My Boon Keng Heritage Tour

Tour Info

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Every fourth Saturday and Sunday of the month
8:30am – 11:30am. Please arrive at 8:15am, 15 minutes before the start time for registration.
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Kallang MRT Station
Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital
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Difficulty Level


  • Expect three hours of walking
  • It is compulsory for a parent/guardian to accompany any child of/under the age of 12


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What should I bring
  • Wear suitable shoes and comfortable clothes that covers your shoulders and knees (as we will be entering places of worship).
  • Bring along hand sanitizer, insect repellant, a bottle of water, and an umbrella.
  • If you have earphones with a standard 3.5mm audio jack, please bring them along (for radio guides during the tour).
  • Asthmatic individuals are encouraged to bring their inhaler.



My Boon Keng Heritage Tour explores the intriguing stories of the Kallang-Boon Keng area. Beginning at Kallang MRT station, participants will be brought along the trail bordering iconic figures such as Hoo Ah Kay to Dr Lim Boon Keng. Uncover tales from days gone by and explore diverse communities living near its banks while passing through iconic places like the Shui Jiang Miao and Geylang Bahru Industrial Estate & Town Centre.

Site 1: Chwee Keng Beo

Shui Jiang Miao, or Chwee Keng Beo (水江庙) is a Taoist temple that was first built at the water’s edge of Kallang River and has a long history of being significant to those who work in and around rivers, such as fishermen and boat repair workers, who come to pray for their safety. The initial temple structure was built on stilts and sat right at the edge of Kallang River, with fishermen and workers in the many boat repair yards often coming here to pray for safety before paddling off to their work. In 1961, under the leadership of Sun Pi Shun as well as support from Wang Shi Tong, Li Zai Sheng, Zhang Zhi Kai and Shi Neng Da, the temple underwent its first renovation. The original stilt structure of Shui Jiang miao stood until 1979


The temple’s origins are rooted in China, where people originally prayed to Da Pu Gong, a deity who was an upright Chinese officer who met an unfortunate end. When the temple was established in Singapore, people continued to worship Da Pu Gong and Da Bo Gong, a deity worshipped throughout much of Southeast Asia. The temple also has a shrine dedicated to Tai Sui Yeh, a deity who predicts the fortunes of each year of the Chinese Zodiac, as well as other deities such as Cheng Huang, Zhang Fu Ren and Tiger God.


Participants may be able to spot eye-catching features of the Shui Jiang Miao such as a large, coloured pagoda for joss paper burning. In the temple interior, there sits a large wooden boat, which is in fact a miniature replica of a Ming-Dynasty era junk. This ship even has a miniature keel (a timber structure running down the length of a ship), canvas sails, ladders, rigging (ropes used to support a ship’s mast), and was hand-made by a temple devotee over the span of 2 months.


Today, the temple has a devoted base of devotees. Special celebrations are also held at the temple, including performances by Hokkien theatre troupes and celebrations honouring the birthdays of the deities.


Site 2: Kallang Distripark

Sitting at the confluence of the Kallang River and Pelton Canal, Kallang Distripark serves as a warehouse and distribution centre for a variety of goods. Before it was a warehouse facility, the area was first occupied by a soap factory owned by Tan Kah Kee (21 October 1874 – 12 August 1961) an influential Chinese businessman and philanthropist.

This soap factory was soon replaced by a rubber factory in either the late 1920s or early 1930s. This rubber factory was owned by Lee Rubber Company Limited (now known as Lee Latex), hereafter as Lee Rubber. Lee Rubber was set up by Lee Kong Chian (18 October 1893 – 2 June 1967), another prominent Chinese businessman and philanthropist here in Singapore.

The Lee Rubber factory here continued to operate here until the mid-1980s, when the Clean River Project necessitated that heavier industries need to relocate away from rivers to avoid polluting them, and the Lee Rubber factory relocated to Sungei Kadut. Kallang Distripark was also the site of several notable events, such as being the site of illegal car parking, as well as violent clashes between residents and Lee Rubber security guards.


Lately, Kallang Distripark has been marked as a potential site for redevelopment, as the Urban Redevelopment Authority seeks to further rejuvenate the Kallang Riverside area, with it being slated as a potential site for a residential area with waterfront parks.


Site 3: Geylang Bahru Industrial Estate

Geylang Bahru Industrial Estate was constructed in 1975 by the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC). The JTC was born out of a need to rejuvenate Singapore’s bleak, tumultuous economy in the 1960s when the Economic Development Board found that it was being stretched too thin.


