Popularly thought to be named after the ‘rangong’ (either a small marsh bird or an adjutant stork), Sungei Serangoon was a river in the north-eastern part of Singapore. Dammed and turned into a reservoir in 2001, the river was formerly a commercially significant water thoroughfare used by boats carrying cargo via the Johor Straits to various points upriver. Overgrown with mangroves on its banks, the river was also host to a vibrant fishing port and settlement named ‘Kangkar’ (which means ‘foot of the river’ in Teochew and Hokkien). Kangkar grew out of a riverside fish market that was set up in the 1920s by Catholic missions.
Over time, a trading port, ship-building yards, deep sea trawlers that fished in the South China Sea and kampung attap houses found home or base surrounding the fish market. In 1983, the land on which Kangkar stood was acquired by the government for developing Hougang New Town. The fish merchants and villagers were resettled. For a glimpse of the old Sungei Serangoon and Kangkar village, one could refer to a beautiful portrait captured in the beginning of Sri Menanti (1958), where the male protagonist is aboard a ‘tongkang’ on Sungei Serangoon, for a journey north to Sri Menanti in Peninsular Malaya.