Eureka! Einstein once visited Bedok

Find out where the Nobel Prize winner went - and more - on new heritage trail in neighbourhood

Visitors, and even residents, who think of Bedok as just another housing estate have cause to reconsider, with the opening of a new walking trail that unveils some historical gems about the area.

A marker at a spot far inland notes that this was where the seashore began, 60 years ago, giving rise to the realisation that East Coast Park sits on reclaimed land.

Another marker brings one back to 1923, when Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein visited a Jewish community in Singapore and was impressed by the beauty of the coconut palms in Frankel Estate.

The Frankels, Jewish entrepreneurs in the textile and furniture industries, also developed the neighbouring Opera Estate, which was home to Singapore's first President, the late Mr Yusof Ishak.

These nuggets of information can be found along the Bedok Heritage Trail, a 15km walk on which visitors can explore the area's past as an idyllic coastal town, before land reclamation began.

Visitors can learn more about the history of places such as Chai Chee, Frankel Estate, Opera Estate, Kampong Bedok and Siglap.


Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein visited a Jewish community in Singapore in 1923 and was impressed by the beauty of the coconut palms in Frankel Estate. PHOTO: ST FILE

TRAIL OF KNOWLEDGE

We hope that the trail will raise the awareness of residents and visitors about Bedok's heritage, pique their interest to rediscover key landmarks in the estate, and instil a sense of pride in them when they learn about Bedok's role in Singapore's progress as a nation.

MR ALVIN TAN, assistant chief executive, policy and community, at the National Heritage Board.

The National Heritage Board (NHB) developed the trail, which has 10 markers, as part of the Housing Board's Remaking Our Heartland plans for the East Coast area. It is the 15th trail developed by NHB.

Mr Alvin Tan, NHB's assistant chief executive, policy and community, said: "We hope the trail will raise the awareness of residents and visitors about Bedok's heritage, pique their interest to rediscover key landmarks in the estate, and instil a sense of pride in them when they learn about Bedok's role in Singapore's progress as a nation."

Members of the Bedok community contributed their stories and artefacts to the project.

There are also plans for schools to "adopt" the trail and offer guided tours for their peers and residents of Bedok.

And residents have welcomed the addition of a heritage trail to their neighbourhood.

History student Danelle Chia, 21, said: "I hope going on the trail will answer my questions on how kampung dwellers were affected by their resettlement to HDB blocks."

Another resident, who has lived in Bedok for 38 years and gave her name only as Mrs Tay, said the trail could help her children understand what the older folks have been through.

"The trail will increase young people's awareness of our history and help them to understand their past," the 68-year-old said.

A mobile application, Singapore Heritage Trails, was also launched yesterday. More than 80 heritage trails are now available on the app, which was developed by researchers at the Keio-NUS Cute (Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments) Centre, a collaboration between Keio University in Japan and National University of Singapore (NUS).

Users can navigate trails on the app, view photographs, bookmark places, share them on Facebook, write comments and post pictures. The app is available on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

A booklet and map providing more information on the trail is available on NHB's new heritage portal, www.roots.sg

There will be guided bus tours of the trail this weekend at $5 per person. Members of the public can sign up at www.heritagefest.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Eureka! Einstein once visited Bedok'. Print Edition | Subscribe