Tucked away on a peaceful hill off Singapore’s Pasir Panjang is a stately restored colonial bungalow housing World War II exhibit titled Reflections at Bukit Chandu.
One of many sights in Singapore that showcase the city state’s role in World War II, today’s calm belies the bloody hand-to-hand combat that took place here over two days in February 1942, when 1,400 soldiers from the Malay Regiment defended what would be the last Singapore stand against 13,000 Japanese troops, before the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese the next day.
Bukit Chandu was named Opium Hill after the British-owned opium packing plant that was established at the foot of the hill in 1910. The colonial government also built houses on this hill for its senior officers but today only this one remains.
You won’t find opium, but you will encounter a lovely garden, a Laurel Wood heritage tree, and signs providing information on rubber, water and other resources of pivotal importance to Singapore. The tranquility of the place not only makes for a reflective experience looking back at the role of the Malay regiment during World War II, but it also offers a chance to see how spacious colonial homes were — a luxury today’s land-hungry Singapore can no longer afford.
While this attraction is not a large one, the exhibits are well presented. On the first floor, you’ll also find two shows, one a laser production that illustrates key locations in Singapore during the World War II battles and the other a sort of papier mache battle scene exhibit, with superimposed videos and sound effects. The second level features another show with a heavy use of sound effects, while oral history recordings of Singaporeans who survived the war will both shock you and tug at your heartstrings.
Reflections at Bukit Chandu is a must-visit for World War II aficionados. However, as it’s in the west of Singapore and requires a tiring uphill walk, combine it with a visit to Vivocity, which is just a few MRT stops away. One wishes that such a charming garden could be put to even better use with a cafe for afternoon tea. But nearby Pasir Panjang Food Centre makes for a good place to retreat to after a visit.
By Fen Chia
Last updated on 14th November, 2014.