My Telok Blangah Heritage Tour

Tour Info

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Every third Saturday and Sunday of the month
8:30am to 12:30pm (approximately). Please arrive at 8:15am, 15mins before the start time for registration.
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Harbourfront MRT Station EXIT D (Street Level).
Kampong Silat, a stone’s throw from Outram Park MRT Station
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Difficulty Level


  • Expect four hours of walking and to trek some uneven terrain.
  • We do not recommend young children, people with disabilities and unfit individuals to participate in this tour
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What should I bring
  • Wear covered hiking shoes for a 4 hour long walk.
  • There is a strict dress code for the tour: Bring along a scarf, shorts/pants should cover knees, and do not bring cigarettes and meat products with you.
  • Bring along your headphones (compatible with headphone jack). These headphones are harmful to our environment and we are levying S$2 per headphone to encourage all participants to bring theirs.
  • Bring along insect repellent, EZ-Link card, a bottle of water and an umbrella
  • Asthmatic individuals are encouraged to bring their inhaler.


My Telok Blangah heritage tour traces the 700-year history of Singapore as a prosperous port city at the southern tip of Peninsula Malaysia, from a trading emporium founded by the legendary Sang Nila Utama in 1299, to a pirate-infested free port established by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 and a modern metropolis in the 21st century. The tour features an array of national monuments and historical sites including Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, Radin Mas Ayu, Keramat Bukit Kasita and Church of St Teresa.

Site 1: Marang Graves

Marang Graves are located at the foot of Mt Faber, next to the Marang Trail. Not much is known about the graves, although they are believed to be owned by Javanese clans. Observers say that the tombstones have an Indian influence.

Site 2: Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim Mosque

Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim is managed by the Johor state government, a symbol of deep and abiding ties between Singapore and Johor. The royal reception hall once stood here where an octagonal-roofed mosque was established around 1890 now stands. The Temenggong’s Istana was formerly located next to the reception hall.

Telok Blangah is notable for its role in piracy for Singapore, and much of that has to do with one person, Daeng Ibrahim. It was from Telok Blangah that Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim (1812 to 1862) was able to establish his economic power base through the growth and collection of gutta percha, a sap used to make latex. This made him “one of the richest Malay chieftains in the Malay world” during his rule. He also negotiated with the British colonial government to leave Singapore and settle permanently in Johor.

Moreover, Daeng Ibrahim’s eldest son, Abu Bakar, who became the first sultan of modern Johor. But, Abdul Ibrahim was most famous for using the orang lauts under his control to harass small ships that frequented the port. The Singapore Free Press alleged that, either with his connivance or at his becking, the Temenggong’s men were responsible for all the piracy in the immediate neighbourhood.

The wily Ibrahim saw the value of cultivating the British governor’s approval, and the vigorous campaign undertaken by the straits authorities to supress piracy induced him to restrain his subjects and assume the role of pirate hunter. This change of “heart” paid off, and at a glittering ceremony in 1846, Governor William Butterworth presented a sword to Temmengong Daeng Ibrahim in token of his vigilance in supressing pirates. Many of the European merchants considered the occasion a mockery, but Ibrahim’s decision to abandon piracy made the waters around Singapore safer. It also changed the role of his followers, whom the authorities had until then regarded as idle good-for-nothing mischief makers.
Royal Mausoleum

Adjacent to the mosque is the royal mausoleum known as Makam Diraja Telok Blangah, which includes the marble-floored, yellow-silk-canopied tombs of Temenggong Abdul Rahman, Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim and other members of the royal family. Traditionally, the Sultan of Johor visits the mausoleum during the Hari Raya Puasa period each year to pay his respects. Behind the mausoleum is a graveyard where members of the Temenggong’s Telok Blangah community are buried.

Site 3: Keramat Radin Mas Ayu

Keramat Radin Mas is the shrine of Radin Mas Ayu, a Javanese princess who shielded her father from being killed, only to be killed herself.

In the past, the tomb was enclosed by the roots of two banyan trees. The trees were removed in 2010 as they were thought to have been diseased and any falling branches would have been a danger to visitors. There used to be a spring close to the foot of Mount Faber, and its water was believed to have healing properties. When the spring became too popular and visitors seeking healing began disturbing residents in the area, the police had the water piped underground and covered the area in cement.

The tomb was once enclosed by a hut with a small sign hanging at its entrance, but the hut’s condition was very poor. The surrounding compound was strewn with litter and overgrown with bushes, shrubbery and weeds. In late 1999, Zainal Atan, also known as Pak Daeng, decided to spruce up the tomb to give Radin Mas the recognition she deserved. With permission from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), Pak Daeng cleaned up the place and repaired the hut with his own funds. Garnering help from friends, he levelled the ground around the tomb, carrying sand and cement up the hill.

