With our busy lives in a concrete jungle (albeit one with lots of bouganvilleas), it’s easy to forget that we’ve got an abundance of parks right in our midst. Some are nestled in quiet corners of the island, while others are right in the city. If you think they’re nothing but jogging havens and the locale du jour for the neighborhood tai chi club, think again. Each of our parks has its own personality, so we decided to go a-trekkin’ to check out which park is best for what activity—traditional or otherwise.
Naughty in Nature
Before we proceed to give you the rundown on the best parks for a romp, be warned that if you get caught, we will not be held responsible for your embarrassment (or legal bills).
If you’ve never heard of Pearl’s Hill City Park, you’ll be forgiven. Located in a quiet part of Chinatown, this tranquil park has little to offer besides peace
and quiet … which really is what eager young couples might be looking for. Find one of the more secluded benches, as opposed to those that face the surrounding flats (unless, of course, you’re into that sort of thing) for a little bit of hanky panky.
Also, for those of you who aren’t in the know, Mount Faber Park has had quite the rep as a great place to make-out (and sometimes to do even more). Nothing sets the mood better than the park’s romantic view of the harbor and ocean. Of course, with such a reputation Mount Faber gets busy and you might have to fend off other couples looking to have a little fun as well.
Here Comes the Bride
Couples in Singapore love to take wedding photos before their wedding day at the most peculiar places, and it is not unusual to see a bride hauling her heavy, puffy white dress up the steps of City Hall or across the lawns of the Botanic Gardens.
But nothing beats this popular wedding photo spot at East Coast Park, located right next to the East Coast Sea Sport Club … a sewage pipe that juts out into the sea. This location may seem a little unorthodox to say the least, but brides and grooms come here for the perfect ocean backdrop. Hey, when you show your friends and relatives the photos they can’t tell if you’re on top of a sewage pipe or on board a luxury cruise liner right? Be careful though, ladies—the pipe is slippery, and you don’t want sludge on your white gown.
Dog Gone It
Dog owners who want their four-legged friends to get more exercise than a trot around the estate can head to the dog run at Bishan Park. This park features a small fenced up area for man’s best friend to run around in—leash free—and fetch, jump and chase to their hearts’ content. Be sure your K9’s on its best behavior when it socializes with its doggy neighbors and don’t forget to clean up its mess. The dog run is located at Bishan Park II, a short walk away from the Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 bus stop opposite Blk. 338, and is open from 6pm to 8pm from Mondays to Sundays, and 8am to 11am for Saturdays and Sundays.
Spa in the Park
After pampering your pet, why not also give yourself a treat at Aramsa—The Garden Spa (Bishan Park II, 1382 Ang Mo Kio Ave 1, 6456-6556), the first spa in a park. Offering treatments like body wraps and massages, this garden spa also sports the aptly-named restaurant The Green Room, which serves up healthy spa cuisine and fresh juices indoor and alfresco. It’s open from 10am to 5pm on Mondays to Saturdays, and 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays.
Our parks are the closest we get to having wide open spaces. While they may not exactly be the great outdoors, they are good enough for outdoor sport. You already know about cycling and inline skating that are mainstays at East Coast Park almost every day. For rentals, you can check out Beach Cabana (East Coast Park Area C, 6344-4773), which charges $4 to $7 per hour for mountain bikes, $5 to $8 per hour for double bikes, and $7 to $10 for skates.
If you’re looking to join kayakers paddling out in the ocean, you can rent your own kayak at Kayak Sports n Beach Pub (Along East Coast Parkway Area E, Carpark E2, 9620-5672). While kayaking is not terribly strenuous (unless you are paddling against strong currents), it does give you a good workout.
When the weather’s favorable, windsurfing is a great option. You can rent whatever equipment you may need from the East Coast Sea Sport Club (1390 East Coast Parkway, 6444-0409), so long as you have the proper certification. Rates are at $30 per hour for non-members and $16 for members of the club.
But the coolest attraction for all you sports junkies is cable-skiing. An alternative to sailing out in the wide open sea, cable-skiing is great for giving it the go-around, or if you’re a little more daring, ramp jumping to show what a badass you are. For this, head down to SKI360° (1206A East Coast Parkway, 6442-7318). Rates depend on whether you go on a weekday or weekend, and vary by the hour, so you should check out their website at http://www.ski360degree.com for more details.
Back In My Day (Ho Hum)…
For history buffs of all ages out there, there are World War II sites in our parks to interest you. While these attractions are mostly for out-of-towners, they are well worth it if you don’t mind playing tourist for the day, and you will learn something interesting. So get your noses out of dusty old books and troop off to these historical sights.
Labrador Nature Reserve offers a tour that takes you through its Secret Tunnels (Labrador Park, Carpark A, Labrador Villa Rd., 6339-6833)—a maze of passages beneath the park that were used during the War by the British. Go underground for just $8 for adults and $5 for kids. Tours are from 10am to 7pm daily.
Similarly, check out the Battle Box (51 Canning Rise, 6333-0510) at Fort Canning Park, which takes you to the very bunker where the British decided to surrender to the Japanese. Tickets for this tour are at $8 for adults and $5 for kids. Operating hours are from 10am to 6pm daily.
