In the early days, Ang Mo Kio (AMK) housing estate had a different name, it was more commonly known as Kow Tiow Kio (“nine bridges” in Hokkien). That was because people have to cross over nine bridges across tributary streams of the Kallang River, to get from present-day Lorong Chuan to Upper Thomson Road. Since then, AMK town has evolved and transformed into a quintessential Singaporean heartland hub with is own neighbourhoods, parks, hearty delicious local hawker food, and vintage Dragon playground along AMK Avenue 3. Today, the AMK town spirit and memories of AMK’s kampong past still permeate the bustling, modern town it has become today. Embarking on the refreshed National Heritage Board (NHB) Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail, you can experience and learn about AMK’s history, heritage, culture, growth and changes over the decades.
Before we take our trail adventure exploring, discovering and rediscovering AMK town via he refreshed NHB Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail, let’s start with a bird’s eye view of AMK town and its surroundings from Blk 710. How different would the landscapes and surroundings of AMK, the nearby neighbouring towns, were like as compared to the 1989 when Queen Elizabeth II visited on her tour of Ang Mo Kio at Block 710?
New stories of AMK’s town history and heritage
The NHB refreshed Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail tells new stories of AMK town’s history and heritage. Through fresh research and community interviews, these have allowed the refreshed trail to delve deeper into AMK’s transformation from an area of plantations and farming land to a thriving residential and commercial hub.
This refreshed trail has reveal lesser-known facts about its landmarks, and uncover more tales of the men and women who live and work in AMK. The Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail was first launched in 2011, it is part of NHB’s ongoing efforts to document and promote distinct histories and memories of different areas in which Singaporeans live, work and play, deepening our understanding of the Singapore story.
New marked sites and thematic routes
The refreshed Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail covers 40 heritage sites and features 10 heritage markers. These include 13 new sites, as well as two new markers at the
- Church of Christ the King – the only Catholic church in AMK
- Liuxun Sanhemiao, a joint temple formed by three temples – Sam Ann Fu, Longxuyuan Jinsuiguan, and Hong San Chin Huat Temple Association – which originated rom the former Lak Xun Village in Yio Chu Kang.
This trail also features three newly curated thematic routes exploring different aspects of AMK’s heritage, including Iconic Landmarks, Hidden Heartland Gems, and Scenic Fringes.
These new markers join a list of sites that are a part of AMK’s unique story, including the 21-hectare AMK Town Garden West, the largest town garden project by the Housing & Development Board (HDB) at the time of its completion in 1983. The AMK Town Council was the first such council in Singapore that was established in 1986, and Block 259, also known as the “Clover Block”. the first and only block of circular HDB flats.
Mr Gerald Wee, Director (Education and Community Outreach), NHB, said: “Since the Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail was launched in 2011, we’ve been working closely with the Ang Mo Kio community, and have uncovered interesting new facts and stories about the town’s history and heritage, such as the cache of artworks by Chinese artist Xu Beihong which was hidden in Chong Boon Chinese School in Lelong Pah village, near today’s Serangoon Garden, during the Japanese Occupation. By refreshing the trail, we hope that Singaporeans will gain a deeper appreciation of this quintessential Singaporean heartland, and residents will be imbued with a greater sense of pride and belonging.”
The AMK Community Spirit
This refreshed Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail incorporates contributions from former and current residents of AMK to showcase the diverse aspects of the town through the perspectives of people from different walks of life, cultural backgrounds and faiths. AMK in its early days has been known for its strong kampong spirit of neighbourliness.
Karen Albuquerque, a long-time resident of Ang Mo Kio who contributed to the refreshed trail, recalled: “The neighbourly relations were very strong and close. During festivals, we would visit each other and kept a look out for one another. My mother even left a set of our keys with one of my neighbours!”
From a rural area to an iconic heartland town
AMK became a town of many firsts as it evolved from its rural origins. It was one of the first estates built by HDB, this made AMK an ideal testing ground for different architectural styles, building methods, and pilot initiatives. Block 259 in AMK, is also known as the “Clover Block” for its resemblance to the plant when viewed from above, resulted from this. This block stands as the only block of circular public housing flats in Singapore, and is now an icon in the neighbourhood.
AMK also served as a pioneer for the concept of town councils, a name that we are familiar in today’s Singapore. This idea was first raised by Lim Boon Heng, then Member of Parliament for Kebun Baru in 1984, with the goal of providing residents greater autonomy over how their estates are managed, and to nurture a stronger sense of ownership and identity.
Launched in 1986, AMK Town Council became the first of its kind after a successful pilot programme, leading to the passing of the Town Council Act in 1988.
Hidden gems in AMK
There are hidden gems in AMK neighbourhood that the locals in AMK would know. This refreshed NHB trail brings visitors on a journey to explore them, revealing new stories and information about the town’s landmarks.
