13 August 2010

The Forgotten Playgrounds


Seemingly by sheer luck, I managed to catch Royston Tan’s (the director of the famous local movie, 15) documentary/movie called “Old Places” on Okto channel on our National Day evening. Being someone who isn’t a big fan of television, not watching tv for years (unless special occasions like live telecast of the World Cup. Have i been living in a cave?? Hehe). A total of 47 old or so forgotten places Royston and the production crew found, visited and filmed, delightfully with a Canon 5DMII. Short segments but still with sweet colours. Hopefully in future I do get to own one set just like that or similar for work and UE usage as well.

There I was, riveted to my seat watching as they introduced locations and forgotten professions in Singapore. Many of the venues brought back pure nostalgia for me, most of which I had visited or experienced during the 80s and 90s.

I could feel tears welling up as I remember the old playgrounds… with sand, metal tubes climbing structures, rubber tyre swings, wooden plank see-saws, metal grating merry-go-rounds and stone white animal sculptures. My childhood places like the double stone slides right in front of the Clementi A&W outlet, Pasir Ris park playground opened in 1987, dragon playgrounds in Jurong West and much more. There yesterday, gone today.

Another version of a merry-go-round
[Photo by Author of The Long and Winding Road]

Recalling the things me and my friends would do while playing catching, jumping from great heights which will put today’s kids to shame, peeing in the sand, setting off Yakult bottle rockets with sparkler powder, climbing in catching games to the highest point, teasing the catcher then jumping off into the sand and many more naughty antics, during my kiddy days. Those were the carefree days unlike today, where most kids stay indoors contented with their computer games and virtual worlds. Or contend with the artificial rubber/foam pits they call playgrounds now. Heh. The real world is a much more dangerous place now?

Making a few reminiscing visits to a few locations in Singapore, did manage to document some of them while they are still around today. Doing research online, we found some sites for light reading and below, are photos of the venues we visited. Enjoy. :)

Modified Dragon playground
Ang Mo Kio Ave 3

(Edited from AMK Ave 10, more exact location would be along Ave 3, in front of blocks 570 and 571. Thanks to xtemujin for clarifying!)

Seemingly a slightly smaller version of the usual dragon playgrounds, i may be wrong though. The sand is replaced by rubber/foam surface. My friends and I tried getting up to the top and taking the slide down. Felt the hardened rubber/foam isn't as safe after such a long period of time, almost had a sprain landing from the slide. Still prefer the sand.



From above

One of our members reliving the joy of going down the dragon's slide

Larger Dragon playground
Blk 28, Toa Payoh Lorong 8

An original dragon playground with REAL sand. Apart from this Toa Payoh and the AMK one, i do not know of any other big dragon playgrounds elsewhere. The most recent one i had last seen prior to this recce trip, was one in Jurong West St.52 which had been demolished since.

Side view


From the top

This cute kid curious with my camera, followed me around

Another look with read sand and slide demonstration by the cute kid

Pelican, tortoise and hare  [Updated - Nov 2011 - New Photos]
Blk 35, Dover Road

My visit was the next day after "Old Places" showed on television. I spent 2 hours, exploring the different photographic angles i could squeeze from this old venue. But the mosquitos were rather relentless, i gave up after two hours. But thankfully i had taken quite a large number of photos of this playground and its surrounding neighbourhood. News is that enbloc of the neighbourhood is in the works, and this old playground won't be around too long. Quick, head down to take photos before it's gone for good!

Comparing the image taken by Beary in 2008 and mine in 2010

The sun is setting, casting much desired shadows over the site

Playgrounds in the past had beautiful tiles, now? Sigh. Bland.

Against the backdrop of Blk 35

Scribbles of teenage angst, we all been through that.

The swings were removed. Sadly. I would have had a go on them


Last look, who knows it may be gone the next day,
as the Dover estate seems to be undergoing SERS (En-bloc)

Aaron: I visited the playground on a weary November afternoon in 2011 after the estate was vacated. Understandably, the sand pit was teeming with weeds and algae had blanketed the Pelican's visage. Knowing that the estate would soon become a distant memory, I whipped out my camera and snapped a number of pictures to remember the playground by. Who knows? Tomorrow this playground may become an empty grass field, waiting to be filled up with condominiums by some hungry private developer.

 The stone Pelican has played host to numerous generations of kids.

The Pelican and the beam where swings made out of chains and rubber tires used to hang.

 The hare has seen better days.

The tortoise and the hare, albeit faded, were both given a fresh coat of darthouse green paint prior to the estate's en-bloc redevelopment for their swansong.

