This photo shows just some of the many sampans that inhabited the Singapore River in the 1960s. It was a very busy place with sellers plying their trade on both sides of the river bank while also loading and unloading cargo.
The nearby crowded houses can be seen in this picture and these were said to resemble a beehive.
There was a smell that was a combination of raw sewerage, rotting fruit and vegetables and also, there was general rubbish from the markets and hawkers. On top of this there was oil spillage and other waste water from the many boats moored there. This made it a haven for rats. When I returned in 1990, the area was vastly different and almost empty although the rats were still there.
In 1977, the Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, decided that the river needed to be cleaned up. There was massive resettlement of squatters and relocation of hawkers. Refuse was collected daily and the river was dredged of all the waste that had piled up over the years. Most of the small boats disappeared and today it is much cleaner place and many species of marine life have returned.
Without all the sampans though, it seems that it has lost part of its character forever.