Bukit Batok Town Park and Bukit Batok Nature Park: A Tale of 2 Parks

Bukit Batok in the west of Singapore is home to not 1 but 2 beautiful parks – the Bukit Batok Town Park, more widely known as Little Guilin, and the Bukit Batok Nature Park. Both parks are separated by the neighbourhood of Bukit Batok East however are within a 15 to 20 minute walk from each other.

Bukit Batok Town Park "Little Guilin"

Bukit Batok Town Park “Little Guilin”

Having 2 similarly named parks in the same precinct has caused much confusion among people not familiar with the area and looking to visit one or both of the parks. To add to the confusion you’ll notice on a map there is in fact a 3rd park, called Bukit Batok Hillside Park (also known as Greenwood Park) on the west side of Bukit Batok, which by all accounts however seems to be a mysteriously abandoned park.

Bukit Batok Nature Park

Bukit Batok Nature Park

Being a fairly large industrial and residential area that includes both private and public housing, perhaps Bukit Batok does deserve to have 2 feature parks. Both parks are quite different as well, although what they do have in common are commanding craggy cliff walls and lake pools, both being disused granite quarries now filled with water and landscaped into parks.

THE LOWDOWN

A bit of background about the Bukit Batok area: Bukit means “hill” in Malay, and the west of Singapore is a relatively hilly area where you’ll find places named Bukit Panjang, Bukit Timah and Bukit Gombak. “Bukit” is usually abbreviated in street names to “Bt”.

Bukit Batok Town Park "Little Guilin"

Bukit Batok Town Park “Little Guilin”

Bukit Batok is thought to mean “coughing hills” as “batok” is “cough” in Malay, a reference to the loud granite blasting sounds in the old days although others thought that the cold air in the area led to people getting sick and coughing – an unlikely theory I think. Another interpretation is that “batok” is a Chinese mispronunciation of “batu” which means “stone” in Malay, given the many granite hills and quarries in the area.

Bukit Batok Nature Park

Bukit Batok Nature Park

A further suggestion was that the hill resembled a skull top, as “batok kepala” means “skull” in Malay. Yet another idea is that “batok” means “coconut” in the Javanese dialect and that the area probably had a lot of coconut trees hence the name – an idea only plausible if the area was somehow home to a large Javanese settlement.

The best explanation yet however is probably the one about the British colonial rulers naming the area after 2 hills that they thought looked like a derrière, which the locals then contorted into “batok”. Indeed, residents of Bukit Batok are sometimes the butt of jokes when people mispronounce the name of their neighbourhood.

VISITING

Bukit Batok Town Park (Little Guilin)

The park is located in Bukit Gombak, a sub-area of the larger Bukit Batok. Once called Little Guilin Lake Garden after the famous southern Chinese region with the stunning mountainous landscape, the park which was opened in the mid 1980s is now simply called Bukit Batok Town Park, for reasons unknown. Perhaps as Singaporeans matured we became embarrassed to name our little cliff after the majestic karst cliffs in Guilin.

Bukit Batok Town Park "Little Guilin"

Bukit Batok Town Park “Little Guilin”

The park was once the site of the old Gammon granite quarry which ceased operating in the early 1980s. Although 42 hectares large, much of the park area is in the hills behind the cliff. There was once a Bukit Gombak Trail starting from the Bukit Gombak Stadium on the edge of the park leading into the forest and up to the top of the cliff, however the path and area was closed off in 2007 due to landslides. What is left now is really just the quarry lake with its cliff walls, and a small park in front of the lake good for enjoying a picnic lunch or brekkie while you sit and soak in the view.

The lake is right by Bukit Batok East Avenue 5 so as you drive along the curvy road the cliff wall and lake will suddenly come into view, which can be quite an awe-inspiring surprise.

Bukit Batok Nature Park

A quarry lake and even higher cliff wall take centre place in this park as well, and the granite rock face is apparently an astounding 200 million years old. Around the serene quarry lake is a spacious grassy meadow complete with a fitness equipment corner and children’s playground.

Bukit Batok Nature Park

Sprawling mass Qigong exercise – even the ladies on the slope are in on it too

On a weekday morning at 8am the park was a hive of activity, with the plaza area dotted with “aunties” and “uncles” (local patois for middle-aged middle-class folks) all practicing Qigong exercises in unison according to the loud commands of a single Qigong master. Just a little strange. Elsewhere smaller groups practiced their Taiji exercise routines around the park amid joggers enjoying a scenic and refreshing morning run.