Dissatisfied with his initial efforts, Pak Daeng collected contributions from the community totalling $15,000 and hired a contractor. Works started in August 2002. The hut was torn down and a new one was built. A low fence was erected along the perimeters of the tomb. The surrounding compound was laid with ceramic tiles and a water tank was installed to store rainwater. A flight of steps was constructed to increase access to the shrine. Both the hut and stairs were painted yellow to symbolise both royalty and holiness. A place to perform prayers was also provided.

Pak Daeng went to the shrine every day to clean it and ensure that visitors refrained from practices that were inappropriate or un-Islamic. He hoped that the authorities could verify the history behind the tomb and recognise it as part of Singapore’s heritage and as a tourist destination.

The Legend
Pangeran Adipati Agung was the brother of a sultan in the kingdom of Java. He was an intelligent and courageous warrior, much loved by the people. He fell in love with the lead dancer of a dance troupe that had been invited to perform at the palace. As he could not marry a commoner, he wedded her in secret. Their happy union bore them a beautiful little girl whom they named Radin Mas Ayu, meaning “golden princess”.

Before long, the king found out and was extremely furious and plotted to punish the dancer. An opportunity arose when his kingdom was threatened by hostile invaders. The king sent Pangeran to quell the threat. The dancer saw it as a chance of reconciliation between her husband and his brother, the king, if he returned victorious. While Pangeran was away, however, the king had his men burn their house down. Pangeran’s wife perished in the fire, but their daughter was rescued by a loyal servant. When Pangeran returned from a victorious battle and found out what had happened, he severed ties with his brother and the palace. He left the kingdom together with Radin Mas and the loyal servant.

The trio set sail and landed on the island of Singapore and settled down in a village at Telok Blangah. Pangeran was silent about his royal lineage and lived as other villagers did. The island was frequently harassed by sea pirates, and one day, Pangeran led a group of villagers to defeat them. News of Pangeran’s valour reached the Sultan of Singapore, who invited him to the palace. Coincidentally, an envoy from Java was also at the palace to meet the Sultan, and was surprised to see Pangeran. He informed the Sultan of Pangeran’s identity. The Sultan was delighted to know that Pangeran was a prince and arranged for his princess to be wedded to him. Pangeran agreed to the marriage and a son was born to them. He was named Tengku Chik. Meanwhile Radin Mas had grown into a beautiful woman, and her stepmother was jealous both of her beauty and closeness with her father.

One day, little Tengku Chik accidentally cut his foot on a piece of broken plate dropped by Radin Mas. Her stepmother accused her of deliberately harming Tengku Chik, but Pangeran refused to believe it was done on purpose. To get even with Radin Mas, her stepmother together with her stepmother’s nephew, Tengku Bagus, plotted against Pangeran and Radin Mas. Her stepmother knew that Tengku Bagus was in love with Radin Mas and wished to marry her. With Radin Mas married, she would no longer have to compete with her for Pangeran’s attentions.

Tengku Bagus got Pangeran intoxicated on drugged wine, and held him prisoner in an unused deep well. The next day, Tengku Bagus proposed to Radin Mas, threatening to kill Pangeran if she refused to marry him. During the solemnisation ceremony however, Radin Mas was asked if she had her father’s permission to marry. Fearful for her father’s life, she lied, saying that he had died while visiting Java. At this instant, Tengku Chik blurted out that he had seen their father alive in the unused well. The plot was revealed and Pangeran was rescued.

Afraid of Pangeran’s revenge, Tengku Bagus drew his kris and lunged at him. Radin Mas sprang forward to shield her beloved father and the kris plunged into her heart, killing her. Her stepmother stole away during the commotion, but just as she was slipping away, lightning struck and killed her.

Site 4: Bukit Kasita

Tanah Kubor Raja (“Royal Cemetery” in Malay) is a Muslim burial ground in Bukit Purmei with possible connection to the descendants and successors of Sang Nila Utama, Singapore’s legendary founder. In this burial ground, two graves were identified as keramats. The first keramat, Keramat Bukit Kasita, is given to the grave of Raja Ahmad whereas the second grave is that of Raja Tengku Fatimah.

According to a Straits Times article, Tanah Kubor Raja was opened as early as 1530 by Sultan Alaudin Riayat Shah II, the seventh descendant of Sang Nila Utama, a legendary prince who founded the kingdom of Singapura in 1299. Sultan Alaudin had established the Johor Sultanate, which Singapore was a part of, after the Melaka Sultanate was conquered by the Portuguese. A branch of the sultans of Singapura and Melaka were buried in Tanah Kubor Raja, including Abdul Rahman Muazzam Shah II, the great-great-grandson of Abdul Rahman Muazzam Shah, the last Sultan of Riau-Lingga appointed by the Dutch. Some of these graves acquired various shrine appurtenances such as yellow umbrellas and cloth, incense sticks and food offerings.

