Oct 11, 2019

Go look for Ruins of an abandoned Hainan Village at the new Thomson Nature Park

There is a new nature park in Singapore and even though there isn't a playground for kids, Thomson Nature Park is home to the ruins of an old Hainanese village that was there from the 1930s which offers adults and kids a glimpse into life in a Singapore kampung back in the 1960s.

Located to the east of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), between Old Upper Thomson Road and Upper Thomson Road, Thomson Nature Park complements existing nature parks including Springleaf and Windsor Nature Parks to extend the green buffer for the CCNR.

This 50-hectare buffer park is unique for its rich cultural heritage as the site of a former Hainan Village as well as housing a rich array of biodiversity and is notably a key conservation site for the critically endangered Raffles’ Banded Langur.

There are a total of five walking trails spanning 3.8 km around the former village's road network - Ruins & Fig Trail (1.5km), Stream & Ferns Trail (1.4km), Rambutan Trail (0.4km), Langur Trail (0.15km) and Macque Trail (0.35km). All of them are relatively short distances which means kids will be able to go on them pretty effortlessly!

Credit: NParks
The trails have been specially curated to provide visitors insight into the ways of life during the kampung days as well as into the variety of floral and faunal species found in Thomson Nature Park.

Personally, I think the Ruins and Figs Trail is the most interesting trail of the lot because it will bring visitors along a trail where there will be plenty of abandoned and old buildings to spot, giving them a chance to experience the heritage highlights of the Hainan Village through carefully conserved ruins.

If you love nature, then go on the Stream and Ferns Trail which enables visitors to appreciate the freshwater habitat in Thomson Nature Park and observe the great diversity of ferns and aquatic animals present.

But for the most of us - and especially for kids - the thrill will be trying to spot the remnants of a Hainanese village which will take them past building foundations, still-standing walls, abandoned wells and even old road networks. Yes, there were two real actual roads in the form of Lorong Pelita and Jalan Belang which connect the village to the main road in the past.

Hainanese immigrants established the kampung in the 1930s and by the 1960s, there were close to 100 residents who lived there. But come the 1980s, the residents started moving out due to housing development plans, and the village was eventually covered by secondary forest.

And look at some of the stuff they left behind!

FUN FACT: The founder of Han's Cafe & Cake House previously lived in the village. Mr Han Choon Fook first set up a small bakery along Upper Thomson Road in 1978 and eventually expanded it to become the Han's cafe chain that we are now familiar with.

As mentioned, the Ruins and Figs Trail is only 1.5km and is in a loop so it is extremely doable for families with kids. The terrain is relatively straight-forward, with a few gentle slopes along the way. Oh, and do note that bicycles, skate scooters and all form of wheeled transport are not allowed on the trails.

Along the way, there are plenty of ruins to keep a lookout for.

I love how information boards have been placed along the various sections of the trail, to let the visitors in on the history of how the villagers lived and who they are.

And for some houses, you can still even see some parts of it still standing.

Can you spot the staircase and low wall in the photo below?

There are many abandoned wells to spot along the trail too, even a SQUARE one!

 It's really quite something seeing these ruins right before my very eyes - things that we don't really get to see often in modern Singapore.

And if there is one particular ruins site that one should not miss, it will have to be this.

This is probably the most "well-preserved" building of all the ruins in the park. You can still clearly see the different rooms of the house as well as the courtyard. This ruins site is also the one that one can get closest to - in case you are wondering, all of the ruins are out of bounds to visitors.

I have marked the site of two ruins which you should not miss in the map below.

Oh, and do keep an eye for this still-standing sprical staircase, which was part of a two-storey house - one of the only houses with two floors in the village and owned by the Eurasian Fox family. The head of the Fox family used to drive a mobile library and he helped to bring a wealth of knowledge to the residents and children in the village.

And in case you must know, the park has a few Instagram-worthy spots as well. 😆

The other trail worth going on is the Rambutan Trail which is on the other side of the park. This short 400m trail is on the actual site of Han's Rambutan Garden which was once owned by Mr Han Wai Toon who embarked on a quest to cultivate trees that would yield the perfect rambutan.

The farmhouse occupied a vast piece of land and from the stairway that still remains, I can only imagine how beautiful the farmhouse must have been in its heyday.

One can even still see the actual staircase that leads to Mr Han's master bedroom.

Amazingly, the water source which irrigated the rambutan garden is still around - I can hear the trickling sounds of the spring water!

For sure, Thomson Nature Park is unlike your usual nature parks in Singapore. The presence of an abandoned Hainanese village with its ruins scattered throughout the park definitely makes it an intriguing day out with the kids, giving them a glimpse of what life was like there in the past.

There are limited parking onsite, as well as rest shelters near the entrance too. As for toilets, the nature park has them too.

😂😂😂 I'm only kidding. There are modern washroom facilities at the entrance of the park.

Useful Information

Thomson Nature Park
Address: Off Old Upper Thomson Road
How to get there:
By bus: 138, 138A, 167, 169, 860, 980 - Alight at Upper Thomson Road (Aft Tagore Dr, Bus stop ID: 56061) OR 138, 167, 169, 860, 980 - Alight at Upper Thomson Road (Bef Tagore Dr, Bus stop ID: 56069)
Opening Hours: 7am – 7pm daily (entering or remaining in the park after 7pm is not allowed)
Carpark charges: $0.60 per 30 min

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