the same price and those who choose to buy a new flat elsewhere will get a relocation grant of up to $15,000.
Dakota Crescent comprises 17 low-rise flats built in 1958 by the Singapore Improvement Trust during the British colonial days.
Mr Koh, 61, said: "This estate has a distinct identity. It represents Singapore's transition from kampung huts to HDB flats."
In an attempt to share the heritage of the estate while they still can, Mr Koh and four other long-time residents of the estate will be co-guiding a paid walking trail for members of the public next month.
Called Dakota Adventures, the trail is organised by Mr Cai Yinzhou, 26, who runs a business offering paid walking trails in Geylang.
The three-hour trail takes participants to nostalgic Dakota landmarks, such as the Old Dove playground, and explains to them the architecture of the estate.
It is part of the event line-up for Singapore Design Week 2016. Tickets for the trail, which cost $35, are sold out.
"We wanted to empower the elderly residents with a chance to share their memories of their homes before they are gone," said Mr Cai.
The New Paper attended a trial run of the trail last Friday. During the tour, Mr Koh shared his first memory of the estate from when he was four years old.
"With five cents in my hand, I would run with my siblings to the nearby roadside huts at Old Airport Road and purchase stationery," said Mr Koh, who used to share a three-room flat with his parents and six siblings.
Now, he is the only one living in his flat after his siblings moved out and his parents died 40 years ago.
Residents of the other five flats in his block have already relocated since the estate renewal plans were announced.
Mr Koh said: "The residents here are extremely close-knit. We would invite our neighbours to our homes for meals whenever we see each other."
Even when he had to stay for a week with his sister when his flat was undergoing minor renovations, Mr Koh felt "very uncomfortable being away from Dakota Crescent".
"I felt like I was staying in a typical flat like many others. It did not have the unique identity that I was used to."
Mr Koh has not decided where he will move to, although he admitted he is feeling "distressed" about it.
"The sense of belonging that I feel for my home will not be the same wherever I move to," he said.
He hopes that trail participants will learn about the estate's history and recognise it as an important part of Singapore's heritage.
For participant Shinn Teo, 25, who works in the hospitality industry, it was her first time stepping into Dakota Crescent.
She said: "I like that the trail is interactive. There is only so much we can see if we walk around the estate.
"But listening to stories from the elderly residents helps me understand and relate to the place."