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Little Guilin
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

The ultimate guide to Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak

Discover quarries, picturesque parks and cheap food in the neighbourhood in the west

Delfina Utomo
Written by
Delfina Utomo
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It was once the centre of quarrying activities of Singapore, but these days Bukit Batok and the neighbouring Bukit Gombak is a tranquil residential town full of hidden gems. The former quarries are now attractions in the neighbourhood and make for some of the most picturesque spots in Singapore. 

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DO

  • Things to do
  • Bukit Batok

The serene Bukit Batok Nature Park was developed on an abandoned quarry in 1988. There are lookout points that afford stunning views of the quarry, along with footpaths to cycle and jog on and a moderately easy hiking trail through the foliage. For a bit of history, head to the WWII memorial, which commemorates the location of one of the fiercest battles that took place in Singapore.

  • Things to do
  • Bukit Batok

The town park is also lovingly called Little Guilin because the main attraction of the park looks similar to that of Guilin in China. The beautiful granite formation sitting in the lake is why most people visit this small nature park in the west side of Singapore. You can walk along the banks of the lake or sit in one of the dome-shaped shelters that overlook the lake to admire the view. 

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Bukit Batok

Not far from the well-known Little Guilin at Bukit Batok Town Park is the abandoned Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park. Just a 10-minute walk from Bukit Gombak MRT station, this is a place you've got to be prepared to get dirty to explore. Two poles beside the bus stop by the edge of the forest are all that marks its entrance, where you'll find manmade stone steps leading up into the park proper. Vegetation has largely overtaken what likely used to be proper trails. Still, the tread of many feet has left enough of a track for the would-be adventurer to follow. Take these up the hill face and you'll come across some highlights: a small well, a crumbling wooden boardwalk framed by torii-like gates, pavilions (we hear there are three in total) – and if you climb up high enough – an open hilltop. 

Little is known about the history of Bukit Batok Hillside Nature Park. People familiar with the area say there used to be a farm on the other side of the park, and some nearby residents have petitioned to keep the regenerating forest intact – a valid concern considering that Tengah, the vast forest facing the nature park, has quite recently been cleared to make way for housing blocks. While it still remains (and fingers crossed that it does for a long time), head down to check out this hidden gem – just bring along your trusty mozzie spray, wear good hiking shoes, and keep your skin covered to protect yourself from the occasional thorny vine. 

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Bukit Batok

There's a new destination for nature-loving Westies, and it's a whole new park at Bukit Gombak. Boasting an elevation of 45 metres above sea level at its highest point, the park also comes with a host of amenities to delight young and old alike. 

Designed to look as naturalistic as possible, the 4.8 hectare hill park will include Bukit Gombak's first dog run, community garden allotments, an upcoming nursery as part of the OneMillion trees movement, as well as a Butterfly Park and scenic views at its peak. To enjoy the best of Bukit Gombak Park, embark on a 400 metres looped hill trek to appreciate a diversity of forest tree species as you make your way to the top. 

Take the kids to the park's new play area, where they can slip and slide on a 5.3-metre-long slide that's been integrated into the site's natural slope, and other nature-inspired play equipment. Otherwise, there are outdoor fitness areas, abundant open spaces, and Whisk and Paddle café for you to while the day away. 

Eager hikers will be glad to know that Bukit Gombak Park is a node in the Bukit Batok Nature Corridor, giving new access to more than 125 hectares of parks and 10km of nature and park connectors. So, lace up those hiking books and clear your calendars to explore the new Bukit Gombak Park and beyond. Find out more at nparks.gov.sg

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Seng Chew Quarry
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Seng Chew Quarry

Said to have water with magical properties, Seng Chew Quarry in Bukit Gombak is a product of the mining heydays in Singapore. Only thing is that it isn't as prominent (and as accessible) as the other quarries in Singapore. Though it is not completely a restricted area, it is mostly undeveloped and can be dangerous. The hidden quarry is located behind a residential block of flats in Bukit Gombak. Wear proper non-slip shoes because you have to climb steep hills before you find a huge drain at the top. Follow the drain and Seng Chew is just a short walk away from. Beware of the mosquitoes and tread the muddy trails carefully – but the views are worth the climb. 

EAT

  • Restaurants
  • Bukit Batok

Mookata in a coffeeshop? Bonus points for Bukit Batok. A favourite haunt for the Bukit Batok locals, Siam Square Mookata is known for its fresh ingredients and affordable prices. If ambience is secondary to your dining experience, chope a table here and get ready to feast. There are several other Siam Square Mookata outlets islandwide as well, including one at Golden Mile Tower, Boon Lay, Pasir Ris and more. 

Hualong Fishhead Steamboat
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Bukit Batok
  • price 1 of 4

The zi char spot is know for its fish head steamboat dish (hence the name) that comes in two variations: the original broth and the tomato-flavoured broth. Fish is either fried or grilled over charcoal first before it is tossed into the broth, lending the soup an extra layer of flavour. Besides its signature dish, you can also order typical zi char side dishes like stir-fried vegetables and even chilli crab. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Bukit Batok

The directions to Coexist Coffee Co might sound a little dubious, but those who are willing to make the journey will be greeted by a secret rooftop café.

To find the hidden establishment, first, drop by the industrial area of Bukit Batok and look out for the unassuming Hillview Building. Once there, a security guard might ask if you are here to visit “a canteen” – and proceeds to direct you into a cargo lift. “Go up to the seventh floor, then up the [flight of] stairs,” he says.

And unlike the dingy decor of the industrial locale, Coexist Coffee Co is a sun-strewn spot that exudes minimalist charm. An impressive cantilevered table splits the space into half: One side is outfitted simply in white, while the other side is splashed with red. Those willing to brave the heat can choose to head outdoors and dine at the rooftop patio, which comes with partial views of the greenery at Bukit Batok Nature Park.

The food features an all-day breakfast selection, including classics of avocado on toast ($14) and a greasy fry-up ($22) of bacon, sausages, and mushrooms. Get the burrata ($10), a milky treat of cheese brightened with balsamic tomato and lashings of honey.

A portion of the menu comes inspired by Asian flavours, resulting in creations that include smoked duck bao ($12) or chilli crab shakshuka ($16), which comes across more like a spiced tomato dip with chunks of crab meat. Fish and chips can also come slathered in fiery sambal mayonnaise ($20), while beef burgers might be drizzled with rendang reduction ($22). Those not in the mood for spice can try the seafood coconut broth ($18) – packed with clams and mussels – that is soothing, sweet, and slurp-worthy.

Much like the duo-coloured room, the drinks program is an equal representation of coffee- and tea-based options. Choose from the usual espresso-based variants of mocha ($5.50) and piccolo ($4.50), or opt for cups of matcha and hojicha spiked with double-shot espresso ($6.50) for an extra dosage of caffeine.

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Bukit Batok

With only six dishes on the menu – and all of them equally deserving as a star dish at Mian Wang 1971 – it is no wonder some of the dishes sell out pretty quickly. But if it is one dish you must absolutely try here, it is the Hokkien me. The gravy is savoury and thick, coating each noodle and there is a strong wok hei flavour to the dish. Be a little adventurous and order the salted egg calamari Hokkien mee if you need some extra protein – and umami – with your dish. 

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