Drought

We returned to lovely green Singapore in mid-January and have seen maybe 20 drops of rain since. Lovely green Singapore has turned brown and crunchy. The usually lush ferns that sit in the forks of trees are brown and droopy. The grass crackles when you walk on it.

February was the driest month since 1869.

I really hope it rains soon.

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Emily Hill Park. The top photo was taken on January 29th. The bottom one was taken today (March 7th).

DSCF4384 DSCF4387 DSCF4382All of these photos were taken today (March 7th) at Emily Hill Park and if you click here you can see what the park was like in late-January.

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Parks: Mount Emily Park

DSCF4313Mount Emily Park is tucked away at the top of a hill between the Istana, Bugis and Little India. I found myself here as I was hunting for a geo-cache, but it’s probably not a park that a person would stumble upon ordinarily.

The park is small but with lots of mature shady trees, walking paths, a few killer flights of stairs and a small children’s playground at the top. On the day I visited the only people around were a couple of young women making use of the stairs for some stair sprints and a group of preschoolers doing their morning exercise. It’s definitely a park mainly used by locals and it did strike me that it would be an ideal place for clandestine meetings. Not that I conduct clandestine meetings, mind.

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Parks: Labrador Park

Until I set out on a geo-caching adventure (and I didn’t find a single one!) I had never heard of Labrador Nature Reserve. The Reserve is made up of two distinct sections: the park which is flat and near the water and the Nature Reserve on the hill. I’m splitting the two sections into different blog posts, so this entry is just about the park.

Where I live is near to the middle of Singapore, and given the coast is all of a twenty-minute drive away I don’t often get to the edges of this island. My idea of a “long way to drive” has shrunk considerably since leaving Australia! Anyway, Labrador Park is down the bottom of Singapore, just to the west of Sentosa Island for those familiar with Singapore. Without a car it’s a little tricky to get to but you can catch the MRT to Labrador Park and either walk or take a bus from there.

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The park is lovely: green, shaded and flat. The water is a beautiful colour and it must have been even more amazing back before the 1930s when this was a popular seaside resort with holiday houses and restaurants dotting the beach. The beach has gone and there’s now a seawall which the boardwalk runs along. There’s lots of barbecue areas (called barbecue pits here), benches and tables, and would be a really lovely area for a picnic. I think the Missies would love to scooter along here.

I also felt a very welcome and slightly unusual thing: a sea-breeze! Singapore is such a built-up place that any breeze that blows gets stopped by the first line of high-rises in its path, unfortunately.

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Whilst I mourn the loss of the beach, the seawall and boardwalk seem to be an excellent spot to fish from, as there were lots of fisherman about on the day I went.

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Perhaps the only downside to the park is the view:

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The park has all the usual things you expect to find in a park: toilet amenities, playground, paths, fitness area, jogging track, and such.

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I really liked the look of the unusual maze in the playground. At first sight I thought it was a sculpture but then I realised it was a maze made from vertical metal poles. Very cool.

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Labrador Nature Reserve is at the end of Labarador Villa Road, which runs off Pasir Panjang Road.

Car parking is free!

The National Parks board has an excellent free guide to the reserve which includes a map, walking trails and travel directions.

Parks: Dairy Farm Nature Park

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Dairy Farm Nature Park adjoins Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. It’s basically the other side of the mountain to Bukit Timah, but is quieter and doesn’t have as many monkeys hanging about.

The park has both hiking and mountain bike trails and if you come on a weekend the car park is crammed. Be warned that if you try to do the right thing and park across the road in the truck parking section you will get a ticket. We learnt that the hard way on our previous trip here.

We had an almost full day of rain yesterday so the trail from Dairy Farm to the Bukit Timah summit was very muddy and slippery so I opted for the shorter Wallace Trail.

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Wallace Trail

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The paved road up to the education centre.

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Mountain bike track.

I wish I could wax lyrical about the beauty of the jungle but I spent most of my time watching my footing and keeping an eye out for snakes! The track was only a couple of hundred metres long, as I think I took the shorter route when I got to a fork in the track. However this turned out to be a lucky break as when I emerged into a clearing I met J, who was out photographing butterflies for his blog Blue Bottle. Despite being only 14 he has been blogging about butterflies for over 5 years and knows pretty much all there is to know about Singaporean butterflies, of which there are over 300 varieties! He showed me a place further up the hill where there were loads of butterflies and I tried to capture them but I left my big lens at home. I also may be a bit too heavy-footed to be a nature photographer but J did show me how butterflies will usually keep returning to the same plant, so patience is the name of the butterfly photographing game!

