Sembawang Beach
Photo: Kua Chee Siong/ The Straits Times
Sembawang Beach at the end of Wak Hassan Drive off Sembawang Road. This little-known beach used to be the site of a bustling coastal village and one of the longest-surviving Malay kampungs in Singapore. Like the rest of Singapore, the area has undergone a huge transformation over the decades and now plays host to new public and private housing estates. Located within a 15ha park, it is one of the few natural sandy beaches in Singapore. There are around 20 roads in the area which are named after the British colonies.


Water tank Woking road
Photo: Mark Cheong/ The Straits Times
Woking Road off Portsdown Road, near Colbar. Schoolboys scale a rusty metal ladder leading to the top of an abandoned water tank. Like a giant cake on stilts, the UFO-like structure is nestled in vegetation on a small hill in between iconic colonial-style properties, which used to house British soldiers and their families. Despite its size, the tank is not easy to locate. Keep your eyes peeled for fedora-wearing youngsters slinging cameras and chances are, you will find it fast.


PUB water pipes
Photo: Lim Yaohui/ The Straits Times
Parallel to the Bukit Timah Expressway, between Mandai Road and the Seletar Expressway. Light-coloured water pipes contrast against the dark green grass as they form graphic lines that converge on the horizon. Part of national water agency PUB's central pipeline reserve and maintained by PUB engineers, they used to stretch from Gunung Pulai in Johor to Pearl's Hill in Singapore. Today, the pipelines convey water from the Johor River Waterworks to Singapore. The first pipe was laid in 1924, while the remaining pipes were installed later between the 1960s and the 1980s. 


Mount Serapong Sentosa
Photo: Alphonsus Chen/ The Straits Times
Serapong Spur Battery Complex, Mount Serapong in Sentosa. Built by the British army in 1879, atop a hill with a panoramic view of the city, this abandoned fort is a huge network of lookout posts, underground rooms and tunnels. It is part of the series of the defensive batteries and fortifications. Overhanging vines seem to have reclaimed the crumbling remains of this self-supporting defence post, where British coastal artillery guns stood ready for a Japanese seaborne attack which never came from the south.


Upper Seletar Reservoir
Photo: Jaime Koh/ The Straits Times
Upper Seletar Reservoir. This reservoir was built in 1920 and was officially opened by Princess Alexandra, the cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, on Aug 10, 1969. It was renamed in 1992 and became a marked historic site in 1999. The lone tree between two benches is an iconic landmark in the area, the other being a rocket-shaped lookout tower built by the Singapore Public Works Department in the same year that Apollo 11 landed on the moon. 


Commonwealth Drive
Photo: Caroline Chia/ The Straits Times
Block 57, Commonwealth Drive. This spot sits along a 24km stretch of greenery that cuts through the first satellite town in Singapore. The quaint estate will be undergoing changes in the next few years as it is redeveloped under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme. The remaining Housing Board flats will be demolished by 2020. Look at the mirror in the photograph for a clue to the exact location.


Seletar fishing village
Photo: Seah Kwang Peng/ The Straits Times
Jetty at Seletar Fishing Village, located at the junction of between Yishun Avenue 1 and Seletar North Link. Part of a fishing village, this area has little kampung-styled huts located along the shore. It has a wooden boardwalk that goes out into the water, so that boats can connect with land. A working place where nets, buckets and fuel for the boats are stored, it is a floating facility where fishermen dock their boats and head out to sea. Over the years, road construction and other development work nearby have caused much concern for the fishermen as their jetties and livelihood seem destined to make way for other projects. Nevertheless, the village has survived and sits quietly very near a fast-developing integrated and industrial space designated for aerospace activities. 

On our small island of a little more than 700 sq km, many Singaporeans' sense of adventure and discovery seem confined to the known, the familiar and comfortable.

Physical spaces of everyday urban life, such as shopping malls, high-rise buildings, roads and offices, all reinforce this.

As an island city-state, Singapore is a small and dense nation where most of the population live, work and play in an urban environment.

However, there is more than meets the eye in this global metropolis that we call home.

The Little Red Dot is also known as the Garden City – one of the greenest cities in the world – due, in part, to policies that support tree planting.

To celebrate the nation's upcoming 51st birthday, The Straits Times' photojournalists uncover some hidden treasures in our own backyard which you will not find in a regular tourist itinerary.

To experience 360-degree panoramic photographs of the respective locations, visit


Adapted from an article first published in The Straits Times.