Thursday, October 30, 2008

Singapore Natural

Of late, I have developed an affinity with the natural attractions of Singapore, visiting the Southern Ridges and the Treetop walk in Macritchie Reserves both within a span of one month.

I am not sure whether this affinity arose due to the need to seek solace from the increasing stress in the society, which was made even worse by the current economic crisis or it just developed naturally.

Since young, I have always like the beaches: East Coast Park, Changi Beach and Pasir Ris Park, all situated in the east. Living in the east of this island, these are green perks, which residents in other areas would only envy.

After every visit to the parks and natural attractions, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated, ready enough to face the onslaught of the challenges of the coming weeks.

The NParks Guide offers a list and description of all the natural parks and attractions in Singapore. Looking at the guide, I felt ashamed as well as happy: ashamed for not knowing and visiting the so many different parks in our island, happy for knowing that there would be so many different natural places for me to explore in future!

It is incredible that Singapore has packed so many natural and manmade wonders all inside our little island. The throngs of visitors to shopping centres on weekends are always mind-boggling and on the other hand, there are not many Singaporeans who frequent the natural reserves.

I believe it is a good thing that not many Singaporeans actually explore the natural reserves else these reserves would become ‘dumping grounds’ and their natural charms and serenity would be eroded by the mass intervention of human.

Ego

I hate to meet egoistic and arrogant people who will treat you as though you are invisible whenever they bump into you, reason being they believe they are very ‘high’, for being successful in business or careers, or they are part of a group of Singaporeans who lead charmed lives being automatically promoted rapidly and fast within certain organizations, though they have nothing much to show.

I hope they will learn a lesson of humility, I abhor these arrogant people.

Unbelievable

I love the answer ‘Unbelievable’ whenever someone seeks your opinions on certain matters and you would like to give an ambiguous answer.

‘Unbelievable’ could mean ‘Unbelievably Good’ or ‘Unbelievably Bad’.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tree Top Walk

(Part 2)
As I made my way down the tree top walk, I surmounted what seemed to be endless flights of stairs. Stairs after stairs, my usually strong legs slowly gave way to weariness. The descent proved equally or more tiring than the ascent to the tree top walk. And the terrain and slope were not particularly helpful too. Concrete gave way to mud, which gave way to gravel. The bends and turns of the road seemed never-ending, at this juncture, I could hear some complaints from trekkers nearby that they regret coming to trek here.

Personally, I find that if the navigation course through the forests was smooth-sailing, then it would defeat the purpose of coming to trek! Ruggedness, sweat and discomfort are the hallmarks of such treks. I was perspiring profusely, and at times panting as my strides were fast among the undergrowths.

I was inevitably exhausted from the trekking at times, and it could get lonely at times doing solo, and it was scary at times, witnessing how large trees had fallen, listening to the shuffling amidst the bushes and hearing some strange sound always emanating from the forests.

The sky grew darker and darker and it started to drizzle. Soon, the drizzle intensified into a moderate shower.


I was caught inside the hut at this juncture, facing two signposts: one to exit, the other to Jelutong Tower where one could witness some breathtaking scenery. I was caught in a dilemma, as much as I wanted to visit the Jelutong Tower, the muddy tracks became inundated with water, and the muddy water became like a stream. I could only give up my intended visit to the Tower and proceeded for the exit. I took out my umbrella from my bag and shielded me from the pattering rain.

It is not irregular or strange to have some showers in the water catchment areas like this forest. I could sense the difference between an urban shower with that in the catchment area. The rain that fell now seemed fresh, the droplets of water glistened as they pelt from the sky above.

As I made my way to the exit, to the hut from where I commenced my tree top walk, I could still see die-hard joggers making their way amidst the bushes in this growing rain. They may act ‘garang’ but they do not know the very danger of their act. They may not be scared of the heavy rain, did not mind to be drenched to the skin, but they have ignored the very dangerous risks of lighting, which can strike any person in the open, anytime and anywhere.


Despites armed with an umbrella, I was about 60% drenched as I finally entered the hut to seek a refuge from the ravages of the rain. It was around 330 pm then. I was lucky to reach the hut as now the rain had grown into a thunderstorm, thunders and lighting were the chorus of the day at the moment. The hut, actually a ranger station, to be exact was crowded with around 15 people, all soaking wet; with some joining us the ‘refugees’ at a later time, running fast into the station.

