Bishan parkrun, Singapore

Bishan parkrun route
Bishan parkrun route.

Singapore’s parkruns start at 7.30. A fact which surprised me, even though I have run two of them before. Still, it meant that I didn’t have to be up quite as early as I had reckoned on (when thinking it a 7am start), and could have hopped on public transport. Though, word to the wise, the nearest MRT stop, Bishan, has a late start at the moment, though the bus replacements ought to whizz you through the quiet streets in the morning.

I had realised the night before that my hostel wasn’t that near a convenient MRT station, nor that near the park, but an 8km jog isn’t that daunting, so I left at 6.25 and passed plenty of other people taking advantage of relative cool to slot in some exercise. For many people (though not everyone, I’ve seen a few out at midday), if you haven’t been out by 9, you’ve missed your slot.

I was pretty hot and sweaty by the time I got there, with no real chance of cooling down in these temperatures. The runners gather by the finish, a little further on, anti-clockwise, than the start. So long as you’re in the right bit of the park, you can’t really miss them, though nothing much is visible before 7 – you might find a cone with an arrow on, depending on how early they’ve set them up. Attendance was down to 29 after the opening week, which made for a happy group of runners and volunteers chatting together.

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park.
Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park.

The run itself is two loops of the park, plus a little bit to the finish. It’s all flat, and there are no 180 degree turns, but it still isn’t as quick as it might be. I think that was partly the heat, but also just that the park is busy, and you’ll be dodging a few people as you scoot round.

Bishan parkrun finish.
Bishan parkrun finish.

Afterwards I waited around and chatted, then wandered to the MRT to get back. My kit was still soaked through after an air-conditioned ride, so it was some relief to shower and change. Heat, that’s the main thing you’ll experience on your Singapore parkrun, but they are all friendly and fun too.

Singapore Botanical gardens

My day started early, meeting ex-colleague and my frequent visit in Singapore, June, to go and see Avengers, Infinity War. On her recommendation we went to Shaw Lido, which has some great screens.

Thanos' Gauntlet on display outside a cinema, in front of a large A for Avengers
Thanos’ Gauntlet, Avengers Infinity war.

Sitting outside after lunch, it took me a while to notice the ornament on display. It had a steady queue of people wandering up to take photos, but I found a moment.

Having walked the few kms to the Lido, I wasn’t too far from the Botanical gardens so, as the clouds cleared to leave a bright, sunny and hot day, I walked up there to have a look round. It’s a large area, with a learning forest, orchid display, marketplace and so on. Lots of people there, but enough space to leave it uncrowded.

Singapore Botanical Gardens entry gate.
Singapore Botanical Gardens entry gate.
Swan Lake
Swan Lake.
Swan Lake, with a sculpture of swans in the middle.
Swan Lake.
Trees in the Botanical gardens.
Botanical gardens.
Wide paths and verdant views.
Wide paths and verdant views.
Tall pink flowers tower over two people
Pink flowers.
Looking up at AA giant tree
Giant tree, pre-dates British involvement in Singapore.
Rainforest walk.
Rainforest walk.
Gardens on a sunny day.
Gardens on a sunny day.
Gingers waterfall, just a couple of metres high.
Gingers waterfall.
Two people stand behind the waterfall, holding a hand out to feel the water tumble.
Step behind the waterfall.
A large lizard on the ground
Nearly stepped on this lizard.
Orchid garden. A riot of red, pink, yellow and white colour
Orchid garden.
Pink orchids
Orchid close up.
High plants that you can walk in between as their leaves meet over the top of you
Botanical gardens walk through.

Heading home, I decided against the 5km+ walk and hopped on the MRT to visit the National Library and read some Marvel. Also recommended.

West Coast parkrun, Singapore

West Coast parkrun route
West Coast parkrun route.

After one of the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever managed – I’d revisited Park in Holland Village with an ex colleague, drunk and chatted, but was in bed by 11.30, still awake at 2, finally asleep some time later, then wide awake at 4, and again at 5 – I was up at six to meet my lift to parkrun. That he wasn’t as committed a tourist as me was evidenced by our text chat the day before, when he suggested East Coast Park, ‘because it’s closer’.

But I’ve done that one, back in 2015 (pre a trip to Vietnam). In fact, that’s where we met. Being a good sort, he bowed to peer pressure and agreed to drive out to West Coast Park. I wasn’t convinced he was certain of the importance, but at 6.35, as the sun crept over the well-lit buildings of Lavender Street, a sticker-festooned Merc flashed me, and we were off.

