Mention Singapore’s cultural heritage sites and places like Chinatown, Kampong Gelam, and Little India will likely pop up. But the heartlands can well hold their own too.Since 2011, the National Heritage Board has been developing heritage trails across the island to help citizens get in touch with their town’s rich culture and history. The quintessential heartland town of Ang Mo Kio is among them.
The Church of Christ the King is part of the Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail which covers 40 heritage sites and 10 heritage markers
Recently refreshed, the Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail covers 40 heritage sites and 10 heritage markers, including 13 new sites and two new markers. The new sites include Church of Christ the King and Liuxun Sanhemiao, which offer fresh narratives of the town’s history and heritage.
It also features three self-guided routes—Iconic Landmarks, Hidden Heartland Gems, and Scenic Fringes—which showcase both popular haunts and under-the-radar sites. Each route takes 1.5 to 2.5 hours to cover via public transport.1. Iconic Landmarks
Discover the enchanting world of Kekhun Baru Singing Club where Songbirds soar and melodies fill the air
As you make your way down the first route, keep an eye out for endless rows of long poles as sweet melodies from songbirds fill the air. This is your pleasant introduction to the iconic Kebun Baru Bird Singing Club, which houses songbirds from all over Singapore.
The club dates back to 1970, when hobbyists would tie strings around stones and throw them above branches to hoist up their bird cages, says the club’s co-founder, Mr Robin Chua.
Today, the club is Singapore’s largest bird singing and display arena, accommodating more than 1,000 cages. It is also where hobbyists go to train their songbirds.
Entry to the club is free and if you are lucky enough, you may chance upon one of the competitions, which are held at least once a month at the club.2. Hidden Heartland Gems
Embrace the rich history and unique charms of Ang Mo Kio Joint Temple, a cultural highlight you don’t want to miss!
A temple situated between flats is among the highlights in the second thematic route.
Established in Ang Mo Kio’s former villages in 1978 and rebuilt between Block 222 and Block 224 along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 in 2011, Ang Mo Kio Joint Temple comprises three temples—Gao Lin Gong, Kim Eang Tong, and Leng San Giam, all of which were founded by Chinese immigrants from different dialect groups. It draws flocks of devotees during important religious celebrations, and is a key cultural landmark in the estate.
In particular, Gao Lin Gong, the oldest of the three set up in 1888, has a special claim to fame. Long queues are known to form in its herbal garden during divine consultation sessions. The garden pays homage to the founders of the temple who helped many villagers by giving free herbal medicine to the needy, says Mr Koh Lian Wah, an ex-volunteer of the temple who used to live in the area.
They say great things come in pairs! Discover the Heartland Merlions, at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.
Three minutes away on foot stands another highlight in this route: a pair of Merlions. The 2.5-m-tall stone sculptures, which can be found at the entrance of Blocks 216 to 222 at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, are the only Merlions situated within Singapore’s heartlands.3. Scenic Fringes
The third route takes you across residential enclaves built in the 1950s to 1970s, including Mayflower Estate, Sembawang Hills Estate, and Seletar Hills Estate, each offering a slice of Singapore history.
Embark on the third route and learn how this place went from a rubber plantation to a Residential Icon
Sembawang Hills Estate, for example, was formally a rubber plantation. When rubber production declined, many rubber companies expanded into housing development instead. It was then transformed and jointly developed by Singapore United Rubber Estates and Bukit Sembawang Rubber Estates in the 1950s into a private housing estate off Upper Thomson Road with about 1,000 homes.Today, a disused Sembawang Hill Estate Taxi Services hut at Jalan Leban built in the 1960s, complete with stone benches inscribed with an old five-digit telephone number, remains a neighbourhood icon.
Unveiling the Rich Tapestry and Heritage of Singapore's Teachers' Housing Estate
The nearby Teachers’ Housing Estate has its own trove of interesting stories too. It was developed in the early 1960s by the Singapore Teachers’ Union to offer affordable homes to teachers, whose average monthly salaries then were less than $700.
Many roads in the estate, located near the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road and Upper Thomson Road, were also named after renowned poets and writers like Tu Fu, Rabindranath Tagore, and Munshi Abdullah.
This all goes to show that you don’t have to venture far to learn about our shared heritage. The captivating stories behind Singapore’s history and culture, which have been woven into the fabric of our neighbourhoods and communities, are right at our doorstep.
Explore old haunts and new sights on the renewed Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail. Simply drop by your estate’s community centres to get a copy of the companion guide and map at the nearest community centre, or download a digital copy from roots.gov.sg to start your adventure.
All images are credited to the National Heritage Board.