Two graves identified as keramat in the royal cemetery were believed to have mythical powers. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Keramat refers to the ability to perform supernatural wonders or miracles, usually by saints in the Islamic religion. Although Prophet Mohammed denied the existence of saints, worshippers continue to canonise men endowed with supernatural powers and conduct pilgrimages to their tombs so as to ‘wield authority over animals, plants, and clouds, and to bridge the gap between life and death.’ A spring near the makam of Raja Tengu Fatimah is supposedly to have healing powers and devotees who visited the keramat to collect the spring water are reportedly cured from aches and pains in their legs and joints.

However, historian and archaeologist John Miksic, an associate professor at the department of Southeast Asian Studies in National University of Singapore, disputed with the origins of the graves. He claimed that these graves could be erected by the temenggong of Riau, who lived near the Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim in Telok Blangah Road during the 19th century.

Hence, further research is needed to “elevate awareness of Singapore’s links to other territories of the Johor sultanate.”

Site 5: Church of St Teresa

Established in 1929, it is the only Catholic church featuring Romano-Byzantine architecture, seen in the majestic domes, cupolas and arches on its facade. The church catered largely to Hokkien-speaking Catholics when built, as the dialect group had no church of their own then. It serves Catholics living in the areas of Kampong Bahru, Telok Blangah, Cantonment and Spottiswoode Park, and is also the base for the Apostleship of the Sea that serves seafarers calling at the nearby port. The church was designated a national monument in 2009.

As early as 1910, the need to build a Chinese parish for the growing community of Hokkien-speaking Catholics originating from Fukien (Fujian), China, was brought to the attention of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) – an organisation of secular priests dedicated exclusively to missionary work – by the Bishop of Malacca, Marie Luc Alphonse Emile Barillon.
In 1923, the parish priest of Singapore’s Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Father Emile Joseph Mariette, who was from the MEP, set about building the church.

The search for a suitable site for the church took almost two years. On 21 November 1925, the day of the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the church acquired 2.1 acres (91,476 square feet) of land at Bukit Purmei, which at the time was occupied by Malay squatters and Catholic families. As church members believed that the land was acquired through the intercession of St Teresa of the Child Jesus, it was decided that the church should be named after her, and that she be made its patron saint.

Church Architecture
Measuring 185 feet long and 55 feet wide, the church building was constructed with ferroconcrete to give it a granolithic exterior. The French-made stained glass windows at the back of the sanctuary chronicle the key events in the life of the patron saint of the church, St Teresa of Lisieux, France.

The two belfries rising over the porch house five bronze bells that were made in 1927 at the historic Cornille-Havard bell foundry in Villedieu-les-Poeles in Normandy, France; each tuned to a different tone to create a harmonised musical chord when struck. Donated to the church by a devout parishioner, Joseph Chan Teck Hee, the bells were named after his five children.

The baptismal font was made using Indian marble from Jaipur, India. The marble statue of St Teresa at the centre of the driveway was created in 1930 by Raoul Bigazzi, the renowned sculptor and decorator from Florence, Italy.

During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), nearby Bukit Teresa became the British military’s anti-aircraft post. Due to the church’s proximity to Bukit Teresa and the port, it was attacked frequently by the Japanese. Both the church and the buildings in the Catholic settlement sustained heavy damage during the bombings. When the war ended, Father Stephen Lee, the church’s first parish priest, oversaw the task of rebuilding the church from the ravages of war.

The church celebrated its golden jubilee in 1979. A columbarium, and a social and educational centre called St Teresa’s Centre were established in 1983.

Renovation and upgrading works were carried out in 2005, and the church received, among other things, a new altar, air-conditioning system and audio-visual equipment. At the same time, the remains of the founding father, Mariette, and the first parish priest, Lee, were interred at the columbarium, below the statue of the Risen Christ.

During the Occupation years, the church was a place of refuge for women who sought protection from Japanese soldiers. After the Occupation, it also cared for young boys via a school and an orphanage, although Lee frequently had to beg for food, and seek funds to keep the orphanage going.

Later, the church sheltered many stranded Caucasians during the 1950 Maria Hertogh riots; gave relief and shelter to the people made homeless by the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961, the biggest fire in Singapore history to date; as well as provided educational and social welfare services over the years.