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Lace Wing.

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Swallow Tail.

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Hmmm…Banded Imperial (I think).

Just behind where J showed me the butterflies is an abandoned colonial house. I have no idea how long it has been empty for but I came up with quite a few imaginary stories about the people it would have housed. I assume that it was taken over by the Japanese during their occupation but must’ve been occupied after this period as there was electric light fittings.

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Someone here played mahjong.

Dairy Farm Nature Park is at

100 Dairy Farm Road

Parking is free.

You can take bus service SMRT 700, 700A or 966 and alight at bus stop along Petir Road between Chestnut Ave and Dairy Farm Road.

(Apologies if I got any of the butterfly’s names wrong, J!)

Green Thumbs

Singapore has very little commercial primary production. I know there’s a an organic goat milk farm near Kranji and I think there’s a chicken/egg farm somewhere but I’ve yet to see any produce in the supermarket labelled “Product of Singapore” to prove the existence of any other primary production. I’ve also seen ads for Farmer’s Markets but I strongly suspect there’s very little farm produce being sold and would more truthfully be labelled as just a “market”.

But in any country there’s always going to be a certain percentage of green thumbs, although my thumbs are decidedly not green. In fact, they are whatever the opposite of green is. Orange? Anyway…..some people have the urge to grow stuff to eat and with HDB’s not having an abundance of outdoor space Singaporeans can rent a plot. A bit like in Eastenders, where whats-his-name (Arthur?) was always heading “down the allotment”, but hotter.

The first urban garden I came across was in Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West, where there’s a garden divided into plots. On the day I visited there was a group of four women having a break from tending their patches, and I’d have loved to ask them questions but I’m always worried I’ll invade people’s privacy so other than asking if it was OK to wander around I kept to myself. There was lots growing – aloe vera, papaya, and …….. erm…..other green things. See – orange thumbs!

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The second urban garden I came across was Green Valley Farm, which is an organic farm just off Sembawang Road. Most of the land they work themselves but there are 23 plots up for adoption and they have a programme where the more experienced gardeners help the new gardeners. The catch is – there’s about a 4 year wait for plots! On this occasion I sucked up my shyness and asked a lady who was working her plot whether she sold what she grew but she said that it was just a hobby. Her husband and her were retired and came down to work in their greenhouse three days a week. Only organic fertiliser can be used and she happily showed us her cabbages, brinjal (eggplant), okra, and honeydew plants. Most of the plots here are incredibly neat and tidy, a couple have water features and one had a feature wall made out of empty beer bottles. The people who rent a plot clearly love what they do and put enormous time and effort into them.

The produce looked incredible, far better than anything I’ve seen in any supermarket in Singapore! Just a pity I have orange thumbs.

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There’s a water feature in the foreground, complete with fish!

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Wildlife

Parks: Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West

Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West adjoins the Kebun Baru Birdsinging Club so this was a two-for-one deal!

The park has an area of 21 hectares and is built on and around a little hill and is a nice peaceful green space. There’s a 1200 metre running track, a few fitness areas and a lovely forested area. It’s a really nice place for a stroll. There’s also a reflexology path but I didn’t manage to see that.

I really enjoyed my wander around this park, especially as I had it pretty much to myself.

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There’s 120 stairs to the top of the park.

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Running track.

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Fitness area with instructions!

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Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West is at:

Opposite Ang Mo Kio Town Library, along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6

Parks: Lower Seletar Reservoir

For a country that houses 6 million people within an island that measures just 49km by 25kms, Singapore has a lot of green spaces. Few of which I have ever ventured into as it’s hot and humid here and I like air-conditioning, but I need to start seeing more of this country before our time here is up. I don’t want to leave with regrets so I’m making an effort to get out and about and see some of the less popular parks around Singapore.

First up – Lower Seletar Reservoir.

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I was actually out this day to find an “Off The Beaten Track” place but badly needed a toilet break and this place was handy so I used the opportunity to have a look around. My visit was a Monday morning and the park was very, very quiet. There are a few paths, a water playground that wasn’t operating this day, some exercise equipment and a long jetty that is a popular place to fish.

There wasn’t much happening on this morning but apparently at night the reservoir is very a popular place to kayak and for dragon boat races. Kayaks can be hired from a nearby outlet.

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This must actually happen otherwise why erect a sign?

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The waterless water-park.

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The Seletar Country Club is next door. Membership for foreigners is a mere $42800 (half price for locals) with a $150 monthly subscription fee. Golf anyone?

It’s also an excellent place to dry laundry.

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Lower Seletar Reservoir is bounded by Yishun Ave 1 and Lentor Avenue