A Walk Through Singapore’s Southern Ridges Trail

Whenever I sense an overflow of negative emotions, I have always thought that it can be useful to “walk it off.” To me, walking is a cheapo, moderate peril and easy form of exercise. It is best combined with nature – verdant sights and scent of unsullied air – can be a very prevailing, under-utilized stress buster.

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On several occasions that I was in Singapore for work, I maximized my stay there by exploring various sites during weekends. One time, feeling the toll stress has brought against me, a few colleagues and I went to “walk off” along with The Southern Ridges.

The Southern Ridges is a 9-kilometre trail that connects various parks along the southern ridge of Singapore (hence the collective name). The trails boast off its greenery and connecting bridges. It is indeed a perfect place to go on a hike where one can enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors, and a majestic, panoramic view of Singapore City.

The Southern Ridges connect the following parks: Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, Hort Park, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve – all of which can delight any walking, photography, and nature enthusiasts.

Mount Faber Park is one of the oldest parks in Singapore and probably one of the most popular tourist destination because of the cable car ride. The park is connected to Telok Blangah Hill Park by Henderson Waves Bridge. The park houses the Marina Deck, Palm Plaza, Jewel Box, and Faber Point.

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Telok Blangah Hill Park is a 34-hectare park which is said to be a favorite site for wedding couples. With its semi-circular terrace garden located at the top, no wonder it is a favourite for photo shoots and prenuptial events.

The Henderson Waves is my favourite spot. This 899-foot long pedestrian, wooden bridge suspended at 118 feet above Henderson Road, is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. It connects Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park. It is called such because the bridge has a waveform made up of seven undulating curved steel ribs that alternately rise over and under its deck. The bridge also has shelters with seats within.

Kent Ridge Park is a 47-hectare public park between the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Science Park. Due to its undisturbed habitat and abundant plant life. So if you are a bird-watching aficionado and a lover of plants, then a visit to this park might just amuse you.

There are several trails at the Southern Ridges. There are Marang Trail, Faber Trail, Hilltop Walk, Forest Walk, Floral Walk, and Canopy Walk Trails. Each of which offers a relaxing walk through foliage.

The Southern Ridges of Singapore is a “fresh air and greenery” personified. It’s probably all that and more. There is something about its great outdoors that gives walking, running a little kick. So when you find yourself in the Lion City wanting to commune with nature, and you want to feel more alive, energetic and optimistic – walk your way to the Southern Ridges.

Credits and Big thanks to a good friend and workmate, Allan (@kislap96) for some of the photographs used in this write-up.

Don’t be wasted soul, be “juan”derlust”. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Kampong Glam (Singapore)

When I started traveling, I have always thought that it is one of the best ways of enlightening one’s self about various cultures. I believe that the world we live in is beautiful that is why I am always fascinated with what it offers. I like the idea of trying different food, meet different people, experience different adventures and that hint of curiosity about differences among cultures led me to accept, respect and appreciate others.

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There is this one particular district in Singapore, called Kampong Glam that made my wandering soul really happy. Kampong Glam is regarded as the traditional heart of Singaporean Muslim life (because if one traces back its history, the area has enticed and united Muslims of different ethnicity). The name Kampong Glam comes from the Malay word kampong meaning “village,” and gelam, the term for cajeput tree that once grew abundantly in the area.

Walking along the streets within the district, one would notice the distinct Arab impact as streets are named after famed cities in the Middle East like Basra, Bussorah, Kandahar, and Muscat. The numerous shops around the area are reflective of the Muslim cultures that have found a home in Singapore.

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So here is a glimpse of Kampong Glam – a pulsating melting pot of opulent history, architecture, cuisine, religion, fashion and shopping.

Sultan Mosque: Perhaps the most iconic structure in Kampong Glam and is the biggest mosque in Singapore. With its impressively gigantic golden dome, ivory-hued exterior and a splendid central prayer room, any visitor will be left in awe upon seeing this structure. The mosque is open from 09:00 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 16:00 daily.

Haji Lane: Another favorite of mine is this vibrant narrow path called Haji Lane. One would be overjoyed to walk along this street because of 2 main reasons. One, for its eccentric yet attractive assortment of boutique shops, café and restaurants;, and two, for the stunning street art/ murals found in the area.

