Where’s Wallis? Six months in Singapore

Where in the World is Wallis? Let’s just say I was somewhat neglectful of writing during a whirlwind 6 months in Singapore, so I will do my very best to wrap up some of the highlights from the 1H 2021 here!

The view flying into Singapore – the Singapore Strait is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world

2021… what a year to move countries (twice – if you include the move back) I won’t go into the full details, because I could fill separate posts alone just on the logistics, the FORMS (so. many. forms.) the comparison of Singapore’s high tech, nimble home-quarantine scheme (complete with house-arrest style GPS device) to Australia’s archaic paper forms, sitting on a bus for two hours with other arrivals, only to stand in front of the police for 15 minutes whilst they typed the paper form into the system, to then go into a room with no opening windows for 2 weeks… no no no that isn’t what this post is about… but if anyone has any questions on any of that process just reach out.

My snazzy Singapore stay home GPS device sending me notifications about my upcoming COVID test

So what were the highlights? For me, having moved there expecting a high-density concrete jungle, the biggest surprise about Singapore was the abundance of fantastic outdoor spaces and activities. The majority of my free time was spent walking or jogging (let’s be realistic… mainly walking….) or cycling to explore. I was super fortunate to meet some great like-minded people who were also happy to spend their weekends adventure walking or cycling around the island, which made it all much more enjoyable.

Park Royal hotel: Even the urban CBD buildings are part building, part garden

I also love how much a part of the culture exercising is there. In Sydney, people seem to either be running fast, or not at all. In Singapore, I was staying on the river so would often go out for a sunset stroll, and people of all ages and sizes were out for runs/shuffles/walks along the river, and using the community exercise equipment or doing Tai Chi around a tree. I think it’s a testament to the focus that has gone into making walking and cycling inclusive and accessible through green space, national parks, and ‘Park Connector Networks‘ to link them up.

Strava ‘heatmap’ of the routes I covered on foot or bike

Top walks

  • The Botanic Gardens: this was actually my favourite place in all of Singapore. Every time I went I discovered a little pathway leading somewhere new and just felt so calm!
Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Walk of Giants @ Botanic Gardens
Botanic Gardens lawn
Henderson Waves
The Terrace Gardens at Telok Blangah Hill Park along the Southern Ridges – the bike ride up here has a steep little kicker at the end too!
  • Bukit Timah, Hindhede Quarry and Dairy Farm loop – 6 years in Australia and I’ve only seen a couple of snakes – saw one in my first month in Singapore at Bukit Timah, along with wild boar, turtles and monkeys!
Hindhede Quarry
Lower Peirce Reservoir
  • The Rail Corridor – we started at the Rail Mall near Bukit Timah and walked to the Southern Terminus. I believe the full path is now open so you can do 24km from north to south across Singapore – Nparks webpage
Rail corridor in progress
Refreshing yuzu soda at the southern end of the Rail Corridor walk
  • Sungei Buloh wetland reserve – Sungei Buloh means Bamboo River in Malay. This area is a ASEAN heritage park and is given focussed conservation status due to its significance as a stop-off point on the global migratory paths of birds.
Eid sunrise from Sungei Buloh looking over the Johore Strait to Johur Bahru, Malaysia – it was pretty magical hearing the Eid morning prayers echoing across the water from JB
Sungei Buloh Wetlands
  • MacRitchie Reservoir loop and MacRitchie –> Bukit Timah –> Little Guilin – MacRitchie is a very popular walk, for good reason as it is stunning but I would recommend going early (car park opens 7am) and avoiding on public holidays if you can. The boardwalks are reasonably narrow and it wouldn’t surprise me if a few people have ended up in the water on crowded days!
Sunrise over the steaming jungle from Jelutong Tower – MacRitchie Reservoir
A fun little cut through between Rifle Range Road and the back of Bukit Timah
  • Sentosa loop – Sentosa is home to Universal Studios, bungee jumping and some of Singapore’s beaches – although during COVID restrictions you had to book your slot on the beach!
Sentosa Island
The local Singapore Otters snoozing by the river one night. These guys have the run of the waterways all around Singapore and it wasn’t uncommon to hear a high pitched squeak on a walk followed by a flurry of otter action – this was the most relaxed I saw them though!
Family von otters in the Botanic Gardens
Clarke Quay – the restaurants here were still pretty busy despite on/off restrictions
Clarke Quay at sunset on the walk home along the river
  • Gardens by the Bay, Cloud Forest and Supertrees – Gardens by the Bay is a very impressive project, it opened in 2012 and cost ~$1BN to build. You can walk around the majority of the gardens for free, and just have to buy tickets for the domes (Cloud Forest and Flower Dome) and the Supertrees and Skywalk.
Supertree Grove by night – I went to the daily light show which you can watch from the skywalk bridge (shown here), I also went up to the viewing platform at the top of the most super supertree, but preferred the skywalk as the trees look better from below than above.
Views from the Supertree skywalk – human for scale
Supertrees by day – the 18 supertrees have over 150,000 plants on them, and along with looking striking act as a part of the garden’s eco-system: 11 of the ‘trees’ have solar PV cells on the top to produce energy and they act as exhaust outlets for the flower dome and cloud forest and as rainwater collection areas
Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay
View from outside the Flower Dome
  • Last but definitely not least… in fact, longest… the 35km ‘Coast to Coast’ trail note we didn’t follow the official trail the whole way, and took a much more scenic route in the middle
Coast to Coast crew
The ‘Adventure Bridge’ about 30+kms into the Coast to Coast
We made it!! 35kms and some sore calves later, arriving at Punggol/Coney Island

