“There’s always more to uncover in Singapore” – you may be tired of hearing this but you’ve got to admit, there’s some truth to it.
For all those who miss their Japan escapades and hiking adventures, take a closer look at the west side of Singapore. In the vicinity of Little Guilin and upcoming BTO town Tengah is the abandoned Bukit Batok Hillside Park – not to be confused with Bukit Batok Town Park.
Upon discovering this, my super-onz colleague Huiwen and I decided we had to check it out
to escape work for a day in the name of adventure.
With dilapidated boardwalks, “torii gates” and overgrown paths, stepping into this park offers a vastly different experience from all the nature parks and reserves in Singapore. If anything, it looks more like ruins from the set of your favourite disaster film.
Image adapted from: Google Maps, PNGKey
There are two trailheads that you can use to get to the main area of the park. Most hikers simply call them Entrance 1 and Entrance 2. We chose the latter, the tougher of the two. After all, it’s Singapore, how hard could it be right?
Entrance 2 starts right along the roadside of Bukit Batok West Avenue 5. We entered through a small, almost imperceivable gap in the bush. That, fellow adventurers, is your first hint that this isn’t going to be easy.
Approximately a minute in and you’re, as TikTok-ers will say, “into the thick of it”.
It was only a couple of steps in that we started to wonder if we were on the right path – if the excuse of a dirt track was even a path at all. But we soon came across signs that this used to be a proper trail, such as this rickety wooden bridge:
About 10 minutes in, the path leads to a clearing in the middle of the forest. Here’s where the adventure starts to ramp up. Once you pass this area, the dirt path fades away and you’ll very literally have to go off the beaten path.
Grab your hiking sticks, it’s time for some hardcore jungle trekking.
Even with a bit of hiking experience under our belts, Huiwen and I are no BMT soldiers, so we also had to backtrack about a million times to find a usable route that wasn’t blocked by a barricade of branches.
Pro-tip: One thing that really helped us to get our bearings was Google Maps. As there are no proper maps of the park available, you can use the app’s inbuilt compass to head in the general direction of the Torii Shrine location pin.
About 30 minutes in, you’ll come face to face with a large cliff which honestly, is harder to scale than all the bukits in Singapore combined. With steep inclines and slippery dirt, this was the toughest part of the hike that put our non-existent quads to the test.
You also could say it was a cardio workout we never planned for.
Huiwen: “I’m dying, I’m dying, I’m dying”
Me: “Why did we do this again?
After the first hill, lo and behold, there was another hill. Or maybe it’s the same hill. Who knows. All we know was that our heart rate was probably 180BPM.
Call us Singaporean Tenzing Norgays as we finally reached the top of the hill where the elevation levelled out – a sign that the end was near.
Head downhill until you come across trail markers left behind by previous hikers, highlighting the obscure path and leading you to the destination.
After a downhill climb, you’ll finally spot the broken boardwalk and an old sheltered walkway that looks like the post-apocalyptic version of Japan’s Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Unfortunately, there’s little known about this place, except for the fact that it used to be called Greenwood Park. Even the middle-aged Grab driver I met earlier who lived in the area, had no clue of its existence.
Yet, it’s definitely a glimpse back in time, probably to the era of our grandparents. With part of the original structures still standing, you can imagine how visitors used to come here to relax.
Fun fact: This table managed to stay upright the whole time, and only collapsed in 2021.
Next to the old shelter lies a broken wooden table where folks probably used to sit around and chat. The stone seats surrounded by nature all around must’ve also made this place the Gardens by the Bay of the time.
Take a break on the stone seats after the long hike
It may feel like you’ve already gotten your hike’s worth, but there’s more to come. Head on further downhill, along the overgrown path to reach the abandoned well.
In what must’ve been a prime paktor hotspot in the past, you’ll find an old well surrounded by ceramic jars and an artificial rock display that was likely used to light up or play music.
The rocks look deceptively real but are actually hollow, hiding rusty and mouldy electrical circuits.
Continue downhill for a few more minutes to find a flight of stone steps that leads out to an exit along Bukit Batok West Avenue 2. This exit is also the alternative and easier trailhead, Entrance 1.
Bukit Batok Hillside Park is not for the faint of heart – but it’s definitely worth exploring if what you’re seeking is a rugged adventure. We clocked about 7,000 steps (~5 KM) over the course of two hours during this hike, but the terrain was tough and steep, making it feel much longer than it actually was.
Some things you’ll need to prepare for this hike include:
Also, note that you’ll find several versions of “Entrance 2” online – some of which are no longer around due to renovation works. NParks has announced in 2020 that Bukit Batok Hillside Park will be undergoing “habitat enhancement” so the terrain will be undergoing construction and routes may change with time.
Bukit Batok Hillside Park is a time capsule from the past, offering a wilderness experience that is hard to find anywhere else in Singapore. In place of well-paved PCNs, we found disappearing trails that were a joy to explore.
Much like Clementi Forest, it’s shrouded away from all the incessant humdrum of urban life, despite only sitting on a relatively small plot of land. For those adventurous folks who miss their mountain hiking adventures, consider this your next challenge.
We summarise the hike and rank the difficulty below:
Huiwen: 8.5/10. It’s good for the adrenaline seekers and it was very satisfying to find the torii gates after a long trek. I think it’s not suitable for those who are scared of the unknown, HAHA.
Kezia: 8/10. It’s pretty challenging because there are no proper paths so be prepared to get lost. Also, by “unknown”, Huiwen means spiders.
Bukit Batok Hillside Park
Address: 1 Bukit Batok West Avenue 2, Singapore 659203
Getting there: Walk 10 minutes from Bukit Gombak MRT (Directions to Entrance 1 | Directions to Entrance 2)
For more obscure nature spots in Singapore:
Photography by Huiwen Chan.
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