There were toilet facilities and water coolers in the station. Manning the ranger station was a National Parks staff who was closeted in his office, nevertheless ready to provide assistance when needed.

Few tourists asked him on location matters which he willingly acceded to. I asked him for some more copies of the maps which he also willingly assisted.

The crowd of us waited in the station for almost an hour when suddenly, the station suddenly became dark, including the staff’s office. Power trip caused by the thunderstorm! At this juncture, the staff sprang into action and took a mini-jeep to call for remedial assistance.

When the rain grew slightly smaller, I forked out my umbrella and began my descent down to Venus Drive. It was still pouring and there were some claps of thunder too. But, if I did not come down earlier, it would be very late, I did not want to waste time, and thus I took a calculated risk: the lighting threat seemed smaller now.


Navigating potholes containing muddy water, I made my way laboriously down the slope towards Venus Drive. The big leaves which I described earlier proved useful as some men trapped in the storm used it as umbrellas:

I slowly made my way back to Venus Drive, boarded a bus and headed back to Toa Payoh MRT station for a well-deserving lunch.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tree Top Walk

Today is Deepavali, a public holiday, which comes after the weekends, granting Singaporeans a long weekend, as we normally term it, to rest.

But I find Singaporeans should not rest home too long else boredom will set in, though in this economic gloom, more Singaporeans may be staying put at home to reduce their expenditures.

When it comes to public holidays, the Istana and the museums are open free to Singaporeans (Open house), but more or less these are the places I have visited before.

The adventurous streak in me struck and I decided to spend a day in touch with nature, to tame the forests and walk the HSBC Tree Top Walk in Macritchie Reservoir....solo.

I was ashamed of myself as here the tree top bridge was: open since the 5 Nov 2004 by MP Lim Hwee Hwa and 4 years have passed and I have not even gone to take a walk!

With must gusto and without further ado, I commenced on my plan for this fun expedition. And there I got the travelling information from my beloved SBS transit website on the travelling route to the tree top walk.

For me, I took a MRT to Toa Payoh station and from the air-conditioned bus interchange, I took Bus 163 and alighted at the 12th bus-stop (not counting the interchange itself): Thomson View Condo. The crucial road to note is Venus Drive, for it is the nearer route to the Tree-top walk: around 3.5km.. the other longer route to trek from Macritchie reservoir itself may be around 6 to 8 km or even longer. This is the first time I heard of Venus Drive, sound like the solar system thinggy. And there, I stopped at the 12th bus-stop:


And I saw the directional board which points to where Venus drive is:


and I walked in the direction as indicated by the signboard.


It was around 1330 hours at this time and the sun rays were unrelentingly hot! I walked up and down the long slope of road, and along the way, noted that all the roads along this road were named after the planets: Capricon, Jupiter, etc and thus the name Venus Drive was not alone.


After 15 minutes of trekking along the road, I could not locate Venus Drive, it then dawned on me that I could have taken the wrong route! True enough, my doubts were affirmed by a resident I asked and there I went down the slope again.



The actual Venus Drive was a minute walk AFTER the signboard which I have seen.




After locating Venus Drive, I just walked till I saw a carpark sign:



And at the end of the carpark, I finally found the marker which would kickstart the trail towards the Tree Top walk:


Further, a signboard welcomed me (as well as other trekkers):





I saw a family of three in front of me: all of them were holding some tree branches in their hands. They must be seasoned trekkers as I do not have anything in my hands, and I did not wear a hat. Anyway I could be 'Garang' if I wanted to as my two and a half years in National Service was spent in walking, trekking the thick bushes of Lim Chu Kang, Thailand, Brunei and Taiwan.

The road which appeared in front of me looked innocuous, which really underestimated what is to come later!



As I started on the road, me alone among the bushes, rugged terrains, with nature, with the flora and fauna, away from the maddening crowd of the city, the stupid office politics and some stupid people and thing, I feel at ease with myself and with nature. I feel back in army as I could sense the smell of jungle.

Signs are put up in a number of spots, advising trekkers to be alert to branches which could drop. And these are the real threats as I encountered many fallen trees along my trek, an example as below:



The terrain slowly gave way to more and more laborious types and the slopes become more and more unforgiving. Though I was travelling solo, there were some trekkers coming down the slope, walking in the opposite direction as I.



I encountered quite a number of interesting things along the way. Along this jungle trek, one should not just see, but should train his sense of ear and smell to the surroundings.

