Located at the most eastern part of Singapore, Changi is a name familiar to both Singaporeans and foreigners, thanks to our world-famous Changi Airport. In the past, it used to be a community of plantation workers and fishermen. It was only until 1926 when the British Army decided to develop Changi as a military base. After Singapore’s independence and the withdrawal of the British Army, some of the facilities were taken over by the SAF while the others were converted to other uses, mostly recreational. These numerous layers of development helped shape Changi’s identity today.
The origins of the name Changi is still debatable today. Some say it is named after a climbing shrub known as changi ular, while others believe it is named after the Chengal tree. Yet another claim says that it is named after the local chengai timber.
Interestingly, there was once a very tall tree in Changi that has since been named the Changi tree. Standing at 76 metres tall, it was a prominent landmark, but its height also led to its eventual death. In 1942, shortly before the fall of Singapore, it was cut down to prevent the attacking Japanese from using it as a ranging point.
In the 1600s, Changi was known as Tanjong Rusa, or “Cape of Deer”. In the early 1800s, the British colonial authorities attempted to rename the place Franklin Point, after surveyor Captain Franklin. It was, however, not successful, and the name Changi remained till today.
Constructed: Late 1970s to early 1980s
As with most other kampongs in Singapore, Changi Village was redeveloped by HDB into a housing estate. The 4-storey flats create an environment similar to the Rural Centres built by HDB, but is a stark contrast to the high-rise flats in other HDB estates seen today.
The estate consists of 3 blocks of flats (Blk 1, 4 & 5), a market & hawker centre (Blk 2 & 3), and another separate building (Blk 6) that used to house the Tekong Seafood Restaurant. The restaurant was displaced from Pulau Tekong when the island was militarised, and has since relocated to Blk 1. Blk 6 was empty when I last visited in 2013.
Tekong Seafood Restaurant (Block 6)
Changi Village Hawker Centre is perhaps most famous for its nasi lemak stalls, which draw long queues every day.
Changi Village Hawker Centre
In front of Blk 1 stands the Royal Air Force Changi & HQ Far East Air Force Memorial, erected in 2010 to commemorate the historical ties between Changi Village and the Air Force. The memorial is shaped like a comet aircraft.
The RAF Changi & HQFEAF Memorial
Changi Village Road was once part of Upper Changi Road. Today, Upper Changi Road has been fragmented and given different names, including Upper Changi Road East, Upper Changi Road North and Changi Village Road (the stretch from Changi Road to Anglican High School has been expunged). A large segment of Changi Village Road now lies within the boundaries of Changi Airbase (off Loyang Ave). The following map shows the rough position of Upper Changi Road before it was redeveloped.
Telok Paku Road was also shortened following the construction of Changi Airport. It used to run roughly along today’s Aviation Drive and North Perimeter Road, before ending at another junction with Nicoll Drive. Telok Paku means “spikes bay” in Malay. My guess is that the paku (“spikes”) are referring to the stakes used in the construction of coastal houses and kelongs, although I have yet to verify this.
Changi Village Bus Terminal
Changi Village Bus Terminal is located off Changi Village Road. Its sole boarding and alighting bay is located at Blk 3 (the market). It primarily serves the residences of Changi Village and visitiors heading towards Pulau Ubin.
The terminus is located on the former site of Changi Cinema. Opened in the 1940s, the cinema could house up to 500 audiences. It was demolished when the village was redeveloped.
Changi Point Ferry Terminal
Next to Changi Village is the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, which connects mainland Singapore to Pulau Ubin and Pengerang in Johor. Before this current building was constructed, two older jetties stood in its place. Before Pulau Tekong was militarised, it was also one of the destinations served by the jetties. Today, access to Pulau Tekong is only allowed via the SAF Terminal, located futher east of Changi beach.
Changi Point Ferry Terminal
The ferry terminal is located along Lorong Bekukong, named after a type of sea fish. Lorong Bekukong used to connect Upper Changi Road (now Changi Village Road) and Telok Paku Road (closer to Nicoll Drive), but it has since been re-routed into the crescent-shape that we see today.
Changi Police Station once stood along Lorong Bekukong.
Sree Ramar Temple
Located on the other side of Loyang Avenue is Sree Ramar Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to Rama. It started off as a tree shrine located at the same position. When the area was redeveloped, the temple almost had to be relocated.
Sree Ramar Temple
Despite being a Vaishnavite temple, it also houses Saivite and even Buddhist deities.
Next to the temple are Blks 11, 13 and 15 Changi Village Road. These 3 storey blocks seem to be used as hostels now.
