death by paper cut

{July 28, 2014}   Beyond the Sunny Island

Proverbially, Singapore is the sunny island set in the sea. However the sea and other islands of heritage beyond the shores of the sunny island are often neglected. Sentosa doesn’t really count in this context.

Singapore initially had more than 70 islands that are part of our sovereign nation. The number has changed over the years because of reclamation and the merging of islands to form larger land masses, and the creation of other artificial ones. Check out Wikipedia for the current list of islands.

I managed to have a closer look at two such land masses and learn a lot more about the past and present islands of Singapore through three ways. Firstly, by visiting the Pulau Balik exhibition – presently at the National Museum of Singapore to 10 August 2014 (it should be part of our Permanent Exhibits if you ask me). Secondly, by being the lucky few to have successfully registered for the Lighthouse Tour organised as a signature programme of Singapore Heritage Festival 2014. And thirdly, by kayaking to the southern islands with Kayakasia.

The housing estate where I have lived for nearly thirty years is situated very closely to the western coast of Singapore. So close that the three prominent smokestacks form the landmarks of the horizon from the apartment. When they burn at night, the orange fumes and gases emitted from the smokestacks look like the Eye of Sauron, just that there are three of them instead of one. Ruefully, they are called joss sticks in my family.

Blue Pandan Reservoir 1

Because Jurong Island is always in my periphery vision and sometimes, line of sight, coming along side it in a ferry enroute Sultan Shoal was highly interesting. Although to most others, this area must appear like a desolate industrial wasteland, which it is, it feels to me like an extension of my neighbourhood and a hop, skip and jump away from home, which it also is. Fascinating.

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 16

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 17 Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 20

Jurong Island was officially opened in 2000 after the merging of 7 islands to serve as a base for more than 90 petroleum, petrochemical, and specialty petrol companies. The largest island among the 7 was Pulau Ayer Chawan. The three smokestack are standing on what was Pulau Seraya. In fact, the road the running near the smokestacks is Seraya Avenue.

Cluster of islands that formed Jurong Island, and Jurong Island now.

NMS - Balik Pulau 23 Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 14

Just to the south-west of Jurong Island lies Sultan Shoal Lighthouse. Built in 1895, the Lighthouse is now unmanned and powered by solar energy.

Sultan Shoal Lighthouse

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 23

The highlight of the Lighthouse Tour was visiting Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu which is 23 km south-west of Singapore. It it also Singapore’s southernmost island. At 10 days at a stretch, two people are stationed at Raffles Lighthouse to supervise its operations. Except for the lack of internet connection, Raffles Lighthouse is self-sufficient with electricity, running water and basic amenities.

Normally closed off to the public, access to Raffles Lighthouse is highly restricted. It was therefore a very rare opportunity made possible in this collaboration between NHB and MPA to allow people to set foot on Pulau Satumu and ascend the 90 steps to the beacon.

Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 31

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 36

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 54 Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 50

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 58 Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 59

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 52

It took only 10 to 15 minutes for a leisurely stroll along the circumference of the 1.3 hectare large Pulau Satumu. The waters were clean and clear. At the jetty, I spotted a parrotfish and a baby shark.

After spending one hour exploring Raffles Lighthouse and Pulau Satumu, we boarded the ferry that took us back to the mainland. In total, the Lighthouse Tour took about more than 5 hours because traveling to Pulau Satumu from Pasir Panjang Terminal took 2 hours including a detour to Sultan Shoal, and another 1.5 hours from Pulau Satumu to Marina South Pier.

The Lighthouse Tour ballooned for me an expanded perspective of Singapore’s reach. While we go about our busy lives on the mainland, it is humbling to cast an eye in the far distance and know that out there, unsung heroes are keeping watch of our waters and safely leading approaching vessels to our habours as they have done for almost 160 years. Being a seafaring merchant, I wonder if my grandfather’s vessel depended on the flashes from these lighthouses from time to time.

Singapore Heritage Festival - Lighthouse Tour 3

My grandfather’s recent resurfacing of his travel documents is as far back as family archives go. I would like to have these translated sometime soon. He also had a travel document in Dutch when Batam was a Dutch colony.

1939 Certificate of Registration, China 2

1941 Dutch Identification for Batam 2

On another occasion this June, I explored on kayak the cluster of islands just to the south of Sentosa. Starting from Siloso Beach on Sentosa, we kayaked south-east to St John’s Island, continued along the south shores of Lazarus Island, headed northwards to Kusu Island and Pulau Seringat before returning to Sentosa along the beach fronts.