Also at Fort Canning are cool monuments such as the memorial walls at Fort Canning Green that are adorned with simple gravestones with epitaphs to the early settlers in Singapore. These gravestones are from a Christian cemetery that lay there until 1885.
Drinks and the Beach
Sometimes, nothing beats a quiet drink. Well, nothing except a quiet drink with a great view, that is. Again, East Coast Park comes out top in this department. Aside from the ever popular BFD (#01-00, Marine Cove 1000 East Coast Parkway, 6244-4434) you should also check out The Beach Hut (Blk. B, Unit 21, 1000, Marine Cove, 6245-1932) which has the right idea with its cozy, holiday kind of vibe and a view of the beach and the sea beyond. Likewise, Irish pub Scruffy Murphy’s (Blk. 7, Marine Cove, 6449 7717) has an equally choice location along the same stretch, with a homely cottage-type feel.
All these places offer live music every week—Scruffy Murphy’s on Friday evenings, The Beach Hut from Wednesday to Saturday and BFD on weekends—as well as booze at reasonable prices, making them the perfect spots to unwind at after a day of biking or cable skiing.
And, East Coast Park is the park when it comes to dining too. It’s impossible not to mention the East Coast Lagoon Food Centre (1220 East Coast Parkway). Located a short walk away from SKI360°, the hawker center has become a popular staple of the park over the years, serving up favorites like satay and wanton noodles. Being by the beach gives this hawker center a breezy, laid back atmosphere, unlike the sometimes stuffy hawker centers in buildings. Getting seats can be a bit of a pain though, so come in a small group.
Alternatively, on the opposite end of SKI360° is the East Coast Seafood Centre, that includes the particularly good Fisherman’s Village (#01-06, 1204 East Coast Parkway, 6336-2228) and Jumbo Seafood (#01-07/08, 1206 East Coast Parkway, 6442-3435). There’s indoor and alfresco dining, but we recommend you take a seat outside to enjoy the sea breeze. Calling ahead is definitely advised, so you can get the table of your choice.
You could also check out Marine Cove (1000 East Coast Parkway), a collection of fast food joints, coffee houses and other eateries, such as Mango Tree Indian Coastal Restaurant (6442-8655).
Prefer a picnic or a barbeque instead of hawker and restaurant food? Well, there’s plenty of opportunity for that too. Perfect picnic spots include Fort Canning Green at Fort Canning Park and the area in front of Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Both are wide open spaces, so no matter how crowded they get, you’ll always have ample space.
If the picnicing seems too much like a family thing and you just want to kick back with friends, Pasir Ris Park has barbeque pits available all around the park, but be sure to book them in advance through an online form at http://www.axs.com.sg. You’ll receive a call to confirm your booking some time after you’ve sent in the form.
If you think that the only animals loose in Singapore are reckless beasts on the roads, think again. The nature trails at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir Park offer you a glimpse of monkeys, squirrels and bloody huge lizards, just to name a few.
While these creatures are awesome to see in the wild, don’t get soft and feed them, as that ruins their diet and encourages them to approach visitors instead of foraging and hunting. It’s best not to bring along any food; although keep in mind that each of these trails are lengthy ones so take some refreshment, such as a bottle of water. Trekking these trails could take up to two hours, depending on your pace.
Hiking on nature trails is a great way to enjoy nature, but an even better way is to go up high—to the HSBC Treetop Walk at MacRitchie. A suspension bridge that sways 25 meters above the ground, this treetop canopy walk provides you with a magnificent view—especially in the mornings—of the surrounding nature reserve. We’ve got to warn you though, just getting to the bridge from the car park takes about an hour, so be prepared to devote an entire afternoon to this hike. But it’s well worth the sweat—when you’re standing in the middle of the bridge, taking in the view and enjoying a refreshing breeze unlike anything you get in the city, you’ll agree too.
The walk is open from 9am to 5pm on Tuesdays to Fridays and 8:30am to 5pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is is closed on Mondays (except public holidays).
If the closest you’ve come to a swamp is watching the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, maybe it’s time you go and check out a real swamp for yourself. There are a couple of parks in Singapore where mangrove swamps are preserved, with an abundance of unique plant and animal life.
The mangrove swamp at Pasir Ris Park, although quite small, is interesting. Animals aren’t very common here, but there are some curious looking species of fish. And if you’re craving a little bit of quiet time, this place is excellent—the path that runs through the swamp is peppered with rest stops, including one that overlooks the Tampines River. To get to the swamp, go to Meeting Point Two, along Pasir Ris Green.
You could also swing by the Sungei Buloh Wetlands. You’re likely to find more animal life here, like water snakes, crabs and a resident family of otters, so keep a camera handy. Entry is free on weekdays; and on Saturdays, Sundays, and public and school holidays it’ll only cost you $1 (or $0.50 for children, senior citizens and students).
For anyone who’s ever wanted to sleep under the stars, we suggest pitching a tent at Pasir Ris Park. There are plenty of camping spots along the beach where you can fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing. Much like with barbequing in this park, you’ll have to book in advance—can’t have just anyone loitering around now, can we? To submit an application form, surf over to the National Parks Board website (http://www.nparks.gov.sg), click on the “online-services” section and select the Usage of Parks Application form. Expect a call after you’ve submitted the form.
All parked out
So, who said our parks are all the same? Keep this in mind the next time you’re staring blankly out your window at work, wondering what to do this weekend.