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(1) Photo opportunity beside this replica gun at Johor Battery.

(2) Grilled rice cake with mentaiko at Ki Bar Izakaya.

(3) Mini's navigation system gets you where you want to go.

(4) A moment of piece at the chapel in Changi Museum

Changi Revisited

This new fortnightly series drives you to places that tell stories about Singapore's past.
Jun 17, 2017 5:50 AM

For all its hi-tech wizardry and First World accoutrements, Singapore is very much a living historical city. With a set of wheels and trusty navigation system, there's no limit to the little pockets of the past that you can discover within a short drive of the city.

Think heritage sites and Chinatown or Fort Canning may come to mind, but look a little further to Changi and you'll find a lot more than the infamous prison or long lines for nasi lemak.

The area is home to several key landmarks that helped to shape Singapore's history. If you pull up at 27 Cosford Road, just off Upper Changi Road North, you'll find the spot where the original Johor Battery with its three 15-inch guns was located. Built in 1939, it was the main artillery base of the British army - and so named in appreciation of a £500,000 donation by then Sultan Ibrahim of Johor as a Silver Jubilee gift to King George V for the British war campaign.

Japan's military threat was looming at the time, and the Johor Battery was intended to fend off enemy forces before they could reach the naval base in Sembawang. But with limited firepower, it was no match for Japanese weaponry when the latter's forces invaded Singapore from the Malay peninsula in 1942.

The Johor Battery was forgotten when the British forces left Singapore - until 1991, when the Singapore Prisons Service chanced upon it. Now, you can get up close to a replica of the gun and an 800kg shell.

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Drive a little further and you'll hit The Changi Museum - which captures the significant events of the Japanese Occupation. Entry is free, and there's an audio tour for you to listen to the experiences of ex-POWs. Do stop by at the chapel, a replica of the one built by Australian prisoners in 1944.

Travel a little more along Upper Changi Road North and you'll catch a glimpse of the old Changi Prison - with its gate, wall and turrets now gazetted as a national monument. The structures are hidden by a tall fence belonging to the Changi Prison Complex, so you can only see them from the road. There are plans to develop the area to make it more accessible to the public.

There's also another new eatery to check out - Ki Bar Izakaya opens only in the evenings, when you can chill out with a sake sampler, and unusual snacks such as grilled rice cake with pork belly and spicy cod roe or mentaiko.

Does it seem a little ironical, to be eating Japanese food in an area once associated with war-time atrocities? It's a timely reminder of how far Singapore has evolved - from a period of oppression to one where people can live freely and convivially with mutual respect. It's something not to be taken for granted plus, it's a great story to tell.

Memories is brought to you by the new MINI Countryman - designed to start conversations, make new friends, add adventures, #AddStories.