NSS Flashback!

Ann Ang found this Nov/Dec 2006 issue of Nature News, the publication of the Nature Society of Singapore, which featured Bukit Brown Cemetery:


The Nature Society is one of the signatories calling for a moratorium on the highway:

The community of concerned groups over the future of Bukit Brown is formally calling for a moratorium on all plans for Bukit Brown. This moratorium should be in place until there is clarity over long-term plans for the area and discussions over alternatives have been exhausted. Given on-going national discussions over housing, transportation and immigration, there is room for policy adjustments. Plans to develop housing and transport infrastructure in the greater Bukit Brown area cannot be made when these discussions are underway and before the public has had an opportunity to fully consider the details surrounding such proposals.

 In addition, there has not been sufficient time for a public conversation over plans by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Land Transport Authority for Bukit Brown, nor a discussion about the alternatives proposed by the Nature Society’s position paper issued in December. We are asking for more meaningful engagement than what we have experienced so far. Bukit Brown is important enough that all parties should be able to participate in discussions over its future reasonably as interested citizens, whether individually, as informal communities, or organised formally.


Related Posts:

Bird-Watching at Bukit Brown

Bukit Brown at Crossroads

Bukit Brown: Destination Park

Plants by Angie Ng

Not for the Dead Only


The Nature Society sent the following letter to the Straits Times on April 6, 2012:

Bukit Brown Should be a Destination Park

OUR position is to recommend to the relevant authorities that Bukit Brown be made into a public or heritage park for the benefit of all Singaporeans, not just for nature lovers or nature romantics (‘Don’t get carried away by biodiversity’ by Mr Heng Cho Choon; last Saturday).


Bukit Brown should retain its natural and cultural values and be simultaneously promoted as an area for recreational pursuits like hiking, jogging, strolling, family picnics or appreciating nature.


Crisp morning runs – for joggers and horses (photo: Claire Leow)


Our view is very much in line with the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) laudable plan to open 20 new parks in the next five years (‘Coney Island set to become nature park’; Feb 19).


Bukit Brown, with its multi-faceted values, qualifies as a top candidate for a ‘destination park’. Because of its cultural assets, it has great potential as a tourist attraction too.


March 25 tour: gratifying to see the young so engaged in our open classroom (photo: Claire Leow)


As there is room for 20 new parks anyway, given whatever plan the authority may have for population increase and new settlements, it should be made part of URA’s park scheme.


Our concern now is the planned dual four-lane expressway which will destroy the existing features of the area that are valuable assets for such a park.


The road will damage if not wipe out a beautiful valley and the service roads around it, apart from the adverse impact on the adjacent woodlands and wildlife.


Raintree – a natural in the tropics (photo: Goh Si Gium)


This portion of Bukit Brown is also the most popular and most frequented part of Bukit Brown for visitors.


Given the value at stake, we think it is necessary to explore more carefully the possible alternatives to the planned expressway.


Being an area of more than 200ha in greenery, such an ecosystem serves all Singaporeans.


Its eco-functions include carbon sequestration, free natural air-conditioning and flood control.


Although globally small, it is highly significant in its contribution in terms of the percentage of Singapore’s total land mass or population. It is imperative that we think globally but act locally.


Ho Hua Chew


Conservation Committee


Nature Society (Singapore)


Dawn – the best time to bird watch (photo: Goh Si Gium)



Related posts:

Update on the NSS Position Paper

Bukit Brown at Crossroad

Rosalind Tan wrote “Beyond Grave Matters“ after a nature ramble with the Nature Society 


Bukit Brown at a Crossroad

by Goh Si Guim, of Nature Society (Singapore)

Proposed Highway (Source: URA website)


Bukit Brown at a Crossroad; Possible alternative

With the increased in population in Singapore, We envisioned that more land would be taken up by infrastructures. Areas occupied by roads will also grow to accommodate the concomitant growth in car population in Singapore. We recognized that the relevant agencies have implemented various measures to manage and curb growth in car population. Over the years, these measures include improvement in road systems and ERP. At the same time efforts have been made to make public transportation palatable to a wider section of the population. The greatly expanded rail network is a case in point.

However, it has been demonstrated that these measures, touted as ways to slash or curb car numbers, have been unsuccessful. It must also be recognized that the car population cannot be allowed to grow unabated, especially when there is fierce competitive uses for limited land. A measure of proportionality must prevail. Should it be skewed one way or another, they should be for the good of the great majority.

