CNA explores Singapore on foot (Day 3): The generosity of strangers and walking with a star
Wednesday (Oct 14) was Day 3 of CNA's long walk around Singapore, with journalists Matthew Mohan and Gaya Chandramohan venturing out once again to discover the delights on their doorstep when overseas travel is more or less off limits.
SINGAPORE: We'd dawdled over lunch. After all, this was the first chance to get solid food in our bellies since the previous day's dinner.
Over plates of luscious white beehoon, my colleague Gaya Chandramohan and I discussed the day's developments.
There had been the surreal walk with actress Zoe Tay to start the day, a tranquil stroll through the towering casuarina trees of Coney Island, and the unexpected encounters with readers who recognised us en route.
As our aching muscles nagged their disapproval, we had to wrench ourselves away from the air-conditioned comfort of the restaurant and face the baking sun. Our final 7km of the day awaited.
But we had scarcely walked more than 500m when we were met with a plastic bag straining with cold drinks.
Our refreshments came courtesy of CNA readers Sherlyn Lee and Foo Siang Hwee, who had been following our journey on Twitter and drove down from their home in Punggol. They'd patiently waited while we were scoffing down our food so as to not disturb us.
And here they were, with drinks in hand. Our stomachs were full, but our hearts fuller.
A SURPRISE GUEST
Wednesday had been a day full of surprises.
Our route was due to take us from Singapore Expo to Pasir Ris park, then north to Coney Island, before taking a coastal loop that would see us end the day on the edge of Yishun Dam.
We'd started off the day feeling a little nervous - and it wasn't because of the road ahead of us.
Zoe Tay had been following our exploits on social media and had reached out to us to check if she could join us for a portion of the journey. We had to pinch ourselves to check if those messages were real - they were.
And so we walked, making quick work of our early morning start. The nervousness slowly ebbed away, as we breezed through conversation topics.
We learnt about how Zoe started walking regularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, what life was like when she grew up in Lim Chu Kang (an area which we will cover in the last leg of our trek), and her love for dogs.
One question we had to ask was whether the current rule about wearing a mask means that she is less recognised in public at the moment.
Yes indeed, she said. Most people don't realise it's her.
As we rounded the corner to Pasir Ris park, clouds began to gather on the horizon. After a momentary distraction in the form of two gorgeous striped Bengal cats and their affable owner, we sought shelter under a nearby pavilion.
"Are you guys from CNA?" came the question. Here we were with a major celebrity like Zoe Tay, but we were the ones being recognised! Was this what stardom feels like? Of course, we eventually told them who our walking companion for the day was - to their utter delight.
There were several other surprises along the way - those of the feathered, scaly and furry kinds.
There were the squawking herons in Pasir Ris Park, the lone wild boar at serene Lorong Halus wetland and the monstrous monitor lizard close to Coney Island. Wildlife seemed to spring up at every corner and we were enjoying every second of it.
After trudging through some areas of urban sprawl on the first two days of our journey, we were now seeing a very different side of Singapore. This was a reminder that even though we live in a city-state, nature has been carefully preserved as much as possible.
At the entrance to Coney Island, we met another reader who had been following our journey on Twitter. He had taken a brief stop during an epic 80km bike ride, following a loop from Woodlands.
His was a one-day sprint, and ours a five-day marathon. But there were similarities in the spirit of adventure, in the desire to explore and embrace what Singapore has to offer.
On a quiet bridge leading to Coney Island, we had found a kindred spirit.