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 1 (Annotated by Kenneth Pinto)

The cluster of islands then and now.

NMS - Balik Pulau 7 Southern Islands with Kayakasia 31 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

St John’s Island, Lazarus Island and Pulau Seringat have been linked up by overland bridges and expanded in size. Singapore Island Cruise operates ferry services from Marina South Pier to St John’s Island daily. Lazarus Island, Seringat Island and the man-made pristine cove are accessible via the link bridges.

I was told that the man-made pristine cove is called Pink Lagoon, however, I have yet to find any official name of this cove. The infographic at the Balik Pulau exhibit calls it the “800-metre long swimming lagoon” with no specific name either.

You need to bring your own supplies because there are no vendors selling food or beverages. There is a toilet at the reception area which is a short walk from the beach that looks to be in booking-ready conditions, outfitted with air-conditioning too.

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 25 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island Southern Islands with Kayakasia 27 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 30 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island Southern Islands with Kayakasia 29 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 19 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 32 Southern Islands with Kayakasia 23 - Pink Lagoon at Seringat Island

The clear waters and fine sand makes for a picturesque island getaway comparable with an exotic resort destination, which is the intended effect. A webpage on Pulau Seringat posted by Wild Singapore has consolidated news clippings about developments on this expanded island.

Some key highlights I extracted from the webpage:

2000 –  The plan was to offer visitors a Mediterranean resort-like setting only 17 minutes away by ferry, patterned after Italy’s renowned vacation spot, Capri.

2004 – Details later revealed included plans for a five-star 290-room hilltop hotel, a three-star 170-room beachfront hotel, 70 waterfront homes and 1,700 units of housing. There was even talk of a road from Sentosa to the islands, or a causeway, like the one linking the mainland and Jurong Island.

2006 – Thousands of cubic metres of sand were imported from Indonesia to make the beach. Another $120 million was spent to bring water, electricity, gas and telecommunication infrastructure from Sentosa to the islands. 5,000 lorry-loads of soil were brought in by barges, an entire coconut plantation in Malaysia was bought, about 1, 000 trees was trucked and shipped to the island. This was part of the $60 million worth of reclamation and infrastructure work on the southern islands of Pulau Seringat, Kias, St John’s, Lazarus, Kusu and Sisters’ islands. One idea is to develop the islands into a ‘premium resort’, a getaway for the rich.

2008 – A third integrated resort was being considered. It will be on a smaller and more luxurious scale than either of the two resorts. Most of the development will likely be on 30 ha of reclaimed land at Lazarus, Renget and Kias Islands. The total development site, comprising all seven Southern Islands, adds up to 115.6 ha – almost a quarter the size of Sentosa Island.

All this means is that in the pipeline, there will be more pollution and waste generated alongside the destruction of biodiversity and increase exclusivity for the rich. If further development takes place, I doubt the zero carbon-footprint means of visiting these islands via kayak will be allowed in the future.

Embarking on Kusu Island on a quiet Saturday

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 17 Southern Islands with Kayakasia 10 - Kusu Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 15 - Kusu Island Southern Islands with Kayakasia 12 - Kusu Island

Link Bridges

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 8

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 5

Looking back – Singapore’s city skyline from St John’s Island

Southern Islands with Kayakasia 6 - St John's Island


In most Singaporean students’ lexicon, MacRitchie is synonymous with the Cross Country. I did it both in secondary school and JC and did put my best foot forward, trudging through the treks towards the promise of unadulterated, thick and chilled milo straight from the milo van. Even the condensation on the green milo paper cups looked thirst-quenching.

At no point however, was the flora and fauna on our minds. Even now on my occasional brisk walk through the 11km yellow loop, I don’t come across many animals beside the impassive long-tailed macaques.

It was at a slow walk through the short Venus Loop led by Chloe Tan of the Toddy Cats that many of the shy critters were spotted.

Macritchie Reservoir Park 127 - Map

Many-lined Sun Skink

Love MacRitchie Walk at Venus Loop - Led by Chloe Tan 22

Malayan Colugo

Love MacRitchie Walk at Venus Loop - Led by Chloe Tan 28

Simpoh Air with seeds not yet eaten by birds or monkeys

Macritchie Reservoir Park 96


Macritchie Reservoir Park 126

Monitor Lizard

Macritchie Reservoir Park 127

Long-Tailed Macaques stretching out on the boardwalk

Macritchie Reservoir Park 124

Emerging new leaves

Macritchie Reservoir Park 104

Biodiversity is everywhere, we just need to bid our time to observe, listen and stop to smell the flowers.


