I was testing out a few things on my Canon T2i (550D) so I thought I’d make something of it. The self-recorded footage was filmed on my iPhone 4S. Read more below.
Singapore is not known for its green areas. This is quite obvious. Do a simple image search for Singapore and you’ll find skyline after skyline of tall, fancy buildings or a Merlion vomiting water into Marina Bay. With an entire country’s landmass roughly 3.5 times the size of Washington D.C., almost all the land has been converted from lush rainforests and thriving mangroves into the concrete and steel playgrounds of 21st century robot-people. In fact, according to the all knowing source, Wikipedia, Singapore has grown in size from 581.5 square km in the 1960s, to 723.2 square km today. That means over one fifth of Singapore’s current land has been stolen from the ocean! Within twenty years that figure may grow further by another 100 square km. Just give it thousand years or so and you’ll have kangaroos hopping over from Australia.
With only 5% of island remaining forest and woodlands, I decided to check out one of the few areas I haven’t seen yet. Ironically, it’s perhaps the easiest to get to.
Why this is even called a “mount”, I don’t know. Comparing it with some others that are justly given the title of Mount make it seem quite insignificant. Mount Everest, Mount Fuji, Mount McKinley, Mount Kilimanjaro: All awesome mountains you would be lucky to climb. Mount Faber however, is barely a hill stretching a measly 105 meters (344 ft) into the sky. Calling Mount Faber a mountain is kinda like saying McDonalds has healthy options or Lindsey Lohan is an upstanding member of society.
I started from the VivoCity side, and not being very tall, it took me less than twenty minutes to get to the top. While that sounds quite easy, the term “no sweat” belongs nowhere near Singapore. It looked as if I had just decided to walk through a sprinkler with my clothes on. Faber Point had some decent views, but trees blocked a majority of what could have been seen. Of all the times to not chop down a few trees, this is it?
From there I ran into some giant demon spider that was apparently on vacation from guarding King Tut’s tomb and quickly head down to Henderson Waves. Connecting Mount Faber to Telok Blangah Hill, over Henderson road a hundred or so feet below, the footbridge is perhaps more impressive than the mountain itself. One side of the bridge moves up and down with its metal supports to create some sort of wave that Mr. LeVan, my high school calculus teacher, would be very disappointed I didn’t know. Unfortunately, to get the best angle to view the actual wave pattern you would have to go deep into the bushes and undergrowth where there was probably a family of monkeys and their pet spiders all too eager to make real good friends with my body.
On the other side of the waves, you can check out the Stream Garden, the Terrace Garden, and then the Forest Walk. The Forest Walk is over a kilometer of metal walkways which carry you above the forest floor into the canopy. These take you all the way down to Alexandra Arch, where you can either hop on a bus, or continue the Southern Ridges trail through Hort Park and Kent Ridge Park.
While not very remote, and hardly a hike, it was a nice break from the rest of the city, and extremely easy to get to. If you don’t feel like sweating up the million stairs to the top, you can grab the cable car from Sentosa Island or HarbourFront up to Mount Faber. You can even stuff your face on top at a restaurant to reward your lazy ass.
However, If you’re looking for something a bit wilder or authentic feeling you may not be very impressed. Instead, I would check out Pulau Ubun, MacRitchie Reservoir, or Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Even better yet, get the hell out of Singapore.
So I read somewhere that the Giant Water Monitor Lizard is harmless to humans. I really need to stop reading these sort of things.
On my day off, here in Singapore, after a nice swim in the morning, I decided to go check out the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. It’s way up on the North-West end of the Island near Malaysia, so getting there is a trek on it’s own. After thirty minutes on the MRT, twenty minutes on the bus, and then a twenty minute 1.5km walk to the entrance of the reserve, I finally made it. Did you know Singapore had a Crocodile farm? I didn’t. At least if I was murdered out there, I felt comfort knowing someone could always follow the long trail of sweat to my dead, naked body (don’t worry, I wasn’t taken advantage of, I just walk the streets of Singapore in the nude because it’s the only way I can handle the heat.)
Near the start of the trails there were several groups of school children screaming like someone had just been…well, murdered. Naturally I pushed them out of the way to see what the hullabaloo was all about. There it was, the first of many Giant Water Monitor Lizards I would see. I thought it was pretty big, being about three feet long, but a girl was quick to to take the opportunity to prove they were much smarter than a stupid white American, and informed me they get “much bigger”.
I quickly escaped the overly happy cries of children who have at last escaped the daily monotony of “maths”, science, & inappropriate staring, and made my way into the wetlands. For Singapore standards, it was quite nice. A break away from the urban uprising and slow walking robot people who approach escalators like its the first time they’ve ever seen a set of stairs move.
I did, however, expect to see more birds. For the little bit of wetland Singapore has remaining, you’d think every creature with wings would crowd from near and far to get a piece of this sweet wetland action. There were a handful of white egrets and a few other tiny brown shore birds, but they were all too far away to identify. I caught a glimpse of a bright blue King Fisher, and some other hipster bird that looked like it was wearing a bright red scarf, but they were snotty little pretentious birds and quickly flitted off into the dense jungle growth. Probably to cackle about which migratory route has the best bird baths.
The wetland is quite large. Much larger than I first anticipated. After coming across a sign that read “WATCH IT!” with a little graphic of a crocodile, I told myself that if I didn’t cover every square inch of this place, I could potentially miss out on seeing one of these rare beasties (which has probably never been actually seen since the 1950s.) Sadly, I never found a crocodile, but after getting stung by about a thousand mosquitoes (I didn’t have my friend Autumn’s sweet blood around to distract them), I did stumble across a giant aquatic lizard of another kind.
This Giant Water Monitor Lizard was, in technical terms, “much bigger” than the one found by the school children; around five feet in length it looked like it had a nasty habit for cheese burgers. He was just sprawled out, relaxing next to his little pond, and minding his own no-good lizardy business; probably trying to come up with even more adjectives to tack on in front its name.
I took a few pictures from afar, but that wasn’t good enough. I remembered reading somewhere that they were pretty much harmless to humans, so I got a bit closer. And by “a bit”, I mean close enough to see a tiny ant cruising around making a jungle gym of its face. It didn’t care about the ant, and for the most part it didn’t care about me. For the most part…
You see, when I decided that we needed a photo together for our profile pics, so I got out the remote for my camera and all of a sudden he got all pissy. He started grumbling, flicking his tongue around, hissed at me a few times, so like any normal person wouldn’t do, I got closer. They’re harmless right? And I figured we were pretty much besties by now, so it was all good. IT WAS NOT ALL GOOD. Whipping his tail around he outright threw our minutes of friendship in the trash and tried to slap me! He slung his huge tail over and if it wasn’t for my cat-like reflexes, I would have gotten a face full of scales. Needless to say, I got the hint. After a couple more pictures I bid him and the reserve farewell.
If you have an afternoon free in Singapore, check Sungei Buloh out. Sure beats battling the masses on Orchard road, and it’ll leave your wallet (as well as your waist size) much happier. You might even make friends with a lizard or two, and you’ll probably see more birds than I did. At the very least you’ll discover one of the few natural places Singapore has left. As I neared the bus stop to return home I looked back at the sun setting over the mangroves. For a split moment I forgot I was in Singapore… I escaped the island of durian and digital devices to a place I always imagined Southeast Asia to be… And then it was gone. With the clanging of metal on rock, I was sprung back to reality as a back hoe ripped up the earth to make way for a new parking lot.
A few more photos from the day
In other words, Saturday is the worst day to go. More info can be found on the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve website.