The forest that will be making way for the “Forest Town”

5 05 2018

One of the things that I quite dearly miss are the seemingly long road journeys of my childhood to the far flung corners of Singapore. The journeys, always an adventure, provided an opportunity to the many different sides that Singapore then had; places that had each a unique charm and character.

A stream running through the now forested area, close to what would have been the 12th Milestone.

One especially long journey was the one to would take me to the “wild west”. The journey to the west, along a slow and dusty Jurong Road that meandered from the 8th milestone of Bukit Timah past wooded areas, settlements, graveyards, rubber plantations, and a rural landscape that is hard to imagine as having ever existed in the brave new world that we now live in.

There is a reminder of that journey, an old stretch of the road that, even stripped of rural human existence and its paraphernalia, bears some resemblance to the old road. Found just north of the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) between Bukit Batok Road and Jurong West Avenue 2, it has been relegated to a service road and has been all but forgotten.

12 Milestone Jurong Road today.

The stretch, now shaded by its overgrown trees, would have corresponded to the 11th to 12th milestones of Jurong Road – an area that went by the name “Hong Kah” before the name was appropriated by a public housing precinct across the PIE in Jurong West. Hong Kah Village itself stood right smack where the 12th milestone was and it wasn’t one that would have easily been missed in the old days, just as the old Chinese burial site nearby, Bulim Cemetery, on the road just past the village that gave me the chills on night drives past the area.

12 Milestone in 1986 (source: National Archives Online)

The odd sounding “Hong Kah” quite interestingly translates to “bestowing a religion” in the Hokkien or Teochew dialects. It was a term that apparently, in colloquial usage, was also used to refer to Christians (Chinese converts to Christianity I suppose). “Hong Kah Choon” was thus the “Christian Village”, so named due to its association with the Anglican St. Andrew’s Mission, which had carried out missionary work in the area since the 1870s (see page 45-46 of NHB’s Jurong Heritage Trail booklet). The mission also built a nearby church, St. John’s Church Jurong, located at 11th milestone at the top of 105 steps on a hillock. Put up in 1884, the church operated until 1992. That was when it was acquired together with the rest of the area for redevelopment.

The track leading to SJJ at 11 MS Jurong.

Cleared and left untouched, except for its use as military training grounds until very recently, nature has since reclaimed much of the area – which stretches up north to the Kranji Expressway. Today, the site hosts a lush secondary forest, complete with fresh water streams and a thriving birdlife. Redevelopment, will however soon clear much of what is now there, to be replaced by a forest of concrete that will be called Tengah – Singapore’s 24th “new town”.

One of the forest’s winged residents – a (male) common flameback woodpecker.

Dubbed, rather ironically, as the “Forest Town“, Tengah  will feature a fair bit of greenery. Much of which, however, will quite saldy be manufactured and put in once the existing forest has been cleared and a fair bit of concrete has been introduced – which is the Singapore way.

Another resident – a St. Andrew’s Cross spider.

Also manufactured will be a “real” forest that will take the form of a 100 metre wide and 5 kilometre long “forest corridor”. Running by the Kranji Expressway, it will serve to connect the Western Water Catchment Area and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. And again, in the Singapore way, the corridor will be one that is “planted with rainforest tree species to transform it into a rich forest habitat”.

More views of the forest 



11 responses

5 05 2018
Hock Keong

I grew up in lim chu kang, and have friends and neighbours who lived in Bulim. Your post makes me think about the song “Turn back the clock” by Johnny Hates Jazz. But we can no longer go back to those childhood days, and once memory fades, visions like it was just yesterday, will be gone. Thanks for the nostalgia!

9 05 2018
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Glad to know that Hock Keong. Which part of Lim Chu Kang did you grow up in?

5 05 2018
Clarence Sim

Hi Jerome,

What a wonderful post this is? It sure brings back memories of similar places I grew up in around the Bukit Gombak 10 mile stone area.

Are these photos of the jungle/wooded areas recent or from your archives. I would love to do a trek to these ‘non-manufactured’ natural green spots. Please let me know if you are organizing a trek.

Thanks and as always, great posts on the The Long and Winding Road.

Clarence Sim Sent from iPhone 5S


9 05 2018
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

The jungle is recent. Will let you know! Thanks for the support!

5 05 2018
Jeanette McInnes

Qinai de Lim Xiansheng, ni hao!
Wo feichang xihuan nian ni xie de badao!
I just returned from a 3 week trip to Singapore and visited many of the places you write about.
On a trip to visit the Labrador Secret Tunnels I was intrigued by the derelict housing estate (or Army barracks?) on the right of the access road to Labrador, just 5 min walk from the MRT.
Is that some sort of haunted place like Neo Teow Estate in Lim Chu Kang?
Xiexie ni song gei wo ni xie de, feichang you yisi de gushi tentang Xinjiapo de lishi!!!
Ni de,
Jeanette McInnes
(Ma Zhenlan)

9 05 2018
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Glad that you had what seemed like a wonderful 3 weeks in Singapore Jeanette. The estate that you refer to would probably be the former quarters for the staff of Pasir Panjang Power Station. You will find some information on that and some of the people who lived there in this post: Parting Glances : Pasir Panjang Power Station Quarters.


P.S. Neo Tiew Estate isn’t what it has been made out to be. The blocks of flats were built to house people displaced by resettlement and was vacated due to its acquisition by the State. The blocks were used for a while for military urban warfare training and now that they are not longer used for that, have been fenced up to prevent people up to mischief from gaining entry to the place.

6 05 2018
Leow Yoon Li

I feel in a quandary, I love nature I also like to have personal living space. I heard of many units unsold in both HDB flats and condominiums. If creatures in the natural area are deprived of living space and resources because humans took them, I hope we at least don’t waste these living spaces and resources.

9 05 2018
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

I think the biggest sin we are committing is trying too hard to tame and manage nature.

16 05 2018

Hi jerome thx for the writeup. Definitely need to say goodbye to this before it’s bulldozed to oblivion. I didn’t have the chance to go lentor forest previously.

Any walking map or directions that you may share for solo hikers? Thanks

9 09 2019
Eric Tan

Hi Jerome, lovely article and like to check this out. By any chance if you are aware this is still intact?

17 02 2021

Spent my school holidays in the 1970s helping out at my father’s rented business place in Hong Kah. Remember the sawmills just before Hong Kah Village, cycling to the open air cinema at 13th Mile (near Tengah Airbase), fruits, vegetables and live chicken from neighbours. Miss the place and the lifestyle.

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