Put on your explorer shoes, pile on the sunblock and ditch the busy streets for a slice of nature and adventure in the coastal ‘hood of Pasir Ris.
For as long as we can remember, Pasir Ris has been known for chalets, white sandy beaches (thanks to its proximity to the sea), a sprawling park and, of course, Singapore’s OG waterpark, Wild Wild Wet. But did you know this heartland is also packed with rich history and interesting tidbits?
Believed to be derived from the Malay words pasir (sand) and hiris (to slice or shred), Pasir Ris has always been a seaside getaway. Until the 1950s, the area was filled with holiday bungalows and popular beachfront developments like the Golden Palace Holiday Resort and Pasir Ris Hotel. Today, you’ll find remnants of the past across the park and residential estates.
Recently, the National Heritage Board unveiled Pasir Ris’ first heritage trail through three interesting thematic routes. The Coastal Heritage trail (3.5km) takes you through heritage sites along Pasir Ris Coast and the beachfront; Play @ Pasir Ris (4.5km) is filled with recreation sites including Singapore’s only commercial saltwater fishing pond; and Architectural Highlights has 5.6km worth of maritime-themed HDB flats and treasured religious monuments.
We discovered some interesting gems during our visit…
The history of Pasir Ris Park and Beach
A popular spot for nature seekers, the sprawling 70-hectare park stretches from Pasir Ris Beach all the way to Sungei Loyang. Also, did you know that half of the park is reclaimed from mangrove swamps, mudflats and waterways? Figures why there’s a mangrove forest situated in the centre of it.
For calming sea views, take a leisurely stroll along Pasir Ris Beach. The strategic spot was a seaside getaway for the elite back in the early 20th century, and it’s where business tycoon Joseph Elias’ 12-bedroom bungalow (yes, that image above) stood majestically. It was later redeveloped into Pasir Ris Hotel, which ceased operations in 1983.
Pasir Ris Beach along 169 Pasir Ris Road, Singapore 519145; Pasir Ris Park, along 201 Pasir Ris Road, Singapore 519147 (not to be confused with Pasir Ris Town Park)
Flora and fauna of the Mangrove Forest
One of the only two protected mangrove forests in Singapore, this six-hectare area may be small in size, but it holds vast wildlife like Grey Herons, monitor lizards, mudskippers, otters and even an estuarine crocodile or two. Learn about mangrove species like Nipah Palm, which was the source of attap chee fruit and gula melaka, or ascend to the bird-watcher tower for a – lack of a better word – bird’s eye view of the lush oasis. Tip: Remember to pack sufficient insect repellent.
Near Pasir Ris Park Carpark B, 45 Pasir Ris Drive 3, Singapore 519500
Riverfront views thanks to Sungei Api Api
This popular river along Pasir Ris Park is a testimony to the thriving kampong days in the past where residents relied on natural resources like shrimp to make yummy cincalok and belacan (fermented shrimp sauce and paste). Take in the views of Sungei Api Api from the bridge at Pasir Ris Park Area 2 or along 418 Pasir Ris Drive 6, where a juxtaposition of old low blocks with a cool pitched-roof design and your usual higher blocks of HDB flats make for a great Instagram shot. Do you know anyone residing in the area?
Pasir Ris Park Area 2; 418 Pasir Ris Drive 6, Singapore 510418
Remember these holiday flats?
The former People’s Association (PA) holiday flats were such a hit among families in the 1970s to 1980s thanks to their affordability. You’ll also find a specialist community club, Passion Wave, just a few steps away, where you can still enjoy water sports like dinghy sailing and kayaking.
125 Elias Road, Singapore 519926
HDB flats with unique maritime-inspired designs
Here’s a great reason for you to look up from your phone. To keep up with its coastal heritage, many HDB blocks here are designed with lighthouse-shaped turrets, porthole-shaped openings at void decks and clam-shaped frames on windows and balconies.
138-146, Pasir Ris Street 11, Singapore 510141
Old school elephant and bumboat playground
Yes, we all know about the iconic playgrounds at Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio but Pasir Ris has a couple too! The terrazzo-tiled elephant playground is located within a private chalet complex, which was formerly built by Telecommunications Authority of Singapore (Telecoms) for its staff. The bumboat playground, which can be found next to Elias Mall, highlights bumboats (or twakow) that were used to transport goods in the past. Today, you can hop onto the Singapore River Bumboat Cruise for short tours.
Elephant playground, 125A Pasir Ris Road, Singapore 519121; Bumboat playground, 623 Elias Road, Singapore 510623
Masjid Al-Istighfar and Sakya Tenphel Ling: More than just religious monuments
Locating Masjid Al-Istighfar is easy, thanks to its vibrant blue onion-shaped domes. The architecture of the mosque was inspired by the OG “blue mosque”, Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul. It’s one of the few in Singapore that open all day, attracting Muslims from all over the globe. We hear that it can accommodate up to 5,000 people. The mosque is also known to welcome all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In 2014, water coolers and benches were installed in front of the building for public use.
Another monument not to be missed is Sakya Tenphel Ling, one of the first Tibetan Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia. The religious space is sure to attract onlookers due to its brick-red facade and colourful designs created by resident monks and visiting monks from Nepal, India and Taiwan. Colours like red, blue and white represent deities linked to wisdom, compassion and power.
From beachfront resort to Singapore’s only commercial saltwater fishing pond
Often confused with Pasir Ris Park (which is by the beach), Pasir Ris Town Park is located along Pasir Ris Central and is a true gem. Remember when we mentioned the beachfront Golden Palace Holiday Resort? This is where it used to be!
Even though you won’t find chalets, a motel and a night club today, the pond remains and it’s known to be the only commercial saltwater fishing pond in the city. Professional or not, you can put your angler skills to the test at D’Best Fishing Pond and be rewarded with massive catches.
The side-by-side photographs may show a vast difference but we can all agree that the charm of the park has not changed one bit.
Along Pasir Ris Central, Opposite Pasir Ris MRT Station, Singapore 519639