How would folks think about doing that here in the little red dot?
Today though this essay is precisely what we’d like to share with you how you can spend 2-3 hours doing exactly that here on our island. While we may not be renown for mountains and rolling hills, we do have a few knolls worth noting. You see, the southwestern section of the city is a series of higher grounds. Not that they are that much higher than the surroundings in most cases, since the higher floors of modern government flats rival them in height at some places…
But they are natural and formed a cascade of ridgelines if you will.
Today they are now connected famously as the “southern ridges” by our national parks (NParks) through innovative use of bridges and pathways that facilitate a walker to traverse the entire approximate 10km route “high” above the Singapore skyline. And our essay is focused on how you can best use the time to enjoy this little “hike” if you will.
Start from one end or the other
Now that’s obvious. But do you know where does the southern ridges begin and end? Technically the below map extracted from an NParks PDF file shows where you may consider to start or end.
We started from the HortPark. Specifically we joined in the trail from this section of the ridge at the Alexandra arch, along well… Alexandra road. Yeah. Because this is where the fun begins, from our personal point of view. But first, a word of advice. If you happen to be a morning person and start early, then this may not be the best direction to go. You might want to scroll down to the bottom of the page and read upwards the paragraphs starting from the Marang trail as the above picture suggests. Why? Because the sun rises from the east, and the trail runs roughly in an East-West direction.
Ok. Now we can begin.
You might notice that the bridge looks like a curled up leaf from a distant. And you would be correct, for that is indeed the intent. This 80m long bridge will even light in the evening with the LEDs installed all over it. So an evening stroll here would yield a different wonder from an optical perspective.
The bridge facilitates hiker to cross the busy Alexandra road beautifully and immediately into what the NParks call the ‘singing forest’. Don’t take it literally and start singing like a lombard (as some nationals from a specific nation did, ahem, yes we heard them). The name of this section of forest refers to the fact that bird species congregate here. It means potentially (though we did not) that you will hear song birds chirping away as they communicate to loved ones or rivals. The NParks literature leaves no guarantees, so be patient and listen intently.
Forests and nature at your feet
You should realize by now you are walking on elevated walkways high enough to see the faces of the trees that had taken a long time to grow that tall. The walkway is ~1.3km (so says the brochure) and ascends at a reasonable gradient towards Telok Blangah hill. To be honest the vegetation has grown so fast that at some points the branches “intrude” into the walkway. That’s nature’s way of getting back in your face we think. Besides it’s their space in the first place. You might notice as you make the walk that there are some colonial black and white bungalows on the hill too. Today they are owned by the state and rented out to lessees on temporary basis.
Finally you will also note that public housing flats come into view once again. Some of them are much higher than the hill that you will be standing on! But it also means this: that nature is very close to home. It is literally a stone’s throw away! Telok Blangah hill actually offers a whole lot more. It is home to a garden of endangered giant trees which we did not see, but a possible paradise for budding botanists who relish at recognizing the 600 or so planted trees of different species.
And did you also know that Telok Blangah Hill could also be called Mount Washington?
That’s because apparently the American guests of the Arab trading Alkaff family referred to the hill as such. For this trading family had a mansion built as a place of retreat to entertain guests business or dignitaries. This mansion is today a conserved place that had seen the coming and going of several restaurants. We dined here once many² years, hence it was a real surprise when we found it quiet and seemingly abandoned. Perhaps by the time you visit it will be a classy joint.
Do the wave
One of the highlights of this hike is Henderson waves. At 36m above Henderson road (duh), it is indeed the highest pedestrian bridge in our country. We actually descended to the ground to take a photo of the bridge to proof how high it is… some appreciation please! Now some folks complain that there isn’t much in the way of shelter along this trail. First – let’s get something straight. If you want to get into the outdoors, don’t ask for indoor cover… The waves though, do offer some seating space and cover from the elements. Further consolation include LED light up in the evenings, just like the Alexandra arch. How nice.
At the end of the wave would be “Mount” Faber. Paved walkways here bring you to the cable car station where you can place love bells on the railings… or take the cable car across to Sentosa island. Now it can get really crowded around here with the coach buses coming through and disgorging truckloads of tourists. Especially at Faber Peak where you can enjoy a panorama of the harbor front or the city skyline, depending on which side you peek.
And if you continue onwards with the covered walkways you will find the Marang trail waiting for you. For it is a descent (or ascent if you started from here) back to Harbor front MRT station at the base of the hill. We have to say that this trail is indeed a little steep (gradient that is) and be careful with the stone steps especially after a tropical downpour. They can be a little slippery… Unlike the forest walk, this one gets real close to the forest with the consolation that you are shaded from the elements (except when it rain torrents).
And that, is your hike out in Singapore. We took but 1⅓ hours to make this “hike”. How long did it take you?
PS: Suan is a mosquito babe and hates to be out there in the evenings, hence no night versions of the photos are available… sorry.