Set close to the centre of Singapore Island, I hiked towards an abandoned quarry site in Bukit Batok Nature Park. Not only the sound of birds hovered in the air, but a distant wooden flute breezed a relaxing melody through the park that was established in 1988. When I reached the old quarry, now filled with water, a man faced the lake, his flute notes echoing off the cliff face opposite. His melodies rang through most of the park which was in the process of eliminating all plants that weren’t native to Singapore so that it would truly be a nature park.
Only when I reached the high point, which was a war memorial site, the music had faded. At the top of the steps there had once been two memorials. One was Japanese, built by prisoners of war in 1942. Behind the wooden cone was a hut housing the ashes of Japanese soldiers who had died in the Battle of Bukit Timah. The POWs were then allowed to build a cross, a quarter of the size of the Japanese memorial for their own dead. Before allied forces arrived in Singapore in 1945, the Japanese memorial was destroyed, and the allied memorial was mysteriously removed.
I turned back to explore other trails through the park, and passed a number of monitor lizards, monkeys and one tiny squirrel. I thought I heard a rooster crow when I first entered the park, but abandoned the possibility until I spotted one with the shiniest feathers that foraged through the dead leaves on the ground before I left the park.