Singaporeans in their teens would probably have fuzzy recollections of how parts of this island looked like before the security clampdown that came about after the terror attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001.

As with many things in life, you don’t realise what you’ve missed until it’s gone. Here are our top six picks, in no particular order.

1. Changi Village Road
A magnet for plane spotters by day and *ahem* “courting couples” by night, the slight elevation of Changi Village Road gave one an unblocked view of the airport runway and taxiways. It was a real treat watching planes come and go at one of Asia’s busiest airports. The place now sits within the fence line of the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) Changi Air Base (West).

2. Sembawang Wharves
There was a time when the name of a visiting warship was all that was needed for a visitor’s pass to the quayside where foreign warships came alongside for port calls. No one bothered if you walked in with a camera and you could gawk at the open yard full of brand new cars waiting for their date with a Ro-Ro. All that changed after 9/11 with heightened security in the area, complete with security troopers from the Singapore Armed Forces Island Defence Group.

3. Gombak Drive
One could walk all the way up Gombak Drive to the hallowed gates of the Singapore Ministry of Defence, no questions asked. Just make sure you do an abut turn before the MPs at the gate. There was this particular tree in front of a security signboard near the main gate guard post that generated chuckles from visitors: stand at one particular spot and the tree trunk blocked out the letter “P” in the written warning that said:
Show Your
Pass Without Demand
Today, the road leading to Block M, Gombak Drive resembles the CIQ at the Causeway. Ahhh… life was indeed simpler then.

4. Central Manpower Base, Depot Road
Cheap curry puffs colour marked for potatoes and sardines were one hot staple at CMPB. The various canteen dishes were kept affordable too and welcomed all. Visitors could walk right in as there was hardly a sentry in sight pre-9/11. Today: Don’t venture there unless on an official visit.

5. SAFTI Military Institute, Upper Jurong Road
The sprawling camp, home to the SAF Officer Corps, was designed from a blank sheet of paper as an open concept camp ala West Point in the US. No need to change pass. No perimeter fence. Visitors were allowed to roam the grounds to see the citizens’ army up close and many did indeed do so. The grounds were a favourite with wedding couples, who used the cropped lawns and well manicured terrain as the backdrop for their wedding photo shoot.

6. Jurong Island
When the island was first opened as Singapore’s petrochemical hub, you could drive in whenever you fancied for a look at the newest refineries on the island. Go at night and be dazzled by the Christmas tree-like effect from the fairyland of lights that typifies a modern petrochem hub. The empty, desert-like, yet-to-be-occupied plots of industrial land and roads leading to empty seafronts were also a favourite with courting couples looking for some private space *grin* or shutter bugs who wanted to snap pictures of the refineries at night. Missed that sight? Too bad. It’s gone. Forever!

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