SINGAPORE: "It's really no big deal," insisted my editor as we made what we thought was an entirely reasonable request to cycle rather than walk 110km on a journey to explore Singapore.
His justification for making us walk? Cycling the route wouldn't give me and my fellow journalist Gaya Chandramohan the time to savour the sights of Singapore - which is the point of this somewhat unusual assignment.
Fast forward to a week later, and we set off on our journey from Taman Jurong at 6.30am on Monday morning (Oct 12), nervously contemplating what the next five days have in store for us.
Why put ourselves through this? A fair question, and one that will undoubtedly cross our minds numerous times over the next five days.
For one - overseas travel appears to be off-limits for a while to come, and a lot has been made of going out and exploring the country.
Rather than going on an ordinary staycation or attraction hopping, my editor figured that it might be interesting to kick it up a notch with a long walk to explore what the country has to offer.
The task is to take in some unfamiliar sights and look at some more familiar ones with a fresh pair of eyes to see what Singapore has to offer when other countries are more or less off limits because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Our discussions initially centred around doing a complete loop of Singapore, sticking as close to the coast as possible. However, logistically this would prove to be a bit of a challenge, and so we decided to scale down sections of the route.
We've included some of Singapore's best sights along the coast - so West Coast and East Coast parks, Coney Island and Sungei Buloh nature reserve should feature prominently along our journey.
At the same time, we'll also be making it a point to try our best to savour the journey, so there should be stops at some of Singapore's most beloved foodie haunts - East Coast Lagoon food village, Hong Lim market and food centre among other places.
Our plan is put up in hotels as close as possible to the route, before continuing on our journey the next day.
A WALK TO REMEMBER
My colleague Gaya and I are by no means in great physical shape.
Full disclosure, the loop covers more ground than I've run this year. In fact, the last time I've covered a distance more than 20km was a decade ago when I wore green, carried a field pack and swore never to do it again.
But here we are, and because passing out on camera is not an option, I have been going on a number of walks in preparation. These walks took me from my home in Simei to East Coast and Changi Village - covering a distance 15km each time.
There is undoubtedly a sense of accomplishment that comes with completing each of these walks, and there is an element of enjoyment, even for somebody who is not an avid walker.
But we're well aware of the challenges that could lie en route. For one, the sweltering heat could potentially be a problem - we aim to begin each leg of the journey at 6am every morning and try to beat the afternoon heat by completing the distance for the day within eight hours.
There are also practical concerns - plotting out a course online and actually navigating the route in reality are two completely different things.
Also, what if there are no toilets?
But this is part of the adventure, which we will be updating you regularly on over the next 5 days.
And we will press on, and welcome any and all suggestions on what we can do on the way. Hopefully our walk will be able to pique your interest to get out there and explore.
To quote poet T.S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
In our case, that place would be Taman Jurong Hawker Centre.
Follow the journey here: