Situated on the east coast of Singapore between Bedok and Changi, Tanah Merah (‘red soil’ in Malay) was named after red lateritic cliffs along the former coastline in the area. Early maps identified a “large red cliff” and a “small red cliff” there, which came to be known respectively as ‘Tanah Merah Besar’(big) and ‘Tanah Merah Kechil’(small). From inland, the coastline at Tanah Merah Besar could be reached via a long straight road named Tanah Merah Besar Road. In the 1950s, a beachside recreational park for swimming and picnicking was built at the road’s end. It became a popular film location in Malay-language movies, especially when the narrative calls for a serene seaside location where encounters between loved ones or antagonists take place.
In 1963’s Darah Muda, the park is the undisclosed meeting place for a mother and her forcibly-separated daughter. By 1981, Tanah Merah Besar Road was truncated to allow the extension of an existing military runway to build the new Changi International Airport. The recreational park was buried under the new passenger terminals and their taxiways. The coastline at Tanah Merah Besar was moved further seawards following unceasing land reclamation; it now lies more than 5km east of its original location.