Top cycles

Upper Seletar Reservoir view from the ‘Seletar Rocket Tower’ – the last time I came here a couple had just got engaged up there and I became their proposal photographer! 🙂 Singapore zoo is just across the water, giving a good natural barrier for any animal escapees
Little Guilin – another ex-granite quarry turned beautiful view point!
Tuas lamppost 1 – due to land reclamation at the Port there are now another ~200 lampposts past it… but this is the furthest point the public can access
  • About as many hills as you’re going to find in Singapore, unless you’re doing repeats of Mount Faber
Top of Mount Faber sweaty selfie
Followed by satay dinner at Lau Pa Sat (many more satay sticks still to arrive at the table…)
  • My solo ride airport loop – the stretch out by the airport was a time-trial biker’s delight – flat, straight and fast
Sunrise at East Coast park – this was my rest stop by 7-Eleven where I’d have an iced coffee break
So happy to be at the scenic jetty – far North West of the Island, up in Kranji Marshes, only about 1km from Malaysia across Straits of Johor, but as the signs made clear, a few crocs standing in between!
Servo rehydration stops – cycling in Singapore is v sweaty work
And making it all worthwhile – the post ride breakfast at Sarnies. Sponsored by MAAP.
Both Coney Island and Pulau Ubin can be walked around, or you can hire bikes – I’d recommend bikes for both as can cover a lot more ground and it’s only around $8/hr – make sure you take lots of water!
Coney Island beach – think this was the excitingly named ‘Beach Area C’
Puaka Hill viewpoint – Pulau Ubin

I did both these trips on my own and got amusing reactions from taxi drivers when they asked where I was going: “Pulau Ubin…. on your own?? You are very brave” – amusing since Singapore is probably one of the safest places on earth, and at no time did I even feel uncomfortable, let alone concerned by being on my own.

However in classic Caitlin style I was a bit early and keen for Pulau Ubin… it was Easter Sunday and I had heard that the ‘bum boats’ go from Changi Ferry Terminal from 7am but only when there are enough passengers. This meant I had to hang around for a while, and when we did set off shortly before 7.30 it was me and a boat full of fishermen!