The trip out to West Coast Park took us past the docks, and their size is impressive – yet still the queue of ships waiting multiple days to get into Singapore is a feature to be seen. We were there by 7 and my worries that I wouldn’t get there were finally allayed. I like to wait until it’s certain before switching off the worry completely. That was just one of the things to keep me awake the night before, along with thoughts of getting back for my afternoon bus to Malaysia, jet lag and a general night-time ‘now let’s worry about the open nature of the future’ readjustment my brain seems to be doing.

Mauritz figured that the West coast might be a little cooler than the East, and it certainly felt it today. The course is a figure of eight, today with a couple of mild deviations for ‘pathworks’ (whose gig was rubbish, incidentally – barely any electronica), fast and flat other than a couple of mini climbs as you pass both ways under an underpass. Despite the breeze that was a huge relief to sweaty finishers, it was hot on the course, and after one runner sprinted away (to be reeled in and finish 7th) I was happy at first to hold on to a group of 7. We split after a kilometre or so, though, and I was left chasing a Spaniard running his 50th parkrun who clearly gets about a bit – a browse of Strava shows he has run in Indonesia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Singapore just in the last few weeks. I have found my peeps, as they say.

Post parkrun we went for breakfast – curry noodles, at a stall Mauritz has visited since he was a boy – and coffee (thanks but no thanks) in a little tour of Singapore life. I still had time for a snooze then made it to my 1pm bus down at the Golden Mile Tower, which is a Thai corner of town. The bus set off late, but taking 5 hours on a Saturday afternoon isn’t too bad. We were helped, I think, by our driver spotting that the one queue of buses waiting to drop people off could be two, and buzzing down the right hand side, and also by Star Mart express (their reviews are terrible, by the way, but I was happy enough) pulling a bus switch, so one bus took us to Malaysian immigration, another took us from there.

Last night I couldn’t quite shake the thought that I was moving on a little too quickly, and certainly haven’t really found my travelling brain yet, but Melaka comes highly recommended, and one wander out onto the riverfront showed me why, so I’m glad I made the effort to get here.

Pretty riverfront scene in Melaka.
Melaka by night.

The hostel owner at Ringo’s Foyer is renowned for being super-friendly, and sure enough on arrival I was being introduced to everyone in the room, shown around and met his wife and daughter. The dorm room is large but we all have our own curtained pod, which makes for a little haven for anyone not socialising. Writing a blog post, for instance. I compared travel notes with Andrew, recently graduated in New Zealand and completing a tour of Europe by enjoying Malaysian prices. As we talked, I alternated between thinking ‘gosh, touring Europe is a very different experience’ and ‘good grief, you’re so young’.

A moped stands in front of a colourful mural painted on a wall, showing a man, leaning
Murals by the river.

Malaysia was a revelation last time I was here, and was so anew; sitting at the bus stop, waiting for the local bus (a taxi is 15x more expensive, though given that the bus is 18p, you might decide not to wait) I was initially confused by the lack of information and choice of 6 different stops that might offer a bus going my way. But a local told me the right place to wait for the bus, and another engaged me in conversation, spotting first that I was British and then regaling me with tales of teaching English, how to confuse a postgraduate with French words and what Europe might think of Muslims. The wait and then the journey passed very quickly.

Malaysian Services
Malaysian services – dude in white shirt had a style all his own.

He also asked what I do for a profession and was inspired enough by my old one to take my email address. I doubt I’ll get asked for my advice on learning technologies, but it is interesting that I’ve already had to give an occupation on an official form or two and now in conversation.

The youth in the hostels don’t seem to be bothered, mind.

Buses: 2. Coffee turned down: 1. New parkrun: 1. Sleep: 2 hours.

Results from West Coast Park parkrun, event 46, 14/10/17.

Last journey

Last journey
Singapore, Singapore

Singapore, Singapore

At Saigon airport. In distance, it’s walkable from the centre – 5k or so from where I was staying – but I let myself get a taxi, first one of the trip. He got a tip, but it might have been bigger if he hadn’t, as we drove in to the airport, asked “you have Vietnamese dong?” Well yes, but you reminding me I can’t spend them elsewhere is a chancer’s approach.

A view of the beach at sunset, Singapore
Where I started, Singapore. More interesting than the airport.

