By Andrea Ong
The Straits Times
Sunday, Sep 30, 2012
SINGAPORE - Sleepy Punggol Point, once known for its rows of seafood eateries, may no longer be a place in the Singapore of today, but it still has a place in Mr Lee Hsien Loong's heart.
The Prime Minister can remember the first time he visited the area in 1967, when he was a 15-year-old boarding the ferry from Punggol Point to the Outward Bound School.
"Punggol was a very rural environment," he said, recalling how he would get "suddenly lost" on orienteering exercises in the kampung and secondary jungle areas.
"Today, you can't get lost in Punggol any more," he said with a tinge of nostalgia.
Mr Lee was responding to a question on whether he loved or missed any part of Singapore which has since been built over.
The importance of memories in defining the "soul of the nation" was a key theme of the Prime Minister's National Day Rally last month. In his speech, he reminisced about vanished places dear to him, and stressed the importance of memories of old places and friends in keeping Singapore the best home.
His memories of Punggol Point, however, were more recently sparked by a visit on Sunday to the "beautiful new town" of Punggol West.
The area has undergone an extensive makeover over the years, from pig farms being resettled from the 1970s and bustling seafood restaurants moving out in 1994, to the building of new housing estates.
In 2007, Mr Lee unveiled plans for Punggol 21-Plus, setting the stage for the homes, parks and watersports facilities that have since sprung up there. The centrepiece is the 4.2km-long Punggol Waterway, which he opened last year.
And while he has fond memories of the old Punggol, the new Punggol is "better", said Mr Lee of the town, which will be almost as big as Ang Mo Kio.
"There's one 'Ang Mo Kio' coming up, south of the Punggol Waterway. And north of Punggol Waterway, another 'Ang Mo Kio' will rise one day, progressively."
At the same time, Mr Lee took comfort in the fact that a bit of the old Punggol has been retained. Kelong Bridge, one of five footbridges along the waterway, looks like one of the old fishing villages which used to dot Punggol's shoreline.
A stretch of Old Punggol Road, which used to lead to Punggol Point, and an old bus stop have also been conserved.
"I'm not sure if the bus still stops there any more, but they've kept the old bus stop," he quipped. "I think it's a nice microcosm of how Singapore has changed in one generation."