A selection of canopy walks
07/03/2016 - 07/03/2016 91 °F
I had a bonus day of sightseeing when I returned from Laos, and before my next flight out. I'd seen quite a bit so far, but one thing I hadn't gotten to yet were any of its parks. Singapore is supposed to have quite a bit of forest and hiking trails, including walks in the tree canopy. My guidebook had a great day's of walking mapped out, so I decided to follow its lead.
I took the subway to the Pasit Panjang stop -- at more than a half hour, easily the longest ride I'd taken on the city's metro. From there, I followed by smartphone's map app up a forested hill to Reflections at Bukit Chandu. This tiny museum tells the story of the Malay regiment that defended this ground tenaciously against the overwhelming Japanese advance in WW II. There were two audio-visual presentations, one a standard overview of the battle and another a mildly cheesy narrative by a dramatized Malay soldier. It was neat to see a couple examples of the bicycles that Japanese troops used in WW II to advance quickly down the Malay peninsula. There was an attempt to personalize the stories of the soldiers, but it was not nearly as extensive or emotional as the Changi Chapel Museum I'd visited last week.
I had to read between the guidebook's lines to interpret how to get to the canopy walk at Kent Ridge park. It was a short walk on a wooden platform that ranged in height above the ground. Of the three canopy walks I'd do today, it was probably the least impressive. The different types of trees were signposted, but the views of the forest and city beyond were mediocre. However, the walk was the beginning of a string of hiking trails that thread their way across the spine of Singapore, so things would go up from here. The walk through Holtz Park would be very interesting if I was into the different types of plants that grow here. It is a series of gardens that are well documented for visitors, but I was looking for elevation. I kept following the signs to the Alexandra Arch Bridge, and eventually arrived.
The bridge itself is just the beginning of a spiderweb of metal walkways high above sprawling forest. It is really cool how these parks thread their way through the concrete jungle of the metropolitan area. Singapore's government has stated that it wants to transform itself from a "garden city" to a city inside a garden. The view out over the city kept getting better as I followed the aluminum skyways ever upwards. The signs pointed towards my next goal, Henderson Waves, but I was enjoying my journey there. The walkway zigzags back and forth, with the way ahead hidden by the trees. Strangely, I thought this would make a great setting for a Jurassic Park movie, with the characters being chased along the metal walkways.
No dinosaurs appeared, but I eventually came to Henderson Waves. This is a clever, architectural bridge that has a series of arches undulating high above the city. The tops of the arches are converted into shaded alcoves where residents were picnicking and enjoying the view. The surface of the bridge itself is teak planks, and it curves both side to side and ripples up and down. It is much shorter than the Alexandra walkways, but easily had the best views of Singapore, so far. The pedestrian bridge leads to Mt. Faber Park -- Singapore's highest point. There are restaurants and a cable car at the peak, and I'd planned to relax and cool off there after my hike, and maybe spare my feet with a ride down.
The view continued to improve, and from the top of the hill, were simply spectacular. I found a breezy cafe to rest from the muggy, 91 degree heat. A pint of cold Tiger beer help refresh me, as well. A fan blew on me as I admired the view of the city spread out beneath me. I read some review online about the cable car, and decided to take it. Touristy, yes, but at just over $20, it was reasonably priced for this relatively expensive city. After finishing my beer I walked to the cable car. Singapore is a clean, efficient, and well-run city. I'd rarely felt overwhelmed anywhere by hordes of tourists. All bets were off here, though. It was a mob scene. No signs pointed towards a counter to buy tickets, and the line to ride snaked back and forth like an amusement park. The crowd clamored loudly as it waited its turn to be stuffed, eight at a time, inside the black plastic shells. When I finally did find the ticket counter, both positions were marked "Closed," despite a bored-looking attendant seated at each. There was one self-service kiosk, and a line of people trying to get it to scan and approve their preprinted vouchers. Was it worth it? Would I really enjoy being completely enclosed inside a cable car with seven strangers? Would I even get any good pictures through the tinted windows? There WAS a pathway down the hill. If I took that, I would enjoy the view in silence and not have to jostle strangers for photographs.
I decided to go with nature and hiked down the hill. It took a surprisingly short amount of time, and the views in the first five minutes alone made me happy I chose that path. In fact, most of the way down was stone steps, which meant I did not envy those I passed toiling their way up. It was getting late in the afternoon by the time I arrived at the metro station at the bottom of Mt. Faber. I made my way back to my hotel, a bit sore from the hiking, but pleased with my sunny walk in Singapore's garden.