I used to trek a lot during my growing up years. We didn’t have a vehicle back then, so other than my school bus which I used to travel back and forth from school, all the rest of my childhood explorations were done on foot.
And how I was allured to the world around me then! I will always remember traipsing after school from River Valley to Queenstown, walking passing by the old F&N Factory and the lion landmark at the old Thye Hong Biscuit Factory . I remember marveling at the modernity of the Princess House where my mom used to tell me this where the “choy fu” (government officials) work and told me to study hard so that I can be just like them when I grow up.
During my youth, we used to hang out at MacDonald’s in World Trade Centre where we could have some CocaCola on the house after rattling off some silly tongue twisting jingle. Then we would spend our afternoons playing football at the Alexandra Hospital soccer field or enjoy the air conditioning at Queenstown bowl. Lunch was usually shared over a plate of delectable fried dumplings at the now defunct Margaret Drive Hawker Centre.
If we have more pocket money, we’d go for the famous Sin Kee chicken rice instead. Oh the chicken rice…
When my dad had a vehicle during the 90s, we would explore further. Those days were like listening to the sea breeze blowing at Labrador Beach before it was fenced up. I remember the day when we were among the first few to join in the hype, driving all the way from our homes to watch a movie when the first Cineplex was opened in Yishun.
So as the clock passed 12 on New Year’s Eve and amidst the firework celebration, a new year was ushered in. Singapore is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence in 2015. A year-long series of events has been planned to celebrate our Jubilee year. Check out www.singapore50.sg
The Jubilee year is intended to be an entire year of rejoicing. It was seen as a time of forgiveness, peace, and joy. In some parts of the world, virtually any wrongdoing that was still outstanding was forgiven during the year of the Jubilee. The goal was simple: to wipe the slate clean. A Jubilee year happens every 50 years traditionally, which means the average person will see 1 or 2 in their lifetime at most.
To celebrate SG’s Jubilee year, I have also come out with this list of places you can trek, learn and relive the history of our pioneer generations without spending a single cent.
1. Walk the Green Corridor
The old railway line served as a means of transportation for passengers and goods when the Tanjong Pagar line was opened in the 1930s till 2011. It has now become a place where Singaporeans can hike from the wetlands in Kranji to Rainforests in Bukit Timah and the hilltops of Henderson on a continuous nature trail. The railway line serves as a reminder and a physical historical record of the relationship between Singapore and Malaysia. If you pause and listen hard enough, who knows you may even hear the dirge of the last train. For more info and guided walks, visit www.nss.org
2. Visit Singapore’s offshore islands
Did you know that there are more than 60 islands that make up Singapore? And some of these islands are surrounded with vibrant marine life like seagrass meadows, coral reefs, and unforgettable starfishes. Go beyond the popular islands like Sentosa or Kusu island and see the bun- shaped Pulau Jong or take a sunrise selfie from the Sister Islands Marine Park that mainlanders will envy.
You’ll also want to visit Pulau Ubin and understand why the remaining residents there are able to resist the convenience and temptations of mainland Singapore for their more spartan lifestyle. You can visit nature enthusiast Ria Tan’s blog for a list of nature-related activities at http://wildsingaporehappenings.blogspot.sg/
3. Celebrate the lives that made Singapore today
Relive the Pioneer Generation’s Spirit at Bukit Brown. Sadly, a good part of Bukit Brown has given way to the construction of an expressway and a number of graveyards were exhumed for this project. Although a walk through through the park these days within the sight of construction projects is a bit melancholic, a visit to Bukit Brown still has meaning to the spirit.
Also pay a visit to the Kranji War Memorial and offer respect to the soldiers who gave their lives defending Singapore and Malaya against the invading Japanese forces during World War II.
4. Visit the our Heritage Trails and old religious places of worship
Step back in time and explore some of Singapore’s oldest neighborhoods like Tiong Bahru and Kampong Glam. Pause and appreciate these old world charms and rich architecture legacy that has been left behind by our forefathers long before our nation building years. Visit National Heritage Board’s website for a full list of heritage trails and the history behind them.
Also worth visiting – Kampong Buangkok, the last surviving kampong (village) in Hougang and some old religious places of worship like – Thian Hock Keng temple and Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
5. Explore the less trodden paths of Singapore
Join an adventure group that explores the less trodden paths of Singapore. Areas that are inaccessible by vehicles and you wouldn’t know that it exist unless you trek through them by foot. Have you ever seen the sunrise from Sungei Simpang? Or paddled through the mangroves in Mandai to discover the lost world of Kampong Fatimah? Do you dare to trek beyond an off-limit signboard in the Mandai forest and see a new world beyond it?
Check out the activities of Singapore Adventurous Nature Lovers where free local nature treks are organised regularly.
The call of Singapore remains strong, long after childhood as left us. Whether you are a new visitor or been here all your life, what is so beautiful about being here is that there is always something new that can be discovered. Singapore is vibrant, magnificent, and poised to enjoy a festive year on its 50th anniversary.
For those who have never visited Singapore this year, I encourage you to make the journey on this year of the Jubilee. For those who have always lived here, I invite you to take a trip down memory lane to visit the areas you’ve loved so much, yet never seem to have the time to see any more. For those who have just started to call Singapore home… welcome. You are in for an amazing experience.
Sometimes the greatest adventures that await are in your own backyard. For me, this is the year that I plan to take advantage of the beauty that surrounds me. Won’t you come join me?
Singapore Skyline and Kampong Glam – