Friday, 5 December 2014

Railway Walks

View from Holland Park Road Bridge
It is not often in the midst of a major conurbation that you get the opportunity to escape to the countryside but we've discovered Singapore's equivalent of Richmond Park, London. Rather than a huge medieval deer hunting park this particular rural gem is long and thin; it was once the Malaysia railway line that ran from Woodlands in the north of the island down to the old main station at Tanjong Pajar in the south. Some 17 or 18 kilometres of jungle lined space where, being set mostly in cuttings, traffic noise hardly penetrates.

This rural park has survived the developer mainly it seems because the ownership was disputed for years after the railway was defunct. The Malaysians took away "their" railway track in 2001 leaving just the muddy bed on which it had been laid. In a few areas the neighbours have extended their gardens into the fringes but for the most part it is a single continuous right of way across the island from north to south. All the roads cross on bridges above and below nature has had a free hand. Its name "The Green Corridor" is well deserved.

Landed properties fringe the line
This massive bridge supports a big road junction
Being in a dip and it being monsoon season the walker quickly realises that the drainage is not good. The trail is extremely muddy in parts with quite deep puddles under one or two of the bridges too. Sturdy shoes or wellies rather than flipflops are advised. The trackside trees and shrubs offer little shade from the equatorial sun so its best explored early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Take plenty of water too as there are few convenient stores along the way without climbing up to the road level and making a detour.

Before heading off we printed off the excellent maps provided by the Green Corridor's own website and worked out which bus stop or MRT station to start from. Public transport in Singapore is excellent and together with phone apps like xxxxx and xxxx it is easy to work out the quickest route to almost anywhere on the island. Bus stops have numbers and names and yet another number on the bus shelter which can be a bit confusing at first but you soon work out which bits of info are the most useful in which app. Armed with a topped up ezLink card we set off for the Holland Road Bridge, not far from where we stayed when we first arrived and just a short walk from a bus route which also runs close by our Valley Park apartment.

Presumably this school running track is no longer used!

Innovative engineering! The ironing board bridge

Drainage works at Buona Vista meant a short detour

Holland Road crosses the Green Corridor about the mid way point and once we had scrambled down the embankment (there was an easier way onto the walk from a local street we spied a few minutes later) Kevin & I headed south. This stretch is very popular with walkers, runners and cyclists but within a couple of kilometres we had the path to ourselves. There is plenty to see - the back gardens of the Black and White colonial era houses in the Alexandria area, modern office blocks towering above us around Buona Vista as well as new-to-us trees, plants and birds plus the occasional squirrel. We managed two sections of the maps down as far as Queensway Road which equated to around 4 km in all. It was late morning, the sun was high and the thunder clouds stating to pile up time to call a halt to our exploration. The pair of muddy and thirsty expat walkers suddenly appearing over the crash barrier at the edge of the bridge rather surprised motorists stopped at the Alexander/AYE junction!

Thunder clouds building

You could be anywhere but in the
middle of a densely populated city

Sunday morning volley ball

A few remaining railway sleepers

Mosque seat with cherry blossom!

The end of our walk
A short walk past the Alexandria Hospital brought us to Queensway shopping centre where the golden arches provided two large helpings of cold drinks. Then it was time to find a bus home. Kevin uses the buses hereabouts for his weekday commute as Valley Park is the opposite end of Alexandra Road to his office. Few buses actually go along the entire length of the road, most use short stretches of it and do loops back and forth between it and parallel roads; hence he tried to explain but I didn't grasp that you have to get on a bus apparently heading the wrong way! Eventually we sorted ourselves out by checking the phone apps several times and found a bus from by the hospital that would stop outside of our complex having taken us on a tour of Redhill, an area further along the south-eastern side of the hill upon which we live. Buses are a great way to see Singapore too. 

And we have a lot more of this beautiful strip of Singapore to explore over the coming months.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

A So So Day Out

Aviary waterfall
Having arrived at the island of Singapore, dropped the metaphorical hook and sorted ourselves out, our natural next step is to explore wherever it is this pair of globetrotting sailors have washed up. And preferring to avoid the usual tourist traps, posh hotels, brunches etc we recently decided to visit Jurong Bird Park located deep in the western industrial area of Singapore.

Getting there was an easy trip along the PIE (the Pan Island Expressway). Finding somewhere to park was another matter as the signage got you off the main road but missed the last vital step of an immediate left turn; we found ourselves heading up the hill above the park. Nice views of the Jurong shipyards from below the satellite station! Eventually we realised what looked like a lorry park exit was also the carpark entrance!

The park itself nestles on the hillside wth lots of ponds, enclosures and a huge walk-in aviary complete with 100 foot waterfall. Apart from the penguins who were a sorry looking bunch mostly interested in their compatriots staring at them from the mirrored wall, most of the birds were from Asia and therefore exotic - Jurong's claim that it is "where colour lives" is indeed true. NB: Do penguins do anything other than stand around in large huddles anyway?

Looks like a Dodo...

Add caption

The local wildlife has made itself at home!

Shaggy pelicans... look more like cuddly toys!

Our tactic of arriving just after mid-morning and leaving when extreme hunger set in during the early afternoon meant we missed all the shows - parrots feeding, hawks flying, pelicans being fed and so on.  Despite this we enjoyed our walk especially in the big jungle filled aviary where the punk pigeons, the purple finches and the brilliantly coloured starlings kept us entertained. Setting a bird park in a tropical region is genius - the exotic rainforest plants with their blowsy blooms and generous greenery make a superb backdrop for the splashes of colour of feathers of every hue. Seeing lovebirds not paired up on a perch in a UK petshop, but flying freely back and forth from a bird table covered in fruit and seed was a treat with their trim colouring and beady white rimmed eyes - they do look like they have been painted. The flamingoes splashing through the fountain and sifting the mud around the lake shore looked completely at home even though they are normally found in much drier climes.

However when it came to feeding ourselves we discovered that the food on offer was, like many an attraction the world over, mediocore at best. The big bowls of luke warm laksa, Singapore's national dish were a travesty, one prawn, tastless noodles and little of the coconutty spicyness that makes this a favourite comfort food everywhere on the island. As we ate we realised many of our fellow diners were leaving their food almost untouched. Next time we'll come earlier or later to catch the morning or afternoon shows and plan to eat elsewhere.
Even starlings and pigeons manage to look exotic

My favourite - the punk pigeon!