Ang Mo Kio MRT
1. From buses to malls
Walk out of the station, take Exit A and make a slight right when you step out of the doors. You’ll find yourself at the busy junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8, with AMK Hub to your right. The mall opened in 2007 on the site of the former Ang Mo Kio bus interchange (the new one’s just beside it) and naturally got its name from a public naming competition. This is a good place to stock up on some snacks for your trek – the B2 level has plenty of food options, including a branch of the popular Four Seasons Durians (#B2-28; $3.90/ four durian puffs).
Q: There are quite a number of tenant signboards on AMK Hub’s walls. Which Japanese restaurant do you spot on the second level?
2. Heartland experience
Cross the intersection and head south down Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 past the residential blocks for about five minutes. Turn right at Ang Mo Kio Street 31 and head west past Teck Ghee Primary School until you reach Block 339 on your left. Walk straight in past the Food Park hawker centre and the row of shop stalls, where you can load up on inexpensive beauty products or grab another bite – we recommend Min Sin Cake House (#01-1581) for some melt-in-your-mouth cheese tarts, pandan cakes and red bean buns, or walk a few more paces to Siong Ji Foodstuffs Trading (#01- 1591) for nostalgic old school snacks and candy.
Q: Look to your right (near the end of the row) at Block 339 – you’ll see the red Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail signboard next to a flight of stairs. Which four locations does Trail Two stop at?
3. A feast for the senses
Continue down the line of shops into the next block (past the Ang Mo Kio Town Council building) until you see the Teck Ghee Court Market and Food Centre on your right, where you’ll be greeted by the aroma of hawker food mixed with the smell of raw meats. If you’re hungry (and not already sweating), try the steaming hot bak kut teh ($6) at award-winning stall Yong Ji Rou Gu Cha, also known as Eng Khee Bak Kut Teh in English (#01-04, Blk 341, Ang Mo Kio Ave 1; daily 8am-3pm). It’s not hard to find – just stroll over to the last row of stalls nearest to the main road and look for the one with the most newspaper write-ups and certificates displayed proudly. This is also perhaps a good place for a bathroom break – despite the food centre having been around for quite some time, its restrooms have been rated four stars by the local Restroom Association.
Q: Which two colours make up the Teck Ghee Court Market and Food Centre lettering at Block 341?
4. Mother of nature
Continue straight out past the clock tower at the end of the row (#01-08) and cross the overhead bridge at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 to the parking lot of the Bishan – Ang Mo Kio Park, one of the largest parks in Singapore (so get ready for a long walk), which was recently renovated and awarded a President’s Design Award for its use as a natural flood plain and recreation area. You’re now at the River Plains plot, where healthy food joint The Green Room Café is located.
Turn left and walk past the dog run area, then turn right and continue past a row of spas, followed by the fitness corner and playground on your left, as well as the community garden. As you walk through the garden, you’ll come to the Kallang River. As you follow the path, you’ll be able to see the Recycle Hill in the distance towards the east. At the top of it is artist/architect Kelvin Lim’s award-winning sculpture ‘An Enclosure for a Swing’, which was constructed to symbolise the union of nature and design.
Q: Towards the end of the trail you’ll spot one of the uniquely-shaped resting points that dot Bishan – Ang Mo Kio Park. What shape is it?
5. Blue hills and green gardens
Keep going west to Marymount Road – it’ll take about 15 to 20 minutes – and cross it to get to the Pond Gardens plot. Veer left and walk along the path next to the Kallang River until you see the pond on your right, where you might spot some fishermen. Turn right and walk up to the playground, where little tots can make a splash in the water and learn to control water flow with the manoeuvring of gates. There’s also Hai Bin Prawning (603 Sin Ming Ave, 6554 1986), a prawning place, near the golf range in the distance if you feel like trying your hand at catching some prawns.
Q: How many mini blue hills are at the water playground in Pond Gardens?
6. Statues and relics
To get out of the park, go left and continue past the pond to the Adventure Lawn, followed by the scenic Lotus Garden and Palm Court (which are both still under construction). After that, make a U-turn down the path parallel to the Kallang River until you see Bishan Park Secondary School, then head towards the carpark, out of the park and onto Sin Ming Avenue. Head west along Sin Ming Avenue, follow the road as it curves left, then walk along the pavement until you get to Gate 3 of the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (88 Bright Hill Rd, 6849 5300; 8.30am-4pm) on your right. Built in 1920, the monastery is the largest Buddhist temple in Singapore and features two stupas, multiple prayer rooms and tons of statues on the grounds. When you enter, you might see a few people bowing in prayer. Walk in through the gate and you’ll see a beautiful pond with lush greenery and cascading waterfalls ahead of you – turn left and trek through the serene, jungle-like surroundings.
Go past Gate 4 and turn right to Bright Hill Library on your left with the gigantic Guan Yin statue next to it. Short for Guanshiyin, which means ‘observing the sounds of the world’, this bodhisattva is usually identified with compassion. To the right of this statue stands the Relic Stupa of Venerable Hong Choon, a monument dedicated to the late abbot who expanded the monastery during his 46 years in office starting from 1943, when it was still known as the Phor Kark See Temple. If you look up above the pillars along the outdoor corridors, you’ll see fascinating myths and legends of Buddhist beliefs written and illustrated along the walls in Mandarin.
Q: How many tiny Buddha statues are sprinkled among the grass patch beneath the giant Guan Yin sculpture?
There’s plenty more to explore at the monastery, including features like the Hall of Amrta Vinaya, the Hall of Great Strength and the Hall of Great Compassion – take your time wandering around. When you’re done admiring the sights, walk back to Gate 3 and out again to Sin Ming Avenue. You can catch the number 410 at the bus stop across the street to Bishan Bus Interchange, which is right next to Junction 8 mall and Bishan MRT.