A Refreshed Experience on Heritage at Bukit Timah in Singapore

Singapore, heritage, culture

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (Photo: National Parks Singapore)
New sites and community contributions offer a new experience for Singapore visitors exploring a refreshed Bukit Timah heritage trail by Singapore National Heritage Board.
Bukit Timah is not the most visited place for tourists to Singapore, although it is actually home to UNESCO listed Singapore Botanical Garden. The district is an estate steeped in history, with an old world charm that comes from its unique mix of local and colonial
From a road (Chun Tin Road) named after Cheong Chun Tin, who was the first certified
Chinese practitioner of dentistry in Singapore, and whose descendants later founded
the made-in-Singapore Pearlie White brand of toothpaste; to a former automobile factory
(Former Ford Factory) that was the iconic site where the British surrendered Singapore
to the Japanese; as well as home to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Bukit Timah is a treasure trove of stories waiting to be discovered.
Interesting facts include how Bukit Timah, which means “Tin Hill” in Malay–though tin
was never discovered in the area, was possibly called “Bukit Temak” by locals back then in
reference to the Temak trees that grew in the area. Its name could have altered from original English.
These stories take centre stage in the National Heritage Board’s (NHB) refreshed Bukit
Timah Heritage Trail. The trail was first launched in 2007, and its content has been updated and now encompasses 38 heritage sites, eight of which feature newly-installed
trail markers. 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.
Dairy Farm Quarry- Bukit Timah Singapore

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

NHB interviewed also local communities who lived and worked in Bukit Timah to document their memories.
At the heart of Bukit Timah’s story lies one of Singapore’s oldest and longest roads–
Bukit Timah Road, first built by the colonial government in the mid-1830s to expand their knowledge of the outlying districts and regulate rural land use by plantation owners. Serving as a cross-island artery, Bukit Timah Road connected the bustling town centre to the heavily forested north. With the subsequent introduction of the railway in 1903 that facilitated travel to other parts of Singapore and eventually Malaysia, Bukit Timah quickly
became a vital node for industry and trade, and a prime location for settlements.
One of the key insights uncovered is the presence of kampong (villages) and various local communities in the Bukit Timah area since the 1900s such as  Kampong Tempe, named after the fermented soybean cake known as tempe produced by local families there or Kampong Quarry, named after the nearby Hindhede Quarry that helped to the construction of the Causeway and the Singapore-Johor Railway.
To enhance the accessibility of the refreshed Bukit Timah Heritage Trail for trail-goers,
NHB has created three easy thematic routes. They span an average of 2.5 km each and cater to different interests. They 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 history.
They are:
 – “Kampong Life Trail” (1 hour: bus and walk).  This trail features buildings and institutions that were once part of Bukit Timah’s kampong past, including a former railway station as well as houses of faith for communities that used to live there.
– “WWII Legacy Trail” (1.5 hours; bus and walk) explores WWII-related sites as
well as places that carry the memories and legacies of the Japanese Occupation.
– “Leisure and Learning Trail” (2 hours; on foot) 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.