on the slow lane

J and I have always liked taking our bicycles to the reservoirs or neighbouring towns. Well, its our way of pretending we are kids on scooters in Taipei, zipping around and out of the city.

But for the last few weekends, we thought to venture further for some domestic tourism. From Toa Payoh, we visited Ubi's industrial estates, the Marina Barrage, the East Coast and Seletar.

All photos in this post are by J

We saw many things along the way, but for me, these 3 stood out:


Because scaredy cat us would not go on the roads, a large part of our journey was through the ingenious park connectors that the National Parks Board had devised. In the various stretches along the Kallang river, starting from Potong Pasir to where the river meets the bay, we would often go by lovers on the park benches, under the trees or spread out on plastic ground sheets. They were chatting, listening to the radio, exhausting a bag of chips and doing everything else that lovers do. Thai, Burmese, Filipino, Indonesian, Chinese, Indian...it was the UN of love.

It made me think of this movie, and reminded me how little 2 people in love need to feel happy.


This is the closest photo I have to the idea of "workers", standing guard on a hot Sunday at Katong Park near Fort Road, on the way to the East Coast.

One of the strangest experiences we had was on our way to the Marina Barrage. The route we took was from the Nicoll Highway, past the F1 pit, the Singapore Flyer, the Marina Bay Sands IR, the Marina Bay Residences, and finally circling around the heavy construction site that will be the Gardens by the Bay, before we reached the Barrage.

What different worlds we saw in the making, and all within that concentrated promontory of land reclaimed from the sea.

We first observed young Singaporeans on their canoes, then the 2 paeans to tourism and the 1 paean to integrated resorting, before reaching the ultra posh Marina Bay residences. But once past the luxury condominium, it felt like another world altogether.

It was a world of cement dust. It was a world of make shift bus stops. It was a world of narrow pavements, where groups of workers in their heavy construction boots marched by or stepped aside, quietly, to let the other pass. On the way to the barrage, we spied rows of tightly placed exotic trees, still awaiting to sink their roots. And with similar order and the same degree of economy were seemingly endless rows of temporary dormitories, stacked 3 or 4 stories high. Men in their teens to 30s stood outside the doors or moved about purposefully. Their laundry was draped across the railing, their muddy bikes were all lined up. Two "barbers" had set up their make shift shop by the pavement, the barber chair a plastic stool on concrete. One chinese barber. One Indian barber. They were set 20 metres apart, a polite competition.

When we finally got to the Barrage, the workers had disappeared from sight.

Singaporean families crowded the rooftop garden and flew these magnificent kites. There must have been some 20 to 30 kites in the sky - but there was space enough. Looking at them, you never would have guessed the frenzy of the kite flyers on their tiny patch of green below.

I enjoyed the bike ride. But something felt not quite right, I think.


I enjoyed less the bike ride to Seletar - there was less to distract along the way. But whatever it was I saw, it felt "right".

For this, all credit goes to the trees - giant rain trees and angsanas lined the Upper Thomson Road all the way to Seletar. Cycling some distance behind J, I realised how tall and majestic these trees were - and in contrast, how small the usually-tall J was. I needed distance to see this.

Along our coastline too are rows of trees. Sea almonds, coconut and casuarina...and many more I know not how to name. They broke the force of the winds and provided a degree of shade in the mid-year sun. They are most likely not native to our coast, neither are the rain trees along our roads. But without a doubt, the trees, they were definitely the best decisions us islanders made in the history of our island living.


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