On the trail of Tampines' past
Tampines Heritage Trail will feature 3 curated routes, including the first Green Spaces Trail
It may be hard to imagine now but Tampines used to be a forest, and in the late 1800s, it was the hunting ground for tigers, which would carry off calves from a dairy farm in the area.
Even in the 1970s, the eastern suburb had pockets of woods where wildlife roamed.
The New Nation newspaper in 1975 reported sightings of a panther in the area, eating wild dogs and farm chickens.
The animals and many of the original tempinis trees, which the district is named after, are now gone.
The contrast between old and new is highlighted in a National Heritage Board (NHB) trail of the Tampines estate, which was launched yesterday.
The Tampines Heritage Trail is the 17th one by the NHB.
To enrich the experience, three bite-sized thematic routes have been curated for trail-goers to explore Tampines' heritage.
These include the first Green Spaces Trail - a cycling trail that takes visitors through scenic landscapes, such as sites where kampungs were once located.
The Tampines Town Trail aims to celebrate lesser-known stories from the community.
The Religious Institutions Trail features a cluster of temples at Tampines Link. Landmarks on this route include the Tampines Chinese Temple and the Masjid Darul Ghufran.
Mr Alex Peck, 50, the chairman of Kiew Sian King temple at 7, Tampines Avenue, recalled how the Old Tampines Road, built in 1847, was a winding, two-lane road lined with coconut trees and villages.
Mr Peck, who grew up in the area, said: "We would harvest the coconuts to sell. The area had many fish ponds and vegetable farms. Our homes had zinc roofs and the walls were made of wooden planks for ventilation. It was very cooling at night."
He recalled an old row of shophouses along Tampines Avenue, which used to be part of the former Hun Yeang Village.
Mr Peck said people used to flock there for the exotic cuisine, such as fried wild boar and bats.
He said it was there till the early 1980s, "but it was expensive and I could not afford such food then".
He added: "I would eat home-cooked food that was shared among our family... at the nearby Defu village."
Mr Alvin Tan, NHB assistant chief executive of policy and community, said Tampines is a town of many firsts.
He said it was the first to pioneer town planning innovations in the 1980s by integrating green corridors, the first regional centre set up to decentralise commercial activities from downtown business area to suburbs, and the first and only town in Singapore to be conferred the World Habitat Award in 1992.