In this instance, a eight-lane highway is to be built to allow for a smoother flow of traffic over a short stretch of road. This is essentially to address a localized problem for some transient periods of time.

This problem could also be contributed by heavy and slow traffic flow in regions immediately adjacent to Lornie Road. We ponder its necessity and its ability to ameliorate the bottleneck encountered here and further afield, in areas leading to and leading away from Lornie Road.

These glacial traffics hinder the flow of vehicles, including public buses, which serve a greater proportion of the commuting public. With these schedules disrupted, it is not surprising that public transportation has been branded as unreliable.

An alternative passage to the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) can be implemented that could alleviate the congestions experience along Lornie Road and the close vicinities.

With the continuing expansion of the rail network (more in the pipeline), it is also time to relook current measures to manage car population.

The alternative


An Alternative Highway? (NSS)


The traffic coming from the north-east region of Singapore is largely channeled to the PIE via Lornie Road. The main axes leading to Lornie Road are Bartley Road, Upper Serangoon Road and the Central Expressway (CTE), through Braddell Road. Lornie Road also receives substantial traffic coming down from Upper Thomson Road, serving heartland areas of Bishan and Ang Mo Kio.  Traffic going down Adam Road could have been slowed down by the busy Farrer-Bukit Timah junction. The slip roads from Lornie Road into both direction of PIE may also be inadequate.

Furthermore, the PIE itself may have been overwhelmed by heavy traffic, streaming from the east and city and north, via the CTE. This, in turn, slows down the traffic joining and leaving PIE at that junction. Several schools are situated around Whitley Road and Bukit Timah Road. Parents dropping off and picking up their children also impede traffic.

All in, the traffic in the wider area around and linked to Lornie Road are in the same state, slowed to a crawl in those hours!

Lornie Road merely serves as a conduit to channel traffic from one congested area to another. Having passed through the snarl on Lornie Road itself, motorist would still find themselves inching their way through many of the roads with myriad of intersections. During peak hours, the traffic exceeded the carrying capacities of Lornie and these other roads that are either feeding traffic into or draining traffic from it.

The junction of Sime Road and Lornie Road with traffic lights serves the needs of a small number of cars leaving Singapore Island Country Club. But it contributes substantially to the congestion and should be done away with.


Sime Road junction leading into Lornie Road


The capacity of the PIE can be doubled with a extensive viaduct built over PIE (akin to West Coast/Pasir Panjang Road, Upper Serangoon Road, near Lor Lew Lian) as a two-tier highway.

With leaving Bukit Brown intact in mind, a viaduct can start from the Thomson/Marymount /Braddell junction (Junction A) area, above the Thomson Road southward towards the old Police Academy, swing west at the corner on PIE west of the Thomson Flyerover (Junction B). A slip road can allow traffic to join the PIE towards the East. The viaduct then follows the course of the PIE, over the Mt Pleasant Flyover (Bottleneck 2) and Adam Flyover (Bottleneck 1). It may rejoin PIE somewhere before the Eng Neo (or even before Exit 22). Alternatively, it can continue westwards to reach BKE. Eastwards, the viaduct can link up with CTE and perhaps beyond.

This viaduct would allow a large part of the east-west traffic to avoid those junctions that are feeding traffic into the PIE or bleeding traffic to surrounding regions. It thus allows some unhindered traffic on the viaduct, enabling them to avoid junctions or exit roads of no relevance to them. At the same time, these measures de-congest the original PIE, early smoother traffic flow in and out of peripheral roads.

Similar viaducts like the West Coast/Pasir Panjang Road viaduct and Upper Serangoon (passing Paya Lebar Methodist Church) viaduct and others essentially serve to allow motorists unimpeded travel,

Doubling the capacity of main carriageways through multi-tier methodology should be carried out more widely. This would allow the capacity of existing land devoted to roads to be harnessed several hundred percents. Converting new land to roads can be avoided, allow them to retain its present purpose or purposes that benefit other segment of the population (other than the motoring population). We ‘double’ exploit, where possible, the thousands of square kilometer of existing road surface that has already covered a substantial amount of land area in Singapore.


At a crossroad

With direct reference to Bukit Brown, the grounds should be left in its existing state. The value of natural greenery defies easy quantification in terms of its biodiversity, climatic and environmental moderation, aesthetic and therapeutic benefits.