Malay Heritage Centre: Located next to the Sultan Mosque, this old colonial-style building houses the various galleries. Each gallery depicts Singapore’s history, aspirations, and role in its nation-building development. The museum is open from Mon 13:00–18:00, Tue – Sun 10:00-18:00.

Arab Street: This Street lined with quaint and polychromatic shops, and restaurants is a feast for the eyes. I like the fact that a certain portion of the road in close proximity to Sultan Mosque is off limits to cars every day. This adds up to that relaxed and amiable atmosphere. Those who is looking for Halal food, this is the best area to dine.

Malabar Muslim Jama-Ath Mosque: A mosque with a modern touch with its dazzling green and blue tiles, is an exquisite bit of architecture and yet another musts see in Singapore. The mosque is located at the junction of Victoria Street and Jalan Sultan in the Kampong Glam district.

These are just some of the many wonders in Kampong Glam. So if you have the opportunity to visit the Lion City, walk around this area and you will be surprised as to how enriching the experience would be.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri”Juan”.

Bintan Resorts (Indonesia)

The beach is always a happy place for me – sunny or cloudy. The feel of basking along white sand dotted shores, the smell (and taste) of saline air and sea water can turn everything amusing.

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Bintan Island or Negeri Segantang Lada is an island in the Riau archipelago of Indonesia, known for its beaches and resorts. It is a frequented vacation spot for foreigners coming to Indonesia (well, besides the more famous Bali). Being in close proximity with Singapore, travelers en route the Lion City would usually consider visiting Bintan.

Two beach resorts I got to visit are LaGoi Bay, a seaside destination at the northern part of Bintan facing the Singapore Strait, and Nirwana Gardens found on the north-west coast of the island. Both of which are speckled with white sand beaches. the Nirwana Gardens in the north-west coast of the island of Bintan.

 

LaGoi Bay is considered as one of the key tropical beach resort encompassing residential and commercial properties that sprawl over 1,300 hectares on this Indonesian island.
The beach itself is wide and clean. It reminds me of Cagbalete and Tondol Beach in the Philippines. The ripple effect on the sand during low-tide is an added charm. There are colorful umbrellas one may opt to rent along the shoreline, especially when the sun becomes pretty warm. The place looks really ideal for family picnic and gatherings. I also admire how clean the provided rest rooms are.

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The vicinity of LaGoi Bay also houses a hotel and several commercial establishments (shopping center). There is even a lake that is surrounded by a golf course that contributes to the tranquil vibe of the place.

Nirwana Gardens, on the other hand, offers its visitors a handful of beach activities, a mini zoo (where I got to see some big iguanas), natural forests,  and various recreational facilities. I personally like this small area along the beach where there are pine – like trees and large rocks found (and lots of squirrels playing). I was told that real Sumatran elephants roam the beach area too (unfortunately, they weren’t there then).

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Several restaurants that offer Japanese and Thai cuisines, a coffee shop that serves Indonesian and  International  popular dishes, are also found within the garden resort. Furthermore, they also have a facilities that may be used for office meetings, conventions and event life events like weddings and birthdays.


How to Get There: Once in Singapore, take the ferry from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (TMFT) and reach Bintan’s Bandar BentanTelani Terminal in 45 minutes to an hour. Get a local taxi that will take you to either LaGoi Bay or Nirwana Garden Resorts. The closest international airports are that of Singapore’s Changi Airport and the New Bintan Resorts International. The Hang Nadim Airport in Batam and the Raja Haji Fisabilillah Airport on Bintan Island may also serve domestic travelers.

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Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.

Flower Dome @ Gardens by the Bay (Singapore)

Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844

I am a plant paramour. Not that I am secretly in love with a married plant, but my fascination towards various flora is not something most people know about me. As a child, I grew up learning how to appreciate flowers and trees through my grandma’s endearing love for various vegetation. During my pharmacy years, I have always valued attending my Botany, Pharmacognosy, and Phytochemistry classes.

