This used to be my playground. From age 8 to 28, I stayed at Block 195 Kim Keat Avenue, which is right next to Siong Lim Temple. That’s how I used to spell the temple’s name until 莲山双林寺 ‘Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery’ (Twin Groves of the Lotus Mountain Temple) emerged as its official name when I Googled today.
Back in those days, the temple grounds provided much enjoyment and playthings for us neighbourhood kids. It used to have a huge pond which we used to come by often to catch guppies and small shrimps as pets. The place was also overgrown with wild balsam plants and vegetation, providing endless hours of acquiring butterfly and spider specimens in addition to our aquatic keepsakes.
The other thing I remember fondly of the temple is the gong. Everyday at 6am, the temple bell will chime and its solemn signal of a new day accompained my morning routine of getting ready for school.
To this day, whenever I hear the timbre of a Chinese monastic gong, I’m brought back to those teenage reveries. But how things have changed. The temple ground is beyond recognition to me now. These old pics, abett only partial snippets, showed how the temple looked like back in the early 90s.
Twenty-one years later, Siong Lim Temple has gone through a major restoration and comestic overhaul. While the improvements made it look very good with the manicured bonsai trees and stone pathways, it felt devoid of life.
There were many things I used to be able to do here but were amiss. I used to be able to take photos in the temple, but now, photography is prohibited in the monastery. I used to interact with the surroundings, today I just admired how neat and proper everything looks.
I wanted to cry “murder!” seeing how my growing up memories were defaced, but I guess it’s about moving with the times and getting reacquainted with an old friend who ordered every item on the plastic surgery menu.
It felt rather surreal being here so many years apart. It’s a pity I arrive only about an hour before closing time and didn’t get to explore more familiar grounds. Besides, the last section of Shuang Lin Monastery was hoarded up for renovations.
Nonetheless, there was still enough points of interest to explore for a late-afternoon photo outing. Do check out this old, well, now it’s new playground of mine…
Getting Here : From Toa Payoh MRT and Bus Interchange, take feeder bus nos. 232, 237, or 238 (less than 10 minutes journey)
Address : 184E Jalan Toa Payoh, Singapore 319941
Tel : +65 6259 6924
Opening Hours : 8:30am – 5:00pm daily (Free admission)