Story and photos by: Bryan Chen
IT Analyst, Innovative Solutions

There simply isn’t a lot to do in Singapore during weekends, apart from immersing oneself in like-minded crowds at typical places such as shopping malls, attractions and cinemas.

All that changed one Saturday when my wife Audrey suggested going for a walk. I thought it was a brilliant idea! In the proverbial sense, we could kill many birds with a single stone; get some exercise, avoid the hustle and bustle of the crowds, and see Singapore literally at, a slower and more relaxing pace. Just like that, we began what would become a weekly ritual. What we couldn’t have imagined was how these little “adventures” would change the way we perceive our little ’boring’ island city. 

Our home is a stone’s throw away from Kent Ridge Park; we begin many of our walks by following the route through The Southern Ridges to HarbourFront. In the beginning, we made frequent stops to check if we were on the right path. As we became more familiar with the main route, we began to explore the less popular paths.  At times, these paths led us to dead ends but once in a while; they brought us to Eden.

The Southern Ridges Walk is a nine-kilometer stroll across the hills of southern Singapore. The above picture is taken along Alexandra Road (junction of Hyderabad Road)

Slowly, we began to notice things that we normally missed. We found that after a stormy night, a rich, dill-like aroma would rise on the morning mist, wafting through the forest; that after a few minutes of bathing in the evening sun, the fresh and clean scent of eucalyptus would permeate through Kent Ridge Park. We even came across the slaty-breasted rail that lived amongst the thick shrub and came out only when it was completely quiet. Upon detecting the presence of a human, it would sprint back into the bushes. With its hilariously long, skinny legs and extremely quick sprint, that simple yet amusing act never failed to put a smile on our faces.

The slaty-breasted rails are common, but secretive birds that are rarely seen in the open. Photo credit: Bird Ecology Study Group 

One morning, we began our walk before sunrise, and decided to head in the opposite direction for a change – up Clementi Road and further north towards Bukit Timah. Along the way, we noticed that the Green Corridor (formerly the KTM railway track) was running parallel to our path, separated by a row of trees that lined the pavement. Naturally, we had to stumble through the trees to explore this new path!

The new path spotted along the Green Corridor 

We came across many interesting things along the Green Corridor, and we would imagine the stories behind each of them. One particular gem I remember was the pale green metal bucket which was placed conspicuously along the path. Being none the wiser, I thought it looked interesting and took a photograph of it. On our way back, we found that someone had, literally kicked the bucket and uncovered a rusted reinforcement-steel bar sticking out of the ground. As its reddish-brown color blended well with the ground underneath, it posed a serious safety threat to all path users. Someone considerate had actually made the effort to cover the hazard with a bucket in order to prevent an accident from occurring.  

Why is there a bucket right in the middle of the path?

It was rather late in the morning – the sun was high in the sky as we approached The Rail Mall at Upper Bukit Timah Road. We were completely exhausted by then but we spotted an unfamiliar narrow dirt path. Despite not knowing where the path might lead us, we went for it! After about 20 minutes of trekking, we emerged from the thick grass into a little enclave – The Singapore Quarry. We were astonished to find such a beautiful scene of serenity right in the midst of our bustling city!

The Singapore Quarry is part of the Dairy Farm Nature Park located at 100 Dairy Farm Road

Little discoveries like these have repeatedly taught us to appreciate the things which we have right here, right now. It was better for us to take the journey in our stride, to find satisfaction in the experiences that came with it rather than to dwell in the difficulty of it. Looking back, it didn’t really matter where our journey took us – in the end, it was the deep conversations and the experiences we shared together that mattered.

Extrapolating from our experiences is this nugget of wisdom: opportunities and interesting gems constantly await our discovery, if only we step back and consider them. It’s never too late to change the way we perceive our world; and so I stand corrected - Singapore isn’t a boring city at all. It had felt that way because I had let myself define it as such.

As the year draws to a close, I’d like to challenge all my wonderful colleagues to take the road less traveled. Even if we choose wrongly, the wisdom gained and the experience are still priceless!