Blocks 13 & 11
Today, Changi Beach stretches from Changi Point to Changi Ferry Terminal, just before Changi Air Base. In the past, it used to extend a lot further south, but following land reclamation, the “lost” stretch of Changi Beach is now part of Changi Airport. The remaining stretch of Changi Beach overlooks Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. Similarly, Nicoll Drive (which runs parallel to the beach) was one much longer, extending southward to connect to Tanah Merah Besar Road. Both were shortened when Changi Airport was built.
Nicoll Drive shares the same namesake as Nicoll Highway, despite being miles apart.
Due to its close proximity to the airport, planes will fly over your head every now and then
In the past, Changi Beach was also known as Pantai Chantek, which literally means “Beautiful Beach” in Malay.
In memory of those killed under Sook Ching
During the Japanese Occupation, many were killed at Changi Beach under the Sook Ching operation. Another killing ground used by the Japanese was the Tanah Merah Besar Beach, located south of Changi Beach (before land reclamation). It also falls within the grounds of Changi Airport today.
Netheravon Road extends from Changi Village Road until Old Pier Road, and cuts across most parts of Changi Point. It is most probably named after Netheravon in England, where a Royal Air Force station once stood. Similarly, I believe most of the other roads in the vicinity are also named after RAF stations in the UK, to give the Britsh military personnel a sence a familiarity. Halton, Biggin Hill, Upavon, Hendon, Cranwell, Andover, Gosport and Catterick are all locations in England, while Turnhouse and Leuchars are located in Scotland. Sealand is found in north-east Wales. The only roads that do not seem to be given RAF-related names are Old Pier Road and Fairy Point Hill. Old Pier Road was once called Pier Road.
Chalet K – one of the many government chalets
Scattered long the road are government bungalows and chalets managed by Aloha Resorts. These include the chalets idenfitied by letters of the alphabet, the Netheravon Terraces, the Changi Cottage, the Yacht Club Bungalows, Cranwell Bungalows, and the bungalows and chalets at Fairy Point.
Next to these Aloha chalets are the SAF Seaview Resort, Changi Gold Club and the Civil Service Club’s Changi Clubhouse.
Changi Golf Club (left) and SAF Seaview Resort (right)
Within the grounds of the Changi Clubhouse stands the Manasseh Meyer House, once owned by Manasseh Meyer, who was Municipal Commissioner, a businessman and philanthropist. He owned the Sea View Hotel on Meyer Road (named after him) and the Adelphi Hotel on Coleman Street. Both hotels would eventually be demolished and replaced by Peach Garden condominium and The Adelphi complex respectively. Other properties he acquired include the Killiney House at Oxley Walk (renamed Belle Vue and eventually replaced by Belle Vue Residences), Meyer Chambers at Raffles Place (replaced by Royal Brothers Building and One Raffles Place), Meyer Mansions at Coleman Street (replaced by Peninsula Plaza) and Teutonia Club at Scotts Road (now Goodwood Park Hotel).
Changi Clubhouse under renovations in 2013
Meyer also contributed to the Jewish community by setting up the two synagogues in Singapore: Maghain Aboth and Chesed-El. In addition, he presented a plot of land off Moulmein Road to be used as the Jewish Cemetery. The cemetery was set up in the early 1900s, and was closed in 1985, exhumed and replaced by Novena MRT Station. He donated $150,000 to Raffles College, and the Manasseh Meyer Building in the campus was named after him. The building is now within the compounds of NUS Bukit Timah Campus.
In 1933, Meyer’s bungalow at Netheravon Road was bought from him, and converted into a school to serve the British military family population at Changi. It was used to house prisoners-of-war during WWII. Today, it houses the Meyer House Restaurant & Bar, operated by The Coastal Settlement bistro.
Constructed: 1927 to 1935 (Block 24), later 1930s / early 1940s (Block 37), 1976 (Block 161)
Old Changi Hospital
Perhaps the most (in)famous landmark off Netheravon Road is the Old Changi Hospital. It was commissioned as the Royal Air Force Hospital, serving the nearby Selarang Barracks (now Selarang Camp), Roberts Barracks (now Changir Airbase) and Kitchener Barracks (located off Hendon Road). The hill it stood on was named the Far East Air Force Hill (FEAF Hill).
During the Japanese Occupation, the hospital was used as a prison and torture chamber by the Japanese kempetai. Medical facilities were temporarily shifted to Roberts Barracks. The hospital resumed its original functions after the Japanese surrendered.