Church of Christ the King
One such institution is the Church of Christ the King, the first and only Catholic church in AMK. Officially opened on 26th September 1982, the church houses two significant religious objects, an icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help on its facade, and a start of Christ the King, sculpted in 1956 in Kerala, India on its front balcony.
Ang Mo Kio Joint Temple
The Ang Mo Kio Joint Temple was constructed in 2011, unites the heritage of three temples from former villages in AMK: Gao Lin Gong, Kim Eang Tong and Leng San Giam.
With the redevelopment of AMK in the 1970s, the three temples came together to establish a joint temple to secure the lease for the site it currently stands on. When you visit the Ang Mo Kio Joint Temple, keep a lookout for the intricate carvings on the building’s pillars and facade that were handcrafted by artisans in China, and a carved wooden stand within the Gao Lin Gong temple commissioned in 1888 to mark the temple’s founding.
It is one of the two joint temples in AMK that houses temples from different kampongs in the area, the other being the aforementioned Liuxun Sanhemiao.
A closer look at AMK community stories
Kebun Baru Bird Singing Club
The locals would know this place, in more recent decades, an iconic spot well-loved by many is the Kebun Baru Bird Singing Club. This location serves as the a community gathering spot for bird keepers and enthusiasts from all over Singapore. Known as Singapore’s largest bird singing and display arena, the Kebun Baru Bird Singing Club was originally established by three Zebra Dove enthusiasts residing in AMK.
In 1987, they applied to erect poles to expand the club’s capacity for more bird enthusiasts to join them. At the present moment, this venue can accommodate more than 1,000 cages and regularly hosts bird singing competitions. Among the club’s founders is Mr Teng Leng Foo, who also operates a traditional bird cage making business at Block 159, located next to the arena.
Hidden cache of artworks by Chinese artist Xu Beihong
In the refreshed Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail, lesser-known stories of AMK town, such as the hidden cache of artworks by Chinese artist Xu Beihong, which used to be located in Chong Boon Chinese School in Lelong Pah. He was renowned for his ink paintings of horses and birds, Artist Xu had organised an exhibition to raise funds for the Sino-Japanese war when the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1941.
To evade surveillance, Artist Xu’s associates, active in anti-Japanese efforts, arranged for him to take shelter at Lelong Pah. His collection of art tools and artworks were carefully sealed in ceramic vats and buried near the school. After the Japanese Occupation, these vats were retrieved and left to air-dry for over two months in the school before being returned to Artist Xu.
When you embark on your refreshed NHB Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail, you can expect to dive deeper into such stories like these inside the companion guide.
How can I discover/rediscover Ang Mo Kio?
NHB’s various heritage trails are excellent, informative, friendly and easy to use travel guides for both locals and overseas visitors who would like to explore the Singapore heartlands of living, history, heritage, culture and living. If you like to embark on your NHB AMK Heritage Trail (refreshed), here are three newly curated thematic routes that you choose from.
(1) Iconic Landmarks (1.5 hours with public transport, 5.5km)
Taking public transport in AMK district, this route brings you to the iconic buildings and sites of AMK new town, the 7th housing town built by HDB – which range from distinctive blocks to landscaped parks.
(2) Hidden Heartland Gems (1 hour and 45 minutes with public transport, 7.5km)
This route brings you to explore overlooked gems in AMK, and relates interesting facts about them and lesser-known community stories.
(3) Scenic Fringes (2.5 hours with public transport, 12km)
For this scenic route, it brings you to explore the outskirts of AMK, revealing another side of the new town and its surroundings.
Where can I find more information on Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail?
If you like to embark on your very own Ang Mo Kio rediscovery adventure, you can download the Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail companion guide and map from NHB’s heritage portal, roots.gov.sg.
For those who prefer a printed copy of the guide and map, they will also be available in limited quantities at various locations, including Asian Civilisations Museum, Cheng San-Seletar Community Club, Teck Ghee Community Club, Kebun Baru Community Club, Yio Chu Kang Community Club, and NHB HQ at Stamford Court.
Check out this video highlights of the Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail here: https://go.gov.sg/angmokioheritagetrail
Explore Singapore’s History, Heritage, Culture, and Stories with NHB Heritage Trails
Whether you are a local or an overseas visiting Singapore, I would like to invite you to check out NHB’s curation and collection of Heritage Trails that you can embark on to explore a different, unique and engaging travel experiences in Singapore that you might not know about.
Visit NHB’s heritage portal, ROOTS – https://www.roots.gov.sg/nhb/trails, for more information and collections of NHB Heritage Trails.
Happy exploring Singapore through NHB’s Heritage Trails collection!