Hidden Bunkers In Singapore
It’s been more than 60 years since World War II – and while our minds have completely erased almost all of its traces, war relics still stand strong to tell tales of a time past. While most of us have been to Labrador or Fort Canning Park, very few of us are aware that bunkers actually lie hidden within familiar neighbourhoods.
As the curious wanderers we are, we decided to equip ourselves with a lowlight-ready camera and uncover these forgotten backyard bunkers for ourselves. From Queenstown to Sembawang, here are 4 underground bunkers you can find in your hood that will send chills down your spine.
1. Queenstown’s Kay Siang Bunkers
Those who’ve ever lived in Queenstown can agree that the neighbourhood goes through a face-lift every year. The heartland may have lost Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Alley, and Queenstown Driving Test Centre, but thankfully, Kay Siang bunker is still standing strong.
The Kay Siang Bunkers were strong storage facilities for British military equipment and ammunition, built alongside Buller Camp that housed Japanese POW. Aside from the last few standing bunkers in the Kay Siang forests, not much else is known about the operations and history surrounding it.
The bunkers are located in the thick of the forest along Kay Siang Road, past The Salvation Army’s Family Thrift Store. There weren’t any maps or specific coordinates stating the bunkers’ location, so finding it required a great deal of intuition and street smarts. Fortunately for us, the entrance was obvious.
Keep your eyes peeled at the forested area on the left after the junction of Kay Siang Road and Tanglin Road and you’ll come across this label:
I chuckled at the sight of the sign – I wasn’t expecting to be easily welcomed. The opening is small and covered by sharp branches and thorns so be careful as you enter. The good news is, it’ll take only a minute of walking through undergrowth before you chance upon the ruins of the first bunker.
Cocooned by vines and roots, the first bunker looks straight out of a Tomb Raider movie. The roof has collapsed, the walls are laced in moss, and vegetation was sprouting out from the ground around it.
The structure is unstable so we don’t recommend entering it. There are two more bunkers ahead that are still intact, so keep moving!
A large fallen log beside the first bunker obstructs the easy route so you’ll have to take a detour around it to pass. The path sits on the rim of a steep slope, so look out for the red ropes tied to a nearby trunk to help you across.
It was assumed that helpful explorers in the past tied it to aid others moving through the slope. And it was indeed, helpful. The path beyond this obstacle is laid out clearly so it’ll take you another quick minute before reaching the second bunker.
Inside the second bunker, the air was chilly and damp, a stark contrast to the forest’s heat. It was creepy. The gust of cold air blowing through as we entered sent shivers down our spines and I was ready to cowardly run home. But we brushed it off because the bunker’s interior peaked our curiosity.
Other than rocks and rubble, the bunker remains empty – not even insects were seen! It’s a great place for photographers to practice low-light shots without worrying about pests. For inexperienced urban explorers, the Kay Siang Bunker is the perfect destination to gain confidence in exploring remote places because the journey isn’t complicated.
From Redhill MRT Station, walk to Ascentia Sky then turn left towards the traffic junction past the church. At the junction, cross diagonally to reach block 131. Walk straight down Tanglin Road, passing the mosque, The Salvation Army Family Hub, Institute For Adult Learning and Singapore Environment Council. Once you’re at the junction joining Kay Siang Road and Tanglin Road, turn left. Walk along Kay Siang Road and look for the Kay Siang sign on your left for the entrance.
2. Pasir Panjang’s Labrador Battery
The Labrador Battery, or Fort Pasir Panjang, is an artillery fort built on the coast to defend Singapore’s passageway leading into Keppel Harbour. Tunnels were constructed below gun emplacements (these are massive cannons) to serve as storage facilities for the shells and other ammunition.
Although gazetted back in 1995 by the National Heritage Board as one of the 11 World War II sites in Singapore, its redevelopment still goes on till today.
The relics are spread out around the nature reserve so we started hiking from the entrance closest to Carpark B. Once you enter the Labrador Nature Reserve, walk straight till you see the first war relic come up on your left. From there, keep following the trail to the next few ruins and you’ll eventually get to a small opening that’ll lead you down to the tunnel.
The tunnel is dark, but you’ll still be able to gauge its depth if it’s bright outside. This was where shells were hoisted up from the storerooms whenever they were needed so it’s impossible to head back up if you decide to ignore the cordon and jump in unless you’re fully equipped. Plus, there are no ladders!
Here’s a look inside the opening:
We feel like this photo is a jump scare waiting to happen
The climax of the Labrador trip was finally seeing the gate that led to the Labrador tunnels. Unfortunately, the gate is locked so there isn’t any public access into the tunnels – which was fine because I was already creeped out just standing outside.
The Labrador tunnels were dark to the point of zero visibility so we knew the ISO had to be set high to compensate – 12800. If that wasn’t enough, we turned the aperture up to F2.2 to make sure we got as much light in as possible. I’ll admit that we were kiasu on the camera settings, making sure we got enough light exposure on the picture. Getting it right from the first try was important.
As my sergeants back in Tekong always say, “Do it once, do it right”.
With fingers crossed, we set the shutter speed to 1/40 and snapped. Could not have been more satisfied for the result. Bright picture, little noise.
Behold, the familiar setting of every horror movie.
To reach the tunnel gate, trek through the main track from the entrance closest to Carpark B (see second Labrador Bunker picture) and head straight until you see the road split and take the smaller pavement on the right. The gate is locked, but you’ll get a glimpse of what lies inside – dark, narrow, empty space.