The quality matters a great deal too. Open grasslands, such as golf courses, are not substantive greenery, lacking in diversity and biomass. Here the greenery needs to be ‘multi-tiered’ as well and would do better to contribute the benefits mentioned prior.

Spaces need to be set aside for the times when the populace is not contributing to the GDP. Nature areas play valuable roles while seem idle. They contribute to the GDP by providing the counterbalance to a hectic lifestyle; rejuvenate us, enabling us to contribute to the GDP through healthy productivity and optimal consumption of resources. Nature heals in mysterious ways. Though unquantifiable, they nevertheless have immense power and value and contribute positively to the national ‘pie’, our economy.

Overall, this new highway does not alleviate the jam if the downstream hiccups are not done away with. By zooming out, It would be noted that the traffic snarl cover areas greater than Lornie Road itself. A more comprehensive study is needed.

By building this highway, it could only mean that a greater volume of vehicles is trapped and sitting through the jam, spewing toxic gases into the atmosphere.

On a wider perspective, it will be a very expensive undertaking to accommodate more cars on our road. This is in terms of the resources and their impact on the health of the environment and the population.

A high level panel must be created to comprehensively relook the overall infrastructural needs at many levels and involving many levels of consultation. All concepts and projections, however mundane or radical, must not be hastily dismissed but duly and rigorously addressed.

The relevant agencies must be forthcoming in seeking expertise input, even non-mainstream ones. Pertinent information must be shared in order that consultation covers all aspects.

A convincing outcome would be one that is acceptable to all.



The Nature Society is one of the signatories calling for a moratorium on the highway:

The community of concerned groups over the future of Bukit Brown is formally calling for a moratorium on all plans for Bukit Brown. This moratorium should be in place until there is clarity over long-term plans for the area and discussions over alternatives have been exhausted. Given on-going national discussions over housing, transportation and immigration, there is room for policy adjustments. Plans to develop housing and transport infrastructure in the greater Bukit Brown area cannot be made when these discussions are underway and before the public has had an opportunity to fully consider the details surrounding such proposals.

 In addition, there has not been sufficient time for a public conversation over plans by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Land Transport Authority for Bukit Brown, nor a discussion about the alternatives proposed by the Nature Society’s position paper issued in December. We are asking for more meaningful engagement than what we have experienced so far. Bukit Brown is important enough that all parties should be able to participate in discussions over its future reasonably as interested citizens, whether individually, as informal communities, or organised formally.


Dawn – the best time to bird watch (photo: Goh Si Gium)


To sign the petition to save Bukit Brown, click here for SOS Bukit Brown for other ways to speak up.

More on the NSS Position Paper 


Plants by Angie Ng

Sunday 18th morning @ Bukit Brown, Nature Society’s Angie Ng conducted a plant walk and shared what she knew about plants which are used as herbs in local dishes and fruit trees.  Here are some of the highlights

Red Stem-fig tree ( Ficus variegata)

They look like dried sea urchins, but from them will spring figs (photo Cuifen)

What the fig? (photo: Angie Ng)

Angie picks up a  fig of Ficus aurantiacea , a climbing fig.” (photo :Suki Singh)

Ferns grow close to the ground

This one is rare (photo Cuifen)


Set again a white backdrop, it is quite exquisite and delicate in design (photo: Cuifen)


The tiny leaf from a frond deserves closer  investigation (photo: Cuifen)

An edible fern found at the foot of hill leading up to Ong Sam Leong’s gravesite

An edible fern, delicious  saute with sambal belachan (a Malaysian dish) according to Angie  (photo; Angie Ng)

The sori (arrangement of sporangia ) is most interesting (photo Angie Ng)

Ferns also grow on hospitable rain trees

This bird’s nest fern in turn hosts a nest for a family of bats. Cuifen who took this photo spotted four. can you spot any?

The False Curry Leaf Plant (Clausena excavata)

The False Curry Leaf Plant is a small tree which looks like a Curry Leaf plant and whose leaves also smell like it. But its small flowers are in panicles and its green oblong berries ripen pink. (photo Cuifen)

Berries from the False Curry Leave tree turning pink (photo Angie Ng)

Geophila repens

Geophilia repens with tiny white flower and bright red berries creeps among the grasses under shady trees.

