Visitors to the new Thomson Nature Park can enjoy a blast from the past while walking amid the lush vegetation there.
Built where a former Hainan village and rambutan plantations were, the nature park still has traces of the people who once lived there. There are old wells and village steps, as well as signboards detailing what village life used to be like, along the trails at the new park.
Yesterday, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, officially opened the 50ha Thomson Nature Park, which buffers the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. "The buffer parks... not only protect our nature reserves, they also provide Singaporeans with more green spaces," he said. "This nature park is special for another reason - it has a layer of history of early Singapore."
Former villager Ho Gui Mei, 65, said households who used to live there had many rambutan trees - those that bore juicy, succulent fruit famed across the island.
"Whenever the rambutan trees started flowering, traders across Singapore would come to our village and offer us a sum of $50 to $100 to harvest all the rambutans," said Madam Ho, a retired marketing director. "We had to be disciplined. Once they 'reserved' a tree, we couldn't pluck the fruit from it."
The villagers had another former villager, Mr Han Wai Toon, to thank for the famed rambutans. He tried ways to create the perfect rambutan reminiscent of the lychees he used to eat in his hometown in Hainan.
Rambutan trees are still there, but their fruits are not for people, said the National Parks Board. Denizens of the forest, including the critically endangered Raffles' banded langur, enjoy them instead.
Said Mr Lee: "I hope that more Singaporeans will have a greater appreciation for our biodiversity and green spaces. Such collective efforts help ensure that our natural heritage is protected for future generations to enjoy."