Algae has taken over most of the Pelican's visage. Thankfully the cerulean mosaic tiles remain unscathed.

One of the oldest playgrounds in Singapore
(next to it is a modern playground)
Lim Chu Kang Rural Centre (or commonly known as Neo Tiew Estate)

Little did anyone know, a very old form of playground (apart from the metal tubes in 1950s era), i remember watching a Mandarin variety programme with the hosts visiting the Lim Chu Kang Rural Centre (which incidentally called many other names like Neo Tiew abandoned estate, 'ghost town' and others). In the show, a young man showed how he used to play at this old structure during his childhood days, by running across it's stone white surface. And did he looked pleased when he did his demonstration most willingly for a few more times.

The above mentioned video has been found.

I could only recall my visit when the residents were still living there. The market hawker had the BEST duck noodles i had ever tasted. And it cost only $1.50, plus the good soya bean drink. I am very sure many who had been based in Sungei Gedong camp across the road would vouch for the food here. Sadly, everything is now gone. The area has turned into a site for FIBUA use, and you can see many foreign workers hanging out at the blocks' void decks, drinking and 'chilling out' during the evenings.

Not much to see in recent times, we would come out with an article on this venue in due time. With photos we took before the place got really trashed out by probably silly thrillseekers and rampant vandalism.

Old see-saw
Emerald Hill, Orchard

Re-discovered these two see-saws quite by accident, as I was actually out to recce for locations for my outdoor wedding shoot. Have noticed them before, but never gave them much thought till the idea of an article on old forgotten playgrounds was conceptualized.

Shown in the photo are our two members demonstrating and reliving the experience of playing on the see-saw, though not as effective as any other two younger children would have. Thanks guys for posing for the photo! :)

These playgrounds listed here are those that we do not have readily available photo records of our own, but may visit in the near future. There are photos however by others, in the links provided below

Slides, Pelican, tortoise and hare
Pasir Ris Home Team Chalet

Some photos of this venue can be seen here

Dove playground
Dakota Crescent

Tall old swings
In front of the restaurant along Changi Coast Walk

Lorong Chuan

**Metal Merry-go-rounds
If anyone knows of any surviving ones, please let us know!!!

Other websites/blogs which mention our country's old playgrounds

Just rambling - Old Playgrounds in Singapore

Flickr album - Playgrounds in Singapore

Littlejoyofbeary - This is my playground Part 1

Littlejoyofbeary - This is my playground Part 2

Littlejoyofbeary - This is my playground Part 3

CNNGO.com - Playing with dragons

Gordonator - Singapore dragon playground

Yesterday.sg - the mosaic playground

xtemujin's Flickr album:
Dover playground in 2009

Dove playground at Dakota Crescent

Gordonator's blog entry on a dragon playground disappearance

Seng Kang Babies visit the old playgrounds

Article and photos copyright of Andrew (熊赴龍).

Forgotten places, secret spots, lost historical sites or having some interesting info to share? Is there a location/venue you want the One-North Explorers to feature?

Contact us!

sgurbex @ gmail . com





© 2002-2018 One-North Explorers
© The One° North Explorers [Registration No: 53180929C]


  1. Nice write up, we just started exploring the old playgrounds with our kids too. I only know of one old (not oldest but might be last one) merry-go-round in Upper-Seletar reservoir. (http://sengkangbabies.blogspot.com/2011/02/this-coming-sunday-we-are-roaming-toa.html). Happy exploring!

  2. Thanks for the comment and link up! :D

  3. There's another merry-go-round in Tiong Bahru Park, i was told. I have yet to visit that though. If you are looking for the old ones from the past, i believe there's a certain playground in Johore that has it. Im tracking that one down when more info comes in. :)

  4. Great photos, loved the old playgrounds, many memories brought back to me when I was a kid, playing, running and jumping around with friends, not worrying about pressure and stress, just play and fun!

    I had done my own photography walkabout on the old places, covered the Clementi Central Old Playground and Dover Estate Old Playground, hope to cover AMK, TPY and Dakota Crescent in my next walkabout.

    My Old Playground photos collection here & looking forward to add more to it! http://www.flickr.com/photos/tangenghui/sets/72157626354907124/

    Hope to explore and add more photos to it!


  5. Thanks JH! I shot the Clementi one too, as most of my childhood was spent in Clementi. Hehe the one in front of where A&W used to be. Heh

    The Dover had quite bit of sandflies...annoying! I got bitten quite a bit while i rove around too long. Hehe

    But I will show them in a part 2 article in future. As I'm gathering info to shoot other locations too. :)