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When I had the opportunity to go to Singapore, I looked forward to visiting Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Dome. I have heard and read so many good things about this famed glass greenhouse. I was even more thrilled to know that the annual Tulipmania was being exhibited.

Here are some quick facts about Singapore’s Flower Dome:
It is regarded as the largest glass greenhouse in the world as listed in the 2015 Guinness World Records. It features a changing display of flowers and plants from various regions of the world, notable are those from the Mediterranean and semi-arid regions. It is an indoor event space that spans 1,300 m² that can accommodate up to 1,000 people. (Imagine, it is about as big as 2.2 football fields put together). The indoor temperature range is at 23°C – 25°C, replicating the cool-dry climate of Mediterranean regions like South Africa, California and parts of Spain and Italy. And to cover the dome, 3,332 glass panels of 42 different shapes and sizes were used for the entire area.

The dome is divided into the following sections:
BAOBABS AND BOTTLE TREES
This features some of the largest trees in the flower dome that includes the African Baobab, Drunken trees, and Ghost Tree. They have some of the most interesting flowers and amazing trunks.

SUCCULENT GARDEN
This garden boasts a variety of beautiful prickly plants known to thrive in deserts. Succulents belong to families such as Cacti, Aloes, and Crassulas. These spine-filled beauties are such a delight to see. I personally adore the wooly cactus and some agave species.

AUSTRALIAN GARDEN
The Australian garden displays some native flowers in full bloom. Some of the most unique flowers and trees I’ve seen within the dome are those from this area. I was personally fascinated with the Queensland Bottle Tree and the Grass Tree.

SOUTH AFRICAN GARDEN
Another diverse section within the dome is the African garden. A variety of shrubs, succulents, bulbs and flowers are featured in this African landscape. I’m surprised to know that the “Birds of Paradise” is actually a plant of African origin.

SOUTH AMERICAN GARDEN
Most plants in this garden are from Chile like the Monkey Puzzle Tree, the Puya and Chilean Wine Palm. The Wine Palm per se is eye-catching because of its immense height and girth while the monkey-tree feature spines in its trunk.

CALIFORNIAN GARDEN
This area of the dome features shrubs and some trees known for their aroma and furry greenery that discourage herbivores from feeding on them. I was so happy to have seen an Arctostaphylos plant at this section. I have only seen such plant in my Pharmacognosy books then.

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MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN and OLIVE GROVES
Perhaps, one of my favorites inside the dome! It is my first time to see an olive tree and date palms. Wayback college and review days, I have always talked about olives. It is also one of my palates’ beloved fruit. I am also a date fan. I just love it when my friends from the Middle East send me some of these sweets. Fig and pomegranate trees are also found. Just lovely!

And of course, the main reason why I came to see the Flower Dome – the star of the greenhouse – Tulips!!! I have never been to the Netherlands (not yet) but I have always desired of seeing tulips. While it is true that Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay isn’t the same as the Netherlands’ Keukenhof gardens — it is perhaps the closest one can get to being bounded by stunning tulips in full bloom, sans flying to Europe.

The Tulipmania features a wide selection of tulips, with about 30 varieties in countless colors and shapes. It definitely brought out the flower enthusiast in me. I was overjoyed and charmed by each kind of tulips I saw. It was crazy! My camera was thrilled to have captured such beauty. Allow my photographs to speak for these flowers’ magnificence.
By the time this write-up gets published in my WordPress, the annual Tulipmania has ended. For those of you who wish to see them, watch out for next year’s schedule. (It usually happens between March and May).

Flower Dome Opening Hours:
• Open daily:
9.00am – 9.00pm
Last ticket sale: 8.00pm
Last admission: 8.30pm

ADMISSION
• Local Resident Rate – One Conservatory
Adults: $12
Senior Citizens (>60 years old): $8
Children (3-12 years old): $8
• Local Resident Rate – Two Conservatories
Adults: $20
Senior Citizens (>60 years old): $15
Children (3-12 years old): $12
• Standard Rate – Two Conservatories
Adults: $28
Children (3-12 years old): $15

My flower dome experience made me appreciate more of plants diversity and beauty. It was such a beautiful experience that made my soul really happy.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan.