Jurong Hill Park: Once Was Famous

Jurong Hill Park

Jurong Hill is home to the highly acclaimed and much-loved Jurong Bird Park, which resides at the foot of the 60m tall hill. Few people know however that at the top of the hill lies a small park with a distinguished past. Although hard to believe, this unassuming park once featured prominently on the itineraries of foreign dignitaries visiting Singapore in the 1970s.

Many older Singaporeans will remember visiting the park in their childhood, however the park sadly sees few visitors these days.

THE LOWDOWN

Jurong Hill Park opened in 1970. Its distinguishing feature is a 3-storey spiral tower which visitors can climb up for vantage views of the surrounding industrial towns, with Jurong Port and Jurong Island in the near distance.

In the basement of the tower resides the long-standing Hilltop Japanese Restaurant that has been there for almost as long as the tower. A favourite with the corporate crowd from the nearby Jurong and Boon Lay industrial areas, the restaurant is known for its reasonably priced teppanyaki meals (think Benihana without the showiness).

Jurong Hill Park

The park’s real claim to fame though is its aptly titled “Garden of Fame”, featuring 27 trees planted by visiting dignitaries in the 1970s. Back then Singapore’s industrial age was kicking off, and the burgeoning Jurong Town was a pride and joy that we wanted to show off to foreign visitors. There was also a “tree-planting” movement at that time which had started in the 1960s, initiated by none other than our then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who believed that greening Singapore would be a step towards making the country a first world country. Having a foreign dignitary symbolically plant a tree, and commemorating it in his/her name was a special honour accorded only to the most VIP of guests.

Jurong Hill Park

Among the many famous dignitaries who planted trees at Jurong Hill Park crowning their visits to Singapore:

  • Spiro Agnew, ex-Vice President of the U.S.A. (10 Jan 1970)
  • Pierre Elliot Trudeau, ex-Prime Minister of Canada (23 May 1970)
  • Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of England (18-20 Feb 1972)
  • Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband to the Queen (19 Feb 1972)
  • William McMahon, ex-Prime Minster of Australia (9 Jun 1972)
  • Princess Margaret of the UK, sister of the Queen (17-19 Oct 1972)
  • Suharto, 2nd President of Indonesia (29-31 Aug 1974)
  • M.R. Kukrit Pramoj, ex-Prime Minister of Thailand (24-27 Jul 1975)
  • Ferdinand Marcos, ex-President of the Philippines (27-29 Jan 1976)
  • Takeo Fukuda, ex-Prime Minister of Japan (14-15 Aug 1977)
  • Deng Xiaoping, ex-leader of the Communist Party of China, after Chairman Mao (12-14 Nov 1978)

What a throwback to see some of these names again!

VISITING

It’s about a 10 minute walk up the hill from the base at Jurong Bird Park, although you can also drive up. Spend some time strolling through the Garden of Fame discovering the dignitaries who planted the trees, then head up to the lookout tower.

You’ll be able to have a clear view of Jurong Port and the very interesting Jurong Island in the distance. Jurong Island is a man-made, purpose-built island for Singapore’s petrochemicals industry. Over 3,200 hectares large, it houses many of the world’s leading petroleum, petrochemicals and specialty chemicals companies. Familiar names such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BASF, Sumitomo Chemicals etc. are some of the close to 100 companies that have set up manufacturing facilities on the island. The entire island is off-limits to the general public however as for safety reasons it was gazetted as a “Protected Place” after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Jurong Hill Park

View of the Jurong Island Highway on the left, and Jurong Port on the right

Squint hard enough, or bring a powerful pair of binoculars, and you might also be able to spy the massive subterranean construction works taking place in the area around Jurong Island. If you haven’t heard of it, Jurong Rock Caverns is a fascinating project to build a huge underground (or rather undersea) rock cavern for oil storage. A total of 5 caverns are being dug out from under the seabed off Jurong Island, over 100m below the basin floor. The caverns rise up to 27m high – almost the height of a 9-storey building, and will consist of 8km of tunnels. The first phase of the project is almost complete and will provide storage for liquid hydrocarbons, with 1.47 million cubic metres of storage space, equivalent to 580 Olympic-sized pools.

Jurong Rock Caverns

Jurong Rock Caverns – Photo from CNN

If you’re up for some Japanese nosh then you can always head to the tower’s basement restaurant.

LOCATION

Top of Jurong Hill road, off Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim.

HOW MUCH TIME

30-45 minutes, unless you want to linger longer.

Jurong Hill Park Tower

Jurong Hill Park Tower circa 1970 – Photo from the National Library

TIDBITS

  • Jurong Hill Park Tower was officially opened by the then Minister for Social Affairs, Mr Othman Wok, one of the “old guard” 1st generation political party leaders of Singapore. A journalist by profession, today the 88-year-old Mr Wok remains one of the last 5 surviving original founding fathers of Singapore.
  • Jurong Island, completed in 2009, was formed by reclaiming land and combining 7 small fishermen islands.
  • Jurong Island is now Singapore’s largest off-shore island, and is linked to the mainland by a 2.3km long highway called the Jurong Island Highway. The highway is accessible only to authorized personnel. 

TAKE NOTE

There is a fee-paying carpark at the top, although entrance is free after 5pm.

USEFUL LINKS

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6 thoughts on “Jurong Hill Park: Once Was Famous

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