In Lim Chu Kang, there is a small public housing area known as Neo Tiew Estate (or Lim Chu Kang Rural Centre). The whole area was en-bloc in 2002, with the residents shifted to Jurong West. The estate was vacated since then, and is currently used for FIBUA (Fighting in Built-Up Areas) trainings by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Visitors must exercise caution not to venture into the compound during a military drill.
Built in 1979, there are three 3-storey flats in the estate, numbered 3 to 5. The abandoned flats are accompanied by a wet market and a playground. Lacking maintenance, the flats are left with dirty walls with paint peeling off and rusty windows. Overgrown bushes nearly cover the entire neighbourhood.
Walking along the corridors, we could see through empty shops that once occupied many of the spaces on the first floor. Something that we seldom see these days - Wire mesh installations above the shop entraces allow for air circulation within the unit. As the place has been vacant for many years, people have found their way in and vandalised the walls with graffiti. I captured some of the better works of “art” below.
A flight of wooden stairs takes you to the second floor of the shophouse. The upper floor is made up of a kitchen, bedroom, and living room. Although all the fixtures are gone, we could still see the pipes that once carried water to the unit.
Moving on, we explored the units on the first and upper floors of the housing flat. Most of the units are run down with paint peeling off the doors and walls. However, the tiles in the kitchens still remain mostly intact. Scott even stuck his head into the rubbish chute for a closer look.
As we walked around the void decks of the flats, we noticed some very familiar fixtures that are still present in many HDB estates. Round stools and tables with achinese chess motifs, bases of mailboxes, and stone benches that one can see in government housing all over Singapore.
Moving up to the second floor, we popped into a few units and realised that all the tiles and whats left of the decor are different in each house. The layouts of the units also differ from each other. The corner units are slightly larger with an extra bedroom.
Blk 2 houses the now defunct wet market and food centre. It is a structure that most would recognise as many of the current estates have it in the same design. I wonder what food stalls once operated in this hawker centre. The orange structure next to the market is a rubbish dump – strangely enough, it remains bright orange and looks somewhat new.
Near the entrance / exit of the estate, we found a very old-school playground. This brought back childhood memories of days when I was young and played with friends in playgrounds not dissimilar to this. It even comes with must-have see-saw horse.
History of Neo Tiew
Credit: 石叻周報, April 1976 by 彭松濤
Neo Tiew Road was named after Mr Neo Tiew (before his demise), by the British Colonial Government for his contributions in developing Lim Chu Kang. The main road, Neo Tiew Road, was paved and created by Mr Neo through his personal efforts and measured 3.5 miles past “Tong He” Village, “Nan He” Village and Sungei Buloh Besar. Originally a “buffalo-cart road” for the access of buffalo-towed carts, this was subsequently widened and tarred under the initiatives of Mr Neo Tiew to allow access and smoother traffic of motor vehicles, allowing better access and convenience for modern transportation.
When the Japanese troops first invaded Singapore from the North (Malaysia), Lim Chu Kang was a heavily guarded region by the British troops (especially near the then Tengah Airport which was used as a military base). All residents and/or passers-by of Lim Chu Kang had to possess a security pass, issued and signed by Mr Neo Tiew, who was highly regarded and respected by local residents and the British Government officials alike.
Mr. Neo led and managed workers to clear the forested area in Lim Chu Kang, paved roads, built workers quarters, grew coconut trees, and developed pineapple, pig and poultry farms from the early 1900s. The first mini-mart in Lim Chu Kang, Nan He Mini-Mart, located in Nan He Village along Neo Tiew Road, was set up by Mr Neo to ensure a constant supply of daily necessities, fish, vegetables and eggs for the welfare of the farmers, fishermen and their families in the vicinity.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Mr. Neo made further contributions to the community with the development of a school – Kay Wah or Qi Hua, offering both lower and upper Primary education – and a delivery hospital. He received numerous awards and accolades in recognition of his work, such as the Certificate of Honour from HM King George the Sixth and the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth the Second.