We decided to wake up real early today to have plenty of time to hike the Southern Ridges Trail (a recommendation from Mimi’s friend Ajitha). We were out of the room by 7:00am and started the day with another tasty breakfast at Cocotte, our hotel’s French restaurant.
The food there is very good but also pretty classic breakfast food: OJ, milk with cereals, yogurt, muffins, croissants and made-to-order entrees such as kale & eggs benedict or savory bread pudding. The one excitement was provided by the presence of dragon fruits aka pittaya among the fruit basket. I think I definitely heard of those before and probably even tried them at work but had no memory of their taste. However, we quickly realized that it is the fruit version of a “butter face” aka “butter taste”: for how pretty they look, they taste disappointingly bland.
Once our stomachs were filled, we hit the town, starting with City Hall and its surrounding museums, performing arts centers and bridges. Here I am auditioning for the Victoria Theatre. They did not accept me, so I had to continue my trip.
Next, we took the MRT to Harbour Front, where the trail begins. Exiting through the VivoCity mall (seems like every mall is directly connected to the MRT network in this city), we posed in front of the outdoor Lunar New Year display with twelve stands, one for each Chinese zodiac sign. Mimi was born in the year of the tiger. Me? I am a pig!
We started the 9km hike in Mount Faber Park, climbing on a hill that looks over the cable cars going to Sentosa Island. The view from up there is impressive.
The hike brought us to the Henderson Waves bridge, the highest pedestrian bridge in the city with a wave form based on some mathematical function.
Next we kept going through the Forest Walk in Telok Blangah Hill Park where we could hear many birds singing in the dense forest, while still being surrounded by tall buildings. Supposedly there are even monkeys living in the trees around that trail but we could not spot any, despite our best efforts.
The Forest Walk ended at HortPark, a large gardening hub with many themed gardens (fruit and vegetable garden, butterfly garden, vertical greenery, Balinese garden to name a few).
HortPark led us to the Canopy Walk, a short but winding trail up a steep hill. Sweaty and tired, we finished the hike at a former mansion converted into a small World War II museum called Reflections at Bukit Chandu. The friendly staff invited us into the A/C building, an offer we were not able to refuse.
Inside, we learned a lot about the Battle of Singapore and how the Japanese troops were able to conquer the city after fighting British and Australian regiments as well as groups of relatively untrained and untested overseas Chinese and Malay soldiers. Fun fact, the Japanese troops disguised themselves as Punjabi soldiers, trying to take control of the Bukit Chandu area. Little did they know that the Malay soldiers were familiar with the distinct Punjabi formation and did not take the bait! Eventually, the Japanese overpowered the Malays and conquered Singapore. The museum commemorates the bravery and resistance of the Malay troops.
The museum guests consisted of the two of us plus about 80 Malay Singaporean school kids. Upstairs, where we were watching the animated film of the battle, Mimi overheard one of them saying:
Do we really have to share the room with these old people!?
This is me giving a high five to Lieutenant Adnan outside of the museum.
Done with the hike, we took the MRT to Orchard Road, a busy shopping district centered on a large avenue cluttered with luxury stores that has little to envy to the Champs Elysees. We finally had lunch at one of the food courts, trying kaya toast, a Singaporean specialty. Kaya toast is smothered with a green spread made up of coconut and pandan. Yummy.
We headed back to our hotel in 小印度 (that’s Little India for you Chinese noobs) with the intent of “just taking a quick nap” before heading back out in the evening. The neighborhood really comes alive in the evening with shopkeepers selling produce and flower necklaces and Indian music blasting out loud. Here’s just one of the many colorful houses in Little India.
More importantly, I really wanted to check out the Night Safari, a top Singapore attraction. However, Mimi completely zonked out and categorically refused to get back on her feet. I’ll admit I was pretty beat as well and the prospect of taking the bus for over an hour one way did not sound too good. We called it a night.