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hiking, travel

When I learned that there were several hiking / walking trails here in Singapore, I told myself I would go to as many of those as I can. I’ve been here for 6 years and, so far, I have been to…a few of them.

The National Parks Board is the organization in charge of all the gardens, parks, nature reserves, nature reservoirs, and heritage sites in Singapore. Basically, everything nature, clean and green. I’m impressed with the way they have built the cityscape around all the greenery. A literal concrete jungle!

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The Forest Trail bridge is connected to the Alexandra Arch and leads all the way to Henderson Waves.

So far, among those listed in National Parks, the ones I’ve been to are: Singapore Botanic Gardens, MacRitchie Reservoir Park, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and all the parks and nature reserves connected to the Southern Ridges – Labrador Nature Reserve, Kent Ridge Park, HortPark, Telok Blangah Hill Park, and Mount Faber Park. I am fortunate to be able to visit other parks during our school outings: Fort Cannning Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Bukit Batok Nature Park, East Coast Park, Punggol Waterway.  Anyway, the ones I’ll share about here are my personal trips.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens is the place I go to the most. Not only is it the closest one to where I live, but it is also a great place to go jogging and/or walking. In the years I’ve frequented the Botanic Gardens, it’s nice to see the same groups of people still coming for their regular fitness regimes. You will see various types of activities – tai chi, wushu, aerobics, as well as groups that do hardcore fitness exercises like HIIT (very fascinating to watch, I tell you).

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Here, you’ll also see people of different age groups walking, jogging, exercising, resting, practicing for a group activity, or just enjoying the view. And who can blame them? This place is super photogenic!

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Of course, mingling with the animals is fun too!

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I don’t think I’ve covered every square meter of the Botanic Gardens. It is a big place. Plus, there are so many areas to wander into that I get distracted and take a lot of time there. Oh well, there’s always next time…

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Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

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Bukit Timah Hill is the tallest hill in Singapore. And because I’ve missed the mountains in the Philippines, I was looking forward to hiking here. This space is 163 hectares and includes one of the country’s primary rainforestYou can really see that a big portion of the rainforest grounds were really retained. I felt like I was hiking in Batangas, Philippines!

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Of course, it was also important to make the trails more convenient for a lot of people, especially the elderly. After all, health is something people in Singapore value a lot.

In each of the nature reserve or park I’ve been to, I always see senior citizens walking or exercising. It’s an inspiration and something I vow to do as well. Hopefully, my legs are still strong when I hit 80!

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Hiking with friends is always fun!

MacRitchie Reservoir Park

So far, among the parks and nature reserves I’ve been to, MacRitchie is my absolute favorite. It is the combination of forests, mountains, and bodies of water that always gets to me. The country’s first reservoir, MacRitchie is also a place for water sports (kayaking anyone?).

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When I went there, the staff told me that I needed to be certified to use their kayaks (Really?! I promise to wear a life jacket!). But a friend told me otherwise. Hmm, I will need to check again. 😉

Oh, and there’s a fishing ground too!

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Just like the other nature reserves, people come for outdoor activities like running, trekking…and sleeping. After all, it’s hard to beat relaxing under the canopy of trees with the fresh air blowing on your face.

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To me, the highlight of MacRitchie Reservoir Park is the TreeTop Walk.  It took me about an hour and a half to get there. Not that I mind. It’s always a thrill to hike through the forests, though not as much when you get to the steeper part on your way to the top!

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But once you get there, all your blood, sweat and tears become worth it! Okay, so hopefully it’s just sweat…

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Walking down the path after the TreeTop Walk, you’re lucky if you don’t encounter a lot of monkeys. On my first hike there, I did not see any furry creature around. But the last time…I wasn’t so fortunate. I was surrounded by families of monkeys! One or two, I can handle and easily ignore. Which was what I did on my way down from the TreeTop Walk.

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But once I reached the rough trails, wow…it was like a welcoming party. Though it didn’t feel so welcoming at all. I love animals – a lot of them. But because of this encounter, I discovered that big groups of monkeys TERRIFY me.