Salam Tree ( Syzygium polyanth )

The Salam tree is flowering and dropping bunches of its creamy white stamens. Salam leaves are used to flavour your favourite local breakfast dish, lontong. (Photo: Cuifen)

The Napkin tree

The Napkin tree has soft leaves (photo Cuifen)

And the most spectacular of the flowering plants : Wild Orchids

Bulbophylllum vaginatum   (photo Angie Ng)

Hoya Latifolia  – The waxed flowers  hangs  high on an old  rain tree, leaves are almost heart shaped   (photo by Angie Ng)


Read the NSS Position Paper on Bukit Brown



A Nature Ramble

A bumper crop of walks  for Nature Lovers have been planned by the Nature Society (Singapore) for March from bird watching to an introduction to plants in Bukit Brown.

Saturday 10 March 8 am – 10 am, join Wing Chong as introduces you to the various bird species that call Bukit Brown home. Please check in here to register interest

Later in the afternoon Goh Si Guim will  reprise  this nature ramble in the afternoon from 4pm – 6pm . Register here.

Sunday 11 March 9am – 10am Angie Ng will introduce you to plant life of Bukit Brown including some edibles if you are lucky . Please register your interest here

Please check in next week for the Nature Society’s events.

Check out our handy tips for a more enjoyable walk  here

Angie with a ripened fig which grows abundantly in Bukit Brown on trees

Report & photos by Goh Si Guim (Nature Society)

Dawn - the best time to bird watch


Bukit Brown Nature Ramble 19 Feb 2012

The Bukit Brown locale is made up of small, gentle and wooded hillocks. Thousands of graves were densely laid on the slopes of these hills. Being away from mainstream traffic, it has been mostly undisturbed for most parts of its existence. This has allowed the vegetation, particularly large trees and shrubs to mature. The area also received colonization of pioneer plant species from the adjacent rainforest of MacRitchie.

The enhanced diversity has, in turn, enabled Bukit Brown to support a great diversity of wildlife. These are certainly greater than that found in manicured and sparsely vegetated parks in the midst of urban centres.

The original vegetation of the area was lowland rainforests, very much similar to the nearby MacRitchie forest. Little, if any, of these can be found here today. The vegetation type here is compose of colourful ornamental shurbs planted alongside graves. Some large shade trees were also planted, such as the Daun Salam, Tembusu and Raintrees.

Albizzia trees tower around Bukit Brown


Many beautiful towering wild-grown Albizzia trees are also widely distributed over the landscape. Many of these old-growth trees have achieved stature and elegance.  In particular, many giant Raintrees are festooned with a variety of ferns and orchids. Looking up from underneath one of these trees gives one a sense of awe and the laden outstretched limbs make a breathtaking sight. Be it against a clear blue sky or silhouetted against a grey backdrop, it is a mesmerizing picture.

Ferns cling on to raintrees, and often host bats

Raintree silhouette



Raintree - a natural in the tropics

Ornamental plants

Many of the large fig trees, such as the Banyans and Warringins were most probably left alone during the initial land clearance. Some, especially those found associated with large trees, could have been brought in by animals such as birds and squirrels. These ‘strangling figs’ can now be seen in the advance stages of ‘snuffing out’ their host plants.

The instantly recognizable roots of a banyan tree



Wildlife is ever present but do not lend themselves easily to observation. Most of what we see would be more active and by chance, sometimes with the aid of equipment such as hand lens, binocular or camera. Most of the wildlife resides in the deeper recess of the dense vegetation.

During this trip, there was a profusion of small snails and slugs on trees and dead vegetation. There was a constant presence of birds in the forest. They can be observed actively foraging for food or their calls can be heard over great distances.












Commonly encountered birds include sunbirds, Common Flamebacks (woodpecker), Banded Woodpecker, Striped-tit Babbler, Pink-necked Green Pigeons, Spotted Dove, Blue-tailed Beeeaters, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Changeable Hawk Eagle. Rare encounters reported include the critically endangered Grey-headed Fish Eagle and the White-bellied Woodpecker. Winter migratory birds also visit Bukit Brown to forage for sustenance.

Some plant common to secondary rainforest are also found here. The Macaranga hypoleuca stands out from the greenery as the underside of the leave is white, even in dried, shed leaves. Another related example is the Macaranga gigantea, whose leaves are large, hence the name.