Some people do travel in some wild clothes. The ones that pick tracksuit bottoms end up looking like retired athletes, having one last go at whatever made them famous. The baggy multi-coloured trousers, though – wow. Maybe the need to carry ‘travelling clothes’ contributes to the outside baggage people are encumbered by.

Inside the airport, exhibits in a London theme, including a double-decker bus
Sights of London, Changi.

Connecting in Singapore was a pleasure – the staff member couldn’t quite believe I didn’t have any baggage to collect, asking, confirming, checking a third time. But no. Beijing wasn’t too bad – on the way out there was a long queue and it is all a bit of a mess. This time the queue was much shorter, at least, though the same mess – the one wide queue is turned into two side by side ones, for instance, which needs marshalling and reminders periodically to make it function. Changi is just a huge pleasure, cosy and lots to do, with outside gardens to prevent it feeling like an hermetically sealed spot. Beijing is all high arched ceilings, which they either can’t or don’t heat, a disadvantage when it’s minus 3 outside. But still, just some waiting then I’m off. Next time perhaps I’ll pay the extra for a direct flight.

Cactus garden
Cactus garden.
Queues of ships outside Singapore port
I see some ships.

East Coast parkrun, Singapore

Reaching Hanoi
Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

East Coast parkrun route
East Coast parkrun route. Left to right, and back again.

I ran East Coast parkrun in the morning. A torrential downpour just before the start cooled us all down. Despite the humidity the course is pretty fast, helped by being flat. It’s an out-and-back, and even the turn is pretty quick, taking a wide swoop round rather than a 180 degree turn.

Four sweaty runners, after the finish
Mauritz, David, me, Jennifer.

Two people from my hostel were there, though it took German Jennifer to point that out and say hello. I’d not noticed, nor would I have recognised them in any case. They asked my pb, which gave a false idea of my speed – pb shmeebee, I need a phrase for current best. CB, then. In the end, young Dave, only recently a sub 20 runner from his own account, was catching me at the end and would have done so with another 500m or so. I was a bit disappointed not to nip under 19, but 19:02 with tired legs and in humid conditions wasn’t bad.

Me, striding confidently ahead of a pack. Many of whom passed me later on.
She passed me later.

It started at 7.30, so even after chatting at the end to very friendly locals – albeit Mauritz is studying in the UK and the others who passed to talk were ex pats – I had jogged back by 9.30. Time for a change, a sociable breakfast – lots of nice people in the hostel – and a scoot to lovely Changi airport. One tasty pad Thai, two meals on the plane and a three hour flight later and I was in Hanoi. There’s a tourist info spot in the airport, so I quickly found out that the buses leave from the other terminal and hopped on the transfer bus. I failed to find the local bus – all the way over to the far right of the car park – but still felt smug getting a minibus. It was 8 times more expensive. But it’s 33000 VND to the £, 5k for a bus, 40k for a minibus, for an hour’s journey. I’m happy with my choice.

A lot of large ships queueing for entry to Singapore, off East Coast park
Boats queue near the beach.

Hanoi. Buzzing motorbikes, light and colour, surrounded by a dark haze given the late hour. I walked to the hostel, learning how to cross streets and remembering others’ stories – I think of crossing in China, but still – as I went.

Sunset over East Coast park
Sunset over East Coast park. Several days earlier.

Eating, with Shuyun

Eating, with Shuyun
Singapore, Singapore

Singapore, Singapore


I met Shuyun in Korea. And we ate. Here, we ate. Determined to show me round Singaporean cuisine. I probably would have preferred three days to do it in. But still, I had some sweet pork jerky as a gift, seafood broth, laksa, and an otan – fishcake in banana leaves. Followed up with freshly squeezed sugar cane juice and cake. Delicious.

Drinking with June

Drinking with June
Singapore

Hoa Lư, Vietnam

June and I worked together at Birkbeck, though she escaped well before I did. Neither of us is big on NYE, so we drank a couple of pints in the afternoon, over in more bohemian Holland Village, and I was back to the hostel, joining the other older men at first, by 8ish. Perfect.

Museum land

Museum land
Singapore, Singapore

Singapore, Singapore

Things to do in Singapore: run round the reservoir. Failed. Ready to go at 5.30, to make the most of the light/heat trade off, but a hefty storm spoiled it. Go to the zoo: decided against, zoo – majestic as it sounds. Head for the museums: well alright. There are several in the same area, though I didn’t know that when I set off.

