Bukit Batok Hillside Park

We were feeling a tiny bit adventurous one lazy Saturday afternoon and decided to go explore the Bukit Batok Hillside Park.

Having read about this hidden park in the news, our curiosity was piqued especially when we heard that inside the park lie the ruins of torii gates.

Built in the early 1990s, the park – which was once known as Greenwood Park – did not last long and was closed in 1995. It has now been taken over by the forest and left in ruins.

There are two main entrances to attempt this off-the-beaten track – the easy entrance along Bukit Batok West Avenue 2 and the hard entrance along Bukit Batok West Avenue 5.

Following a few handy online guides, we managed to locate the easy entrance – a nondescript opening in the forest.

With a bit of trepidation and a dash of excitement, we entered the hole and were pleasantly surprised to see a series of stone steps. Expecting wild jungle bashing, the stone steps were a welcome sight.

The steps led us up the hill on a gentle incline, surrounded by dense jungle vegetation which provided us with a cool cover on a hot sunny afternoon.

Very soon the steps levelled out and led us to a clearing on which stood the ruins of an old Wishing Well.

Well, what could we possibly wish for, we wondered…

After a short breather, we proceeded in search for the “torii gates”. We backtracked a bit and followed the trail markers that others have helpfully tied around the trees to lead the way.

The problem was that the trail markers were everywhere. We soon got lost and found ourselves going round and round in circles in pursuit of trail markers. At one point our step tracker started beeping in warning that our heart rate was hitting the roof, even though we were walking slowly and getting lost! It must have been our adrenaline pumping from all that excitement.

From a distance, we could hear a flock of White-crested Laughingthrushes (Garrulax leucolophus) whose laughter echoed through the forest. They must have been laughing at us and our excellent jungle bashing ability.

We hopped over fallen trees and shimmied under arching branches…

…before we finally caught a glimpse of the famous “torii gates” of Bukit Batok Hillside Park.

These are not actual torii gates, but are garden trellises that used to house creepers and flowering plants to provide a covered walkway. The boardwalk under the trellises is also now crumbling and falling apart.

Caution is required when attempting to walk on the loose planks.

Happy to have found the famous landmark of the park, we proceeded to hike towards the direction of the exit – also known as the hard entrance along Bukit Batok West Avenue 5. Armed with our google maps, we headed towards our goal while trying to follow the trail markers as closely as possible.

As this is a “hillside” park, we should have expected some climbing to be involved. But we didn’t expect that we’d have to grapple with our hands at some steeper sections. A walking stick would definitely have been handy.

Without sticks or aid of any sort, we had to resort to grabbing tree branches to balance ourselves while cautiously navigating the slopes. Some of the branches had thorns, so we had to watch what we grab!

After some effort – and a gazillion ant bites later – we finally found ourselves at the top of the hill. At this point, the trail markers seemed to disappear along with any discernible trail.

The only way was down.

We made our way gingerly down the steep slope, careful not to grab any thorny branches. Once we reached the bottom of the slope, trail markers magically appeared again.

The sound of a Lineated Barbet (Psilopogon lineatus) tooting nearby somehow helped calm our nerves.

After a bit more trekking, we arrived at a bamboo grove with fallen bamboo everywhere. From our google maps, it looked like we were getting close to the endpoint. We just had to locate the correct path.

We could hear a White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) cackling away, as though he was amused at the two fools below who dared venture into the deep dark forest.

Finally, we saw light at the end of the tunnel.

But there was no proper trail. There was nothing for it but to wade through the bushes for the last harrowing stretch.

Boy were we relieved when we finally stepped onto the pavement.

A hike in Bukit Batok Hillside Park is no walk in the park. Dangers abound inside the forest. We came out alive, but not without leaving behind some parts of ourselves – a scraped skin here and a pricked finger there.

But we were glad we made the visit before the area gets redeveloped into a new park by 2024.