8 September 2010

The Dragon of Whampoa

“ Actually when we er.. the childhood days ah, we stay somewhere along Braddell Road which is now the Toa Payoh estate. Those people stay in the area lah, those vege... vegetable farming, of course some had pigs and some er... chicken, some er ducks farming as well as flowers.

I think when i was about 12 or 13 yrs old, i try to remember that my daddy told me that one of the old men was staying opposite our place. Told him that he heard a loud bang, so he dashed out to the window and what he saw... actually a fireball. It shoots up to the sky and he looks up into the sky and actually he saw that the fireball... is a burning dragon.

So when the sun comes out, he and his neighbours rushed to the place where they saw... where they saw the fireball. They found it was an unused well, those lallangs around the well was all burnt. And in the well, they saw one big hole beside the walls of the well.... Ah, that's all i can recall. “

- Recited from phone-in contribution for a segment of Old Places featuring the Dragon of Whampoa

Following the first telecast of Old Places during this year’s National Day eve, capturing the hearts of Singaporeans around the island who watched it. And being one of the many captivated, i couldn’t resist to start planning visits to document some of the venues.

One of these “must visit” venues for us would be the Dragon of Whampoa. So enamored, i made a trip down to Balestier area the very next morning. Balestier is a beautiful place, rich in history and not widely mentioned. Old shophouses along the long stretch of road, but slowly disappearing as time passes by. But i digress here.

Alighting at one of the bus stops near the famous Loong Fatt eating house & confectionary, i decided to make the dragon hunt on foot, not knowing the exact location as well. Armed with the info of “dragon being in front of a blue painted” HDB block, i embarked on my search to find a blue block of flats.

Had breakfast at the Whampoa market, explored around the blocks beside the market as well, leaving no stone unturned, no dragon hidden.

Having a gut feeling, decided to explore the blocks across the roads and incidentally they were painted blue as well (just like the red ones in Short Street). Whampoa Drive. Strolling past one block, from the far corner I spotted a clearing of what seems like a small park. I found the dragon.

The scent is near, the hint was the blocks are painted with blue...

Finally found it, it was a sense of achievement for me

Against the blue backdrop

Spent at least 2 hours going around the dragon fountain, taking photos from all angles possible. Going up Blk 85 for a higher angle as well, and met some residents who were quite friendly. Some did mentioned they were delighted that their “neighbourhood Dragon” was featured on television on National Day’s eve. And all strongly felt their town council should get the dragon reactivated, with lights and flowing water.

Foundation of the dragon, represents waves

Used to be a home to abandoned pets as well when it was filled with water

Old broken cutlery form the scales

A closer look at the scales

One can only imagine water once flowed freely here

Kids nowadays seen marbles before?

Blk 85’s friendly residents provided me with the following interesting information:

- The dragon fountain is almost as old as the blocks in Whampoa Drive estate, close to almost 40 years!

- The dragon once had functioning lights and water, would be quite a sight in those days

- During the 90s, people had conveniently “donated” or “set free” their pets in the fountain, like ornamental pet fish and terrapins.

- A metal fencing/barrier was constructed to discourage people from abandoning their pets at the fountain. But this was later removed, the lights and the water stopped flowing as well.

- The small park area which housed the dragon, once covered a much bigger area. Extending across to where the CTE is now to probably where the current Hong Wen School is now or where the former May South School was.

- Teens now hang around and chill out around the dragon statue during the night.

Looking for more info, i sent in a question to NLB,

The above is their reply (rather extensive reply, Thank you Ms Hameedah! Actually i was expecting a usual generic email or even no response).

It further confirms the dragon is almost as old as the blocks in Whampoa Drive, unfortunately the designer/builder of the dragon fountain is still unknown. We would welcome fresh information, do let us know (see below for contact details)!

Would we see the dragon returning to it’s former glory?

One thing for sure, majority of the residents felt the dragon should be preserved and restored for the younger generation.

Additional links
History of Whampoa by Whampoa.org.sg
View more photos on our album

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?

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1 comment:

  1. Hi

    Recently I was doing a project about the Whampoa Dragon Fountain with my Kindergarten children and happened to meet a person who is the son of the sculptor of the Dragon Fountain. He came down to our Kindergarten and explained to my children how he helped his dad and spent time at the Dragon Fountain.