It has been a while since I went on a mini exploration trip to visit some of the off-the-beaten-track places in Singapore. Beyond the hipster cafes and glitzy malls. I miss the excitement of venturing into somewhere relative unknown, only to get lost along the way, sometimes for an hour or more, before we finally reach our destination.
“You get lost out of a desire to be lost.
But in the place called lost, strange things are found.”
– Rebecca Solnit
Recently, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the abandoned reservoir located near Mount Faber, that dates back more than 100 years ago. Did someone just mentioned about a lost place? Immediately, my curiosity was sparked. In our quest to discover the unkempt beauty and history of this forgotten place, my mum (who is also an inquisitive heritage buff) and I decided to join the free heritage tour organised by the National Heritage Board. The 1 hour long talk-cum-tour was led by Charles Goh, the famous “tomb raider” who first stumbled upon the hidden reservoir during one of his exploration trips back in 2005.
Formerly known as the Keppel Hill Reservoir, this private reservoir was built sometime back in 1905 as a form of water source for the Tanjong Pagar Dockyard. It was later converted into a swimming pool, complete with a diving board and bathing area, during the Japanese Occupation. Post-war years, the area remained as a recreational pool for nearby Kampung residents before the area eventually gave way to other developments. The image of the water source disappeared from local maps in 2000 and hence, this explains why the reservoir has remained ‘lost and forgotten’ for more than a decade.
Interestingly, the reservoir-turned-pool made headlines twice back in 1936 and 1948 when 2 soldiers and 1 young boy drowned in two separate incidents while swimming in the 2m deep pool. Apparently, there were also other drowning cases that were not reported in the news. As a result of that, it was inevitable that the residents became wary of the place that was associated with many haunting tales. So, you have been warned – Swim at your own risk!
In the picture below, you can still spot the remnants of what used to be the diving board.
Today, at first glance, the hidden reservoir looks nothing more than a swamp in the middle of the forest. However, upon closer investigation, you will discover the colonial bricks that are still lining the walls of the reservoir and a small bathing area. Apparently, there is also an old and battered sign hanging from a tree that states that no fishing or swimming is permitted in the reservoir.
To me, the long-forgotten reservoir is a place of tranquility and peace … a calming pocket of space in the middle of our bustling city. With the influence of the digital and social media landscape, it’s not surprising that hundreds of people have since flocked to this area since news of the discovery first broke in September. So, take this chance to explore this lost & found place while it is still unkempt & retained in its raw beauty.