Ulu Pandan

Singapore Infopedia

by Ng, Sheere


Ulu Pandan is an area situated in the central region of Singapore. As a subzone within the Bukit Timah planning area, Ulu Pandan is bounded by Ulu Pandan Road and Holland Road in the north, Ulu Pandan River in the south, and North Buona Vista Road in the east.1 In the first half of the 20th century, the Ulu Pandan district covered a much bigger area that stretched all the way to Bukit Timah Road and was dotted with rubber estates. In the 1950s and ’60s, military camps were established in the area to house units of the Gurkha Contingent and the 1st Singapore Infantry Regiment (1 SIR). The district is now an affluent residential area comprising mostly condominiums and landed property.

Early history
Ulu Pandan is named after the Ulu Pandan River, or Sungei Ulu Pandan, that cuts across the district. The river flows westward towards the Pandan River, hence the word “Ulu”, which means “upstream” in Malay. “Pandan” refers to the wild screwpine trees found along the riverbanks.2

Ulu Pandan was initially a swampland that was occupied by Malays who fished for prawns and crabs along the river for a living. They also grew coconuts, bananas and other tropical fruit. Javanese immigrants later arrived in the area by boat and settled down as fishermen alongside the Malays.3

In a map published in 1923, Ulu Pandan was shown to be much larger than what it is today. It was bounded by Bukit Timah Road in the north, Pasir Panjang in the south, Tanglin in the east and Pandan in the west.4

Rubber plantation
Hokkiens from Anxi county, Fujian, China, were one of the early Chinese settlers in Ulu Pandan, which they called Da Gang Nei.5 Many of these Chinese settlers later became involved in growing durians, rambutans and, most notably, rubber trees.6 The Ulu Pandan (Singapore) Rubber Estates Limited became a major rubber producer in Ulu Pandan after it bought over many of the existing rubber estates in the area. Established in April 1909, the company was led by Chinese businessman Lee Choon Guan. The company produced about 450 pounds of rubber a month from some 9,000 trees in 1910, its first year of operation.7 This figure had risen to almost 9,000 pounds per month by 1923.8 The company had onsite housing facilities on its estates to accommodate its workforce, which in 1910 comprised some 200 coolies who were mostly Javanese.9 The rubber business later became unprofitable and the company was eventually liquidated and its estates put up for sale in 1952.10

Prawn ponds
In 1957, the Legislative Assembly passed a motion to convert 1,000 ac of mangroves in the Ulu Pandan nature reserve into prawn ponds. The motion had been introduced by then Minister for Commerce and Industry J. M. Jumabhoy, who sought to increase the yield of prawns cultivated by Malay fishermen for food. The motion met with strong objections from members of the Nature Reserve Board and the Malayan Institute of Biology, who argued that mangroves had great scientific and educational value.11

The Assembly ultimately voted in favour of the motion, which Jumabhoy justified on the grounds that the preservation of the human species was more important than the preservation of flora and fauna.12 In 1960, the government awarded 120 ac of the mangroves to four companies to develop into prawn ponds. These ponds were estimated to yield a total of 40 tons of prawns annually.13

Military use
Gurkha Contingent
After the Singapore Gurkha Contingent was established in April 1949, a unit was stationed in a camp located along North Buona Vista Road in Ulu Pandan.14 By 1950, there were some 120 Gurkha families living in the camp, which was equipped with a welfare centre that included a maternity ward that could accommodate up to 10 mothers and their newborn babies. The centre also conducted classes on baby welfare and the sewing of baby clothes for the Gurkhas’ wives.15 Their children went to an army-run school located in Ulu Pandan that was staffed by Gurkha and Sikh teachers.16 To commemorate  Britain’s ties with Nepal, a road south of the camp where the Gurkha regiment’s British officers lived was named Nepal Park.17

Singapore Infantry Regiment
In 1957, a temporary camp was built in Ulu Pandan for Singapore’s first regular army unit, 1 SIR.18 In August 1963, a second camp, Camp Temasek, in Ulu Pandan was officially opened to serve as the base of the 2nd Battalion, SIR.19

In July 1955, a cemetery for British servicemen was opened by Major-General D. D. C. Tulloch at a site along Ulu Pandan Road near Clementi Road. The cemetery had different burial plots for Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants and Roman Catholics.20 In 1975, arrangements were made for the cemetery’s 1,884 graves to be relocated to make way for urban redevelopment. Some of the exhumed remains were later reburied at the Kranji War Memorial.21

Sungei Ulu Pandan
The Ulu Pandan River runs parallel to Holland Road for some of its way and forks into two paths of Pandan River at Business Park Drive.22

In 1959, amid concerns that rapid development in the suburban areas would aggravate flooding, the City Council built a drain from North Buona Vista Road to the Ulu Pandan River to divert floodwater from the Buona Vista swamp areas to the river.23 In 1963, the Ulu Pandan catchment area was widened while the Alexandra catchment was correspondingly reduced as part of the government’s scheme to channel flood water out of Queenstown.24 The Ulu Pandan drainage scheme was subsequently introduced in 1965 to divert drainage runoff from the Upper Bukit Timah catchment area to Ulu Pandan, further reducing flooding incidents in Queenstown and Alexandra.25

