GO WILD IN NORTHERN SINGAPORE

By LINDA JAMES | Updated June 15, 2022 | AREA GUIDES

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Northern Singapore is packed with new satellite towns but it’s also dominated by 30sqkm central nature reserve of rainforest and reservoirs. This is a popular place for hikers but there are a range of other attractions too.

The number one attraction would have to be Singapore Zoo and its sister properties – Night Safari and River Wonders. However, there’s also history at the Old Ford Factory, which is where the British surrendered to the Japanese and is now a museum, and one of Singapore’s last remaining historic cemeteries, Bukit Brown. A number of mosques and temples are also to be found here.

Getting There

This is a very large area but you’ll probably find that you will either have to take a train and a bus, or buses alone.

What to See & Do

Assyafaah Mosque

This very modern mosque – opened in 2004 – doesn’t actually look like one and the building was designed to emanate calmness, spirituality and oneness.

Address: 1 Admiralty Lane
Open: Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm, weekends 8am-1pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: Near Sembawang MRT; buses – 980,856
More information: https://www.facebook.com/assyafaahmosque/

Bukit Brown Cemetery

Two kilometres west of the entrance to MacRitchie Reservoir Park, Bukit Brown Cemetery was a public Chinese cemetery established in the early 20th century and may well be the biggest Chinese graveyard outside China with about 100,000 graves.

It was named after its first owner, George Henry Brown, who was a ship owner that arrived in Singapore from Calcutta in the 1840s. The 213-acre site became a Chinese cemetery in 1922 but was eventually closed and faced the threat of being cleared for redevelopment in the 1970s. Over the years, supporters have waged quite a few battles to prevent it being taken over. It’s now home to wildlife and bird species.

There’s a walking trail through the cemetery, which can be accessed by running right immediately after walking under the flyover near Kheam Hock Park. Volunteers sometimes offer free walking tours. Make sure to take sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

Address: Lornie Rd, Mt Pleasant Rd, off Sime Rd and Kheam Hock Rd
Open: 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: closest Caldecott MRT (Cc17/Te9), 32 min walk, Botanic Gardens MRT (CC19/DT9), take Exit A, 34 min walk, cross the overhead bridge, make a right turn onto University Rd. Walk 13 min until you see Kheam Hock Park; buses – 52,74,852,855,93
More information: http://bukitbrown.com/main/

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Bukit Timah Hill, at 163m high, is Singapore’s highest hill and is on the western fringes of the 163ha central nature reserve, which was established in 1883 by the then superintendent of the Botanic Gardens Nathaniel Cantley.

The area was once even home to tigers although the last one was shot in the 1930s. However, it is still populated with long-tailed macaques and features a host of flora and fauna.

There’s a visitor centre on site that features historical exhibits as well as information about the forest ecology and plant specimens. If you take the bus, you’ll get an interesting insight into the Singapore outside the city centre.

Address: 177 Hindhede Dr
Cost: free
Open: 7am-7pm daily
Getting there: a 14-minute walk from Beauty World MRT station (DT5), exit A; or a 67, 75, 170, 171, 184, 852 or 961 bus 
More information: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/bukit-timah-nature-reserve

Former Ford Factory

The art deco Ford factory opened in 1941, the first of its kind in South-East Asia, however, the following year it became the site of the British surrender to the Imperial Japanese Army on 15 February, 1942.

It now houses the National Archives of Singapore exhibition titled Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies. The exhibition highlights all of the events surrounding the British surrender, the Japanese Occupation and the legacies of the war with a range of military artefacts, period newspapers and oral history recordings.

Children are catered for with a range of activity guides, differentiated by age. Free guided tours are available every day for 20 people (except for public holidays).

Address: 351 Upper Bukit Timah Rd
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 9am-5pm, closed Monday
Cost: Free for Singaporean residents, $S3 for others
Getting there: near Hillview MRT (DT3) 18 min walk; buses – 170,184,754,961
More information: https://corporate.nas.gov.sg/former-ford-factory

Kampong Lorong Buangkok

Built in 1956, this is the last surviving kampong (which means “village” in Malay) in Singapore. There were once many kampongs but urbanisation has overtaken them.

This kampong was known as Selak Kain (“hitching up one’s sarong (skirt)” in Malay) because those who lived there had to hitch up their sarongs to walk through floodwaters whenever there were flash floods.

It is now an example of simple living in a city overtaken by massive high-rises. There’s a small mosque (a “surau”) surrounded by wooden, single-storey dwellings with tin roofs.

The residents here are all relatives of the original tenants and continue to rear and grow their own food.

Address: 7 Lorong Buangkok, off Yio Chu Kang Rd
Open: best to do a paid tour as these are residences
Cost: paid tour about $S60
Getting there: from Serangoon MRT, take the 70 or 103 bus for 5 min to Church of St Vincent de Paul stop. Cross the white bridge and follow the unpaved road behind the jogging trail to a group of trees.
More information: https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20210525-singapores-last-surviving-village

Khong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple (Bright Hill Temple)

One of the largest temples in Singapore, this modern temple covers 12ha and features many grand halls, shrines, bell and drum towers, and elaborate Chinese statues and decorations. There’s a large turtle pool, a serene garden and a crematorium as well as an an outdoor statue of Avalokitesvara between Dharma Hall and the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas.

One of Asia’s largest bronze Buddha statues, which is 13.8m high and 55 tons, is housed in the Temple of No Form. Devotees flock here each year for Vesak Day when the monastery celebrates with ceremonies such as “Bathing the Buddha” and “Three-Steps-One-Bow”.