At times, I could hear some shuffling of movements among the leaves and there I saw some monkeys in the thick flora. One should not underestimate monkeys. One should not think monkeys are cute or harmless or they can win over these monkeys. Monkeys are cunning creatures and they could prove provocative. Armed with sharp paws, when they come in a pack, it is a no play play matter. Walk fast, do not stare at these monkeys, keep your equipments, cameras guarded. You are not in the zoo, whereby these monkeys are your captives, you are in THEIR terrority to be exact, so now who is scared of who?

Wow such a big leave, even bigger than 4 times my arms!


The treks proved more and more treacherous and I was able to confirm my locations inside the jungles by these helpful signboards scattered among the forests:



I was sweating profusely, my shirt stuck to me like a second skin. I could feel that it was not an easy trek, even though I was an avid and regular jogger. But trust me, such a workout, such a perspiration amidst nature can heal your soul. It is extremely relaxing, serving as a catharsis, a chicken soup for your soul.

Along the way, I noted this secret structure. Aiyah, must be an army camp again, such camps are always hidden in such ulu locations, I thought to myself. But I was wrong, this was a PUB service water reservoir:


And guess who are the guards of this station? I do not see any people but monkeys here and there around the fences, acting as though they were the security guards.. they may really prove effective, who knows?
As I headed down my journey, I was in the midst of real natural reserves, alone. The sky was cloudy, going to rain fast. I hastened my pace as the HSBC Tree Top Walk as not opened everyday. There is a certain timing of opening hours. I have to fasten my pace. It is quite scary at times, being alone, walking what seem to be an endless path and heading down to the unknown. Yesterday night, watched a film called 'Pulau Hantu' starring Carl Ng on the new channel Okto and I imagined I was the Rambo in the show, walking such rugged terrains fighting the ghosts.

Speaking of ghosts and spirits, it was a normal practice to say 'siam, siam': literally translated: 'Go, Go' as a mark of respect before one urines in the bushes. Such a phrase 'siam siam' does not seem polite to me, though using it, I am okay during NS days: you know what, on the most 'potent' fourteen of the seventh lunar month, I was on top of a hill in Lim Chu Kang at the stroke of midnight but I saw nothing I expected to see...Lucky sia! But there was one fellow who saw a being without a head and become mentally disturbed for a night and 'helping' the whole battalion to cancel the exercise. It was during an overseas exercise but I do believe that spirits like such quiet and humid places like the forests thus it would be EVEN SCARIER if one treks in the night in the forests I am trekking now!





Finally, I reached the Ranger Station where I knew I was not far from the Tree Top Walk already:


There are toilet facilities here as well as a water cooler. The ranger station provided good shelters against thunderstorms as well a good resting places.

I trekked up a steep steep slope and finally reached the stairs: start of the HSBC Tree Top Walk:





Finally reached the tree top walk. And for your information, just before stepping the bridge, a ranger in a station at the entrance of the bridge will advise you on what to do and what not to do.

Do not use your handphone on the bridge. At such altitude, your phone may serve as a lighting conductor and during thunderstorms, that is it!

Also do not walk back, just keep on walking front... the rule is this bridge is a forward looking bridge, walk forth and do not walk back in life. Just a joke, the simple reason is due to structural stability theories.

The bridge is only 250 metre in length thus it is not long and visitors may be disappointed as they trekked for long hours just to get to the bridge. However, in life, it is not the destination that matters, it is the journey: I believe the bonds between the members of each trekking group becomes stronger along the way, navigating the tough terrain:




What a breathtaking scenary:



After the bridge walk, I head up and down what seems to be the Great Wall of Singapore: endless flights of stairs.

And just as I thought that was the end of my adventure, I was wrong ... the Best (or rather the worst) is yet to come .. stay tuned to the sequel to find out what I have encountered!

melancholy ....

Meclancholy sets in today for me.

The economic crisis does have some impact on me, but there are also some little problems here and there in my life that needs a little tweaking.

Life is not a bed of rose, and in this difficult time, one may feel slightly gloomier.

Read on the newspaper yesterday, on a graduation ceremony of West Coast University (WCU) which was graced by MP for Joo Chiat constituency, Mr Chan Soo Sen.

Mr Chan Soo Sen explained in the newspapers that he was not aware that WCU was not an accreditted university and he had responded to this invitation via a GRL.

