Discover Un“Changi”-ng History and Heritage with the all-new Changi Heritage Trail

Coastal vibes, good food, and the globally recognised Changi Airport. These are just a few of the many things Changi is best known and well-loved for. Under the surface, however, a much more fascinating, complicated, and sometimes dark history awaits. The new Changi Heritage Trail by the National Heritage Board (NHB) is the shovel for digging into the rich earth, which is Changi’s tale of historical sites, events, and communities.

Featuring 23 heritage sites and 6 heritage trail markers, the Changi Heritage Trail tells the stories of Changi through the memories of its community, traces Changi’s evolution across different eras, and sheds light on its cultural, social, and military heritage over the centuries. In this new trail, explore iconic Changi landmarks and diverse narratives of Changi, such as the hardships of prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation and the various cultures of Changi’s kampongs.

In conjunction with Singapore HeritageFest 2024, NHB is also launching an all-new digital companion, Jalan Jalan, to make Singapore’s history more accessible and interactive for you! From 1 to 30 June 2024, the Jalan Jalan Campaign will be available to the public, where you can unlock additional heritage content, suggested activities, and more! The digital companion, however, is already available for you starting from 1 May 2024.

Jalan Jalan means “walking” in Malay, so it is apt that the digital companion is named as such. By walking to the various sites and trail markers, you can check in to learn about lesser-known facts about the heritage sites; this is amazing for any history enthusiasts out there looking for more insights into our sunny island’s past. To learn more about it, head over to Jalan Jalan’s page on NHB’s website!

Catering to trail-goers’ varying interests, the Changi Heritage Trail has three thematic routes: Bungalows and Beaches in Changi, War and Peace in Changi, and Gateways and Communities in Changi.

For me, I got to take on the Bungalows and Beaches on the Changi route. This route takes you through the coastal paradise’s collection of bungalows, beach resorts, clubs, chalets, and holiday houses. So if you want the scoop on everything this route offers, you’ve come to the right place!

Changi Village

We started our adventure right at Changi Village. This was where British soldiers of the past went for their food, drinks, and entertainment, and this fact remains true to this day for us! With its five blocks of flats housing shops on the first floor as well as a market cum hawker centre, it’s no wonder why many locals frequent Changi Village to have a feast with friends and family.

Changi Heritage Trail: Changi Village
Simply a food haven

During our walk-through of the trail, we were also given the Google Pixel 8 phones to try the unique and upgraded camera features of the Pixel 8 series for the sights! But of course, you can use your own phone camera to grab your best shots of Changi.

Changi Heritage Trail: Google Pixel 8 camera
Yes, I did take this photo using the Google Pixel 8

But back to what you came for—the heritage trail! At Changi Village, blue signage is there for you to learn more about Changi Village’s history, as it is one of the six trail markers I’ve mentioned. 

Reading the signage and taking in my surroundings, I learned that the restaurant Charlie’s Corner in Changi Village opens a window into the past! The owner of Charlie’s Corner, Charlie Han, is notable in that his father co-founded the Changi Milk Bar, a popular haunt amongst personnel from Changi Cantonment and aided in the growth of Changi Village to become known as a retail haven.

Don’t forget to use your Jalan Jalan companion to check in at Changi Village! Before logging your completed checkpoints, remember to connect to your NHB Heritage ID account and turn on your location sharing to ensure Jalan Jalan knows your current location during your trail journey. 

The site offers a map of Singapore littered with colour-coded map pins to point you in the right direction and tap into them whenever you’ve successfully reached the heritage site. Each time you check into a location, you can also read fun facts and the history of the place. If that isn’t enough to convince you, FairPrice e-Voucher rewards will be won for every check-in performed, so don’t say I didn’t tell you about the fruits you can earn after your arduous trekking!

Changi Heritage Trail: Jalan Jalan
Jalan Jalan has a built-in map, so you’ll never get lost

I was fascinated to see how such a deceptively regular retail and food hub is still firmly rooted in its foundations more than 100 years later. The vibrant nature and fun history tidbits only added to the charm of this place, and I’m sure the next time I come down to have a meal, I will have a deeper appreciation for Changi Village’s well-preserved history.

Bungalows and Leisure in Changi

Under the sweltering heat, we trudged our way to the bungalows and places of leisure for which Changi is famous. Regrettably, I had chosen to wear a pair of jeans to walk the trail, so don’t make the same mistake that I did unless you wish to melt in the afternoon sun! Fortunately, our spirits weren’t beaten down by the sun as we marvelled at the grand architecture of Changi’s bungalows. 