If you go before noon on the weekends, there are food stalls in the Dining Hall on the second storey of Venerable Hong Choon Memorial Hall where you can buy vegetarian meals such as nasi lemak and laksa. Prices are usually less than $S5 but, beware, they often sell out quickly.

Address: 88 Bright Hill Rd
Open: Daily 8am-4pm but there are different hours for some of the halls
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Bright Hill MRT (TE7), take Exit 2, walk east on Sin Ming Ave, turn right into Bright Hill Rd, about 5 mins; buses – 52,162M,162,410 stop outside at bus stop B53331
More information: https://www.kmspks.org/

Kranji War Memorial

The men and women from the Commonwealth who died in the line of duty during World War II are honoured at this hillside cemetery in Northern Singapore.

There are four memorials as well as more than 4400 white gravestones lined up in rows on the slopes of the cemetery. The largest of the memorials is the 24m Singapore Memorial with a star-topped central pylon. It bears the names of more than 24,346 Allied soldiers and airmen killed in South-east Asia who have no known grave. There’s a register of names at the entrance.

Every year near Remembrance Day on 11 November, a memorial is held to pay tribute to those who gave their lives.

Nearby are Kranji Military Cemetery, a non-world war site of more than 1400 burials, and Singapore State Cemetery, where the country’s first and second presidents are buried.

Address: 9 Woodlands Rd
Open: Daily 8am-6.30pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Kranji MRT (NS7), 15 min walk; buses – 160,170,960,961
More information: https://vwma.org.au/explore/memorials/1796

MacRitchie Reservoir Park

This is one of the oldest of Singapore’s reservoirs and is in the south-eastern corner of the central reserve. Created in the 1860s, it contains 20km of trails that take hikers deep into the rainforest. It’s also popular for kayaking and tai chi.

There’s a treetop walk, a 150m circular trail suspended above ground that give you a monkey’s-eye view of the forest, a learning trail that explains the history, biodiversity and fauna at the reservoir, and a submerged boardwalk.

Amenities include a multi-storey carpark, a floating pontoon for kayakers and hilltop cafés.

Maps of the trails are available from Singapore National Parks.

Address: 601 Island Club Rd (close to Singapore Island Country Club, Venus Dr)
Cost: free
Open: 7am-7pm daily; treetop walk – 9am-5pm (weekdays), 8.30am-5pm, closed on Mondays
Getting there: Marymont MRT station; buses – 52, 74, 93, 130,132, 156, 157, 162, 162M, 165, 166, 167, 852, 855, 980
More information: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/central-catchment-nature-reserves

Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Wonders

These are popular because they have an “open” philosophy and most of the animals are not kept in cages but in spacious, natural enclosures behind moats.

Covering 28ha, the zoo’s 2500 animals include tigers, penguins, polar bears and Komodo dragons. Primates are popular with orang-utans and Hamadryas baboons. There are animal shows and feeding shows as well as a popular water play area called Rainforest Kidzwalk.

The Night Safari covers 35ha, which can be seen via a 40-minute tram ride (with English commentary). One of the most popular shows is Creatures of the Night. River Wonders is especially popular with families who have young children and is designed around the Rivers of the World.

Address: 80 Mandai Lake Rd
Open: Singapore Zoo – daily 8.30am-6pm; 
River Wonder – daily 10am-7pm; Night Safari – daily 6.30pm to midnight.
Cost: Singapore Zoo - $S44 adults, $S31 children 3-12yrs, Residents - adults $S31.20, children $S20.80; River Wonders - $S36 adults, $S24 children aged 3 to 12, Residents - adults $S34.20 and $S23.40; Night Safari - $S53 adults, $S36 children aged 3 to 12. There are discounts when you book online directly as well as multi-park deals that include Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park
Getting there: near Khatib MRT (NS14) then take the Mandai Khatib Shuttle, Choa Chu Kang MRT (NS4) then take bus 927, Ang Mo Kio MRT (NS16) then take bus 138
More information: https://www.mandai.com/en/night-safari.html https://www.mandai.com/en/river-wonders.html

Siong Lim Temple

Built in 1908 to commemorate Buddha’s birth and death, this temple has an elaborate gateway only accessible by bridge. There are large incense burners and a beautifully carved Buddha from Thailand inside. Outside, there’s also a monastery, a smaller temple and a rock garden.

Address: 184E Jalan Toa Payoh
Open: daily 7am-5pm
Cost: free
Getting there: Near Kallang MRT (EW10), 13 min walk, Mountbatten MRT (CC7), 12 min walk; buses – 10, 158A, 197, 21, 33, 63, 67
More information: https://www.shuanglin.sg/language/zh/contact-us/

Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall

This memorial is dedicated to honouring Dr Sun and the activities he conducted in South-east Asia as well as documenting how the Singapore Chinese contributed to the 1911 Revolution and the impact of the revolution on Singapore and the Chinese community.

Address: 12 Tai Gin Rd
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am–5pm, closed Monday
Cost: Free for Singaporean residents; 
Getting there: near Novena MRT (NS20), 16 min walk; buses - 130,131,139,145,151,153,167,186,506
More information: https://www.sysnmh.org.sg/

Conclusion

Singapore Zoo is one of Singapore’s top attractions but Northern Singapore is also home to some amazing national parks for hiking and flora and fauna as well as some unusual sights such as Bukit Brown Cemetery.

More area guides

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