Swipe And Discover: 7 Fun Facts of Pasir Ris

Swipe and discover hidden stories in the neighbourhoods of Tanjong Pagar, Pasir Ris and Kallang this SHF! This year, we encourage you to learn snippets of your neighbourhood’s history as we enjoy heritage from the comforts of our own home. Here are 7 fun facts to discover about Pasir Ris!

1. Nature’s Gift

Mangrove swamp along the Sungei Api Api, 1985. Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

The coastal heritage of Pasir Ris is evident from its name, which is said to derive from to Malay words: pasir and hiris, which mean “sand” and “to slice or shred” respectively. These are likely references to the fine quality of sand along the beach. Mangrove forests also grew along the rivers and coast, with the Api Api family of mangroves providing the name for one of the main rivers in the area.

2. Kampongs of Pasir Ris - A Movie Backdrop?

A kampong in Pasir Ris, 1980. Courtesy of the Housing & Development Board

Most of the early settlers in Pasir Ris lived in kampongs. These villagers worked in the plantations close by or were fishermen. The kampongs were featured in several Malay films of the 1950s and 1960s including P. Ramlee’s Pendekar Bujang Lapok (1959).

3. Seaside Retreat

The Bogaars family at a beach house in Pasir Ris, 1940. Margaret Clarke Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

In the late 19th century, wealthy families had seaside bungalows along the Pasir Ris coast. These bungalows had swimming areas, gardens and dance halls. Elias Road was so named as it led to the bungalow of businessman Joseph Aaron Elias.

4. Pasir Ris Park: A Community Space

Pasir Ris Park, 2009. Lee Leng Kiong Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

Under a community recreation plan in the 1950s, basic amenities were built at Pasir Ris, attracting more visitors. But it was not until the 1980s that the area was reclaimed and redeveloped into Pasir Ris Park. Designed into various thematic areas, this park is only one in Singapore with a preserved mangrove forest and boardwalk.

5. Recreation For All

Holiday chalets at Pasir Ris Park, 1987. Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.
Social Welfare Department Children picnic attended by Minister for Culture & Social Affairs, Mr Othman Wok at Pasir Ris Holiday Resort. Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore
Combined picnic for inmates of social welfare homes at Pasir Ris Holiday Camp attended by Minister for Culture & Social Affairs, Mr Othman Wok. Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

By the 1960s, Pasir Ris was no longer the preserve of the wealthy. The People’s Association built holiday camps where it ran youth and leadership programmes. It also developed holiday flats for working class families to relax, enjoy the outdoors and sea sports.

6. Fishing

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission requires for reproduction. 

Fishing is a popular activity of Pasir Ris residents’ past and present. While villagers used to fish in the rivers and sea, current residents can fish at the commercial saltwater fishing pond in Pasir Ris Town Park. This pond used to be part of the Golden Palace Holiday Resort that operated in the late 1960s.

7. Pasir Ris: A Seaside Town

Housing Development Board blocks with maritime motifs in their architectural design, 2019. Courtesy of the National Heritage Board.

The design of Pasir Ris town was inspired by its history as a seaside resort. Maritime motifs can be seen on the HDB blocks, neighbourhood parks and other buildings. The landscaping with coconut palms and mangrove growing along the river canals also brings residents closer to the natural environment.

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