Massacre sites, cemeteries, old-school architecture… discover all these and more when you embark on a Heritage Trail.
TEXT BY DAPHNE ONG
Published on 8 June 2015
TEXT BY DAPHNE ONG
How well do you know Singapore’s fascinating heritage? Every inch of our tightly- packed island has a story and the best way to explore everything out there is by foot. The National Heritage Board (NHB) has even compiled a handy list of walking trails that guides adventurers through various districts and landmarks. If you’ve already been to the usual places of interest and would like to go off the beaten track, we’ve singled out some options that will have you traipsing to far-flung locales for an eyeful of interesting sights and sounds.
World War II Trail
If war documentaries excite you, you’ll appreciate this comprehensive trip through Singapore’s World War II sites. Lasting from 1941 to 1945, the World War II conflict left its mark on all areas of the island. This trail, which provides information on sites and events associated with the Battle for Singapore and the Japanese Occupation, includes 50 war sites, 20 of which have permanent plaques installed to mark their significance in relation to the war. Organised into six regions, the sites include:
• Northwest Invasion and the First Battles
• Northeast The Defence Strategy and its Consequences
• Central Battle for the Heart of Singapore
• South Final Battles and the Consequences
• City Remembering the Occupation Years
• East The Guns of Singapore and Captivity
The full trail will take you through places like Tengah Airfield, Kranji War Cemetery, Punggol Beach Massacre Site, the old Kempeitai Headquarters and Labrador Battery. Fans of military action will get a buzz out of seeing the big guns in Sentosa and walking the spooky halls of Changi Prison.
Many of our boys in green have done part of their National Service (NS) in the barracks and training grounds of the western end of Singapore — Jurong. The smell of roasted cocoa at Boon Lay Bus Interchange and the feel of burning legs charging up Peng Kang Hill still feature in some of their dreams (and nightmares). With so much nostalgia and boys-to-men memories tagged to this region, discovering the history and evolution of Jurong will thrill gentlemen keen to relive those NS days.
Stride through sites like Hong Kah Village, that carry the legacy of Jurong’s early farming and kampung days, and discover the area’s industrial heritage by following the trail to points like Jurong Port and Shipyard, as well as Jurong Railway. While it may be the country’s industrial nerve centre, Jurong is also home to beautiful green spaces like Jurong Lake, Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden, each providing little havens of tranquillity.
Don those loafers, pull on that hat and meander through the hipster heaven that is Tiong Bahru (above). Today, the area is a charming housing estate speckled with eclectic shops and eateries. The unique architecture and Art Deco buildings are also a treat for the eyes.
As you foot it around the estate, look out for heritage markers like the Bird Corner, a one-time coffeeshop popular with bird owners, and the former Hu Lu Temple, built around 1918. Tucked away just out of sight of the main road are the traditional grave sites of pioneer Tan Tock Seng and his family members.
The trail will also take you through the bustling Outram area, including former sites of Outram Prison and Outram Park Complex. A few steps away is the Singapore General Hospital, which grew from a humble wooden shed in 1821 to one of the most important hospitals in Singapore today.
Fill your Instagram with shots of the quaint shophouses and residential buildings, including the distinctive ‘horse-shoe’ shaped flats. And don’t miss the final surprise: the pre-war air-raid shelter at Moh Guan Terrace.
Are you often reluctant to venture westward or make your way central-bound because you live just too far in the east? Head out anyway, but stick to your neighbourhood.
Start with Changi Museum and glean nuggets of information about Singapore’s war-time history. Explore the museum’s Changi Prison section to find out how prisoners of war were interned during the Japanese Occupation of World War II. Check out a replica of one of the impressively-sized British guns at the Johore Battery, which was one of the coastal artillery sites during the Second World War.
A relaxing stroll through Changi Point Coastal Walk offers a beautiful view of the waterfront and the local flora and fauna. The serene Changi Beach hides its violent past as one of the Sook Ching Massacre sites where many met their end during the Japanese Occupation. So, now you know.
For more on NHB’s Heritage Trails, visit www.nhb.gov.sg where trail booklets are available for download. You can also download the World War II Heritage Trail Mobile App from Apple App Store or Google Play.