Hidden in a corner near an army camp is a rundown kopitiam (coffee house) that’s simply called Canteen 398. This place is totally like a relic from the 70s, when Singapore still housed a number of kampungs (rural villages). In this age of urban Singapore, this is a rarest sight that not many have seen, especially the younger generations.
The place has the typical kampung look and smell. I lived in a kampung once, and this visit brought about a gush of memories long forgotten. On the exterior, the kopitiam was clad in zinc sheets that has browned over time with rust. Grass was allowed freedom to grow and that adds to the nostalgia in the air. You can’t find a signboard anywhere – and there was no need to. The name of the place was written big and bold across the front of the metallic wall – graffiti-styled.
At the side of the kopitiam, seats are abundant and you can just get your food and drinks and dined out alfresco. The kopitiam gets its business from the workers around the vicinity, as well as the army camp located beside it. With the development ongoing, including the demolitions of the nearby colonial houses, and the constructions of the aviation industrial buildings, business seems to be quite good.
Stepping into the kopitiam, you are greeted by a sense of tranquility and time seems to move at half the pace. Canteen 398 was helmed by an middle-age high-spirited man. There are a couple of stalls in the kopitiam, but most of them seem unmanned, or perhaps they only start operations at a later time. Despite the unforgiving hot weather outside, the kopitiam is amazingly cool on the inside. Given the time, I do not mind to just sit around, read a paper or watch the old shows on the old CRT TV.
Previously, there were rumors that the kopitiam was going to be closed down to make way for the new developments, but a few words with the owner who was so ever complying (for photos or conversations) confirmed that there was no intention to move at this juncture. I guess his cat agrees too.