A trip back in time - Taking the train from Seremban back to Singapore.
at 11.30 p.m and took the night train
back to Singapore.
Kavin and I had booked the dual bed
cabin and I took the top bunk while he
took the bottom bunk.
A steward soon came by to take our orders
for supper and came back a few minutes
later with a pack of mee goreng, a pack
of nasi goreng, a hot cup of Milo and
a bottle of water.
The rest of the train trip was smooth enough
and Kavin spent the time reading his book
while I went to sleep.
The next thing we knew, it was 6.20 a.m
and a voice over the sound system announced
in Malay that we were approaching the Johor-
Singapore border and that the customs officers
would soon be checking our passports.
Once this was done, the train continued onwards
We went across the causeway, side-by-side with
the huge water pipes that carried water
from Malaysia to Singapore.
Water pipes carrying water from Malaysia-Singapore
as the sun rises.
Once we reached Singapore, we stopped
for a half-hour to clear the Singapore
customs and immigration, then
it was off again, back into the train.
I loved just standing by the window,
watching the scenery go by as the train
chugged along a route that unlike
most of Singapore, had remained
relatively unchanged through the decades.
It felt like taking a trip back in time.
The juxtaposition of wooden huts, with
chickens running wild along the railway
line and the tall HDB flats in the background
stirred something in my heart.
The sense of the old against the new,
the laidback against the busy,
the past against the future.
Natural 'longkang' flowing along the train tracks in Singapore
Chickens running wild!
I was surprised too to see that the old
Bukit Timah/ Woodlands train station
was still there, with people resting
on the wooden benches, even though
the train did not stop there.
It looked as if a page from history
had just come alive in front of my eyes,
and the only people that seemed to
share the joy of my discovery were a couple
of Caucasian tourists that I saw wandering
along the pathway close to the railway line,
exploring the last frontier of old Singapore.
The train ran past my former school, RJC,
and memories from that era in my life
flooded back for a moment.
Then it rounded a curve and ran
alongside the Ayer Rajah Expressway
for a while...the modern cars,
running past this train, this older mode of transportation...
juxtaposed against the new.
everyone stops to let the most senior form of transportation through.
Then it soon drew closer to its final
destination, Tanjong Pagar railway station.
And as the train approached the station,
I saw the guardhouse, unchanged from of old,
as it bore the signage for 'Singapura',
An old guardhouse still bearing the name 'Singapura'
The train from the front.
Pics of the railway station, the building mostly unchanged since it
was built in 1932.
In the midst of all the physical transformation
that Singapore has gone through, it was
heartwarming for me to know, that at least
a bit of the old Singapore was still a reality,
for this moment. In the midst of bewildering
changes, like the demolition of the National Library
and the tearing down of old buildings,
it felt good to know that some part of Singapore's
history is still there within reach.
It is the yearning for the familiar, the sense
of one's home, perhaps a yearning for physical
roots that sometimes tugs at my heartstrings.
If someone like me in my 30's feels this way,
I can only imagine how bewildering the lightning-
fast changes must be for people in my grandparent's
I like listening to my grandma telling me stories
of the Singapore she grew up in, the one
where she had to take care of the pigs and chickens
in the yard, the one where grandpa and her bicycled
through the streets of Singapore on their dates,
the one where ten cents would buy a good meal.
I like knowing how something came to be.
For in knowing one's roots, and one's history,
I feel that I can hold on to the strength that
comes from that sturdiness in the soil, and know
that whereever the branches may grow, there
is a common history, a common sense of family,
a shared sense of space and time.
A place I can call home.