The ST Guide to... Heritage trails in Singapore

Playing tourist on home ground

A colonial house dating from 1933 is one of the highlights of the Labrador and Alexandra tour run by civic group My Community. This unique residence was built by the Public Works Department as part of a military estate at Alexandra Park to accommodat
A colonial house dating from 1933 is one of the highlights of the Labrador and Alexandra tour run by civic group My Community. This unique residence was built by the Public Works Department as part of a military estate at Alexandra Park to accommodate officers based at the former Alexandra Barracks.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

More tours are giving locals a chance to experience S'pore's history, culture anew

Tired of walking around your heartland mall or cafe hopping every weekend?

Various heritage groups and organisations have been rolling out trails that will take you through spaces and places you know little about.

There are ad hoc ones pegged to certain news events and larger festivals. For instance, a group behind a campaign to save the Sungei Road flea market has been running tours there. The public can also sign up for tours of national monuments and cultural enclaves as part of the ongoing Singapore Heritage Festival.

Here are some other organisations offering interesting trails.

NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD (NHB)

The NHB has a stable of 16 trails across Singapore which it started developing in 1999. The neighbourhoods so far include Bedok, Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh.

Other trails take visitors around the Civic District, Singapore River and World War II sites.

Members of the public can embark on self-guided tours, using heritage markers, trail booklets and maps. Trail information can be found on NHB's website www.roots.sg.

These trails typically feature landmarks such as national monuments, cultural institutions, community spaces where residents bond, and historical buildings within a neighbourhood.

In May last year, NHB launched a 15km trail of the Bedok neighbourhood, where visitors get to explore the area's past as an idyllic coastal town before land reclamation began. One of the highlights is a well-preserved seawall along Marine Parade Road, before Nallur Road.

The public can also download a mobile app jointly developed by NHB and Keio-NUS Cute (Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments) Centre, a collaboration between Keio University in Japan and National University of Singapore (NUS).

This gives users access to more than 100 trails developed by NHB, schools, as well as other public agencies and community partners.

Mr Alvin Tan, NHB's assistant chief executive of policy and community, said: "NHB hopes that more and more Singaporeans will embark on self-guided tours or sign up for community-led tours so that they can be resident tourists for a day and rediscover Singapore's heritage anew."

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (URA)

The URA also runs free trails and tours throughout the year. The public can sign up for its upcoming activities via https://uraconservation.eventbrite.com.

Upcoming trails this month and the next cover areas such as Tiong Bahru, Bukit Pasoh and Telok Ayer.

URA's monthly Tiong Bahru trail is conducted by students from ITE College West's tourism club.

Guides will take participants to places like the Tiong Bahru Market, the neighbourhood's bird corner and the Monkey God Temple. They will also share about the architecture in the estate.

JOURNEYS

The organisation is best known for its War Trails By Changi Museum which allows participants to relive the dramatic story of life under the Japanese Occupation.

Meanwhile, its newest tour, of the Battlebox and Fort Canning Hill, tells the story of kings, empires and the fort on the hill.

Visit http://www.journeys.com.sg/singaporewalks/payment.asp and http://www.battlebox.com.sg to find out more about ticket prices and tour timings.

MY COMMUNITY

This civic group has been actively promoting a deeper understanding of Queenstown - Singapore's first satellite town - and conducts a series of heritage tours in the area and its surrounds throughout the year.

Every second and fourth Saturday of the month, My Community runs the Labrador and Alexandra tour which follows the advancement of Japanese soldiers during World War II which culminated in a massacre at Alexandra Hospital and its neighbouring Boh Beh Kang village.

Meanwhile, the group's Tanglin Halt and Margaret Drive guided tour traces the evolution of Queenstown and takes participants to the first Housing Board flats along Stirling Road, the former Malayan Railways and the black-and-white bungalows at Wessex Estate.

The group also runs a Commonwealth and Holland Village heritage tour, and has plans to roll out a cycling tour of Queenstown, and a heritage tour of Bukit Merah.

Members of the public can register for its activities for free at https://www.eventbrite.sg/o/my-community-3785561729.

TEMASEK RURAL EXPLORING ENTHUSIASTS

For the more adventurous, there are rugged tours run by community groups like the Temasek Rural Exploring Enthusiasts. It organises tours which are off the beaten track. These include treks to the Marsiling Tunnels and the Tampines Quarry.

Its tours later this year will include one at Kampung Lorong Buangkok, and another at Thomson Nature Park, which will take visitors through the ruins of an old Hainan village.

The group, which was formed in 2014, started offering tours from May last year.

Co-founder Faye Joseph Ramos, 37, who is a cook, said: "We run tours at least twice a month. We go down ourselves first to make sure it is safe. Some places in Singapore that aren't usually mentioned in history books are worth sharing."

Head to https://www.facebook.com/temasekexplorers to view its upcoming events.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2017, with the headline 'Playing tourist on home ground'. Print Edition | Subscribe