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27 May 2014

Neo Tiew - An Abandoned HDB Estate

Yet again I'm playing catch up as this was something I actually did a long time ago but am only just managing to post.  I'd heard (and read) a little bit previously about an abandoned HDB estate in Singapore.  I've always been interested in abandoned buildings and despite Singapore's willingness to continually develop there are surprisingly quite a few dotted around.  Though many aren't easily accessible (if at all) or at least, in some cases, I don't fancy trying to get to them.  I therefore assumed this place was probably in the same category of incredibly difficult to get too and it was only when I stumbled across this list of things to do in Singapore before you die (number 40 on the list by the way) that myself and a friend figured it might actually be a possibility.



Although Singapore isn't exactly big I admit that sometimes places seem a long way away but getting here definitely wins the prize for the longest journey I've done I'm sure.  By the time we got there we seemed to have been on various buses all day and had gradually left behind condos, HDB estates and their communities for a landscape of various huge graveyards and military bases.  It was another reminder that if you know where to look for it there is still a lot of open space in Singapore.  By the time we got off our last bus most of our fellow passengers were servicemen (we were certainly the only women on board) and we no doubt looked as if we'd got hopelessly lost somehow!  Despite appearances though we were exactly where we wanted to be and heading to the abandoned estate.

The buildings appear to have had a lick of paint when compared to photos on other blog posts

Neo Tiew Road where the estate is located was named after Mr Neo Tiew (1883 - 1975) in recognition of his contributions towards developing the Lim Chu Kang village.  He led workers to clear the forested areas nearby, paved roads, built workers quarters, grew coconut trees and developed pineapple, pig and poultry farms.  He also set up the first mini-mart in the area to ensure a constant supply of daily necessities for  the workers.  Later he also helped to develop a school and a delivery hospital too.

The estate was built in 1979 and closed in 2002 with the residents moved to Jurong West.  The abandoned flats are accompanied by a wet market and a playground and somehow it is one of those left behind places in Singapore that has managed to survive.  I guess this may have something to do with the fact that the armed forces now use it for practice exercises at times.  I've since learnt that the estate was also known as Lim Chu Kang Rural Centre.  Apparently a number of HDB estates from this period were known as such because they housed relocated farmers who were then allowed to continue their farming activities.  This was phased out shortly afterwards as Singaporeans were encouraged to take up non-agricultural jobs instead.

The estate playground through the fence

In many of the photos I'd seen of the place the buildings look as I imagine an abandoned building would do, a little run down and in need of some TLC.  When we arrived it was somewhat surprising then to see that the buildings appeared to have been painted and spruced up.  They certainly didn't look like they haven't been lived in since 2002.  Similarly, and in contrast to the posts I'd read where people had managed to explore the interior of the buildings, the whole area now seemed to be securely fenced off with plenty of signs warning you to keep out.  I had got the impression from other posts that it was accessible when not being used for military exercises.  This though did not look to be the case any more and as a result neither of us were going to do anything more than look at it from the outside of the perimeter fence.  We wandered around trying to soak up a little of the place through the fencing and taking photos, before heading back.

I have to admit this was a little disappointing given our epic (by Singapore standards) journey to get there.  Remember if you decide to visit here you may only be able to view it through the fence and there really is nothing else around, apart from a convenient bus stop to take you back again, so make sure you take water with you at least.  Nonetheless though it was still a fun day and I got to see a part of Singapore I'd not visited before.  I also noticed plenty of other little things that looked interesting in the general area which hopefully at some point I'll be able to get back to and investigate further.

As I mentioned I visited the Neo Tiew estate with a friend and fellow blogger.  You can read her account of our visit on her blog here.  I also found the following blog posts useful and informative whilst looking for information about this area.

Remember Singapore - Neo Tiew Estate

Explore! - Neo Tiew - Abandoned Housing Estate

Vincent's Travel Journal - Neo Tiew HDB

Singapore: Lost & Filed - Kranji Heritage Trail (part 1)

The Neo Tiew area is included as part of the Kranji Heritage Trail which was launched in 2011 and covers several historical and agricultural places of interest in the Kranji area. Have a look at their useful website here for more details of what else you can see and visit in this part of Singapore.

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