SG 50 Special: Back to the past…


For this week’s SG50 Special, we are bringing you back to the past!

  • Singapore Zoological Gardens

Contrary to popular belief, the Singapore Zoo in Mandai was not the first zoo to be started in Singapore. There were several private zoos ran by rich businessmen and one of the most notable ones was ran by a wealthy Indian trader William Lawrence Soma Basapa from the late 1920s to 1940s. It was situated at Punggol and simply had a name ‘Ponggol Zoo’.


This zoo was destroyed was the Japanese invaded Singapore in World War II. A zoo was finally in place in 1973 where the Public Utilities Board Chairman, Ong Swee Law. He felt that the Zoo will be a good venue for family outings as there were insufficient family friendly venues. Back then, visitors to the park was treated to close range enclosures where the animals are literally up close and personal. There were about 270 animals of about 72 species present.


zoo 1

It was a big hit among tourists and locals alike and many thronged to the gates just to get a glimpse of the animals.

Now, Singapore Zoological Gardens is one of the world’s best rainforest zoos, with over 240 species and 2000 animals present. Education programs were also added to teach the public about wildlife conservation, exhibits were revamped and now gives the animals a more comfortable and mimics the real environment better. There are also rare breeds like the White Bengal tiger, Giant Pandas, Douc Langurs, Polar bears and many more! The Zoo is also better equipped with restaurants, show times, animal rides and water park activities to entertain the guests better.

new zoo elephants polar bear

  • Boat Quay

Boat Quay is the southern bank of the Singapore river and was once a bustling trading hub. It exceeded volumes of trading handled in the north bank.

old boat quay

It was a place where many shophouses were present, with the shops at the ground level and housings on the top. The level of activities was also an indication of economic status, bustling with crowds and bumboats fighting for a berthing space during good times. During 1983, mechanisation & computerisation gradually replaced the bumboat’s role in the shipping industry, and this has led to a rapid decline of Boat Quay. In 1986, the government decided to conserve the Singapore River and its environs and restoration and rehabilitation works were underway. Today, Boat Quay is a thriving entertainment and leisure hub, a popular after-work place for many working adults.

new boat quay

  • Buses

Back in the days, buses were the main mode of transport and people were just happy that it could transport them from one place to another faster than walking. The first few buses were without air-condition and had bus conductors regularly getting on board the buses to check your tickets.

old bus

The first air-conditioned bus service introduced in Singapore was Bus Number 168 and as the nation progressed, new variants of buses were introduced, including the double decker buses and the ‘worm’ bus. The double decker buses did not fare well with the public initially as they were so afraid that the bus will topple when it made a turn. It took countless persuading and assurance before the public warmed up to the idea of the double decker buses.

old bus 1

old bus 2

Non-air conditioned buses were slowly phased out in the early 2000s and the last non-air conditioned bus ceased operations in 2013.

Bus Tickets

Early tickets looked something like this:

old ticket

As the buses got newer, these ticketing system was later replaced by coin payment system in the early nineties and the introduction of thin magnet cards to access MRT and buses.


Now we have the well known Ezlink cards that comes with cute cartoon characters and also recently, the newest charm Ezlink in Hello Kitty Shape.

 hello kitty ezlink

marvel ezlink

hello kitty charm

*psst* I have the one in black and it is absolutely adorable!

We hope you have enjoyed this post of bringing you back to the past of Singapore in view of SG50. It certainly is quite interesting to see how Singapore has changed and it really reminds us to be more thankful of what we have today. With that, we end this week’s SG50 Special and we are 4 weeks away from SG50 celebration!


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