One of the things I loved most about Sydney was that the beach was only a 15-minute car ride from the CBD. Similarly, in Singapore you can ride the train for 15 minutes and reach a variety of nature trails. Last weekend the hubs and I “hiked” (I use that term loosely, as the entirety was paved and he wore flip-flops) the Southern Ridges, which offered lots of beautiful scenery, interesting vegetation, and a nice break from Singapore’s typical hyper-modern crowded-ness.
We took the MRT to Harbourfront Station, where you can exit directly onto the Marang Trail (my love for Singapore’s easy-to-read lettered subway exits knows no bounds). From there we walked for about 10 minutes up some steps until we basically summitted Mount Faber (which, despite standing at a whopping 344 feet, isn’t the highest point in Singapore — that’s Bukit Timah). For part of the way we were under the lush jungle canopy (we walked quickly during those parts for fear of snakes), then came out into a clearing in which we could see the Sentosa Cable Car and the various oil refinery islets just off the mainland (pictured above).
After taking in the breeze on a bench adjacent to a perfectly manicured park (while a caravan of tour buses chugged past), we continued on the road through Mount Faber Park. Along the way we passed The Jewel Box, which is meant to be one of the most romantic dining spots in Singapore. I mean, the views are nice, but given the aforementioned tour buses and the screaming children running around outside, I was rather underwhelmed. At night it could be a totally different vibe, though.
We continued walking through Telok Blangah Park, and even though we were just walking on a sidewalk on the side of the road, it was incredibly peaceful and quiet. I guess it made me realize how rare it is to be completely alone here. At certain clearings you could see an endless sea of pastel-colored HDB flats in the valley below, but it was still kind of picturesque.
Of course, that tranquility was disturbed ever so slightly when a giant lizard scurried past us on the sidewalk. I think I jumped about a foot in the air. The hubs actually managed to get a photo of it; the angle totally makes it look a lot smaller than it was in real life, I can assure you (bottom right):
Next we came upon the Terrace Garden, which was beautifully landscaped (though less purple than the pictures on the National Parks website would indicate). Of course, due to the debilitating humidity – by far the most challenging aspect of any hike or walk in Singapore – we couldn’t be bothered to climb the steps to the top of the garden to take in its reputed 360-degree views of Singapore. It looked nice even from the bottom, though:
Although the trails were marked in a slightly confusing way, we eventually found our way to the Forest Walk, a metal walkway stretching along the treetops. I have a bit of a fear of heights so at times I had to take deep breaths and remember not to look down, but it’s definitely very cool to wind your way through the dense jungle canopy, not to mention spot all sorts of birds and giant insects. It constantly amazes me how fast-growing everything here is; though I’m sure maintenance crews keep a close eye on the walkway, there were still some vines creeping up along the bottom at points. There were also frequent signs warning of reported attacks by violent monkeys (you know you’ve lived here a while when you don’t even bother to photograph those signs because they’re commonplace, doh!).
Eventually we came to the Henderson Waves Bridge, which I’d been wanting to cross ever since I saw it from the highway en route to Sentosa. Although the bridge isn’t quite as undular as its external appearance might suggest, it’s still a visually interesting structure with curved edges and light wood that feels more like a ship deck or a boardwalk than a bridge more than 100 feet in the air:
Our walk concluded at the HortPark, a very unique spot where the government tests out and grows all sorts of flowers, trees and shrubbery for public landscaping. It’s sort of like a miniature, very tidy botanical garden, and also includes a butterfly house (sadly closed when we stopped by), heaps of kids’ activities, and a somewhat swanky restaurant space called Vineyard overlooking all the gardens. By the time we got there the heat had sapped most of our energy so we were mostly psyched just to down a can of Diet Coke and sit on a bench in the shade, but I think it would be a neat spot to visit on its own.
We ultimately walked somewhere between 6-8k, but it was never particularly arduous or challenging other than the copious amounts of sweat I needed to wipe from my brow. We’ve also visited Bukit Timah, which does feature actual wooded trails, and I’ve heard that MacRitchie Reservoir is similarly rustic, so I look forward to trying that sometime soon.
All the same, I really enjoyed the quiet, the fresh air, and the mix of typical Singapore manicured landscaping with the lush and verdant forest below. Because the walkways are kind of broken up into little chunks, and since they’re basically all either paved or wooden, we passed lots of people with little kids and strollers. I think it’s great that “nature” is so accessible. We took a 5-minute cab ride back to HarbourFront (btw, VivoCity is the world’s most chaotic and stressful mall, amirite?), where we rewarded ourselves with some beers at Brotzeit and a shopping trip to Cold Storage. Rainforests, lizards, architectural gems, and shopping malls …. just a typical Sunday afternoon in Singapore.
For a good overview of the above-mentioned sites, click here for more info on the Southern Ridges.