Macaranga hypoleuca

Macaranga Gigantea

These are but a small selection of flora and fauna in Bukit Brown that can be encountered at any one time. A great variety of plants and animals have yet to be uncovered. Their relationship and association has developed over a long period of time into a complex ecosystem. A habitat of equilibrium has been established.

This equilibrium is resilient but is susceptible to disruptions. This must be avoided or minimized.


Read about the Nature Society’s position paper here.


For a beautiful blog on the same walk, Rojak Librarian’s post is too good to miss. Read it here.  Look out for Nature Society’s next walk at Bukit Brown when we post events.

Red-stem Fig

Pigeon at rest







Nesting green pigeon (photo: Suki Singh)

Green pigeon chicks (photo: Suki Singh)


After the nature ramble, Suki Singh found these green pigeons and the chicks at the entrance, near Lorong Halwa:



Beyond Grave Matters


 – A Walk with Dr Ho Hua Chew. Sunday 19th, Feb 2012. 

by Rosalind M Tan.

It was a morning not unlike any other, except that I had not expected that it would take five and a half hours to go on a nature walk in Bukit Brown! I wasn’t warned! But ask me now if I would do it again……and my answer is a resounding, Yes!

It was my second meeting with Dr Ho Hua Chew, passionate naturalist and expert on birdlife in Singapore. I knew I was in good hands.

The Incursion (photo: Rosalind Tan)


The morning’s tour began with a map. Like all educational tours, we had to have an idea of where we were heading. Whipping out a map, Dr Ho showed us where the new proposed road would be. Upon re-alignment, it is now slated cut across at least two valleys of Bukit Brown. We were there to see first-hand the dreaded potential ecological loss and damage to the natural habitat that has matured over the decades.

First off at 815am, about twenty of us headed towards hill 4. Seeing the stakes in the ground was like having stakes driven into one’s heart. But what captured my attention next were the beautiful and gorgeous matured trees that loomed tall and majestic. It was my first initiation to a parkland landscape in a cemetery! Native and alien tree species abound – the Angsana; the Rain Tree, the Morinda, the African Tulip, the Waringin, the Fish-tailed Palm, etc. With deep hues of yellow, red and orange, the ornamental Croton is aplenty, adorning the graves like a garden landscape.

Co-Existence Host and Parasite (photo: Rosalind Tan)


Seen here, winding vines with tiny figs, clinging on tenaciously for dear life. Nonetheless, host and parasite seem to have a harmonious co-existence.  I must admit this was the first time in my entire life that I have seen such “figs”. The figs that I had in my garden then did not look anything like this.


The Great Banyan (photo: Rosalind Tan)


As we approached the end of hill 4, it was just incredibly unbelievable that we might lose equally magnificent banyan trees! How does anyone justify this? The thought of it makes me sad for the generations to come. Not that I am not sorry in the here and now for me and all of us. But because, in our very midst now, we are deliberately and consciously hell-bent on destroying these beautiful gifts from Mother Nature. This ole banyan may have stood for longer than most of us have lived, but all it takes is one fell swoop to decimate her. If trees could talk, listen. Should we do this? In exchange for what, I ask?


Eco Support System (photo: Rosalind Tan)

As we were leaving hill 4, Dr Ho pointed out the only one large visible stream left in Bukit Brown. The rest are either covered by overgrown vegetation or simply, choked up. I am given to understand from the tomb caretaker whose families lived here for three generations before, that the streams provided water for tomb maintenance and drinking! I have noticed some people fishing in this stream before.

Pigeons on High (photo: Rosalind Tan)


There were other surprises in store. Flying high above our heads and as far as the eye could see, were flocks of swallows and swifts. How do you tell them apart? Dr Ho explained. But I was distracted! A flock of pigeons was spied balancing on the top of trees! What an act! Cirque du Soleil would be proud. Moreover, the trained and experienced eye of some members of the Nature Society of Singapore spotted eagles. Like all avid bird watchers, not having their binoculars was not an option. I was just grateful to be been there!


