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Ulu Sembawang, the country

Up to the 1990s, Ulu Sembawang was a sprawling expanse of rolling hills and low-lying ponds, a rural backwater known as “the country”.

Ulu Sembawang in 1986. Credit: Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

Where was Ulu Sembawang? It was the upriver portion of the Sungei Sembawang, bounded by the trunk roads of Sembawang Road to the east, and Mandai Road to the south.

Gradually, most of this was lost. Much of the west of historic Ulu Sembawang became part of Woodlands town, while much of the east was locked up inside Sembawang Air Base, the chief defence facility of the north.

There remains a glimpse into the past, though - a short stretch along the Ulu Sembawang Park Connector, where the Mandai Birds Sanctuary used to be. The rough location on the park connector is marked with a pink dot below.

Credit: Singapore Land Authority.

The sanctuary moved out by 2019, leaving the gently sloping land fallow. Grass and shrub have taken over.

The result is a breathtaking vista of open wilderness that stretches to the horizon. I’m told hikers flock here at dawn to catch the sunrise. The scenery is no less beautiful in the evening.

Treasuring this while it lasts.


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