Refreshed Bukit Timah Heritage Trail features new sites, thematic routes

Channel NewsAsia 3 May 18;

SINGAPORE: Decades before the Mass Rapid Transport and Light Rail Transit systems were introduced in Singapore, the country's first trains ran along the railway in Bukit Timah.

It was constructed to ease the traffic flow along Bukit Timah road, whose tendency to be congested dated even back to the late 1800s.

Now part of the Rail Corridor - which was opened in 1903 - sits empty of trains but not devoid of people, as it has earned itself a spot on the newly refreshed Bukit Timah Heritage Trail.

The trail, first launched in 2007, now comprises 38 heritage sites, the National Heritage Board (NHB) said in a media release on Thursday (May 3).

New sites on the trail include the Dairy Farm Nature Park, St Joseph’s Church, Adam Park, Former Command House, as well as the Fuyong and Former Princess Elizabeth estates.

These sites were incorporated into the refreshed trail as new information was uncovered through oral interviews and new research materials gathered from archival newspapers, maps and other resources from government agencies, NHB said.

Eight of the heritage sites also feature newly-installed trail markers, which contain the history of these sites: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Masjid Al-Huda, Hoon San Temple, Former Ford Factory, the former Raffles College, the former Beauty World as well as Cheong Chin Nam Road, Chun Tin Road, Yuk Tong Avenue and Tham Soong Avenue.

The NHB has also created three thematic routes covering different segments of Bukit Timah Road to enhance the accessibility of the trail.

Spanning an average of 2.5km each, these cater to different interests and allow visitors to "easily explore in their own time the buildings, structures, religious institutions and sites of natural heritage that make up Bukit Timah’s multi-faceted history", NHB said in the release.

The Kampong Life Trail, which takes about an hour by bus and walking, features buildings and institutions that were once part of Bukit Timah’s kampung (Malay for "village") past, including a former railway station as well as houses of faith for communities that used to live there.

The WWII Legacy Trail, 1.5 hours by bus and walking, explores World War II-related sites as well as places that carry the "memories and legacies" of the Japanese Occupation.

Finally, the Leisure and Learning Trail is a two-hour walk that covers some of the social and leisure landmarks well-loved by residents and Singaporeans, including popular eating destinations, Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as vital centres of research and education, NHB said.

NHB Assistant Chief Executive (Policy and Community) Alvin Tan said that he hoped the new aspects of the trail will provoke a sense of curiosity among Singaporeans and encourage them to look at these old sites with new eyes.

“With the stories, we wanted to add a more personal layer to the content and make it more relatable by telling stories through the eyes of Singaporeans,” said Mr Tan.

Community contributions also feature prominently in the refreshed Bukit Timah Heritage Trail, NHB said, adding that it interviewed members of the public who lived and worked in Bukit Timah to document their memories, anecdotes and experiences.

This is reflected in the trail's updated information booklets, which feature stories from people who used to live or work at some of the sites.

Available in the four national languages - English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil - the booklet and map can be downloaded from NHB's heritage portal,, or picked up physically from several locations: Former Ford Factory, Asian Civilisations Museum, the National Museum of Singapore, the Peranakan Museum and NHB’s office at 61 Stamford Road.

One of the people whose stories and memories are shared in the booklet is Masjid Al-Huda chairman Azman Kassim.

Masjid Al-Huda, constructed in 1925, was central to the community life of Muslim villagers living in kampungs in the vicinity, according to NHB.

Mr Azman who used to lived in Kampung Tempe near the mosque, said he hoped the stories and memories he shared of living and growing up in Kampung Tempe will show Singaporeans and tourists what kampung life was.

His memories shine a light on, for example, how Malays and Chinese residents of the kampung lived together.

“Even though I was Malay, every year when they put up the Chinese Opera for the Hungry Ghost festival, me and friends would all go and join in,” said Mr Azman. "When they sold cheng tng (a Chinese sweet dessert with ingredients such as gingko, longan and barley), the Malays would be lining up as well.”

Mr Tan said that through the refreshed Bukit Timah Heritage Trail, NHB hoped to present a more complete and updated story of Bukit Timah’s heritage.

“As with all our heritage trails, we hope that the Bukit Timah Heritage Trail will showcase Bukit Timah’s rich and diverse heritage, foster a greater sense of pride and belonging amongst residents, and provoke a sense of curiosity amongst Singaporeans and entice them to visit and look at the estate through fresh eyes.”

Additional reporting by Revathi Valluvar.

Source: CNA/mz(aj)