CNA explores Singapore on foot (Day 1): The lone tree and the longer-than-expected walk

CNA explores Singapore on foot (Day 1): The lone tree and the longer-than-expected walk

Jurong Lake Gardens
Early morning at Jurong Lake Gardens. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: Our journey began in a slightly inauspicious way.

I had set my heart on kicking off this long walk around Singapore by slurping down a delicious bowl of lor mee at Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre. Alas, the stall which I had hoped to get it from is closed on Mondays. 

READ: As it happens: CNA explores Singapore on foot Day 2

So breakfast would have to wait - but our walk couldn't. 

For those who haven't been following our progress, a reminder of what this assignment is about. My colleague Gaya Chandromohan and I are spending five days to walk about 110km around Singapore.

Why? With foreign travel more or less off limits because of COVID-19, we are seeing what Singapore has to offer by walking to some familiar sights and some unfamiliar ones.

With 110km ahead of us, we set off with fire in our bellies rather than food towards the first stop - Jurong Lake Gardens. We'd heard a lot about the park from readers as well as friends and it did not disappoint.

After a short trek, we were greeted by an expanse of rustling grass and patches of lalang. Jutting out from the landscape was a lone tree - a sculpture made from recycled iron bars, which we later found out was an ode to the industrial origins of Jurong.

The Lone Tree
The Lone Tree at Jurong Lake Gardens. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

Even the grey, overcast sky couldn't do much to dull the beauty of the field. 

Perched on a grass mound, we drank the view in. Apart from a couple posing for what looked to be their wedding photoshoot pictures, we had the area to ourselves. Bliss.

With the Chinese and Japanese Gardens both closed for maintenance, we had to walk a loop of Jurong Lake Gardens rather than taking a shortcut. This added distance was something we'd dreaded while planning the route, but with the sun showing no sign of peeking through the thick cloud cover anytime soon, things were easier than anticipated.

Rounding a bend, we were greeting by the sight of otters frolicking on a deck, completely oblivious to their surroundings. We succumbed to the temptation to snap a quick video of the furry critters and ended up spending a little more time at the park than expected.

Otters frolicking at Jurong Lake Gardens
Otters frolicking at Jurong Lake Gardens. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

We pushed on in the direction of West Coast, along a road which threw up various memories of our childhood. First, a smiling snowman marking a familar haunt in the form of Snow City, and then the various exhibits sitting idle outside Science Centre - a reminder of field trips and school lessons.

It had indeed been a while.

We had planned for Teban Gardens Hawker Centre to be the first food stop along the first leg of our walk, but with options there seemingly limited, we decided to tackle a section of Pandan Reservoir on the way to Ayer Rajah Food Centre. 

Singapore on foot - Pandan Reservoir
The long stretch at Pandan Reservoir. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

Indian Rojak probably isn't supposed to be type of light meal one'd enjoy while on a long trek, but I enjoyed every mouthful.

Rojak at Ayer Rajah Food Centre
A hearty meal of Indian rojak at Ayer Rajah Food Centre. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

With about 15km under our belts, the sun slowly started to make sporadic appearances as we followed the long stretch of West Coast Road.

It was here the muscles began to tighten, and the straps on our backpacks began to weigh down just that little bit more. But with the quay cranes of the port beckoning, it looked like our end-point of Harbourfront wasn't that far away.

But we were wrong.

walk day 1
Trudging underneath a flyover near Teban Gardens. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

With West Coast Park done and dusted, it should have been a straight shot to our hotel - about 6km, a distance which shouldn't have taken that long to cover.

But in a ridiculous moment of ambition, I figured that it might be worth taking a detour up to Kent Ridge Park. The idea was to cut through these parks, taking a course parallel to West Coast Highway - which to all intents and purposes, was a yawn of a road.

With Gaya convinced, we weaved a path up Pepys Road and within 15 minutes, we knew we had made a mistake. The steep incline of the road meant the going was tough and this took valuable time off what we had on our hands.

Slowly beginning to pant, we criss-crossed our way through Hort Park, which to its credit had a number of interesting stops, but the distance was beginning to take a toll. We'd covered about 25km at this point.

"Play Mosaic"
A "play mosaic" of the iconic dragon playground is located at Hort Park. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

Eventually managing to navigate our way back to the main road - this took some trouble believe me - we set out on our final stretch of road. 

As the sirens were to a lonely sailor, MRT stations along the way formed fleeting temptations as we trudged along. 

But the sight of the hulking shopping mall Vivocity across the road and the beautiful, mesmerising cable cars in the skyline above meant that we'd reached our endpoint for the day.

11 hours and 30km later, our first leg was complete. Here I feel the need to add the disclaimer that our rather slow pace is due to the need to update social media, reply to tweets, take videos of the journey and walk. Just saying.

Regardless, we'd discovered a new park, enjoyed a hearty meal of one of Singapore's best dishes, and suffered the pain of a wrong decision - probably resulting in a number of additional kilometres. 

Day one complete, four more days to go. We'll keep going.

And that bowl of lor mee from Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre might just be the best way to round off this walk.

Singapore on Foot map

Source: CNA/mt

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