In 1968, to divert flood waters from Bukit Timah to the western coast of Singapore, the Public Works Department built two tunnels that ran under the Ulu Pandan Military Camp to connect the Ulu Pandan River with the Bukit Timah Canal. The S$6.8-million project relieved Stevens Road and Coronation Road from floods that used to halt traffic heading towards and from the Causeway.26 A decade later, the Ulu Pandan River was concrete-lined and widened to cope with the rapid land development in the area.27

Private housing
Some of Singapore’s first condominiums were built in Ulu Pandan during the 1970s. In 1973, an American company announced the development of Ridgewood Housing estate, a condominium project, on an 18.5-acre site next to the Singapore American School in Ulu Pandan. Described as a pioneering effort in condominium housing in Singapore, the project comprised a mix of three-storey townhouses, five-storey garden apartments, and apartment units located in 20- and 22-storey tower blocks.28 The development was completed in 1981.29 Another pioneering condominium project in the area, Pandan Valley, was launched by the Development Bank of Singapore (now known as DBS Bank) in 1977. Comprising some 600 units of varying sizes, the project aimed to provide residents with sporting, recreational, shopping and other service facilities.30

Landed properties
More than half of the present Ulu Pandan district is occupied by landed properties. They are concentrated at the eastern end of the district, particularly around Mount Sinai and Holland Road.31

Henry Park Primary School
This school situated along Holland Grove Road opened in March 1977 with 237 pupils and 13 teachers, and was officially launched in April 1986 by then member of Parliament for Ulu Pandan, Chiang Hai Ding.32

Nexus International School
Opened in 2011, Nexus International School resides in the old campus of the Singapore American School along Clementi Road.33

Religious sites
Al-Huda Mosque

Al-Huda Mosque was originally housed in a wooden structure built in 1905, but was later rebuilt as a concrete building in 1966. It underwent another round of upgrading in June 2014 in the form of a S$1.1-million refurbishment project funded by the sale of private residential units on an adjacent piece of land managed by the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Singapore Islamic Religious Council).34

Lim Tai See Temple (Hoon San Temple)
Nearby at 27 Jalan Lim Tai See stands the Lim Tai See Temple completed in 1903. Built by early Hokkien immigrants, the temple design is in classic Fujian style, featuring hipped and gable roofs with overhanging eaves. The building was granted conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority on 13 March 2009. It is also known as the Hoon San Temple.35

The only religious site still within the boundaries of the present Ulu Pandan district is the Tan Kong Tian Temple at 14 Jalan Kebaya Road. Established in 1904 within the former Tua Kan Lai village, the temple also goes by the name of Chua Village Temple as most of the village’s residents shared the same surname of “Chua”.36

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC
Ulu Pandan is currently part of the Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC).37 This GRC was originally known as Holland-Bukit Panjang when it was created for the 2001 general election, but was renamed after Bukit Panjang was carved out as a single-seat constituency ahead of the 2006 general election.38 Ulu Pandan was a single-member constituency39 until 1997 when it became part of Bukit Timah GRC for that year’s election.40

Street names
Streets bearing the Mount Sinai name in Ulu Pandan used to be named after female Malay costumes. The street names were changed in 1968 because the residents found them too difficult to remember and pronounce. Street names that began with “Jalan Kain” (kain is Malay for “clothes”), such as Jalan Kain Sunkit, Jalan Kain Telepoh and Jalan Kain Mandil, took on the Mount Sinai theme, becoming Mount Sinai Walk, Mount Sinai Crescent and Mount Sinai Avenue respectively. The Mount Sinai theme was chosen to reflect the hilly terrain of the area. Jalan Kebaya is the only remaining street in Ulu Pandan that is named after a Malay costume, the kebaya.41

Tan Boon Chong Avenue, off Holland Road, is named after a Chinese landowner and rice trader from Fujian province, China. He had owned the surrounding land before the British colonial government acquired it in 1960.42

Variant names
Ulu Pandan is also referred to as sang leng”, meaning “two hills” in Hokkien.43