Grassy lawn and a park nearby, with tall skyscrapers behind
From Fort Canning.

I walked down to the National Museum, near where I’d got to the day before. The $10 entry fee seemed entirely reasonable, even before I found it gives entry to the Peranakan and Art museums (pay for NMS, get PM and SAM too – all acronymical on the map). The exhibits are in the basement and on the second floor, not sure what’s happening with the first. I headed for the basement first, which turned out to be a Singapore Biennale special, Singaporean art in the first room and specially commissioned installations in the second. I liked the Singaporean art; obviously none of it is old, with the country only being 50 years old, and I think they’d not claim to have a style yet, but there was a great sense of energy and vibrancy. Maybe it’s me projecting, but it seemed natural for a young country to have lively art.

One each of a purple, green and blue two-storey building, in the low streets, while tall apartment blocks appear behind
Local shops.

Walking into the second room was odd, at first I thought there was a group of people looking straight at me. I walked under the chandeliers just inside the entrance; one for each nuclear country, the more reactors, the bigger the chandelier. Very pretty, but still that crowd was watching me. But they were projections, each a video of a Chinese person eating – the banality a parody of the national inquisition. It was certainly effective in making me feel watched.

Outside I was grabbed by a man with a questionnaire. I’m going to have to lose my habit of answering anything when I’m home but no harm here. I’m not sure I was much use – did you come to Singapore for the biennale? No. Have you heard of any of these? Well, only from reading the booklet I’m holding right now. Upstairs is the main exhibit; given an audio guide and instructions on the way in, I walked across a bridge and then down a long and winding ramp as my guide told me about Singapore. It’s an immaculately curated museum, and this history section is exhaustive, numbers to press for information everywhere. If you really want to take it in, you’re going to need to come more than once, I think. I really liked the extra content on the start of the colonial period, though that was partly because I found a spot to sit down and listen to them. But with the introduction of Raffles and Farquhar, the content is particularly rich, with the choice of an events or people path. Fantastic.

Round the corner, after lunch in a cafe next to a university at which I discovered that my university credentials let me login to their eduroam network, is the Peranakan museum, dedicated to this mixed race group who in some areas have their own culture. Only in some because they are a group with widespread influences, and so widespread ways of doing things. I liked the pictures and testimonies of ‘how I feel Peranakan’ downstairs, wasn’t so fussed for the wedding gallery and enjoyed the Peranakan public life bit, especially where it was revision on what I’d learned at NMS. Because of the biennale there were special exhibits, needlework from a women’s prison, Cambodian history seen through book extracts (the name of the book escapes me) and others.

A portrait of a small boy, Ryan Choo, looking cheeky.
Peranakan museum.

Finally I headed to the art museum. They let me know I could also see the SAM @8q, and short on time I went straight there. It turned out to be a great choice, interactive and funny exhibits, starting with some street intervention videos on the first floor. They had a group of cyclists in Vietnam with umbrellas, making a car, a man lifting paving stones in London, putting a squeaky toy underneath and filming people’s reaction and so on. Upstairs was a gel bath into which coins thrown sank very slowly, an ink lake, a slides how on the desolation left in Vietnam as a tower block faces destruction. It was a fairly wild experience, and a great gallery with willing volunteers explaining it. Not quite a place where visitors could go and play with everything, but more than a ‘wander slowly and appreciate’ gallery, too.

I headed back for my reservoir run, but the storm intruded so I went later, down the Kallang river, dramatic as lightning lit up the sky periodically, and then the Singapore river, with lights gleaming from the business district. It was a pretty fair second choice. Theoretically I could still get up early the next day for the 12 miles to, round and back from the reservoir, but it was unlikely, given the need to head for the airport at 9.30, and sure enough I didn’t make it. I found time to check another meal off the list Stefen had given me; chicken rice, completely delicious. Of course, I was back in my favourite canteen food court, and had barely spent anything yet, so I ate again, sweet and sour fish which left me highly satisfied and enormously full. I topped it off by trying the bright purple drink from the fruit stall – dragon fruit. Despite the dramatic name it is quite mild, like a cross between watermelon and blackberry. Full now, I picked up a couple of cans of expensive beer – that’s all they do here – and headed back to the hostel.

