Tuesday, July 31, 2012


My recent few posts were about Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak, the hills which tower over my old village Princess Elizabeth Estate. In fact, being located right in the central hilly region of Singapore, the estate was surrounded by more than just these two hills. Another two hills there are Bukit Timah and Bukit Panjang.

But, strangely, Bukit Panjang was the one hill that I have not been able to locate!
It had been on my mind for a long time, that for the life of me, I really didn't know where the hill was?
Of course, I knew where Bukit Panjang, the village, the New Town, the old BP kampong were, but where was the hill?

It really seem so strange that no one has it on their directories, maps or even just a indicator where Bukit Panjang hill is sited.
There were lots of hills at Gali Batu, Woodlands and the Mandai region. Could Bukit Panjang be located somewhere there? After all, it stands to reason that it would be somewhere in the 'Bukit Panjang' area. Perhaps it was levelled during the construction of the Bukit Panjang New Town?

Most people I asked didn't know as well. I presume some of you may know where it is but I really didn't have a clue despite living near this area for so many years.

So I dug and I researched, but quite frankly, I found that most statements about Bukit Panjang, tended to repeat the same 'fact' which I felt was a self fulfilling circle. Somebody said this... and 'this' was picked up by somebody else... and when it was repeated often enough eventually 'this' became fact, albeit without any basis.

What most statements say stems from the translation of the Malay name Bukit Panjang which means 'Long Hill' or perhaps meaning a ridge. The commonly found explanation is that the name comes from the series of long ridges found from Mandai up to and ending at Bukit Timah.
This is where everyone appear to accept that reason simply because it was mentioned by 'somebody' else. This really riled me.

I was very sure that this CANNOT be a logical reason for it being called Bukit Panjang.
And why was it that no one has ever pinpointed a specific spot, hill or even which ridge?

After all, how can the entire range from Mandai to Bukit Timah be called Bukit Panjang when there are Bukit Gombak, Bukit Batok as well as Bukit Timah within it? How can they be part of Bukit Panjang ridge? It just didn't gel with me.

Surely, there must be a hill top that should be called Bukit Panjang as part of a ridge.

Then today, quite by accident, as I was looking at some unrelated data, I came across a topographic map that showed the exact location of Bukit Panjang.
I whooped for joy and I had to do a double take to make sure it was correct.
The topo map was dated 1978 and it showed a hill clearly marked and surrounded by quarries.

Eureka! I FOUND BUKIT PANJANG the hilltop .
It's not a ridge as most people presume but an actual peak at 132 metres.
No, the hill was not removed by any land development and is actually still there.

You will be surprised, as I was, when I reveal to you now where Bukit Panjang lies.
Here is a composite map I made from an actual photo and a current road map of the area.
Bukit Panjang ridge is outlined and the peak marked with a white triangle.

Photo on the left is an aerial reconnoissance picture from 1958.

I guess the reason why nobody could identify Bukit Panjang nowadays is that it was 'absorbed' into  Gombak Ridge and was treated as part of the ridge. Most of us know the entire ridge as Bukit Gombak.

In fact, in the blog I wrote about Bukit Gombak just a few days ago, I mentioned as trivia the fact that the Gombak Ridge has TWO peaks, one at 139m and the other at 132m.
I now know that this lower peak is Bukit Panjang!

Life is full of surprises.

This is the hilltop of Bukit Panjang today. (seen from Boys Town)
The building is MINDEF. (see comments below)
Related blog: Bukit Gombak


  1. it's amazing to know so many things that we are not aware of, when they are actually around us. something only people like yourself can tell and share. well done and thank you Mr Tann for your efforts!

  2. Hi Mr Tan,

    Thank you so much for sharing so much stuff that many people may not know about.

    Is this Bukit Panjang hill still around? I was checking Google maps.. it seems like it has became a small lake.


  3. Hi Anon,
    Yes the 'hill' is still there. On Google earth you see a flat image but if you are travelling along Upper Bukit Timah Road you can see it.
    I guess one of the reasons why 'Bukit Panjang hill' is not publicised today is simply because it is exactly where MINDEF HQ is located. I guess for security reasons, the less publicity it gets the better it is for them i.e. Mindef.
    The small lake that you see is the remnant of the Lian Hup Granite Quarry.

  4. all the while when i was working at mindef in the 90s i thought it sits on bt gombak, now i know it's bt panjang...

  5. Hi James,

    I have been reading with much interest your blog on Princess Elizabeth Estate.

    Though I did not live in Princess Elizabeth Estate, the area brings back memories to me as well. I am a teacher by training and in 1981 and 1982, I did two stints of 10 weeks of practicum in PEES. Some of the older teachers such as Mrs Kannan, Mr Jimmy Tan and Mrs Punch were still there. Mr Maideen was the principal.

    Like yourself, I used to wonder what ever happened to Bukit Panjang and am indeed happy to note that you have ‘found’ it. I used live on the foothills of Bukit Panjang for 24 years, thinking that it was Bukit Batok!

    Do you have any more information on Bukit Panjang Village. My address was Lorong Ah Thia, but my kampong house was closer to Lorong Faham, I think. If I get my bearings right, my house was just where there is a swimming pool now (part of MINDEF).

    Once again, good to read your blog and hope to hear from you soon.

  6. Dear James
    thank you for a most interesting blog that you maintain. I was really intrigued by this page, and it got me really curious about the 'life story' of Bt Panjang. So I dug out those old maps from NAS and NUS to try to figure it out. I wrote up this report which may be of interest to you...


    Unfortunately the original 132 m bt Panjang hill is now 112 m after much quarrying :( and it has been like that since at least the 80s. Anyways, thanks again for the very interesting stuff you have compiled!