The first bungalow we saw was the former home of Ezekiel Saleh Manasseh, a Singaporean rice and opium merchant and hotelier who co-founded Singapore’s Goodwood Park Hotel. A Neo-Classical bungalow that is today part of Civil Service Club@Changi (CSC @ Changi) at 2 Neverathon Road, it is the oldest building in Changi and represents the popularity of bungalows and leisure activities in Changi since the mid-1840s. 

Changi Heritage Trail: Clubhouse CSC@Changi
The bungalows in Changi are all exquisite in design

Since its construction, it has served as a holiday home, a school, a hotel, and a clubhouse. While I can’t help but admire the bungalow’s impressive build, it was also intriguing to note that the building had a blend of the old and new, seeing how there was a modern, bright yellow sign welcoming you to the red-roofed bungalow.

Along the way, we also passed Changi Cottage. As our knowledgeable guide told us, the Cottage is well-known as the place where Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, recuperated and worked after the tumult of Singapore’s independence in 1965. The Cottage is now part of CSC@Changi resort, which means you can rent it for yourself! 

Changi Heritage Trail: Changi Cottage
Doesn’t it look luxurious?

We also caught a glimpse of the Former Changi Hospital across the road, a historical landmark on top of a lush green hill. Completed in 1962, the hospital served residents until 1997, when it was merged with Toa Payoh Hospital before its relocation to Simei.

Changi Heritage Trail: Former Changi Hospital
Peeking out from the greenery is the Former Changi Hospital

Changi Sailing Club

It wasn’t long before we arrived at the Changi Point Boardwalk, where before we had even reached Changi Sailing Club, we were offered a picturesque view of a fleet of sailboats floating gracefully across the shimmering blue sea. Before you enter the boardwalk, make sure to spray a healthy amount of mosquito repellent on yourself, as our guide warned us that this is where the bugs strike.

Changi Heritage Trail: Changi Point Boardwalk
Protect yourself against the mosquitoes with your repellent before heading in!

As we walked along the boardwalk, we felt a gentle salt-kissed sea breeze that provided much-needed relief from the humidity and warmth. It was a nice break away from the bustling city life as we walked along the rather quiet boardwalk next to the golden sand, tall fan-like palm trees, and azure shores. And after a peaceful stroll, we met with the Changi Sailing Club. 

Unlike the serene boardwalk, the Changi Sailing Club was teeming with life, with people either chatting, eating, or getting ready to set sail. However, it still exudes a tranquil charm, as I’m sure most of these people came here to get away from the bustle of the modern world. Established initially as a social/sporting club by Changi Cantonment’s soldiers and later Royal Air Force (RAF) Changi, it now operates as a private members’ club. 

Changi Heritage Trail: Changi Sailing Club
I’m not much of a sea person, but even I wouldn’t pass up on a view like this!

Changi Beach Club

The Changi Sailing Club isn’t the only heritage site for those who live for the island life! Further down the path is the Changi Beach Club, which has a background similar to the Changi Sailing Club. Founded in 1950, the Changi Beach Club was also originally established as multiple social and sporting clubs by soldiers of Changi Cantonment before it became the private members’ club it is today.

Changi Heritage Trail: Beach Club
Most of us love a good beach club, and Changi Beach Club doesn’t disappoint with its spectacular looks!

From afar, the beach club already appeared grand in its structure, and facing the sea, this is the perfect place to wine down as you take in the expansive sea and golden sun. The winding boardwalk in front of the beach club is also where you can take gorgeous pictures in front of a view I can only describe as something straight out of a film. After all, you deserve a break after travelling this far and hitting this many checkpoints in a day!

Changi Heritage Trail: Boardwalk
How stunning does this look?!

And that is the end of my experience with one of Changi Heritage Trail’s thematic routes! Although I came out of the experience drenched with sweat, it felt rewarding to have covered a great distance in the locale’s rich history, which is just one piece of the puzzle: our little red dot. 

With how much work fills our lives, I’d recommend grabbing your loved ones and taking on the heritage trails NHB has to offer now and then for a refreshing break from chaotic city life! Not only can you leverage these trails for some bonding time, but they can also bring heritage and history closer to you, and you might just rediscover Changi’s unique charms through this trail.

For more information on Changi Heritage Trail, check out NHB’s website for all the deets! You can also download the booklet and map available in all four languages for the heritage trail through the same link.

Photos by Glenda Chong of the DANAMIC Team. Additional visuals courtesy of National Heritage Board.

Glenda Chong

Down to yap about anything related to K-Pop and pop culture anytime, anywhere.

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