Sheeren Ng

1. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Bukit Timah Planning Area: Planning Report 1993 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1993), 7 (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 SIN); “Master Plan,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 16 August 2016. 
2. Ulu Pandan Constituency Citizens’ Consultative Committee, Ulu Pandan Constituency Souvenir Publication (1965–1987) (Singapore: Ulu Pandan Constituency Citizens' Consultative Committee, 1987), 23. (Call no. RSING 300.95957 ULU)
3. National Heritage Board, Jurong Heritage Trail (Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2015), 18.
4. National Library of Singapore, Map of Singapore Island, 1923, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP006353)
5. Ulu Pandan Constituency Citizens’ Consultative Committee, Ulu Pandan Constituency Souvenir Publication, 23.
6. Ulu Pandan Constituency Citizens’ Consultative Committee, Ulu Pandan Constituency Souvenir Publication, 23.
7. “Ulu Pandan Rubber Estates,” Straits Times, 17 October 1910, 7; “Ulu Pandan Rubber,” Straits Times, 30 April 1910, 7; “September Rubber Returns,” Straits Times, 10 October 1910, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Ulu Pandan Rubber Estates,” Straits Times, 4 July 1923, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
9. “Ulu Pandan Rubber Estates.”
10. “Ulu Pandan Loss,” Straits Times, 1 January 1952, 5; “406 Acres of S’pore Land Up for Sale,” Straits Times, 5 December 1952, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Victory Goes to Prawns in Battle of the Ulu Pandan Mangroves,” Straits Times, 5 December 1957, 4; “A Very Special Swamp,” Straits Times, 22 July 1957, 5; Jill Crommelin, “Biologists Protest to Lim,” Straits Times, 30 December 1957, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Victory Goes to Prawns in Battle.”
13. “Pioneers Clearing the Swamps for Food,” Straits Times, 18 July 1960, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Tommy Koh et al., eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Heritage Board, 2006), 224 (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); “Customs Hold Two Men,” Straits Times, 16 October 1960, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Gurkhas Were So Very Shy...,” Straits Times, 13 April 1950, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Services Children at School,” Straits Times, 1 December 1950, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Nepal Park,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 16 August 2016.
18. “‘Fall In’ Day Is Monday,” Straits Times, 27 February 1957, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
19. “Camp Opening,” Straits Times, 19 August 1963, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “Cemetery for Soldiers,” Straits Times, 13 July 1955, 5 (From NewspaperSG); Survey Department, Singapore, Singapore 1961: City Area, 1961, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP001506_5)
21. Edward Liu, “Finding Room for More Graves at Kranji,” Straits Times, 27 September 1975, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Singapore Land Authority, OneMap, n.d.
23. “Warning on Severe Local Flooding,” Straits Times, 15 April 1959, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
24. “$10 Million ‘Beat the Floods’ Plan,” Straits Times, 20 March 1963, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “$3 Million ‘Beat the Floods’ Scheme Pays Off,” Straits Times, 28 October 1966, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
26. “Tunnels Set to Avert Bukit Timah Floods,” Straits Times, 7 June 1971, 8; “$6.8 M Canal Scheme Is Nearing Completion,” Straits Times, 12 March 1971, 8; William Campbell, “Beating the Flood Peril in Singapore,”
Straits Times, 10 June 1969, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
27. “Drainage Project Finished One Year Early,” Straits Times, 17 May 1978, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
28. “$70M Homes, Flats to Go Up at Ulu Pandan,” Straits Times, 20 September 1974, 17; Mok Sin Pin, “Ridgewood Pioneers ‘Communal Living’ Concept,” Straits Times, 28 September 1974, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
29. “About Us,” Ridgewood Condominium, accessed 16 August 2016.
30. Bailyne Sung, “600 Units of Flats Going on Sale,” Straits Times, 21 September 1977, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
31. “Master Plan,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 16 August 2016. 
32. Ulu Pandan Constituency Citizens’ Consultative Committee, Ulu Pandan Constituency Souvenir Publication, 253.
33. “About Nexus,” Nexus International School Singapore, accessed 25 September 2016; “Contact Us,” Nexus International School Singapore, accessed 25 September 2016.
34. Audrey Tan, “109-Year-Old Al-Huda Mosque to Be Upgraded,” Straits Times, 31 May 2014, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
35. Ulu Pandan Constituency Citizens’ Consultative Committee, Ulu Pandan Constituency Souvenir Publication, 35;Jalan Lim Tai See No. 27 (Hoon San Temple),” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 16 August 2016.
36. Ulu Pandan Constituency Citizens’ Consultative Committee, Ulu Pandan Constituency Souvenir Publication, 32;Tan Kong Tian,” BeoKeng, accessed 12 September 2016.
37. “Town Map,” Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council, accessed 16 August 2016.
38. Laurel Teo and Kris Boo, “Lee Yock Suan May Stand in Holland-Bukit Panjang,” Straits Times, 19 October 2001, 4; Leslie Koh, “All’s Quiet on Western Front, As 2 Single Wards Get Set for Merger,” Straits Times, 5 March 2006, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
39. “1991 Parliamentary Election Results,” Elections Department Singapore, accessed 1 September 2016.
40. Warren Fernandez, “The State of the Opposition – With 50–Odd Candidates, Expect More 3–Way Fights,” Straits Times, 1 December 1996, 2 (From NewspaperSG); Singapore. Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, Singapore, The Report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (Singapore: Government Printers, 1996), maps. (Call no. RSING 324.63095957 SIN)
41. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 262. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
42. Crystal Chan, “No, It’s Not My Grandfather’s Road, But...,” New Paper, 3 August 2008, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
43. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 390.

The information in this article is valid as of 29 September 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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