Hougang comprises seven sub-zones: Hougang, Trafalgar, Rosyth, Lorong Ah Soo, Tai Keng, Defu Industrial Park and Sungei Serangoon. The name “Hougang” is the literal Hanyu Pinyin for ‘Ow Kang’, which means “back of the river” in Hokkien, a Chinese dialect. Formerly, Hougang was a village populated by Chinese Teochew or Hokkien immigrants. The British sealed off a place known as Trafalgar in Hougang in 1928. Now known as Buangkok, it houses the hospital being used for chronically and mentally ill patients. The hospital was named Woodbridge after a small wooden bridge beside the site. It has since been rebuilt and renamed the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). There are many HDB flats in the main Hougang area, as well as HUDC flats, condominiums and private houses in Lorong Ah Soo and Rosyth. Kampong Buangkok is the last village in Singapore. One of the distinguishing old-fashioned features of Kampong Buangkok is that it uses generators for electricity instead of power plants.
Punggol encompasses four sub-zones:
The Urban Redevelopment Authority plans to develop Punggol into the Punggol New Town, under a scheme called “Punggol 21”. Like many areas in Singapore named after Malay words, Punggol’s name comes from the Malay word “punggul”, which stands for the action of throwing sticks at the branches of fruit trees to loosen the fruit from the stem. The word also refers to a fruit and forest produce wholesale place. Prior to the 1970s, Punggol was a place of rubber planting, poultry farming and pig rearing. Today, it is a new waterfront estate, with HDB flats, condominiums and private housing.
Sengkang Planning Area covers the Housing and Development Board satellite town of Sengkang New Town and rural Jalan Kayu. Sengkang stands for “prosperous harbour” in Chinese. Formerly known as Kangkar, or “foot of the port” in Hokkien, there was once a fishing port along Sungei Serangoon. Vegetable and pig farms could also be found in the area before the Sengkang New Town was built. The old Punggol Rural Centre was also demolished in 2005 to make way for new high-rise apartment blocks. Today, Sengkang is a sub-urban residential area with smaller HDB houses than other areas. Residents of the houses along Sungei Serangoon and Sungei Punggol will enjoy the stunning view and the water sports in the waterfront.
In Hougang there are larger shopping malls such Hougang Mall and Heartland Mall and smaller ones like Kovan Centre, Hougang Point and Hougang Green Shopping Mall. Play a part in the lives of needy ones at the many charity organizations in Hougang. There is Surya Home, a nursing home for mentally ill elderly located behind IMH. SIRLA is a rehab centre for recovered leprosy patients, also situated in the area. Within the IMH compound there is a Salvation Army branch and also Pelangi Home. Defu Industrial Park is Hougang’s primary industrial area. Consisting of low-skill manufacturing such as furniture production, automobiles and ice, these businesses generally does wholesale instead of retail although at times, clearance sales are held for the general public.
Parks and water recreational activities are abundant at Punggol. There is a proposed 15-metre wide coastal promenade along the Sungei Serangoon, Sungei Punggol and a new river created between Punggol and Coney Island. Punggol is also renowned for its seafood restaurants.
Sengkang houses amenities such as primary and secondary schools, three shopping malls, public library, polyclinic and community centres. The Compass Point Shopping Centre, Rivervale Mall and Rivervale Plaza offer a shopping experience like no other for Sengkang residents.
The Punggol, Hougang and Sengkang MRT Station connect these areas to the downtown area. There are buses and taxis at the district for the convenience of traveling.