Some notable tenants in Geylang Bahru Industrial Estate that had existed here before the Estate includes Blue Box Factory, a Hong Kong firm that made plastic toys and industrial-use bottles which operated at the Estate from May 1968 to 2003. Another tenant includes Texas Instruments, a semiconductor and electrical component manufacturer that was opened on 4 July 1969 by former Minister of Finance Goh Keng Swee. It cost $6 million to construct, sat on a 49,000 square foot plot, hired 1,400 workers – a majority of which were women – and made almost 40 million semi-conductors per year. In 1998, Texas Instruments has since been acquired by Micron, another global semi-conductor manufacturer. Another notable tenant would be General Electric, which first established itself in Jurong Industrial Estate, before opening another facility in Geylang Bahru Industrial Estate in 1970.


In addition to these modern industries, Geylang Bahru Industrial Estate also houses more traditional, but vanishing industries. One of these industries includes knife sharpening and rattan basket making, which used to be prolific around shophouse estates. Another noteworthy shop in Geylang Bahru Industrial Estate would be the Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors (hereafter as Ang Chin Moh). Funeral directors operate out of 3 of Singapore’s industrial estates at mainly at Geylang Bahru, Sin Ming Drive and Toa Payoh, with others located along Tampines Link, Lavender Street and Upper Serangoon Road.


Site 4: Geylang Bahru Town Centre

Geylang Bahru Town Centre is a housing estate that likely emerged between the 1970s and 1980s, following the construction of the newly built Geylang Bahru Road.

It was likely that Geylang Bahru was a mostly swampy area with kampongs before the Town Centre and HDBs were built. In the 1950s, two large fires occurred in the area, one in Lorong 1 that destroyed a small village and another in Lorong 3 in 1954 that burned down 8 acres of huts.


The GB Point building, which was formerly a Mandarin Theatre, is a notable landmark near the town centre. It was opened on September 10th, 1977 by Eng Wah Film Company, a company set up by Goh Eng Wah. Another notable landmark that is no longer present is Victoria School, an all-boys state school that was established in 1876 as the Kampong Bahru Malay Branch School by the colonial government. It was set up in Kampong Glam to improve students’ knowledge of English and Malay and to relieve pressure from Raffles Institution. The school moved to its current location on Siglap Road in 2003. Another interesting store that participants may spot is Haksen & Co, a family-owned business that sells rattan baskets and is currently run by the 3rd generation.


Some modern features of note near the Town Centre are the Geylang Bahru Food Centre and the Kolam Ayer Active Beautiful Clean (ABC) Waterway. The latter is Singapore’s first under the ABC project, which aims to revitalize the nation’s waterfronts for both biodiversity and recreational use. The waterfront park, which opened in April 2008, features a 200m refurbished river and elements such as floating platforms to encourage visitors to interact with the water.


Site 5: Boon Keng Estate

The Boon Keng area of Singapore, located about 4km from the Singapore River, was once considered to be on the outskirts of the city during the colonial era. The land was initially purchased by a wealthy Chinese businessman named Hoo Ah Kay, also known as Whampoa, who built a mansion and extensive gardens on the land, called Whampoa House and Gardens. Whampoa House and Gardens sat on a 30-acre plot and served as a meeting place for the local Chinese community and were maintained by Cantonese gardeners from China.


After Whampoa’s death, the property was purchased by another Chinese businessman named Seah Liang Seah. Seah was a local born Teochew Chinese businessman who was the second son of Seah Eu Chin (1805 – 23 September 1883), well known for running extensive gambier and pepper plantations, and for founding the Ngee Ann Kongsi for the Teochew Community. On the purchased land, Seah built Bendemeer House but the gardens were neglected and eventually demolished in the 1960s. The government then acquired the land to build public housing, and the area was named Bendemeer in honor of the former Bendemeer House.


The Boon Keng housing estates, built in 1964, were named in honor of Dr. Lim Boon Keng, a 3rd generation Chinese migrant, who was a prominent doctor and anti-opium movement leader in Singapore. Dr Lim, like Whampoa and Seah before him, was also educated in both Chinese and English. Even with financial difficulties, Dr Lim managed to complete his studies at Raffles with support from the then-principal R. W. Hullet, obtaining a Queen’s Scholarship to study medicine in the University of Edinburgh in 1877. After graduating in 1892 with a first-class honours, Dr Lim returned to Singapore as a practicing doctor, setting up several dispensaries and being a strong advocate against opium smoking. Dr Lim Boon Keng was a member of Singapore’s Legislative Council for two different periods, from 1895 to 1903, and then again from 1915 to 1921. During his time on the council, he helped establish the Straits Chinese British Association, which is the predecessor of the current Peranakan Association. He was also awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1918 for his contributions. Furthermore, Dr Lim assisted Tan Kah Kee in raising funds to establish Amoy University in China and was later invited by Tan to serve as the university’s president in 1921.


