Do you know what kampung actually means in Malay? Literally translated, it means village. And anyone who’s ever lived in a kampung always waxes nostalgic about those simple, carefree days – unlike the fast-paced, competitive Singapore of today. But even if we don’t have physical kampungs here anymore, there are still small pockets of kampung-ness all around our island. So here are six ways you can find the kampung in Singapore!

1. Kampong Bahru

Hipsters and hawkers at Kampong Bahru. Credit: Panoramio

Hipsters and hawkers at Kampong Bahru. Credit: Panoramio

Google Kampong Bahru and Google will auto-complete it with “Kampong Bahru food,” showing you just what that neighbourhood is famous for. It’s not just cafes you’ll find there (Waffle Slayer’s pretty good if you’re heading down), but varied eateries as well (some of which have lent their “Kampong Bahru” names to stalls that are definitely not in Kampong Bahru). It may not be a real kampung now, but its row of hipster shophouses certainly brings back memories of the good old days.

2. Kampung chicken

The end result of kampung chicken. Credit: Hungry Island

The end result of kampung chicken. Credit: Hungry Island

Also known as ayam kampung, kampung chickens are free range chickens, meaning that they’re allowed to roam about rather than being cooped up in a cage. The result is a tastier and heartier flavour, though it’s usually smaller in size. It’s such a huge differentiation that it’s even one of the major plot elements of Let’s Eat!

3. Kampung spirit

Kampung spirit in action. Credit: Singapore Kindness Movement

Kampung spirit in action. Credit: Singapore Kindness Movement

It’s an oft-heard refrain from civil servants that we need to cultivate “kampung spirit” even though, well, we don’t live in kampungs anymore. Clearly, it’s not advocating that we live without running water and electricity like in a kampung, but more that we learn to love and help our neighbours like they were our own family.

Bottom line – be a good neighbour!

4. Kampong Glam

Kampung Glam. Credit: Your Singapore

Kampung Glam. Credit: Your Singapore

You’ll always find Kampong Glam in a Social Studies textbook because of its rich history and cultural significance. It was originally the Bukit Timah of Malay aristocrats before Sir Stamford Raffles came, and gradually came to be identified with the Malay community. Today it’s a hotspot for the trendiest cafes and a beacon for the arts. Kampung Glam is looking much like Kampung Glamorous these days!

5. Balik kampung

As with anything popular, the Internet has turned "balik kampung" into a meme. Credit: The Keep-Calm-O-Matic

As with anything popular, the Internet has turned “balik kampung” into a meme. Credit: The Keep-Calm-O-Matic

It’s a Malay phrase that literally means returning to the village, but it’s often used in the context of “go back to the place you came from.” It’s one of the Malay phrases that has entered our Singlish lexicon, and of course, it’s usually used in a derogatory fashion to tell people to go away, or to indicate a retreat. It’s not quite possible to literally balik kampung in Singapore now though, unless you actually live in a kampung… like Kampung Buangkok.

6. Kampung Buangkok

The last of our history. Credit: Property Guru

The last of our history. Credit: Property Guru

Kampung Buangkok, or Kampong Buangkok as it’s officially known, is Singapore’s last kampung. It houses just 28 families in an area slightly larger than 12,000 square metres. Surprisingly, it’s got electricity, running water and refuse collection services! It’s truly the last kampung you can find in Singapore, and the only place you can see what life was like for the pioneers of our country.

Poster for Long Long Time Ago (我们的故事). Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Poster for Long Long Time Ago (我们的故事). Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

But don’t fret yet! There’s still one more chance to witness kampung living in action in Long Long Time Ago (我们的故事). It’s a contemporary period drama that follows the life of widow Zhao Di (played by Aileen Tan) in 1960s Singapore, who overcomes all sorts of adversities to support her family against a backdrop of tumultuous historical events.

Set in a real kampung Jack Neo sourced for in Ipoh, this is one film which will get your parents and grandparents going, “Neh, this is exactly we used to live back then in the kampung!”

Bring them along to catch Long Long Time Ago (我们的故事) today!

 

Credits: Panoramio, Hungry Island, Singapore Kindness Movement, Your SingaporeThe Keep-Calm-O-Matic, Property Guru, Golden Village Cinemas