Banda Street

Singapore Infopedia


Banda Street is a one-way road in Chinatown connecting Sago Street to Dickenson Hill Road.1 It was probably named after the Indonesian cities of Banda Aceh (Aceh) in Sumatra or Banda Besar in Molucca Islands.

Banda Street existed atop a small hill known as Bukit Pasoh. Bukit Pasoh was formerly named Dickinson Hill or Dickenson Hill after Reverend J.T. Dickenson who ran a missionary school there. The hill was later rechristened as Bukit Padre and subsequently to Bukit Pasoh.3

In the early 20th century, the nutmeg tree-covered hill was converted into a park by the Municipal Authority. Though the park was appreciated and well used by the residents of Chinatown, Banda Street along with neighbouring Spring Street had a notorious reputation as many Japanese prostitutes had operated from the area during the pre-war era.4

Banda Street was also well known for its late night hawkers, who mainly earned their keep selling food to late night mourners visiting Sago Lane’s death houses,5 and at the Jinrikisha depots situated around the street. The Kreta Ayer Community Centre was built in 1960 in the vicinity of Banda Street, and was originally known as Banda Street Community Centre.6

Variant names
Chinese names:
Cantonese: Fan-tsai mei (also spelt phan tsai mei), meaning “end of the foreign brothels”. The “foreign” brothels here either refer to the non-Chinese or “foreign” Japanese prostitutes or to the “foreign” customers they catered to.7 While Japanese prostitutes catered to customers of all races, Chinese ones limited themselves to Chinese customers.8 Yap poon kai, meaning “Japanese Street”, was a reference to the Japanese prostitutes on the street.9


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja & Sharen Chua

1. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd, 2015), map 132.  (Call no.: RSING q912.5957 MMSD)
2. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who's Who Publications, 2000), 14. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
3. Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore: 1819–1867 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 346 (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A, Yeoh, Singapore Street Names : A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 29, 55, 103. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
4. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 29.
5. Chan Kwee Sung, “No Love Lost for the Old "Street of the Dead',” Straits Times, 13 March 1999, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Archives and Oral History Department Singapore, Chinatown: An Album of a Singapore Community (Singapore: Times Books International, 1983), 112, 118. (Call no. RSING 779.995957 CHI)
7. Archives and Oral History Department Singapore, Chinatown, 110; H. W. Firmstone, Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula,” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42 (February 1905): 60–61. (Call no. RQUIK 959.59 JMBRAS)
8. Lisa Kong, “Comfort in History,” Straits Times, 23 July 1992, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Kong, Comfort in History.”

Further resource
Chan Kwee Sung, “Of Snails, Speeches and Dead Traitors,” Straits Times, 29 October 2001, 6. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at 23 September 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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