Explore Istana Woodneuk


This Istana Woodneuk Guide was created by TheSmartLocal and first published here.

Hidden in the mass of vegetation between Holland Road and Tyersall Avenue lies Istana Woodneuk, an abandoned mansion once belonging to Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor. The mansion is said to have been built in the late 19th century for the Sultan’s fourth wife, Sultana Khadijah.

Before she died in this house in 1904, the Sultana sold the property to Sultan Abu Bakar’s son, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar. He rebuilt Istana Woodneuk in the 1930s for his Scottish born wife Helen Bartholomew. Subsequently, the house has also been used as Generals’ headquarters and a military hospital.

Istana Woodneuk has endured the test of time, nature and human brutality. The mansion was subject to the bombing of the Japanese in 1942, killing approximately 700 medics and patients, and was ferociously attacked by a fire circa 2006 which burned down its glorious blue roof.

It is important to note that Istana Woodneuk is not Istana Tyersall, another grand mansion of Sultan Abu Bakar’s not too far away from Woodneuk. Tyersall house sported a blood-red roof instead of blue, and it has since been razed to the ground.

With its rough past, it’s a wonder that Istana Woodneuk is still standing today – and pretty stably at it. If you’re craving for some thrill and want to tingle your ghost-senses, this hauntingly magnificent mansion is a great place to explore.

Getting There

Take any bus that goes to the bus-stop opposite Peirce Road. Some of these buses can be taken from Holland Village and Clementi MRT.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-19.JPGUpon reaching the bus-stop, walk in the direction of the shelter.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-20.JPGThere are several gaps in the foliage to your left. The first obvious gap in the foliage after the green railings marks the start of the trail that will take you to your spooky destination. Now all you need to do is trust your gut, muster your courage and go for it!b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-21.jpgThis trail is the most commonly used, so ropes have been tied to the tree trunks to aid explorers on their journey. It can get pretty steep, and I remember thanking all my lucky stars for the kind souls who installed the ropes.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-22.jpgAfter a 5-7 minute ascent, you will reach a clear path that diverges into two ways. Turn right and follow the path, taking in the fresh forest air and lush greenery along the way. In less than 10 minutes, a decaying, but undoubtedly once grand establishment will peek out from behind the rustling trees.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-23.jpg

A Horror Film Come to Life

b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-1.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-2.JPGIf I had been alone, taking my first steps into this dilapidated beauty would’ve been the most nerve-wracking thing ever. The tired walls look worn and dreary, and the sense of abandonment is tangible enough to send chills down your spine.

A dark air of horror and mystery hangs over the compound, and you can’t help but entertain every fear-filled thought that something grim must have taken place here.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-3.jpg Entering the house, a lone bathtub sits eerily in the first room on the left, with faded turquoise tiles vandalised at the front.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-14.jpgThe hauntingly beautiful stairway.b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC_0123.jpgSource: Adam Yee

A solitary chair was placed in the middle of the stairway, facing a large spray-painted Illuminati symbol.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-4.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-12.jpgThe whole place is heavily graffitied. Some of the images were artistically impressive, but some made me wonder if this was a ceremonial haven for pagan worship.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-5.JPGb2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-6.JPGb2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-9.JPGVegetation seems to have taken root in every single crevice.b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_4503.jpgSource: Beh Yu Jin

We were thrilled to spot this root-infested tub, and we would’ve spent more time photographing it if we didn’t notice the hornet’s nest right above our heads.

Do remember to be very careful when exploring the compound. This place is filled with hornets and wasps, which were way scarier to me than the abandoned house itself. b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-7.JPGb2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-8.JPGI can picture how elegant and charming this place must have been during its glory days. The railings look like they belong to a garden princess’ balcony.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-11.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-13.JPGb2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-10.JPGb2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-16.JPGA stairway filled with debris.b2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-15.JPGb2ap3_thumbnail_woodneuk-18.JPGAfter being attacked by a hornet and thousands of angry mosquitoes, we had enough thrills for the day and left the Istana. We ventured further down the path, and came across this small abandoned house that seems to have been either a servants’ quarters or guardhouse. A fallen tree rests above the it, making for a picturesque sight.

Friendly Reminders

Although extremely beautiful, the forest is one savage place. Be sure to arm yourselves with insect repellent. Even though we coated ourselves with insect repellent, the mosquitoes were still relentless. Imagine what it would be like without it!

Also, when exploring the mansion, tread very carefully. Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for hornets’ nests and crumbly areas. Don’t venture where you feel the structures are unstable.


b2ap3_thumbnail_wood__copy__1024.png The abundance of graffiti on the walls of the mansion gave me mixed emotions. On one hand, maybe the Istana truly can be a recreational spot where adventurous and creatively stifled youths can have a fun time exploring and expressing themselves through art. On the other hand, there were vile and offensive spray-painted images, proving that black sheep with little regard for a place so steeped in history do exist.

If you ever plan on visiting this place, do have respect for all that is around you. Keep the trail and the jungle pristine as it is by leaving behind only your footprints, and try to appreciate the richness of this mansion’s past.

Update: There are reports that Istana Woodneuk has been cordoned off as of April 2015. 

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