Sembawang Hot Spring water used to be sold as drinks called ‘Zombun’ & ‘Seletaris’
There was a claim that it cured 'intestinal derangements'.
Cinerama: Art and the Moving Image in Southeast Asia
12 January 2018 - 25 March 2018, 10am-7pm
Singapore Art Museum
In case you didn’t know, Sembawang has a naturally occurring hot spring.
Discovered in 1909
In 1909, Chinese merchant Seah Eng Keong discovered a hot spring on his estate at the 13th Mile Thomson Road.
But the spring was probably known by the locals long before Seah came along, since the surrounding kampong was named Kampong Ayer Panas, which means Hot Water Village.
Seah sent the water sample overseas to test its quality and found that it to be comparable to other samples from other mineral springs around the world.
The water is of an alkaline, siliceous type containing a trace of lithia. It resembles certain other thermal waters in containing a rather large amount of silica and differs from most in containing more salt (sodium chloride) and less lime salts. It’s great organic purity would render it a very safe water for drinking and bathing purposes.
– The Straits Times, 29 November 1909
Bottled as Zombun
Taking advantage of this (literal) shower of blessing, Seah established the Singapore Natural Mineral Hot Springs Company to bottle, aerate, and sell the spring water under the brand Zombun.
Zombun was well received, especially by local medical practitioners, as highlighted in the same newspaper report.
An advertisement for Zombun in 1912 breaks down for us the minerals found in the hot spring water:
By far, Zombun was considered to be the most wholesome drink for people living in the tropics, for whom ‘intestinal derangements’ are a frequent malady.
In 1921, the Singapore Natural Mineral Hot Spring Company was bought over by Fraser and Neave (F&N).
F&N proceeded to market the hot spring water under the name Seletaris. According to a heritage blogger, F&N also sold the water under the names Jom, Singa Water, and Vichy Water.
Ironically, Seletaris is now the name of a condominium that stands opposite the Sembawang Hot Spring.
Today, the water is no longer bottled, and the land will be returned back to the government soon for redevelopment, leaving the fate of the hot spring in the balance.
Top image adapted from NewspaperSG.