Thomson Nature Park and abandoned Hainanese village

What and where is it?

In the 1960s and 1970s the long north to south Old Upper Thomson Road was the well known Singapore Grand Prix racing circuit. It was also home to some old abandoned villages which was situated at Jalan Belang, off Old Upper Thomson Road. Jalan Belang was also linked to Lorong Pelita another minor road off Old Upper Thomson Road. Today it is the Thomson Nature Park and home to the critically endangered Raffles banded languar.

A little bit of history

In the 19th century, there were plantations owned by businessman Seah Eu Chin (1805-1883). Between the 1920s and 1940s, the dense Upper Thomson forest became part of a rubber plantation but it was abandoned during the Second World War. When the Hainanese village settled at Jalan Belang, the vegetation was cleared for residential houses, rambutan plantations, small factories, warehouses and several fish ponds.

The kampong was largely made up of pig and poultry farmers, The village huts were scattered along Lorong Pelita and, for many years, it was extremely inconvenient for the residents to make their way to the main Upper Thomson Road. Hainanese immigrants, who were the last of the Chinese communities to settle in Singapore, established the kampung in the 1930s. By the 1960s, it was housing close to 100 residents who came from various dialect groups and ethnicities. There were around 500 residents from 80 families living at Lorong Pelita in the mid-seventies. After the last resident left in the 1980s due to housing development plans, the land was eventually taken over by forest.

What’s there today?

The remnants of the ruins of the Hainan village at Jalan Belang can still be found. They are mostly the ruins of concrete walls and other structures and have been taken over by nature for decades. In October 2019 Thomson Nature Park was opened allowing visitors to see the ruins of the Hainanese village from the 1930s. The 50-hectare site, which was developed for around S$6.5 million in 2019, is a key conservation site for the critically endangered Raffles’ banded langur (formerly known as the banded leaf monkey). The park is also home to a wide variety of animals such as the sambar deer, the lesser mousedeer and the straw-headed bulbul. We didn’t see any of them!

What’s there to do?

There are five trails within the park each between 0.15km and 1.5km long. The trails take visitors past abandoned wells, building foundations and old road networks. The Ruins and Figs Trail, Stream and Ferns Trail and Rambutan Trail lead past the remnants of the former village. The Macaque Trail and Langur Trail lead out to Old Upper Thomson Road. There is one toilet block with a small seating area at the main entrance to the park. There are no other facilities. Take your camera, have a walk and try and spot some of the rare wildlife living there.

These pictures are remnants of a Hainanese kampung (village) that were left behind to give a glimpse of what life was like there in the past.

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