By : Brenda Tan
15 May 2014
The hills are alive with the sound of music, sang Julie Andrews in the old Hollywood movie, “The Sound of Music”, but in the case of Bukit Batok, the hills were coughing, and that was how the town got its name.
The name Bukit Batok, loosely translated from Malay into English, means coughing hill. ‘Batok’ means cough and ‘Bukit’ is hill.
This hilly area was a granite quarry in the past, and the deafening blasts from the quarrying activities sounded as if the hills were coughing. Apparently, the quarrying also created a dust storm that caused many to develop coughing fits.
The granite quarries are no longer active now and much of the hilly terrain has made way for HDB flats. But other attractions abound that make Bukit Batok a place well worth a visit to the west.
Join us as we take you on a quick tour of the area around ‘Coughing Hill’. As its name suggests, expect some undulating landscape as you trudge around – time to put on those walking shoes and prepare to explore Bukit Batok Town!
But first, head to Block 207 at Street 21 for the Bukit Batok neighbourhood dim sum gastronomic experience. You can’t miss the place – just follow the snaky queue that starts from early morning and persists till way into lunchtime (longer during the weekends!).
My personal favourites are the flavourful chicken feet in black bean sauce which I affectionately name “Really”, and Hong Kong style chee cheong fun with big juicy prawns I call “Yummy”. Simply irresistible!
For those who are not fans of dim sum, there are other good choices as well. You can pick from western food and tze char stalls, to bee hoon, mixed vegetable rice, and chicken and duck rice stalls. Scratch that old saying, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” With food this good, I’m pretty sure it is the way to all of our hearts!
After all that food, time to burn away the calories. Take a walk and explore the quieter nooks of Bukit Batok.
Visit Bukit Batok Nature Park to check out the flora and fauna. Fret not the scorching midday sun as the dense canopy of trees would have you covered (literally). Adventurous souls can take a trail from the park and walk up to Bukit Batok Hill – a historical site where two memorials from the Second World War once stood.
The Japanese memorial that was erected to commemorate their war dead was apparently destroyed when they retreated after the war, leaving only the foundation steps visible today. As for the British and allied memorial, it remains unknown what happened to it. Although these monuments from the past are no longer around, a memorial plaque has been installed in their place. You can see it on your way up.
If the physical exertion of climbing uphill to the flight of steps is too daunting for you, , it is also possible to drive right up to the foot of the stairs, which was what I did. :p
Great place for a cardio work out!
With a healthy dose of history
Do you know that there is a quiet attraction in Bukit Batok called the ‘Memories at Old Ford Factory’? I was surprised to learn that this was the first Ford vehicle assembly plant in Southeast Asia and this relocated factory in Bukit Batok, dates back to 1941.
In an ironic twist of events, during the war, it was where the Royal Air Force’s fighter planes were assembled to defend Malaya. But when the region fell to the invading Japanese forces, it also marked the location where the British surrendered Singapore.
Offering an educational and informative tour, Memories at Old Ford Factory displays many historical artifacts and provides insights into Singapore’s history during the occupation years. It is not just for history buffs, however. It is suitable also for anyone who would like to know more about Singapore’s past. In an unexpected twist, some artifacts (a rifle, oil lantern and helmet) were unearthed only in 2005 during works on HDB’s Lift Upgrading Programme at Jalan Teck Whye.
Now, get your cameras ready! Bukit Batok’s very own Xiao Guilin a.k.a Little Guilin, is certainly not to be missed when visiting this town. Named after the picturesque Guilin scenic region in China, which it resembles, this former granite quarry with its striking cliffs and outcrops has been transformed into a tranquil lake, where its placid waters occasionally ripple in the passing breeze.
Beautiful and peaceful, this place is definitely in a league of its own, especially in urban Singapore. Snap away and show your friends your pretty find in this western part of Singapore.
People relaxing in this rare quiet oasis in urban Singapore
Boys and their toys – photography enthusiasts getting a good shot of nature
Like all tours, this one should also end with food. Have dinner at one of the two hawker centres in the neighbourhood centre right in the heart of Bukit Batok Central.
This is where you can find home-cooked goodness from the hands (and woks and pans) of our heartland hawker heroes. You can always tell from the size of the crowd if the food is good and here, the constant hum of hungry people is a definite signal. Hokkien mee, wonton mee, kway chap, rojak, fish soup – you really have to come back again to try them all!
Oh, did I fail to mention that small as Singapore is, there exists a long-time (but harmless) feud between the ‘Easties’ and ‘Westies’ over which end of Singapore is the better one. This friendly battle is not confined to college students coming up with supper plans. For now, I state my case for Bukit Batok, the West’s best. Any Westies with anything else to add, or friendly objections from the Easties, feel free to write in to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a comment on our Facebook page! We look forward to hearing from you. Be nice!