Old Changi Hospital
Following Singapore’s independence, the British gradually withdrew their military presence in Singapore, and the hospital was handed over to the Commonwealth forces in 1971. The Commonwealth forces comprised of armed forces from Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom, and the hospital was renamed ANZUK Hospital. The ANZUK was in charge of protecting the Asia Pacific region. When it disbanded in 1974, the hospital was renamed UK Military Hospital.
Old Changi Hospital
In January 1975, a former British officer’s club next to the hospital was converted into the short-lived Changi Chalet Hospital. It provided medical services to the surrounding holiday chalets, and X-ray services to patients from Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Changi Prison Hospital. In December, the withdrawal of the British troops was completed, and the Singapore government took over the UK Military Hospital. It was renamed Singapore Armed Forces Hospital, and primarily catered to servicemen and their immediate family. Medical service was soon extended to the public.
The SAF Hospital and Changi Chalet Hospital merged to form Changi Hospital in July 1976, and the Ministry of Health took over. Block 161 was also added by the Public Works Department to link the two older blocks. 21 year later, Changi Hospital merged with Toa Payoh Hospital to form Changi General Hospital, and moved to its current premises at Simei.
Old Changi Hospital seen from Netheravon Road
The vacated hospital buildings soon became a favourite place for television and film-makers. The Old Changi Hospital also became rumoured to be haunted by victims from the Japanese Occupation, and attracted people looking for a “thrilling” exploration inside the abandoned hospital. Its supernatural reputation became the basis of the film, Haunted Changi, in 2010.
Old Changi Hospital
In 2006, Bestway Properties was awarded the tender to redevelop the old hospital into a spa-resort. However, nothing concrete was done, and the lease expired in 2010. There are now no known plans to redevelop it.
Given its rich history and prominent role in the military and medical heritage in the area, I believe it is as deserving as other similar buildings (such as Alexandra Hospital and the old Commando HQ) to be conserved.
Old barrack blocks
Many blocks of military barracks and buildings have been built by the British to house the soldiers’ quarters and other facilities. While some are now out-of-bounds, within the fences of the various army camps and air base, a number are still standing in the area between Netheravon Road and Loyang Avenue.
33 Hendon Road being redeveloped into a hotel
Standing at the junction of Netheravon Road, Cranwell Road and Hendon Road is 33 Hendon Road, which has recently been redeveloped into Raintr33 Hotel. There was some confusion over the exact location of the hotel, as some mistook it to be located at the Old Changi Hospital.
The SIA Sports Club at Turnhouse Road was opened in 1982, having been relocated from Paya Lebar Airport. The club shifted to a new location at Upper Changi Road East in 2006.
Changi Swimming Pool used to be located in this area.
The Turnhouse, located along Turnhouse Road, is one of the rare single-storey military buildings in the area. It is located next to Turnhouse Park, and currently houses the Ponggol Choon Seng Seafood Restaurant.
The Coastal Settlement
At the end of Turnhouse Road is another single-storey building that houses a restaurant, operated by The Coastal Settlement, the same group behind the restaurant at Meyer House.
Conserved: Since 2002
Standing at the top of Fairy Point Hill is the old Commando HQ, built as part of the British Far East Air Force to defend Singapore against the Japanese. It was then taken over by the Royal Engineers, and subsequently converted into an RAF Officers’ Mess. After the British withdrew their troops, the SAF Commando Formation occupied the building until 1994, when they moved to the new Hendon Camp, located just slightly south.
In 2012, the building was restored as the events and function rooms of Changi Cove hotel. The yellow building was painted white.
I am not sure how Fairy Point Hill got its name, but according to older maps, Fairy Point was located along the coast, at the end of Old Pier Road.
Situated along the Changi Point boardwalk is the Loyang Rock, otherwise known as the Squance Rock. Due to its colour, it was also called batu puteh (“white rock” in Malay). The village located along the shores here was known as Kampong Batu Puteh.
Yet another building from the British military era, Changi Beach Club was once known as British Air Force Officers’ Club. In 1972, the National Sports Promotion Board (now Singapore Sports Council) took over and renamed it Changi Swimming Club. 16 years later, it was privatised, and became the Changi Beach Club.
Loyang Avenue was built in the late 1970s, in lieu of the major development in the area. It replaced Upper Changi Road as the main artery connecting Changi Point to the rest of Singapore. Loyang means “brass” in Malay, and it may be referring to the colour of the sea water.
Comparing the area before and after the major development, it can be seen that the area north of Loyang Avenue has largely been retained (at least the road networks and military buildings), while those south of Loyang Avenue are either expunged or out-of-bounds.
File Last Updated: January 9, 2015