I’ve always had a special relationship with Singapore. When my friends talk about visiting here, they’ll come up with a shortlist of the usual tourist spots like Marina Bay Sands and trying out a Singapore Sling (spoiler alert: this cocktail sucks XD). But for me, I’ve always been lucky to have family escorting me around, so when I’m in town I get to live like a local. Singapore is almost like a summer home to me, and even though I’ll never be able to pass for being from here, I’ll always nom the local foods with delight as if I was.
The usual routine for me here is to eat five meals a day: Morning Fruits (including tropical favorites like kiwis, oranges, pears, lychees sometimes), Breakfast (which could be anything from Kaya toast to curry puffs to egg and cheese pancakes), Lunch (maybe chicken rice or wanton mee or Nasi Pandang), Dinner (Chinese fried chicken wings and fish probably at grandma’s) and then late night Supper (like Bak Kut Teh, a pork spare rib soup, or maybe a snack like Roti Prata). I always get fat here while everyone else from here is so thin from constantly sweating off everything they eat in this humidity.
So I made a new goal this trip to lose weight by hiking as many national parks and recreations areas I could find and get to in Singapore, especially because I’m so drawn to the liveliness of her tropical rainforests. Each area is a natural reprieve from the congested urban chaos that comprises the normal course of commerce in this city.
BUKIT BATOK NATURE PARK
I was surprised to find how quiet and accessible the Bukit Batok Nature Park was from busy Bukit Batok Central. Right outside the entrance to the park is a noisy street filled with construction jackhammering away and buses swooshing past. But walk 500m into the Park and the sounds of the city all fade away, trapped behind the thick trunks of rainforest trees protecting the sanctity of silence within the perimeter. Except for the concrete path and useful signage, the remnants of urban life fade away amongst the tropical fauna and wild monkeys even cross paths with humans in the park. Both times I visited the park, I saw families of monkeys scooch past humans, climbing up trees and challenging each other to games of tag in the tree canopy. The half-hour walk into the 36-hectare park ends at a man-made lake enclosed by a beautiful wall of stone left over from when the park was a granite quarry. The short walk can be extended in an hour-long loop if desired by continuing along different paths up the hill to where the WWII memorial is. The path up the hill encircles the lake, and there are two lookouts where you can see the granite quarry turned lake. It just amazed me how this rainforest refuge made me feel like I was so far away from the noise of town, when I was only a short walk away from being back in the center of it all again.
BUKIT TIMAH NATURE RESERVE
Another rainforest paradise in the middle of bustling commerce, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve just reopened in Oct 2016, and it is an amazing escape into the eco-history of the island. The main hike to the 165m high summit is 1.3km, and is a popular concrete path that can get quite steep. However, if you want a quieter experience and don’t mind going a longer distance, there are meandering paths that branch off the main one and follow the curve of the hill better with a lower incline. Along these paths are more gorgeous outlooks over the land where I could catch views of rainforests until the edge of the preserve where the city sprawl began. A solid experience here only took two-hours, though one could easily spend a solid half-day here enjoying the preserve and checking out all the branching paths available.