On 11 November 2009, the National Heritage Board gazetted the church building as a national monument in light of its social and historical significance, its importance to the community as well as its architectural merits. Today, the church has a congregation of about 3,000 parishioners, and endeavours to serve communities from new housing developments around the area.

Site 6: Tang Gah Beo

Tang Gah Beo is a Taoist temple named after Dong Yue Mountain, one of five sacred mountains in China. The origins of the temple are unclear, although it was believed to be founded in the 19th century. The temple’s founder was Buddhist Venerable Master Biyu, who was from China’s Fujian province.

The main deity in the temple is東嶽大帝 (“Dong Yue Da Di” in Chinese), Lord Emperor of Dong Yue Mountain. Devotees make offerings to Dong Yue Da Di for protection and peace of mind.

Among the deities in the temple are Hei Bai Wu Chang, the Heartless Black and White Demons thought to be the two guards of the Chinese Hell. The two idols are rarely found in Taoist temples, and are tasked to bring souls of the dead to hell for sentencing by the hell’s king.

The building was constructed using the ancient Chinese architectural methods, and no nails were used to connect its columns and beams. While the temple’s roof ornamentation has a Teochew style, its main hall’s layout and structure are Hokkien.

Tang Gah Beo was gazetted for conservation in June 2014.

Site 7: Kampong Silat SIT Flats

The Kampong Silat flats were built by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) between 1949 and 1952. The flats are part of Singapore’s second oldest surviving public housing estate, after Tiong Bahru. Kampong Silat was likely named after a form of Malay martial arts.

The flats are designed in the Art Deco style, and are mostly three to four storeys tall. They have big balconies, large red-tiled roofs and wooden window panes, much like the SIT flats in Princess Elizabeth part at Upper Bukit Timah.

Two blocks facing Kampong Bahru Road were demolished in the late 1990s, reducing the number of blocks in the area from 15 to 13. All 13 remaining blocks were part of the Selective En Bloc Redevelop Scheme (SERS) programme announced for the area in 2007. Most flats were vacated by early 2012.

Spooner Flats
The two blocks of flats at Spooner Road were built in the 1980s by the Housing and Development Board to house Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Railway staff. Spooner Road is named after Charles Edwin Spooner (1853 to 1909), the State Engineer of the Public Works Department during British rule in Singapore. Spooner was also the head of the Federated Malay States Railways in 1901. The bungalow that stands at the mouth of Spooner Road also belongs to KTM.

The two blocks were known as the Kemuning and Melati Residential Blocks. In 2011, the flats, were handed over to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) after an agreement between the governments of Singapore and Malaysia. The former KTM workers’ quarters were then converted into rental flats with 10 years’ leases.

Site 8: Silat Road Sikh Temple

The Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road was originally located at Pearl’s Hill, where the barracks of the Sikh police contingent were situated. Most early Sikhs who came to Singapore from India’s Punjab in the 19th century were employed by the police force. The temple at Pearl’s Hill allowed Sikhs to both worship and meet their relatives and friends.

Sikh policemen sought to build a larger temple in 1920. They wanted a space that could provide shelter for newly-arrived Sikh migrants, preferably one that was near the harbour, where the migrants arrived.

In 1922, the land at Silat Road, which was close to the harbour and the railway station, was leased from the Singapore Harbour Board to build the new temple and lodging house. The new temple’s foundation stone for the temple was laid by Alexander Richard Chancellor, the inspector-general of police of the Straits Settlements, on 18 December 1922.

The new temple, or the Police Gurdwara as it was commonly by then, was built at a cost of $54,000. Sikh police force members contributed to the building fund. It was completed in 1924, and its design included prominent arches and domes. The temple was officially named after Silat Road, on which it was located. However, the portion of the road which lay next to the temple was later renamed Jalan Bukit Merah.

The temple received a $8.3-million facelift in the early 1990s and was reopened on 23 October 1995. Four thousand worshippers gathered for its opening ceremony that day.

Bhai Maharaj Singh Memorial
Within the Silat Road Sikh Temple is a memorial for Bhai Maharaj Singh, an Indian revolutionary who came to Singapore in 1850 as a prisoner when it was a penal colony. He was detained in Pearl’s Hill Prison, and became blind and developed cancer. Bhai Maharaj Singh died on 5 July 1856 and was cremated outside the prison complex.

His tombstone, located within the grounds of the Singapore General Hospital, attracted many visitors, and eventually became a small memorial to the freedom fighter.

In 1966, the Maharaj Singh’s tombstone was moved from the hospital grounds to Silat Road Sikh Temple. The tombstone’s relocation caused the temple’s popularity to rise as some Sikhs in Singapore believed that their prayers would be answered through his divine intervention.