I attended a MacRitchie Awareness Walk on 26 July 2014 led by stalwarts of Singapore’s green spaces Subaraj Rajathurai and others. The Spiderman of Singapore, Joseph Koh also come along and lent us his expertise and sharp eye for spiders.

The 7km route started from Lornie Road and ended at Venus Drive.

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 1 - Lornie Road to Venus Drive (7km)

The walk began with Serin, Subaraj’s son scooping up an Oriental Whip Snake for us to have a closer look. Although the Oriental Whip Snake appeared calm being passed on among the walk participants and safely returned to the nature reserve, I wouldn’t recommend randomly touching the wildlife especially without expert supervision.

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 8 - Oriental Whip Snake

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 12 - Oriental Whip Snake

The reflection of the morning sun upon the dewy grass makes the lawn wolf spider‘s lair easy to spot. In each sheet-web lies the solitary lawn wolf spider awaiting its prey such as grasshoppers to be caught in the gossamer.

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 23 - Wolf Spider

Here is a somewhat cross-section of lawn wolf spider’s sheet web spun around a shrub of nodding clubmoss.

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 25 - Wolf Spider

Other species of spiders spotted are the Argiope catenulata, a variant of the St. Andrew’s Cross spider…

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 30 - Argiope Catenulata

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 28 - Argiope Catenulata

and the Golden Orb Web Spider

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 31 - Golden Orb Web Spider

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 32 - Golden Orb Web Spider

Dragonflies, butterflies and moths were fluttering about too.

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 47 MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 46 MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 45

Indigo Dropwing Dragonfly

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 49 - Indigo Dropwing Dragonfly

Trumpet Tail Dragonfly

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 50 -  Trumpet Tail Dragonfly

To keep up to date with future walks, check out those organised or publicised at the Love Our MacRitchie Forest webpage.

MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 16 MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 38 MacRitchie Awareness Walk (26 July 2014) 40

{October 13, 2013}   Fartleks at Bishan Park

Looking back at my track record (linked in mileage in this side bar), I realised that it was 10 years ago that I first started running sustained distances of up to 10km in organised runs. I decided to get of my ass and challenged myself to get fit and reap a host of health benefits.

I was glad that at the opportunity for such a run at the 2003 Terry Fox run (in pre-revamped Sentosa), I had a friend to participate with me. He is a very seasoned runner, so 7km is chicken-feet for him while it was daunting for me. I tried to prepare myself though, and this involved walking/running the route in advance on my own to be physically and mentally ready for the uncharted distance and undulating terrain.

After that, the subsequent 10km runs became manageable. I have not signed up for runs longer than 10km because it usually gets very hot by then and also my feet would feel that they had enough. In recent times, I have not signed up for any organised run firstly because I’m tired of having to pick up a race pack (sometimes at Expo) in advance; secondly, waking up at 5am on Sunday to start a 7am run gets trying; and thirdly, I’m capable of my own runs at comparable distances free-of-charge.

Last week however, I signed up for a 7km run because it was rather different. The annual Great Eastern Women’s Run now has fringe activities and running clinics are one of them. For just $5, you can choose to take part in such a running clinic organised by Polar in the “Come Run With Polar” events at increasing distances of 3km, 5km and 7km.

Come Run with Polar - Bishan Park 1

I promptly signed up for the 7km run when I serendipitously stumbled upon it while browsing the Great Eastern Women’s Run for this year. It was perfect for me at a bargain as I’ve always wanted to cover running ground at Bishan Park.

I achieved all that, and got more than I bargained for because at the start of the run, I was informed that it involves fartlek training and running in stages together. Out of the window went my impression that the run would be at my own pace and completed under an hour.

Since I was already here, I may as well make use of this chance to go beyond my comfort zone and yield all the goodness that running magazines gush about since I would never bring myself to fartlek on my own.

The first 2.6 km was spent going in circles, for good reason. One portion of this circular route was on a landscape bridge where at stretches of 200m or so we did a mix of exercises such as lunges, squats, and others I don’t have a name for. One of which involved lifting my thighs in elaborate arcs to resemble something between climbing huge boulders and a dog marking its territory.

Come Run with Polar - Bishan Park 2

This part of the run was meant to be more intense than I allowed it to be. In any case, I know for sure that the exercise did what it was supposed to do because my thighs ached like they never had in a long time the next day. I had to brace myself to ascend and descend short flights of stairs at work.

The play and pause icons in the map tracked by runkeeper indicates where we stopped and started as a group, usually for a change of pace or exercise.