Monkeys at Play (photo: Rosalind Tan)


Monkeys! Someone mentioned monkeys. Come to think of it, it suddenly dawned on me that the monkeys in Bukit Brown were never a bother to anyone. I go to Bukit Brown often and never once have I witnessed any mischievous or vicious behaviour on their part. Unlike the reports that we read in the papers of monkey mischief and attacks around Pierce, Seletar and MacRitchie reservoirs, I have come to the conclusion that they behave such because we have encroached on their natural habitat! Destruction of their habitat to give way to rapid development and urbanisation has driven them out to scavenge for food. Where else would they go? But in Bukit Brown, they are contented, peaceful and playful because they are in their own comfort zone. It is their natural habitat. See for yourself in the picture taken on a previous visit to BB.


Noni for Sustenance (photo: Rosalind Tan)


Other than all creatures great and small, I was privileged to be shown the flowers of the star fruit; the domestic lime plant and that of the noni fruit! In the commercial market place, the juice extract from the Hawaiian noni fruit would cost an arm and a leg (well, almost), but our little monkeys were happily helping themselves!

Should we deprive our little friends of their sustenance? When they are driven out of Bukit Brown, where will they go? Who will feed them? Should we put them down when they turn aggressive? If your family is threatened, what will you do?


Death Valley (photo: Rosalind Tan)


The proposed highway will mercilessly cut through this valley,  eight lanes of traffic. It only means added carbon emission that will choke and suck out the life of living things and creatures. On Jan1, the European Union  imposed on airlines a carbon emission tax. Are we are not already contributing enough to global warming? Notice the countless air conditioning compressors in all our  residential, commercial and industrial buildings in our little red dot. Granted, in equatorial Singapore, we do need air-conditioning. But to what degree? I see office workers coming out to lunch – to defrost! In our glitzy shopping malls, the eskimos would be very much at home. We seem to gas ourselves, slowly but surely. Let not Earth Hour be in vain. I recall the recent floods. The unprecendented extra high rainfall that can cripple economies and devastate livelihoods. Let global warming be a warning.

Exiting hill 4, a handful of participants decided to call it a day! But we were only at the two-third mark of the morning’s nature walk. Dr Ho may look like your friendly neighbourhood, unassuming and good-natured uncle, but boy could he walk! Some of us were half his age, but did not even have half his energy!  I wasn’t ready to fly the white flag!

So, we continued and took another path to Lau Sua,  known as Gan Eng Seng Hill. Lo and behold, greater treasures and rewards await those who endure and persist.

Ironman of Nature Society (photo: Rosalind Tan)


We owe a debt of appreciation to Dr Ho for his quiet persuasion, for encouraging us to carry on – “only one third more”. Frankly, it would have been terribly embarrassing not to complete this walk. We were supposed to be younger and fit, if not fitter! He could put all of us to shame. You wouldn’t want to ask the man his age. But I could use mine as an excuse to gracefully bow out. But no way, was I going to give up after having covered two-thirds of the walk. And best of all, he was freely dispensing food for the body, mind and soul.

In the picture above, Dr Ho with nary a bead of sweat! Measure his blood pressure and we will be scrambling for a health check! I suspect he’s the Ironman in disguise! A 42km marathon would be no sweat to him!

Oh, but we were just thankful for the above brief respite of a pit stop! The air was surprisingly cool and smelt sweet. You could almost taste it! Perhaps it was because of what was lurking under that sturdy….or was it, a creaky wooden bridge!

Life in the Stream in Lau Sua (photo: Rosalind Tan)


Crystal clear “longkang” water. A stream, if you like. You can see the reflection of the blue sky! Now I fully understand how the ladies of ancient times did their make-up before the era of mirrors. Dragon flies flit and you can also hear faint sounds of gurgling water. In the past, this was also drinking water for the families who lived here, as told to me by a tomb caretaker, Mr Lim.  This is borne true by Dr Ho. He said, “The presence of dragon flies is an indicator of water purity”.

The ripples are caused by tiny fishes. Vegetation life here is lush and full.


Goodbye Bian! (photo: Rosalind Tan)


From here, we cut across the open field (that once held graves) on the left and our sure-footed single-minded leader led us to another forested path in the direction of Onraet Road. It was tempting to throw in the towel. But not just yet. I was on a high, dosed on the generous sights and smells of Mother Nature. Secretly, I thought to myself, “If Dr Ho can do it, so can I!” Come hell or high water or the noon day sun, I will make it. Talk about “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!”

Determination and a good pair of walking shoes saved the day. Incidentally, one participant had earlier left her sole in hill 4!


Follow the Leader (photo: Rosalind Tan)


Even if all I saw was his back, it only meant that I had to catch up. Trailing behind was not a problem, so long as he was within sight. Thankfully, the man has the patience of Job.