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This was just the first lot I encountered. As you can see, the photo is terribly blurred – because I was shaking when I took the shot! At this point, I was contemplating whether to turn back and go the other direction. But that would take me at least 2 hours. Hiking along this path will just be less than an hour long. Decisions, decisions…

So I took a deep breath, kept my camera in my bag, prayed for the courage of a thousand dragons, and walked all the way to the end. As much as I could, I avoided eye contact. I didn’t read about this in some encyclopedia or Wiki but, I realized, a human’s survival instinct is REAL. I found out from a friend that I did the right thing (*fist pump*). Along the trail, there were more than double the number of this group of monkeys in the photo. I even had to stop because a male monkey (who was guarding his mate and baby) lunged towards another male monkey after they had a stare-down (REALLY?! Just like walking through a frat party). If I wasn’t so scared, I would have taken my camera out. It was a Nat Geo moment, I tell you! Unfortunately, you’ll just have to take my word for it. At least I survived to tell the tale.

Labrador Nature Reserve

This is actually part of the Southern Ridges trail (see below) but I went here first and on a separate day.

The first part of the hike is Berlayer Creek, just outside the Labrador Park MRT station. This will lead you into the forest trail, where you’ll encounter different birds and insects, as well as mangroves and, of course, the creek.

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After traversing the forest trail, you will be greeted with a view of the sea.

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Labrador Park is steeped with history. Along the trail you will see remnants of the second World War left behind by the British during their colonization many years ago.

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A replica of the legendary Dragon’s Teeth Gate

“The Dragon Teeth Gate was identified back in the 14th century by the ancient mariner Wang Da Yuan who noted in his travels that Fujian mariners knew these two outcrops as ‘Long Ya Men’ as it reminded them of the two pegs at the bow of their ships, between which passed the ship’s anchor. This iconic outcrop was however blown up in 1848 to widen the western channel access to Keppel Harbour.”source

What’s interesting about the trail along Labrador Park is that, after going through the forest and historical sites, you will suddenly be transported to the modern (and uber luxurious!) world that is Reflections at Keppel Bay. It was like a reminder that, yes, I am still in current day Singapore. Time to do some house hunting…wait, I need to park my yacht first.

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The Southern Ridges

“Comprising 10 km of green, open spaces that connect Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve, these ridges are an alternative for walking enthusiasts, history buffs, shutterbugs, nature lovers, bird watchers and families looking for a different kind of family outing.” – from their official site

This was the trail I hiked just recently, during my December break. I’ve been to one part of the trail (Labrador Park Nature Reserve) so I didn’t spend a lot of time there anymore. Instead, I took the path from Kent Ridge Park all the way to Mt. Faber Park. You can read all about the whole Southern Ridges trail here.

Kent Ridge Park

Kent Ridge Park felt a lot like Camp John Hay in Baguio, Philippines. I almost expected fog.

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Just keep going…through the Canopy Walk

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History lesson at the park

And you reach HortPark.

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It clearly felt like a concrete jungle when I was here. As you walk under the shade of the trees, you will see the surrounding infrastructures. It’s wonderful how easy it is for one to find a space to relax and unwind in the middle of the city.

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I like that they have these glasshouses to care for numerous plant and flower species. Horticulture at HortPark!

At the end of HortPark, you will reach Alexandra Arch, which links you to the Forest Walk and Floral Walk. These are overlooking Telok Blangah Hill Park.

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If you go down the staircase, you can walk along the other parts of the park, such as the Alkaff Mansion and the Forest of Giants. But since I was enjoying being high above the forest, I continued on until I reached Henderson Waves.

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The view from Henderson Waves. Just like a scale model of the city!

Mt. Faber Park

At the end of the Southern Ridges is Mt. Faber Park, just near the Harbourfront area. It’s a popular tourist destination, especially because of the cable cars. You can actually take a ride from the peak, which will bring you to Sentosa.

Other highlights at the peak of Mt. Faber are the big bell that you can ring to bring in good luck, the small bells where you write your wishes (or in the case of the photo below, a thought-provoking question), the restaurant Spuds and Aprons, and the colorful staircase.

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“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Sloping downwards from the peak is the Marang Trail. It was the tail of my hike and I knew that lunch was calling. Legs, don’t fail me now!

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And after that…

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…you will see the light at the end of that loooonnnngggg tunnel trail.

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You see that car over there? It means you’ve reached the main road! Just a few minutes away and you’re at Vivo City! Lunch, here I come!

If you’ve read until this point in my post, congratulations! Whew, that was a long one. Almost as long as the Southern Ridges. Almost…

Now I’ve only touched a small part of the list under National Parks. Whether I will be able to go to all of them is still a question. Nevertheless, it’s comforting to know that, even if Singapore is a small country compared to its neighbors, there are still a lot of opportunities to encounter nature. Hopefully, no more monkeys in the future ones.

Until next hike!

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