“The upshot was that the German language, and the game’s lexicon, were both enriched with an assortment of cricket-specific compound words. So the game stops for a teepause, batsmen can be out feldbehinderung, and if your foot crosses the schlaglinie, that’s a wurfschwung.” The Spin, from the Guardian.

Singapore

Singapore
Singapore, Singapore

Singapore, Singapore

I slept well after my early start yesterday. The bus, despite a jam from an accident, dropped us on Beach Road around 9. We’d lost people at the Malaysian passport office and almost everyone at the Singaporean one. Getting back on the bus was mildly chaotic, but I made it. And thanks to singapore’s helpful signs, showing which road is up ahead, I found the hostel very easily, even though it was a good 20 minutes walk away.

Low, older buildings, preserved on a busy city street
Old shop fronts.

Today I decided to wander round the city, even though I’d run first thing, very tight from yesterday. Heading toward the coast I took. A turn onto the river – Rochor first, then the Kallang. That turned out to be inspired. It was 11, so hot, but there was a breeze by the river, and it was pretty. Almost as good, maybe better; just as I was getting to the two mile point, I spotted a Union Jack. What’s that? Ooh, driver’s name, it’s the F1 pit lane! I ran all the way past, looking up at the Ferris wheel above. The entry for that was round the corner, with a few listless tourists heading in or chilling out as best they could – I’m not sure they knew the pit lane was round the corner, surely someone should be having their picture taken under “Jenson Button” or “Fernando Alonso”. There were barriers around, but not a complete block and I realised yes, I could do this. I turned, onto the corner markings first, then ran right through the pit lane itself. Yes!

Skyscrapers rise above, some way behind, a green park
Mount Emily, looking down.

Lavender street holds my hostel and many many others. It also, to my great pleasure, has a thriving food market, where for $5 (£2.50) you can eat from a huge range. It was still busy at 10pm when I got there last night, and to top my night off I spotted the second half of Tottenham v Everton on the screens. Today I had lunch there then headed down streets with old shop fronts, a big construction site – it’s a well connected city, but they look to be building a huge station right in the middle. I got to Mount Emily park, only to find metal fences and no entry signs. Enforced at gunpoint, according to the sign. Right then. At the top, though, is a national park sign and a small park, with some decent views where you can find them through the trees.

Sign saying protected place, no admittance, with a silhouetted man with hands up, as another points a gun at him
Not in here, buster.

I sat down, then lay down and dozed in between bits of Beowulf. Next thing I knew I was reading but my sunglasses were making it hard to read. So take them off, right? Right, but – that is one dark sky. Time to go! I had been vaguely heading for the Singapore plazas. I became a little less vague. I passed through little India, darker faces and happy Diwali signs abounded. Now the buildings got bigger and needed much more glass. It’s raining, what’s this one? The arts college, nope, next one – right, definitely going in here, it’s going to… Yep, absolutely throw it down. And this is a cinema, that’s what I’m doing now. It was a choice between Thor and Passion so I picked the latter despite having caught up on the first Thor and The Avengers on my travels. The ticket desk more or less insisted on not taking my cash; cheaper with MasterCard, which suits me. I’d kind of forgotten about the card having been in countries that aren’t so keen, but here and post Bali I should have fewer cash calculations to do, hooray. I sat down and after a minimum of ads and just two trailers, it started. With a very dark scene, screaming and wailing and nearly baby death. Crikey, I didn’t expect this. Carrie, came the title. Um, am I in the wrong theatre? I saw the bloke next to me check his ticket, someone else get up and head to the back and then – blessed darkness. They’d spotted it, and were putting the right film on, phew.

Tall, glass-fronted buildings are high by the side of a busy street
Shopping central.

It was odd. Aiming for film noir, I think, which perhaps gives it its peculiar feel and odd characterisation. I think I liked it, or most of it. Definitely arty, and there’s me without the right tools to really place it.

Outside, the rain had stopped and I could really explore the malls and watch the crowds. I took a wide loop round back to the hostel, this time going from skyscrapers to smaller buildings, ending my day with two meals. I’ve a list of things to try from a Singaporean and have today eaten Hokkien mee (Seafood noodles, liked it but a little salty) and Fried kuay teow (also seafood and noodles, egg too, liked it a lot) as I work my way down – and a mango juice from the fantastic stall that is a riot of colourful foods, waiting to be juiced. I took the latter down to the river; Singapore is a great place to see at night, buildings and construction sites lit up in multicoloured glory.

Lights at night
Skyline by night.

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