Tanglin Halt’s “Chap Lau Chu” Flats – A Final Look At An Iconic Neighbourhood Before It’s Gone

10 January 2024 | BY

The once lively estate is now a ghost town.

tanglin halt

Before Singapore became the concrete jungle it is today, the housing estates scattered around our little red dot were quaint neighbourhoods that embodied the kampung spirit. But in the neverending quest to build enough homes to house over 6 million people, we’ve had to bid farewell to many of those neighbourhoods. One of them is Tanglin Halt.

Tanglin Halt was one of the first HDB estates to be built in Queenstown way back in 1962 and spanned a whopping 31 blocks. In 2014, it was selected to undergo the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS). 6 decades later – and nearly 10 after the initial SERS announcement – its residents have all but relocated from the estate, leaving Tanglin Halt looking like an abandoned ghost town.

Before we lose a piece of our housing history forever, Uchify spent an afternoon exploring the derelict estate that was once filled with life and laughter.

One of the first HDB estates in Singapore

block 24-28 at tanglin haltBlocks 24-28 at Tanglin Halt.
Image credit: National Archives of Singapore

Before we delve into what we discovered at Tanglin Halt, here’s a quick history lesson for those who are unfamiliar with the estate. As mentioned before, it’s one of the OG housing estates that were built by the Singapore Improvement Trust, a.k.a. HDB’s predecessor.

Initially, many of the blocks in Tanglin Halt were rented out to Singaporeans, with one block even dedicated to housing HDB workers. However, as the desire for home ownership increased, HDB decided to convert many of the homes here to residential leasehold flats and sold them at a whopping $4,900 for 2-room flats and $6,200 for 3-room flats.

There were also plenty of amenities within the estate that the residents had easy access to, including the Tanglin Halt Food Centre, Tanglin Secondary School, and a stop along the old Malayan Railway line.

Chap Lau Chu – Hokkien for “10-storey flats”

chap lau chu tanglin haltImage credit: National Archives of Singapore

Another name that Singaporeans affectionately call Tanglin Halt is “chap lau chu”, which translates in Hokkien to “10-storey flats”.

tanglin halt block 63

It’s a stark contrast to the high-rise HDB flats in many other estates, and the fact that all of these blocks are equally tall – or short – gives them a cohesive aesthetic, and makes the “chap lau chu” nickname make even more sense. After all, which other HDB estates have almost all of their buildings of the same height?

Spooky ambience in the almost-abandoned estate

deserted blocks at tanglin halt

While Tanglin Halt might’ve been a lively estate in its heyday, it is a shell of its former self as almost all its residents have since moved on to better digs nearby. The mouldy walls, broken windows, shattered glass, and lack of human presence gave it a spooky aura and had our hair standing the moment we entered its borders, even though we were there in the middle of the day.

block 27 tanglin halt

There was also a palpable silence that echoed throughout the abandoned estate. The only other people around who were not residents were taxi drivers taking their breaks in the empty multi-storey carpark.

broken windows

Many of the blocks had also already been barricaded away, with their lifts going out of service and stairways blocked off so urban explorers couldn’t just enter. But that hasn’t stopped many people from creating an adventure out of exploring this abandoned estate and creating content out of it.

Sneaky Sushi’s video is also not the first time that paranormal happenings have been reported in Tanglin Halt. Cara Wong recounted her encounters with the supernatural on the blog Supernatural Confessions, where she listed off incidences that had her swearing to never return to the area.

From old cupboards that would open up without help to haunting laughter and weird scratches on hands, Cara’s confessions made us glad that we only read them after we left Tanglin Halt. Should we have read her stories before we visited the estate, we would probably have chao keng’ed and stayed home instead.

Thankfully, our visit concluded with no otherworldly hijinks occurring, and once we hit the bustling main road.

A final look at Tanglin Halt HDB estate

tanglin halt

Tanglin Halt is finally joining the ranks of Commonwealth Drive and Rochor Centre to be one of the most iconic HDB estates that are set to be demolished. As sad as it might seem, the future of Tanglin Halt is bright, as it’s slated to be redeveloped into a vibrant new estate in the coming years.

The future Tanglin Halt Integrated Development will feature homes, a hawker centre, a market, and the Queenstown Polyclinic. And even though there will be flats that will be built taller than 10 storeys, a number of HDB blocks around the Rail Corridor will pay homage to the iconic “chap lau chu” flats, ensuring that the legacy of Tanglin Halt will always endure.

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