SG50 Fifty and More memories – (1) The Playground

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Since the end of 2014, I’ve been wanting to dedicate some part of my travel blog to my home country as part of celebrating its 50th year of independence. As usual, procrastination sets in and today is the 1st of December and I’ve just started writing on this introduction. Hopefully this gets published before 2016.

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Although I am a Singaporean travel blogger, I have not written any travel articles about Singapore simply because I think that the blogosphere in Singapore is pretty saturated. Any information that is required can be easily found online and there isn’t much content creation if I blog about the travel attractions in Singapore. I thought hard about what I could share with my readers and I suddenly remembered the short stories that I’ve read and seen on video at the SG Heart Map Festival which happened at the Floating Platform last weekend. It was a pretty nostalgic affair as we walked through fifty significant icons, many of which contains memories kept to my heart. I may not be very old but I belong to the generation that transited through the evolution of internet, mobile phone and technology. The kids today will find it difficult to experience the simplicity of fun. Let me pen down these memories and see if they remain relevant in ten years time.

  1. The Playground

Many of us hold fond memories of the playground near our place. I’ve seen it “downgraded” (In terms of fun) from wooden swings with sandpits, high slides and plank see-saws to rubber swings (reduced in numbers to make way for infant swings) on polysoft rubber flooring,  shorter slides and spring see-saws.

I couldn’t find any old photographs of the old playground set-up (for Telok Kurau Park) before 2001 but I vaguely remember that it was all sandy with monkey bars (which some of us attempted to climb on top of it), a rubber tyre swing, an ultra high curve slide (something similar to the purple and yellow one) with a castle-like pointed edge at the top. The rubber tyre swing’s memory is pretty vivid as we will fit 3 people on the swing, 1 on each side and spin it around like crazy and see who was the last one sitting/standing. Usually, it was a team effort kind of fun. There were many entrants to the playground – You can choose to climb a roped web, monkey-bar your way across, climb up the shorter slide or simply walk up the stairs. It was the place that I could play catching, obstacle course, hide and seek with people I only knew for the day. It was also the place that I discovered that drains, despite being dirty and dangerous, were awesome places for hide-and-seek. I vaguely remember laughing in the drain while the catcher ran pass me on the surface. Well, kids today don’t even have access to these drains as they have sealed it all up.

Playing with sand wasn’t just limited to the beach. Most playgrounds back then were all sand-based and it was pretty rough when we had to run for obstacle course. The concept of obstacle course was inspired from some game show on the kids channel on Saturday morning. Pairs had to complete a task of obstacles in the quickest time possible to win. In playground concept, the leader (usually one with a stop watch) will plan the route which involves running, climbing and blah.. before running back and touch the start/end point. It will usually start with a “Ready.. Go!” Well, I wasn’t a good participant with obstacle course as I often struggled to remember the steps and actions but nevertheless, it was fun to be part of all that action.

Slowly but surely (somewhere between 2001 and 2003), the playgrounds evolved to adhere to the safety standards. The sandpits were replaced with rubber flooring that minimizes impact when you fall and spring seesaw was introduced (and we up-ed the challenge by standing on them). The game was to shake as vigorously as possible and force the person on the other side to fall off. I remember there was once I fell and had a bad landing on the back of my head. For once, I was thankful for the rubber flooring as I scraped through with a small swelling. That “dangerous” seesaw was once again replaced by even more harmless spring rides. 4 adult swings were reduced to 2 adult and 2 young children swings while the super tall curve slide shrunk to a quarter of its original height. The mini web-domed structure still remains from the first renovation (it was on sand previously) and it was one of the start/end point for our obstacle course. The frames for the swing’s position remained the same.

1a. Mid-autumn Festival at The Playground

Img Cr: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/police-advise-against-using-sparklers-during-festive-season

The Playground becomes especially important during the annual mid autumn festival where we (my cousins and I) would light real candles for our real lanterns (not the noisy battery operated ones today) bought by our grandmother at Chinatown, hold them by a stick and stroll to the park. The fun wasn’t with the festival or the lantern itself,the real fun was the bonfire which will set up every year without fail. Upon reaching the park, we will abandon our lanterns at one corner (There was one year my lantern caught fire as the wind blew and my chicken lantern became roasted chicken. What was left was only the metal frame as all the cellophane paper was burned) and went on to search for anything that is combustible. The popular items were twigs and dried leaves (there was one year where the ground was pretty wet and we struggled to get our fire going) and we piled everything at a corner, usually at the sides of the mini brick boundary surrounding the sand pit. With matches and some candles, it was time to start our annual fire light-up. Despite the constant threats from our parents about the police arriving, it was our only annual chance to play with fire. I guess it was exciting because we were going against the norm of our education which taught us to “not play with Fire”. It was usually a 15 to 45 minutes affair before our parents got bored of talking or mosquitoes feeding and chased us to leave. If the fire hasn’t burned out by then, we used the sand to extinguish the fire. Sometimes, we may even get to play with sparkles if any of our parents bought them. Thankfully, sparkles has’t been banned in Singapore yet and I hope that the next generation will still get to play with it.

These past experiences probably contributed to my liking for fireworks. After trying it out for the first time in 2011 at the beach in South Korea, I went on to buy more expensive ones in my 2013’s South Korea trip and even in my visit to Bali in 2014, my Balinese friend (feeling very amused as this is child’s play to her) bought it from me from a kids/toy shop.

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Pohang, South Korea

Anmyeongdo, South Korea

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