Bukit Brown Cemetery
Posted On 9 June 2019
Last Updated on 6 October 2020
A cemetery? We’re going to hike in a cemetery??
Yes! And why not?
Bukit Brown Cemetery, dating back to the early 1920s, is the first Chinese public cemetery in Singapore. Estimated to house more than 100,000 graves, it has recently shrunk in size due to the new Lornie Highway that razed through a large chunk of it.
Although closed and abandoned in the 1970s, it has not been forgotten. Today, Bukit Brown Cemetery is home to many bird species and wildlife, and is a hit with nature lovers, bird watchers, and history buffs.
In fact, the Bukit Brown Wayfinder Trail was launched by the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS), making it easy to walk around the area and identify the graves of our famous pioneers who are still buried there. Besides free guided walks organized by volunteers, nature walks and bird-watching tours are also conducted regularly by the Nature Society of Singapore.
Access to the main part of the cemetery is via Lorong Halwa. Getting there is not difficult, as many public buses ply through the area: 52, 74, 93, 157, 165, 852 or 855.
You’ll know you’re there when you’ve walked through a pair of imposing cast iron gates.
The path is flat, spacious and easy to negotiate.
As we entered, we were immediately greeted by a cheerful Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris).
As we ventured deeper, we soon realised that the calls of the Lineated Barbet (Psilopogon lineatus) could be heard at every turn. There must be a colony of them, living and thriving in the area.
Hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the rare birds known to inhabit the area, all we could see with our untrained eye were the very common ones like the Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans)…
…and the Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier).
The most memorable tomb that caught our attention is that of the Chinese physician Chew Geok Leong (d. 1932). Guarding the tomb are a pair of Sikh guards, garbed in formal uniforms and donning a gun and a kirpan (a small ceremonial sword), looking all serious and no-nonsense.
Also guarding the area are the Plantain Squirrels who, perched high up on the trees, have a bird’s eye view of the area and can keep track of everyone that walks past.
As we continued on our way along the deserted road, not expecting to run into a single soul – the living ones at least – we were taken by surprise when a group of horses (with heavy loads on their backs) emerged from seemingly nowhere and came pounding down the cemetery trail. We later discovered that the National Equestrian Centre is situated just down the road.
After wandering around the gravestones for a while, we decided to explore an unnamed dead-end road to see where it led.
The road was completely deserted and gave off a totally creepy vibe.
As we were about to enter the road, ominous signs stuck to a tree trunk warned us of territorial dogs who inhabit the area and are known to attack. Not particularly looking forward to being chased by fierce teeth-baring dogs, we did an about-turn and marched back the way we came.
Whatever that is left of Bukit Brown Cemetery is being slated to make way for new public housing in 40 years time. So come visit this precious national heritage now, before it is gone forever.