Today I went for a hike, so I am going to talk about that and get back to describing our summer travels tomorrow.
Since I didn't get to do any hiking when I was back in the US this summer, I came back to Singapore determined to do some here. And while there are lots of places to travel to and do hikes, I decided that I needed to start with more walking and hiking around Singapore itself. I do quite a bit of walking around town in the course of doing my everyday shopping and errands. But I am resolved to get in condition and do more hikes that feel more like real hikes. Since our cleaning lady comes every Tuesday afternoon I need to get out of the apartment to get out of her way. I decided that was a good time to explore some more of the island on foot, so this morning I took off for the East Coast Parkway.
The East Coast Parkway is a narrow strip of land that runs along the south side of the island east of the center of the city. Hence it is known as the East Coast, even though technically it is on the south coast. A major freeway, the East Coast Parkway (they weren't too creative with names) runs from the airport to downtown. There is a narrow strip of land about a quarter of a mile wide between the freeway and the water. It is mostly reclaimed land, so it wouldn't be that great to build on. But it does have a nice stretch of beach that runs for over seven miles. So it is set up as a park. It is similar to the greenbelt in Boise that runs along the river, or the lakefront in Milwaukee that runs along Lake Michigan from downtown to UWM. There is a beach, although it isn't real wide. There are lots of trees (the shade is nice). There are two paved paths that follow the beach, one for walkers and one for bikers and rollerbladers. There is a very small maintenance road that parallels the freeway all along the coast, with some parking lots and occasional clusters of businesses. There are drink and snack places like McDonalds and Seven Eleven. There are various bars and restaraunts. And there are lots of places to rent water sports gear or bikes or rollerblades. They take their rollerblading seriously. There is even a "skate through lane" at the McDonalds.
It is really nice to have such a long stretch of beach and parkway on such an urban island. It is really plesant to walk along the water. Although it is usually really hot for hiking, there was a nice breeze blowing off the water and the trees provided welcome shade. And there are plenty of places to stop for a cold drink along the way. Singaporeans really make use of the park. I hear that it is an absoulute mob scene on weekends. It was quite nice on a weekday though. People even come here to camp. I saw about twenty tents scattered along the stretch of beach that I walked. To me it seems like only about one step up from camping in your own backyard.
That said, it isn't ideal. The water in the Straits of Malacca is not very pretty. Because the straits are so shallow and there is so much shipping traffic, the water is not clear at all. It is kind of a funny grey-green color, even when the sun is out. Not the enticing water of other tropical places like Tahiti or Grand Cayman. And the Straits are the worlds largest parking lot for ships waiting outside of Singapore harbor. Today I counted 95 ships that I could see anchored. They try to sell multi-million dollar lots in a waterfront development on the backside of Sentosa Island. I have to admit that if I had that kind of money there are lots of places in the world that I would pick for my beachfront house besides Singapore.
It was *not* easy to get to the East Coast Parkway. I usually go everywhere on the MRT. This is one place that a car would be an advantage. Since there was no MRT station close by, I decided to just walk there. I left at 11 am so I had most of the day. My first problem was finding a walking route to the other side of the Kallang River. It runs just east of the part of town that I am usually in, and the Parkway starts just on the west side of the river. Along the coast the only bridge over it is the ECP freeway, and that doesn't allow pedestrians (at least not in that stretch, I think). It is about 75 feet up in the air and I couldn't find any way up. You can actually take it the other direction on foot and get a great view of the Central Business District from up on the overpass. But I couldn't find a way up there that went east on foot.
It took me two hours of walking to get to the East Coast Parkway. Then I could *start* my hike. I walked along the beach for about an hour before turning around and heading back. Since I knew where I was going I was able to walk back from the park to our apartment in only an hour and forty minutes. It's still a pretty long ways away.
There were certainly all kinds of people in the park. There were runners, looking even hotter and sweatier than me. There were people on bikes and on rollerblades. Some of the bladers were even pretty good. There were people fishing and I saw one family with a huge fish that they had caught. There were people napping in the shade, couples sitting on park benches. There were people camped along the beach. One guy was sitting on a mat and meditating. I even saw a few folks in the water. And this was a slow day.
I learned something interesting while I was walking back. I always wondered what they did with the high rise buildings around here when they get old. They are packed together so closely that I couldn't see how you could knock it down without hitting other buildings. Today I saw a building being taken apart. The whole building was wrapped up - so debris wouldn't come flying loose. And there were two big excavators on the roof ripping the building up. I would think that you would have to be very careful how you ripped up the thing you are standing on fifteen stories in the air. But that's how it's done.