Located just one stop away from Jurong East on the MRT line, Bukit Batok may seem overshadowed by its regional cousin with its glitzy malls and mini-CBD status. But Westies familiar with the town adore it for its laidback vibes, thanks to its many green lungs like Bukit Batok Town Park and Little Guilin.

While the version of Bukit Batok town that we see today can be traced back to its development as a HDB satellite town in the 1980s, what may not be as well-known is the area’s rich heritage, especially its strategically important role in Singapore’s World War II history.

Read on and discover lesser known (but fascinating) facts about this low-key but well-loved estate:

The Hill that “Coughs”

The old Gammon Quarry before it became Little Guilin. Image source: ijamestann.blogspot.com

There are many versions of the origins of Bukit Batok’s name. Most of us may know that Bukit means “hill” in Malay, but did you know that Bukit Batok sits on Gombak Norite, a granite-like rock that the Malays called “batu”? Another possible explanation is that “batok” – which means cough in Malay – was linked to the sound of explosives used in the area’s rock quarrying, which sounded like the hills were “coughing”.

Industrialisation in the early 1940s

There were plans by the British to industrialise the area in the early 1940s. Hume Industries and Ford Motor Works set up their factories at the foot of Bukit Batok Hill. However, their efforts were short-lived. When World War II came, the Japanese took over the factories during their Occupation of Singapore. The Ford Factory became the site for the British surrender to then Japanese on 15 February 1942. Today, the old Ford Factory still stands. It was gazetted as a national monument in 2006 and the public can visit it to learn about the war and its legacies.

An Abandoned Park

Image source: Mothership

Hidden in plain sight in the midst of Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park is an abandoned park that has been reclaimed by nature. Located in Bukit Batok West and accessible by two forest trails, the park features wooden structures resembling Torii gates, man-made stone steps, a disused well, as well as a wooden hut and boardwalk that has fallen into disrepair.

Enshrined in Poetry

Did you know that the charms of Bukit Batok town are enshrined in poetry? By none other than one of Singapore’s pioneers of English literature, Edwin Thumboo. His family were long-time residents, having lived in the area for three generations, and his poem, “Evening by Batok Town” nostalgically captures the shifting townscape of Singapore as he recreated long-ago landmarks and scenes through text.

Find out more about Bukit Batok as a community town.