I pity those graduands from WCU who might not be aware that it was not really accredited. Imagine spending some thousands of dollars and efforts to obtain a certificate from a university deemed to be not worthy of recognition.

Worse still, now that it was reported in the newspapers, a joyous graduation for the graduates of WCU may become the beginning of the reckoning of the true worth of their certificate.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

National Library

I travel quite widely.... but within Singapore.

Happening to be in Bugis on Friday 24 Oct 08, I decided to visit the National Library and spent some time there.

There are quite a number of exhibitions taking place in the library:

Level 7: Singapore Travelling Exhibition



Level 8: EPSON and Nikon Photo exhibition




Level 9: Writers' Fair






I may be the first Singaporean to visit this Writers' Fair as the organizers were in the midst of setting up the exhibits and booths when I was there.
Level 10: Singapore Street exhibition


One may think that I have a most eventful day visiting the different exhibits but the whole library staff has a retreat that evening thus all the exhibits were closed... I visited the exhibitions on the outside only.
What a pity!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Southern Ridges

Part 7: Hort Park

Our last stop of the Southern Ridges trail is the Hort Park. This is our last stop, but not the last stop of the trail as there are still the Kent Ridge Park and the West Ridge Park for those determined to complete the whole of the Southern Ridges Trail.

I have described the Hort Park as a Jewel in the whole of the Southern Ridges, and here are the whys:


Generous offering of manicured and splendid gardens

Beautiful murals

Landscaped building with open-air cafes offering al fresho dining

Wonderful, tranquil, breathtaking scenary




Garden Home
After a long long day, treking the different terrains of the Southern Ridges, seeing so many flora and fauna and people, it is time to relax and unwind as we laid our backs on comfortable wooden resting cubes, stretching our backs and admiring the beautiful sky that is fast fading as night fell.
A popular saying is that it is the most beautiful at the moment just before night falls and to validate this saying, I captured the following picture for posterity:


With this, we come to the end of a beautiful trail of the Southern Ridges undertaken with my dear last Saturday.

Shopping Paradise

Bugis is one of my favorite hangouts. Since the late of last year, I have been noticing a building slowly taking shape quietly amidst the hustle and bustle of the vicinity.


Without a doubt, it must be a shopping centre again! or could I be wrong?



I am not sure what this building will be, but I believe it may be a shopping centre to-be. If so, alongside with this shopping centre, there will be a shopping mall just besides Tampines MRT station, called Tampines One and the Ion in Orchard coming up soon (construction works already taking place quite a number of months ago).

No wonder, Singapore is lauded and touted as a Shopping Paradise!

Southern Ridges

Part 6: Alexandra Arch





This is the Alexandra Arch, a bridge linking the Forest Walk to the Hort Park.

Alexandra Arch proves a little bit disappointing as it is just a bridge, nothing impressive, save for the design maybe.

However, Alexandra Arch led my Dear and I to the Hort Park, the BEST atttraction of the Southern Ridges trail, and it is even better than Mount Faber, in my opinion. It is the Jewel of the Southern Ridges Trail!

In my next post, I would be showing you why the Hort Park is this Jewel.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Busy as Bee

The story for today is short: I am Busy the whole of this week and just come back from my commitments and will not be sleeping anytime soon cos still got lots of things to do.

In Life, I have lots of committments in many aspects of life, but I am always humbled by some whom I know have even many committements with heavier responsibilities in life.. they are successful in life: work, family, community,health.... and these are the exemplars of life I aspire to be.

And one of my committement is blogging, one of my favorite pastimes too, thus even though I am now seriously running short of time: tomorrow got important matters to settle, here I am, still blogging some sentences here and there.

Sorry, I will not be describing to you the Alexandra Arch here tonight because I am going off now.. trying to rush off some work and capping off with a major week soon.... on Saturday... haiz weekends are also busy too...

ciao!

Information overload !

These days, my brain is overload with information and information.. till it feels so heavy.

Been ten of years before since my brain feels this way.

I remember some scholars told me in future the assimilation of data into man would be made via a USB transfer! Then kids do not need to spend 20 years of their life studying to get a degree... just plug the USB cable into their brain and within 20 seconds, they master 20 years of education!

Sounds interesting and impossible, but with technology's phantom advance, nothing is impossible! Cloning can be already be done, what is impossible then?

Southern Ridges

Part 5: Hilltop Walk and Forest Walk

After the stint at the Henderson Waves, it is just natural to proceed to the next attraction on the Southern Ridges trails.. which is the Hilltop Walk.