The “punishment” proved to be worth it! No pain, no gain. How so very true in this instant. On the contrary, I would ask “What did I do to deserve this?” Ah………….


The View (photo: Rosalind Tan)


The “penthouse” view!  The grand finale. The grand prize. We were standing on this hill, with the traffic of the PIE beyond. The terrain was undulating, yet the slopes were gentle. Crotons adorned the graves. The verte green of the trees, the fullness of the plants and the openness of the vast space at our feet! What more could we ask for? Nothing, except, please don’t destroy this! It was a horrible thought – housing! A piercing scream in the stillness. A fatal stab.

A recollection of the great escape of Mas Selamat (once Singapore’s most wanted terrorist) had a calming effect in that blasting heat! “When he jumped out of the Whitley Road detention centre (through the toilet window?), Mas Selamat escaped through the thick forested area here (not unlike the Malaysian jungle); then he went up Thomson Road; headed for Whitley Road and promptly disappeared into Toa Payoh!”  Wow! Mas Selamat  was here!! Here’s looking at you!

The sun was beating down hard on us, the last remaining survivors! Soaking in the view, listening to the lively chirpings and singing of birds to the muffled sound of traffic from the PIE, it was easy to forget that we were standing among graves! If a healthy imagination permits, an evening spent looking at the stars atop this hillock would complete this million, correction, billion dollar view! It was indeed a sight to behold. You see more green than graves. Hopefully future generations will see this too. In this unaffected natural state.

Reluctantly, for once, it was time to return to base Bukit Brown. But Dr Ho had one last remaining treat up his sleeve. What he promised, he delivered. This man is a consummate. Never have I met one such. I thank my lucky stars today. For, before this, I never really saw beyond the graves at Bukit Brown since the discovery of the ancestral tombs of my grandparents in 2011.


A Visual Delight – Sky Tapestry . (photo: Rosalind Tan)


What splendour. What magnificence. Unfettered. Where in Singapore does one find such scenic beauty of the landscape? A parkland landscape of hillocks and dense woodlands supporting the Wild Cinnamon, the African tulips, the Albizias, the Giant Mahang, all the favoured haunts of a variety of birds. This is pure, virgin forest. Seeing is believing, that such exist in our midst of bricks and mortar of urban Singapore.


Green Pigeon- eye catching and plump. (photo: Rosalind Tan)


Seeing this green pigeon in flight up-close and personal was pure enchantment. Our eminent Dr Ho perked his ears to the calls of the Woodpecker, the deep full throated sounds of the Bulbul and the Kingfisher. Thankfully, I still have an acute sense of hearing and smell. Birds chirping and singing is music to the ears.

Had it not been for this initiation by Dr Ho, I would not have been able to tell the difference between one bird call from another. Ignorance is not bliss. The morning amble was hands-on and very much a healthy, living and learning outdoor work-out in the most conducive surroundings ever.


Apart from its high biodiversity value in terms of birdlife, there is also the cultural heritage value and its related significance in Bukit Brown. The whole of Bukit Brown deserves to be recognised and protected for its aesthetic, therapeutic and recreational uses. In the early morning or evening, many come to jog, walk their dogs or cycle. Even the horses from the nearby polo club come a-sauntering!

Dr Ho’s selfless giving leaves an indelible mark. Take a walk on the wild side and see for yourself. And if you are lucky, you just might have the honour of being in the company of our eminent environmentalist and authority on birdlife, Dr Ho Hua Chew.

If we choose to continue to sit on our hands, we may lose what matters most – our sanity, and with it our humanity, for we risk greater damage in our propensity for rampant expansion in the name of development. It is time to take a breather and gather our senses. Let our children be children. Humans are not robots. We can live in harmony with Nature. After all, how many cars can we drive at any one time? How many condos can we live in, at any one time? It would be a crying shame to know the price of everything, but the value of, nothing.




Rosalind is a passionate Peranakan nonya who helps administrate the Facebook page, Heritage Singapore – Bukit Brown. Her grandfather Tan Yong Thian is a pioneer buried in Bukit Brown. You can visit the beautifully restored Teochew tomb in Block 2, Group 2 tours. all things Bukit Brown thanks her for this contribution, and hopes we will continue to get her beautiful prose and photos.














February 2018
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