Woodlands is known to be far away from Central Singapore – an hour bus ride away from Orchard Road and a half-hour cab ride away from where all the shopping, entertainment, and nightlife happens. But there’s more to Woodlands than you might know.
This residential town has a long lost history – stretching all the way back to the 1970s – and has been home to many SAS students and faculty.
Currently, there are 538 SAS students out of a total of 3,928 people who live in the Woodlands, according to school demographics. Most of them have moved to the Woodlands simply to live closer to school.
So do students actually enjoy living in Woodlands, a place so far from central Singapore? Or are most of them simply forced to live here because it’s so close to school?
After conducting a survey with 39 total responses from all high school students, only two of them said they do not enjoy living in the Woodlands. Everyone else said that they generally do.
Most students remarked that although it may be take “a long time via subway to get to downtown,” it’s an “easy commute to and from school so that you never have to worry about missing a school bus.” In fact, many of them noted that this allows them to get “more sleep.”
And although there are “few options for entertainment other than the usual stuff at Causeway Point,” some of them find that “there are so many SAS families that you are bound to have people who you are willing to spend time with. It makes things a lot easier to organize, and makes it easier to spend time with your friends.”
Simply put, what’s important to them is that “there is a real community in the Woodlands.”
Besides, Halloween is always a bustling time of the year in which a huge amount of students go trick or treating from door to door that night. It may not be a huge deal for most of them, but it definitely adds to the community.
So what do we really know about Woodlands’ history?
According to the National Library Board, the name “Woodlands” is said to have likely derived from the rubber trees that used to exist in the plantations here, ones in which resembled woods.
Woodlands began as a village or kampong, also known as a Malaysian enclosure. Some of the villages include the Kampong Kranji, Kampong Mandai Kechil, and Woodlands Village.
Besides rubber plantations, there were also poultry farms at that time. That district was considered ulu or “rural,” but has since experienced a tremendous amount of astonishing change – ever since Singapore’s post-independence stage.
The expansion of Woodlands can be tracked down to two main periods in which Woodlands Road, Woodlands Estate, and areas in the northern region all developed substantially.
The first period involved the Ring Concept Plan that led to Woodlands New Town in the 1970s and 1980s. Because the population was growing rapidly at the time as expected of industrialization in the north, the Plan was designed to house more people and outline new towns.
Rural settlements, or kampongs, that obstructed the advancement of industrialization in Woodlands were completely removed. By the end of 1972, 1,300 new housing units were established in the Woodlands New Town.
Later, the Town Centre was developed, with more public housing and industrial infrastructure, and 22,457 HDB units were built in Woodlands by March of 1994.
In more recent years, there has been a new planning guideline for Woodlands. Woodlands aimed at becoming a more regional centre for northern Singapore beginning in 1997, as part of the Development Guide Plan (DGP) by URA.
Since then, Woodlands has gone through extensive development again – filling up with newer housing estates, commercial complexes, and light and high-intensity industries.
Now, Woodlands – as we know it – is connected to the Woodlands MRT station.
It covers schools, countless of HDBs, and shopping centers such as the seven-storey commercial and entertainment mall, Causeway Point.
While it has undergone a lot of changes, a few older landmarks still remain. For example, Arasakesari Sivan Temple, a Hindu temple built in 1930 on Woodlands Road, is still part of Woodlands’ industrialized atmosphere.
There is also a Woodlands Town Garden built from 1983, a park spread over 12.8 hectares, with which its dense vegetation has enhanced the scenic quality of the Woodlands.
The Singapore American School, founded in 1956, was finally moved to the Woodlands in 1996.
Most SAS students and families have not lived in Woodlands long enough to notice the drastic changes experienced in the Woodlands, but some of them do see small signs of continuous advancement.
One person who responded to the survey said, “Causeway itself has changed a lot (there was a water fountain), and we had no bubble tea stores (now we have three). There were also hardly any condominiums (Rosewood Suites, Woodhaven, etc. didn’t exist). Fairprice at The Woodgrove became Fairprice Finest.”
Although Woodlands has undergone tremendous changes over the years – from being a region of rubber plantations, a district of rural villages, and then becoming an area of booming industrialization – Woodlands remains a treasured town and community, a home to SAS and a cherished place in students’ hearts.