I sometimes feel that if you left your house here in Singapore empty – for more than, say, two months – wild plants and trees would start to squeeze themselves up through gaps in the concrete and you’d return to find a jungle in your backyard.
A trip to the end of University Road and on to Sime Road is a bit like falling down a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. In a good way. Wall to wall houses gradually give way to a stretch of open road, take a right and you reach it.
Unfortunately, it’s sadly in too valuable a location not to be redeveloped. Bukit Brown is also home to an old Chinese cemetery that nestles within the trees. The vast majority of these ‘armchair’ graves (so-called because of how they look)…
…are being exhumed in order to make way for a motorway.
H has some family graves here which have had to be formally registered, although not all of them will be demolished and dug up; it’s only the ones marked by a red and white post.
But before development begins and time catches up with this place, it’s magical to walk through.
We came last weekend (Daddy dearest needed to see some greenery) and as we pushed our way through the overhanging roots of a banyan tree, we chanced upon a few other people who seemed to be here for the sole purpose of picking durian.
Real, organic, jungle durian. Read money-can’t-buy-deliciousness.
This is a terrible picture of some growing way up high on one of the trees (we are talking 15m up a huge durian tree; the clustered dots around the centre of the photo are durians):
I have no idea how people manage to get them down but I did see a lot of this going on:
…standing on roofs. I vaguely muttered something about being a fan (understatement; read all about my durian dealer here) and before we knew it, we’d been given three.
Laden with our booty, we kept following the track and eventually came across a little house in a clearing (sounds terribly Hansel and Gretel). It’s the type of house I never thought I’d see in Singapore:
Wedged between several old carved stone pillars that look like they were once part of a temple, it has a tarpaulin roof thrown over the top of it, no internal walls and a dirt floor made from packed earth.
There was no witch I am pleased to report, just hungry, barking dogs.
Home we went to eat our prizes, only to discover we were lacking something crucial: one of those old-fashioned wooden wedges/paddles, the best way to attack a closed up durian and specifically designed to open them with minimum effort (you sort of wiggle it about at one end of the fruit and it just pings open).
As it was, we wrestled to open it with a Chinese cleaver, a carving knife, two grown men barking instructions and a pair of oven gloves (darn, those shells are spikey).
But oh, was it worth it.
For more information on the history and heritage of Bukit Brown and how to trace family burial plots here, read the blog Bukit Brown Heritage which is a labour of love, written by Raymond Goh.