The bum boats at Changi Ferry Terminal – it’s about a 10 minute ride over to Pulau Ubin
We went the opposite way to our usual Sunday cycle in order to get the West Coast highway out the way first before it was too busy. This was sunrise over the bridge out of Krangi marshes – Sungei Buloh wetlands and Malaysia just to the left here
Almost home…. about 110ks in and still some semi-smiles
Very grateful to have met such good people to ride and explore SG with!

And a few less active things….

  • Chinese New Year and Eid: another thing I loved about Singapore was the diversity of people, cultures, food and religion (also great for lots of public holidays…)
Chinese New Year – Year of the Ox. CNY celebrations were shortly after I arrived in Singapore. I went for an evening walk through Chinatown and found little spot for a delicious dinner.
Evening at the Sultan Mosque in Kampong Gelam during Ramadan. The restaurants along the streets were filled with families waiting to break their fast for the day.
  • ‘Staycation’ at Marina Bay Sands:
The famous infinity pool on the roof of MBS: COVID restrictions meant guests could only go for 1hr per day, but this also meant it was lovely and quiet (the rain probably helped!!)
View from my room at MBS over the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Strait beyond…
Along with the infinity pool (which faces west and looks over the city), there were jacuzzis facing the east – perfect for a sunrise coffee!
MBS hotel by night
The Art Science museum – I got discounted entry with my stay and went to 2 exhibitions: the Future World light exhibition (brilliant, lots of kids there loving it!) and the Planet or Plastic exhibition (sobering)
Art Science museum
Sembawang Hot Spring Park – Singapore’s only natural hot spring. Slightly underwhelming but very hot with the geothermal waters coming out at around 80 degrees – complete with egg boiling station.
The Merlion – the iconic mythical mascot of Singapore: head of a lion, body of a fish
  • Singapore Zoo & Night Safari – the zoo and night safari are on the same piece of land but are two different attractions. You could do them in one day, but I’d recommend splitting it up so that you don’t get tired of walking and reach a state of animal apathy (oh, another leopard...”). The set up is done very well as a sort of fenceless zoo with moats (or ‘hahas’ as we bizarrely call them in the UK) so that the animals aren’t going to get too close – although the sign saying that the tigers could jump 10mtrs from stationary was slightly disconcerting.
Elephant feeding time

You might have noticed one thing that I’ve largely omitted so far that that Singapore might actually be most famous for…. and that is its food! Now I didn’t take hundreds of food snaps, and there are many, MANY, food blog, vlogs and instas you can check out for SG eats, but it’s safe to say my kitchen did not get a whole lot of love whilst I was there – hard to justify cooking when the Zion hawker centre was 100m up the road with $1.50 fresh juice and $3.50 chicken rice meals!

A wonderful experience all round and hoping I make it back there soon. Whilst lots of folk who have lived in Singapore a while were understandably getting frustrated by the lack of travel – the location and ease of travel being a key drawcard of living there, for me it was the perfect excuse to get to see more of Singapore.

Although definitely not in a rush to do Australia’s hotel quarantine again….

Home for 14 days….
The utterly overwhelming quantity of ‘stuff’ delivered during the 2 weeks – bearing in mind this is for 1 person, I requested they stopped delivering cutlery, and washed everything up and took it with me so I could recycle it. The majority of this will get chucked in the bin (or in hazardous waste!) for people coming through the quarantine system.
My almost great view of the Sydney harbour bridge from quarantine – got about 10 mins of sun a day down this angle so would sit in the window and do a sudoku!
The Singapore skyline from my apartment – bit more sun and fresh air during stay-home notice!

Cx

2 thoughts on “Where’s Wallis? Six months in Singapore

  1. This is just amazing and, all fingers and toes crossed, hoping we get there next year. Your fabulous blog will definitely be read many times, and notes taken, before we go. Expect lots of calls, emails before we set off too. Cheers, Anni and Scott xx

    Like

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