The only hot spring of Singapore which was closed in 2018 for redevelopment work, now reopened to public with new look and feel..
The Sembawang Hot Spring Park reopened on Saturday (Jan 4) after a $4.3 million redevelopment, expanding from its original 0.1 hectare to 1.1 hectare now.
The park, now features a new cascading pool and a water collection point, with enhanced accessibility for wheelchair users.
Some of the enhancements actually came from members of the public who provided suggestions during the consultation conducted by the National Parks Board (NParks), these include a new F&B outlet, an activity lawn, and toilets.
An educational zone, an accessibility ramp, and more seating areas have also been added to the park.
The new hot spring park was launched by the Members of Parliament for Sembawang and Nee Soon GRCs, including Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan and Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung.
The centrepiece of the park is a four-tier cascading pool with water from the hot spring, that has a seating area for visitors to enjoy a foot bath.
Water coming from the top is the hottest, at 70°C, and cools to about 40°C as it cascades down the pools. People can sit by the edge and take their foot bath at the 40°C pool.
Different sizes of water collection containers and buckets are now available at the hot spring park for visitors to use.
Young families can also bring their children to this interactive water play feature that also educates them about the groundwater cycle. The water at this station is at a safe temperature for young children to play with.
The revamp also incorporates the introduction of new plants reminiscent of old kampong life such as fruit trees, edible plants, and flowers commonly found in 1960s to 1990s Singapore.
As for the makan — a glass house eatery called Sembawang Eating House provides local delights like egg and toast, laksa and nasi lemak.
In 1909, a Chinese merchant named Seah Eng Keong, the son of Chinese pioneer Seah Liang Seah, discovered hot springs in his pineapple estate in Sembawang. The three springs were channelled into one, so that the water would be conveniently concentrated in one area. A well was built along the spring, which became popular with the villagers, who frequently sought the waters for their supposed healing powers. The spring’s fame spread, resulting in the village becoming known as Kampong Ayer Panas, which means “Village of Hot Water” in Malay.
Soft drinks firm Fraser & Neave (F&N) acquired the site in 1922, and set up a bottling plant at nearby Semangat Ayer to tap the mineral water, which they labelled Seletaris. During the Second World War, the spring’s flow was temporarily interrupted when a bomb fell near the well during a Japanese air raid over Singapore in 1942. After the fall of Singapore, the Japanese military seized the place and converted it into recreational thermal baths
The hot spring was frequented by gamblers in 1960, who took “good luck” baths before the start of horse races. That same year, the villagers urged the authorities to develop the area into a spa-like onsen tourist resort. However, F&N shelved the suggestion after geologists could not to trace the source of the spring water. In 1967, the proposal of the spa surfaced again, when F&N proposed plans for the development of a bathhouse, restaurants, a miniature golf course and even a nature reserve. However, the plans did not materialize, so the hot spring remained untouched and forgotten.
According to local geologists, the exact source of the spring remains unknown, but it is believed that its origin may be southwest of its actual location, possibly at Bukit Timah. Hot springs are formed when underground water comes into contact with hot rock masses. The resulting high pressure causes the water to seep upwards through cracks, forcing itself out of the ground as a spring.
In 1998, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) acquired the land containing the spring for the expansion of the nearby Sembawang Air Base, leaving F&N with less than 4 hectares (10 acres) of land. Its water-bottling plant survived until the early 1990s however. In January 2002, locals’ interest to the hot spring, which had caught the attention of Singaporeans after the surrounding land had been cleared to begin the RSAF air base extension. Sembawang community leaders gathered signatures to petition Mindef, which was going to fence off the area, to preserve and develop the hot spring for the general public. Mindef gave the green light to the appeals and opened a small side gate pavement for the public to access the spring
The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said on 23 April 2016 that it is willing to return the land where the hot spring sits on to the Singapore Land Authority. MINDEF hopes a public agency such as the National Parks Board (NParks) can take over to redevelop and maintain the place, while constructing amenities such as toilets and adding more greenery. The ministry added that putting the place under a public agency means the land need not be tendered out to the highest bidder and become commercialised
Sembawang Hot Spring was redeveloped into a one hectare park called Sembawang Hot Spring Park. The redeveloped park was officially reopened on 4 January 2020
Sembawang Hot Spring Park is open daily from 7am to 7pm.
How to go:
It is accessible via Gambas Avenue and the nearest car park is at 114 Yishun Ring Road.
The nearest bus stop is located 400m away at Sembawang Road.
Pic Credits: Joseph Tan & Gangadharan