Bukit Batok Nature Park

White-crested Laughing Thrush

White-crested Laughing Thrush

The 36 hectare park which opened in 1988 also features a network of easy to moderate jungle tracks crisscrossing the secondary forest, leading all the way to the top of the 10 story high quarry cliff. The trail and park are good spots for bird watching as well. Look out for a family of the absolutely delightful White-crested Laughing Thrush near the lake, so named because of their loud “laughter”. You might in fact hear them before you see them.

At the top of the hill awaits a treat for World War II (WWII) history buffs. A little known fact is that during WWII the Japanese ordered the British and Australian Prisoners of War (POWs) to build a shrine to honour their war dead. The Syonan Chureito shrine and war memorial was a “40 foot high cylindrical pylon capped with a brass cone”. From 1942 to 1945 Shinto services and burial ceremonies were held regularly to honour Japanese soldiers who died in the war around the region. Behind the Shinto shrine was a 10 foot high cross that the Japanese had grudgingly allowed the POWs to build to honour the allied soldiers who perished.

Remains of steps to Syonan Chureito, and Bukit Batok Memorial

Remains of steps to ex-Syonan Chureito, and Bukit Batok Memorial

The memorial was destroyed however when the Japanese retreated defeated from Singapore, and all that remains today are the 120 steps up. In place of the shrine now is Mediacorp’s Bukit Batok Transmission Centre. A “Bukit Batok Memorial” plaque placed at the foot of the stairs by the National Heritage Board commemorates the significance of the WWII site.

LOCATION

Bukit Batok Transmission Control

Monkey near the transmission tower

Bukit Batok Town Park (Little Guilin)

Along Bukit Batok East Avenue 5
If you are driving park at one of the car parks in the housing estates opposite.
Park is lit from 7pm to 7am.

Bukit Batok Nature Park

Main entrance is at the junction of Bukit Batok East Ave 6 and Ave 2 where there is a large car park. You can also enter via Lorong Sesuai off Old Jurong Road, which will take you up the hill to the foot of the stairs and the transmission towers.
Park is lit from 7pm to 7am. 

HOW MUCH TIME

Bukit Batok Town Park (Little Guilin)

Half an hour or less to walk from one end of the park to the other in front of the lake.

Bukit Batok Nature Park

Approx. 2 hours to cover the trails in the park at a leisurely pace, including hiking to the top and back down.

TIDBITS

P1060024

  • Little Guilin has not unexpectedly witnessed a number of accidental drownings. Reported in the news is one of a woman in her late 40s who drowned in 2008. Bodies of 2 woman were also found floating in the lake in 1994 and 1992. Another drowning was in 1987 of a 16 year old boy who went for a swim in the lake after sniffing glue (those were the days of cheap highs).
  • Bukit Batok Nature Park in contrast has been the scene of a couple of brutal murders, and a freak accident.
    • In 2008 a 47-year old woman’s decomposed body was found on the slope in the forested area. A property agent, she had parked her car along Lorong Sesuai with a business associate to discuss money matters, however they got into an argument so he murdered her and dumped her body.
    • In 2000 a 27-year old female jogger was cruelly assaulted and raped while jogging in the park in broad daylight at 10am. She was found lying in a 10m deep ravine after her cries for help were heard by passersby, however she died of her injuries a week later. Barely a week earlier a woman was attacked at the park however she was lucky and managed to escape.
    • In 2007, strong winds during a storm felled 2 15m high trees, killing a female jogger and injuring her 2 companions.
WWII Syonan Chureito shrine atop Bukit Batok hill

WWII Syonan Chureito shrine atop Bukit Batok hill – courtesy of national archives

TAKE NOTE

  • There are no toilets, no parking and no amenities in Bukit Batok Town Park. There are 2 funky looking vine-covered shelters though.
  • Bukit Batok Nature Park has toilets in the open space plaza in the centre of the park and ample parking.

USEFUL LINKS

Map of Bukit Batok Parks

Courtesy of Streetdirectory.com

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3 thoughts on “Bukit Batok Town Park and Bukit Batok Nature Park: A Tale of 2 Parks

  1. Pingback: The 3 Quarries of Bukit Timah Hill: See But No Touch | UnTourist Singapore

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