To bear justice to its name, the Hilltop walk is really a walk down the hill not along the contours of the hill definitely, for it is suicidal to walk down the hill in such a manner! In actual, it is a descent down the hill via metallic steel bridges which zigzag down in a magnificent manner, forming a colossal art piece, carrying people, strollers and joggers amidst the natural landscape.

Once you reach the equilibrium, zero degreee, you are at the starting of the Forest Walk. In fact, since the Forest Walk is also to be made via the metallic bridges seamlessly connected to those of the Hilltop Walk, for once, I thought the whole combination of both bridges is just the Hilltop Walk.

But it is not, and the logic is simple, metallic bridges down the hill: Hilltop Walk, metallic bridge along the forest: Forest Walk, it is just simple as that.

And after the Forest Walk, the attraction will be Alexandra Arch. At this time in writing, I wonder why the attraction is named as Alexandra Arch... is the structure shaped like the arch of a bow carried by Alexandra the Great? I googled for the word 'Alexandra Arch' but was greeted with the name of this Singapore bridge only, thus Alexandra Arch may not be something that is passed down from legend or myth but a term coined by some smart Singapore Alex(andra).

Can anyone tell me why it is called Alexandra Arch and not Noah Arc(h)?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bridges Story

There are quite a number of bridges in Singapore. Bridges, especially the historical ones have stood the annals of time. They are part of Singapore's rich cultural past and each has a story to tell.

One of the most famous bridges is the Elgin Bridge in Singapore. Many Singaporeans would have passed the bridge at one point in their life before or would also have certainly seen it. It may be a shame that many Singaporeans, though knowing the bridge, may not know its name.

I like Elgin Bridge because it is a beautiful bridge, spanning across the two banks of the Singapore river, and across the finanical banks of the Central Business District too.


It appears not only beautiful but also strong and steady.

The two weeks where Singapore hosted the F1 in September last month was also the inaugural Singapore River Festival. Elgin Bridge (see picture above) came alive at night!
I believe it would be even better that in addition to the beautification of the bridges in Singapore River, for future Singapore River Festivals, the authorities could publicise the rich cultural history of Elgin Bridge to Singaporeans, young and old, for this is the bridge which is inextricably linked to Singapore and Singaporeans!

Southern Ridges

Part 4 : Henderson Waves

As mentioned earlier in the previous related posts, the whole of the Southern Ridges trail is dotted with signages indicating the various landmarks of the trail. However for once or twice, the signages indicating to Henderson Waves from Mount Faber grow wanting, thus it becomes challenging for my Dear and I to navigate our way out of Mount Faber as the thought of whether we have chosen the correct path to take us to Henderson Waves constantly filled us.

We went down a slope, where the signage 'To Telok Blangah' pointed, we passed a structure which in my opinion, might be a foreign embassy undergoing some renovation works.



Going down, we saw the signage as follows:

and we knew that we were on the right track. Minutes later, we were greeted by a structure:

and there it was: Henderson Waves!

We were at Henderson Waves finally, the first time for both of us ! The view from the Henderson Waves bridge is breathtaking as it is a bridge suspended at a great height.

The bridge offers very spacious standing room, with comfortable seats scattered at intervals,


but it was unsettling to sit on them as there were quite some monkeys around, strutting their stuff, posting to be photographed, occasionally grimacing, looking threatening! One monkey, to the horror of other 'spectators' and I, actually urined in front of us! What a Sight!

Before venturing off to the next stop on the Southern Ridges trail: Hilltop walk, we rested on some resting benches at the end of the Henderson Waves trail. There was an information counter and two vending machines dispensing canned drinks at quite a price. It pays to be equiped with your own litres of water.



After a brief rest, we set off for the Hilltop walk.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Southern Ridges

Part 3 :Mount Faber

After conquering the Marang trail, you will reach the summit of Mount Faber, partaking in the breathtaking scenary:



You will be greeted with a posh restaurant called 'The Jewel Box', whose entrance is decorated with pictures of the owner with the dignitaries and luminaries of the nation.


The restaurant offers an unparalled scenary of our island, amidst a luxurious setting. Prices of the menu are not cheap, I suppose.



After a relaxing stop at the summit of the little hill, let us proceed to Henderson Waves!

Here is a snippet at what you would expect to see at Henderson Waves:

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