Site 6: Central Sikh Temple

The Central Sikh Temple, located at Towner Road, is a place of worship for Singapore’s Sikh community. The temple has a rich history, with its origins dating back to the colonial era when many Sikhs were brought to Singapore as soldiers and policemen in the British Army. The first temple, named the Sikh Police Gurdwara Sahib, was located at Pearl’s Hill and served as a place of worship for Sikhs living in the Sepoy Lines. However, as the Sikh community grew, a group of Sikhs decided to leave and build a new temple. With donations from the community, they acquired a bungalow in Queen Street in 1917, which was converted into the Queen Street Gurdwara Sahib, also known as the Wadda Gurdwara, in 1921.


The Queen Street Gurdwara faced several challenges, including internal disputes within the Sikh community and interference from the colonial government. The government placed the Gurdwara under the Muslim and Hindu Endowment Board and it took a public protest organized by the Sikh community to regain control of the temple. In the 1950s and 60s, plans to expand the Gurdwara were scrapped due to internal disputes, and the growing presence of Western tourists and hippies caused issues for the temple as well.


In 1977, the government acquired the land on which the Queen Street Gurdwara was located and the temple was offered a new site at Towner Road. The Central Sikh Temple was constructed at this location, with the Guru Granth Sahib being moved from Queen Street to the Bukit Ho Swee Community Centre during the construction. The temple was opened in 1986 and officially recognized as a historical site by the National Heritage Board in 1999.


Today, the Central Sikh Temple continues to serve the Sikh community, offering daily prayers and hosting events such as weddings and classes for both youth and adults. The temple features a prayer hall on the first floor and a communal kitchen on the second floor. The temple also has a tranquil reflection pool before the entrance to the prayer hall, which is similar to reflection pools in Sikh temples in India. The upper floors of the temple include classrooms, music rooms, and accommodation for resident musicians, as well as a smaller prayer hall and meeting and board room.


Site 7: Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital

Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital (KWSH) was established in 1910 by Chinese immigrants from Guangzhou, Huizhou, and Zhaoqing prefectures as Kwong Wai Shiu Free Hospital (KWSFH). The colonial government had requested that Chinese immigrant communities begin establishing their own medical facilities, likely to ease pressure on the state-run ones. Two Cantonese leaders, Wong Ah Fook and Leong Man Sau, met with representatives from Guangzhou, Huizhou, and Zhaoqing to establish a free hospital for their fellow immigrants, based on an existing free hospital in Guangzhou. They managed to collect $100,000 in funding and secured the location where the 2nd iteration of Tan Tock Seng Hospital sat.


KWSFH offered free consultations, treatments, and hospitalization for all immigrants from Guangzhou, Huizhou, and Zhaoqing and was one of the first to offer both western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments. They operated a maternity ward from the beginning, and was the only other hospital besides Kandang Kerbau Hospital to offer maternity and natal services to needy families. They also helped patients arrange their funerals, providing free funerals for those who died at the hospital, and even arranging for graves and plaques for unclaimed dead bodies.


During WWII, the hospital continued to operate, despite being damaged by bombs and the Japanese Occupation. Following the war, KWSFH resumed operation, and began organizing fundraisers. A large amount of funds was raised between 1951 and 1960, with the funds used to cover the costs of 12 new buildings and renovations to the maternity ward.


In 1975, the hospital opened its doors to all patients, regardless of race or religion. At the same time, the hospital was renamed to its current name, Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital. As Singapore’s population continues to age, KWSH plans to expand its facilities to have 400 beds in its nursing home and 200 in its community hospital.


Site 8: Victoria Wholesale Centre

The Victoria Wholesale Centre has a long history dating back to 1891. At that time, businesses that sold dried seafood came together in the market place in Tew Chew Street to sell their goods. Tew Chew Street became known for having the widest variety of reasonably priced dried groceries. Unfortunately, in 1968, a major fire destroyed the market. In 1978, a three-storey wholesale centre was built on the same location to provide a new home for the original tenants. This new centre was called the Ellenborough Market. However, with the construction of the MRT Northeast Line, the wholesale centre had to relocate to its current location at Victoria Street under a temporary lease agreement. Today, the centre has 41 units with tenants that sell groceries and dried provisions.