3. Tiong Bahru’s Air Raid Shelter
As if the cool cafes around the area aren’t hipster enough for the neighbourhood,
the Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter currently serves as a novelty. It was initially planned as an indoor playground and garage before the outbreak of war convinced for it to be used otherwise.
Unlike other shelters that were demolished, converted or destroyed due to bombing (like the Rochor Canal Road shelter), Tiong Bahru’s shelter remains intact. As the only civilian air raid shelter left, the place is claimed by National Heritage Board and is open for bookings through Tanjong Pagar Town Council.
Posters line the walls outside telling stories of the place’s rich history, detailing how it was built and used. Ventilation gaps allow visitors to sneak a peek of the interior before entering. As cornerstone of Singapore’s rich heritage, the shelter is protected to ensure its preservation.
Note: To enter, you’ll require permission from Tanjong Pagar Town Council.
With the help of kind souls from Tanjong Pagar Town Council (shout out to them!), we were able to explore the shelter, which is bigger than we initially presumed. The main rooms are lit by retrofitted fluorescent bulbs while other smaller rooms remained dark and devoid of electricity. Some rooms are flooded from the rain and drain leakage so do avoid those places during the wet seasons.
In one particular room, the floor was sloped downwards and the pool of water collected reached up to our ankles. We should’ve worn boots! We watched in horror as hundreds of roaches started scampering on the wall as we shone our torchlights to get a better look. Thank god they weren’t the flying types – that would have been a one-way ticket to the exit.
There were dates written on the walls, as well as signs like ”BHS” followed by an arrow that pointed to a bordered up area, which we could only presume led to Bukit Ho Swee back then.
Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter is one of the best destinations to explore in our books, seeing that it’s shrouded in civilisation (which means it’s easy to get to), and the inside makes for a perfect photoshoot session.
To get to Block 78 Guan Chuan Street, head out from Tiong Bahru MRT Station, walk along Tiong Bahru Road towards Outram Road and turn right into Kim Pong Road. At Moh Guan Terrace, enter the parking lot and you’ll be able to find the shelter at Block 78.
4. Sembawang’s Malta Crescent Bunkers
Whether it’s an open secret among Sembawang residents, or just a secret in general – the Malta Crescent Bunkers and underground tunnels make up part of Singapore’s colonial history. Completely carpeted by grass, the bunkers are both obvious and inconspicuous at the same time.
Prior to coming here, we watched videos of how other explorers were able to walk through the Malta Crescent tunnels – mainly by prying structures and chimneys open. With this knowledge in mind, we searched Malta Crescent to Montreal Road for openings we could squeeze our way into, hoping to do the same.
Our hunt led us right to the U-shaped mounds, but the chimney-like openings we were looking for had all been cemented over – in an obvious attempt to keep people out. Even though we weren’t about to explore the depths of the underground tunnels, but the experience we took home was worth it. I’d still recommend the Malta Crescent bunkers to anyone looking for experiences and landscapes out of the ordinary.
We recommend Sembawang for photography and videography walks due to its clear contrast between civilisation and nature, as well as its lack of human traffic.
Board bus 882 from opposite Sembawang MRT Station and alight at the 8th stop. Once you’ve alighted, head to Tuah Road and cross over to Malta Crescent.
The bunkers of Singapore you don’t see
In closing, let me state that this list isn’t exhaustive – there are more bunkers hidden around Singapore, just waiting to be explored. Let us know in the comments below if you’ve stumbled across any hidden bunkers yourself!
Not exactly the most accessible, but an adventure without a little challenge isn’t enticing at all. Many of these bunkers require a bit of a hike, and with Zika on the rise, be sure to slather on the mosquito repellant and pack your adventure essentials like food, snacks, of course your trusty camera.
A light backpack is important for long, exhausting hikes like the trail at Labrador Nature Reserve. You don’t want to be burdened by the load. In modern explorations like these, ditching your DSLR for a Compact Camera helps.
Set aside your bulky DSLR – you definitely don’t want to be lugging that around the forests. A compact camera like the Sony’s Cyber-shot™ DSC-RX100M4 is a wiser choice. Weighing in at only 289g, you won’t have to be weighed down for the sake of photography.
The camera’s super-high-speed shutter (1/32000 of a second) aided us for shots in both bright daylight and the low-lit interiors of the bunkers. Running on a BIONZ X™ engine, we were able to capture the essence of each bunker with perfect clarity even though the ISO settings were quite high.
Even in the pitch-black darkness of the bunkers, the camera was able to pull-through without distorting too much with noise – yes, we snapped all the bunker pictures with the camera.
All pictures taken by Sony’s Cyber-shot™ DSC-RX100M4
In addition, the 1.0” Exmor RS® CMOS sensor with DRAM Chip makes for efficient and powerful processing, with the ability to handle pictures taken in low-light areas, producing pictures with superb detailing.
It’s not just all pictures for this camera though, if you’re all about that vlog life, put the 4K video recording function on this bad boy to good use! Couple it with a macro shot and add the slow-mo function and you’ll be catapulting your editing skills to the skies. It’s an all-in-one camera, perfect for urban explorers.
*BONUS IN-STORE PROMOTION*
From 1st to 14 Oct’16 receive a FREE casing worth $139 when you purchase Sony’s Cyber-shot™ DSC-RX100M4 at Sony’s new concept Store, Wisma Atria. Offer valid while stocks last!
This post was brought to you by SONY.
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