Place of Interest – Tanjong Katong

Tanjong Katong by Cyril Wong

Across the street from where I live is a pub
where dance-hostesses backed up against
middle-age drain the excess years from their
skin with make-up and bad lighting. A murder
was committed there once, involving the knife
of a heart betrayed and heated dialogue still
heard in popular drama-serials on television.

This church is probably the tallest building
this corner of the street, its rooftop crucifix
like someone with arms open and ready to
hug heaven. Repainted the same colour, walls
hide their age and windows stained a deeper
shade of opacity darken now to the density
of irises, as time turns the page of an afternoon
to start on another about a dream-stained quiet.

In another pub, there is a karaoke-corner
with a billiard table draped in smoke but
held down by the leaning bodies of men
hitting tarnished balls into holes as women
watch the games with cigarettes holding up
their fingers, bitching in Hokkien, while
Cantonese pop songs with American beats
spill out onto the road when a door opens.

Nearby, two schools wait for demolishment,
their vacant fields slowly tenanted by weeds.
My mind replays ghostly episodes of soccer
matches or sleepy rows of uniformed children
waking up reluctantly to the muted recording
of their newly-orchestrated school song
nobody can ever remember the words of.

from Below: Absence

TK 1

An old picture of Tanjong Katong in the past

(Image taken from

In the past, Tanjong Katong used to be located near the sea side. At this area, it had more wealthy migrants and they were mainly the English, Portuguese, Anglo-French and Chinese. In the late 90s and mid 20s, Tanjong Katong was a wealthy suburb where there were beach side retreats, mansions and boathouses. After Singapore gained independence, there were lots of issues needed to be taken care of. One of it was the shortage of housing and land. As Singapore is developing, it needed to construct more housing and recreational facilities to cater to the needs of the growing population. Due to the shortage of land, it had to reclaim land all the way to East Coast Park. As Singapore has migrants from different parts of the world, the marriage of the Chinese and Malay created the Peranakans. At that time, Tanjong Katong had more Peranakans which led to the strong Peranakan’s culture being infused into the Tanjong Katong district. Hence, till today Tanjong Katong is still known for its Peranakan culture and cuisines.

TK 2
Shop houses along Tanjong Katong streets

(Image taken from

From Cyril Wong’s poem, it illustrates the things he saw in Tanjong Katong. The night life in Tanjong Katong is very happening. The pubs play loud music with many people inside drinking and playing billiards. This district seems to be dangerous as conflicts and fights often happened. Till today, many of the old infrastructures in Tanjong Katong still remained such as the pubs, church, coffee shops and schools. In this district, there were no tall infrastructures except of shop houses. Thus, the ‘tall’ church seems to stand out in this district. With the old infrastructures in Tanjong Katong today, it brought back the memories of the past. However, due to the advanced development and technology, most of these infrastructures would have to give way to the skyscrapers and shopping malls.

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