What no one counted on was to leave Bishan Park, although just for a short while, to climb the overhead bridge and do P.E. type exercises at the void deck across the road. Here, we did exercises to strengthen the back and core muscles. And yes, including the dreaded push-ups – I don’t think I’ve done push-ups since JC.

Come Run with Polar - Bishan Park 3

Having covered about 4km, we returned to Bishan Park for a longer continuous run along its length and made the 3rd stop near the end start/end point for a step workout. After the final 500m burst, we ended with arm exercises.

The whole workout was at no point intimidating. It was as bootcamp only as far as you allowed it to be. The instructor from Polar kept the atmosphere lighthearted and tried his darnest to humorously motivate the bunch of us. All in all, it was enjoyable and if this was organised on a regular basis, I’ll would sign up in a (resting) heart beat.

Come Run with Polar - Bishan Park 4

To top it off, I was one of the three lucky winners to fartlek away with a Polar Heart Rate Monitor at the conclusion of the event.

{September 9, 2013}   Cookie….

Because I had a (Teachers’) day off last Friday, I took the niece and nephew to the nearby Science Centre to have walk about, and maybe learn something new.

A new exhibit we visited was Candy Unwrapped which is free admission if are a Science Centre member but charges a nominal fee otherwise.  It is fairly interactive for young kids. However, the disparate segments of the exhibition space somewhat lacks unity and its presentation rather underwhelming. In any case, there is always something new to be learnt.

For me, the most sobering but not exactly new titbit (pun intended) of knowledge I encountered was the Energy Burn exhibit. By riding on the stationary bicycles, you can actually see and feel how long it takes to chip away at different amounts of sugar.

Here is a helpful chart reminding you that it takes 20:12 minutes of running at 8km per hour to burn 3 pieces of chocolate chip cookies. Yes, just 3 measly pieces.

Candy Unwrapped - How long it takes to burn sugar

Interesting, I also recently came across a youtube video of Tom Hiddleston teaching Cookie Monster about delayed gratification with regards to, no surprises for guessing, eating cookies…

And just when I was coveting Famous Amos.

Nothing much recreational or idyllic happens in the heavily industrial west as compared to all the hype developing in the waterfront of Punggol or the iconic East Coast. However, the park connector network has not entirely left the west in the dust.

This is especially so when the Ministry of National Development, under which NParks is parked, will “continue to plan parks based on our present norm of around 0.8ha of parks per 1,000 residents. These parks will be distributed across housing areas so that at least 85% of our residents and their families can live within 400m of a park by 2030. To be a City in a Garden, we will continue to pursue innovative ways to connect our green and blue spaces, so that our people can seamlessly move from one park to another via our park connector network. The proposed Round-Island-Route, stretching 150km, will provide an uninterrupted leisure route around the island, linking major cultural, natural and historical attractions with our parks, park connectors and intra-town cycling networks. By 2020, we will have 360km of park connectors compared to 200km .”

So that’s the grand scheme of things.

In the meantime, I was pretty glad to see works coming along at a bridge spanning the AYE and bridging Pandan Gardens PCN with Ulu Pandan PCN. In fact, it looks so much larger than a regular pedestrian path that I wasn’t sure if it was mean for traffic or people.

The chance came for me to find out at the PCN Networking Ride organised by NParks. Led by NPark staff, members of the public got to explore several PCN in the west by riding from West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Park.

Of course since we were riding in a large group at a leisurely pace with photo opportunities, the 20km or so return journey took a lot longer than a regular ride.

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 11

On the map, the GPS tracking along the elevated bridge looks like this.

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 22

Although ascending and descending the bridge will take less than 5 minutes, the planning and resources allocated to this project is massive, especially in a place like Singapore where the cycling culture is just beginning to take root together with a whole host of teething problems not unique to an urban environment.

What the elevated bridge looks like from the ground.

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 26

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 23

Ascending the bridge

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 34 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 31 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 29

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 36 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 33

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 27

The rest of the ride is also very pleasant. The lush greenery became increasingly visible as we pulled towards Jurong Lake Park. Although Jurong Lake Park was the midpoint of our guided ride, it is by no means the end of the PCN. Jurong PCN links to the Western Adventure Loop and then further north or central depending on where you are inclined to go.

Bike and park connectivity can only get better from here.

Other pictures of the guided ride.

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 17 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 16

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 44 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 39

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 21 PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 43

PCN Networking Ride - West Coast Park to Jurong Lake Loop 12

et cetera