2 months ago, I was invited to pitch for a listing in Tiong Bahru. And I thought it was just another pop-in pop-out type of meeting.
Little did I know I was actually walking into a home of a giant!
My first impression was how austere this apartment is but it has very good bones. Buyers who are looking to gut out and remodel these homes would love this.
Since the family said they grew up in the hood, I had to mention I grew up in Tiong Bahru and studied in the defunct Tiong Bahru Primary School. So the topic about College Field naturally came up. And I casually mentioned about a coffeeshop atop a flight of stairs on the other side of the field.
This was where the conversation went from real estate centric to a trip down memory lane.
College Field is located just behind my primary school. That’s where we had PE lessons, run around in circles on those uneven pitch filled with pot holes. But that field is a reservoir of frogs and longkang fish. It was also a place my classmates and I had lots of fun with clandestine fireworks.
And if we had enough pocket money, we will walk over to the canteen to get soft drinks. Below the canteen was a row of abandoned houses which we were sure were inhabited by spirits. So it was always quite an adventure and also to impress the girls by displaying our bravado when we explored that place.
Anyway, back to the main story, the uncle who operated the canteen was the guy who owned this place. Till then, I didn’t know that this uncle. Mr Wong Niap Leng, fondly known as Ah Leng and thus that no-name canteen became known as Ah Leng’s canteen. To me and my classmates, it was just the college field kopitiam.
This humble non descript canteen was where many medical students hung out. Back then, Mr Wong allowed them to eat first and pay later using his 555 notebook. But he never really chased them down for payments. And he even helped to pay the tuition fees for those who were struggling financially.
Over the years, he made many friends and some remained close. These are all notable doctors in leadership roles. The only name I could put a face to is Dr Mahattiar. He and his wife hung out at his canteen while they were studying in Singapore. I was told Dr M maintained contact with Mr Wong and would visit him in his private capacity when he was the PM of Malaysia.
Mr Wong must have left a huge impact in the lives of those medical students that NUS, Yong Lin School of Medicine, set up a Wong Niap Leng Medical Bursary to honour him for the the difference he made to students in need.
I walked out full of awe and respect for this home that I will be marketing. But at the same time, I’m kinda sad as I know the new owner won’t be keeping it “LKY’s Oxley” mode.
Here’s a virtual tour of the home of Mr Wong Niap Leng. I’ve embedded tags containing nugget of information about Mr Wong. You can click on it to read more about this Giant.
This is a task where I’m conflicted. But I have to do what I’m tasked to do. So the least I could do is to capture his home in 3D for posterity.

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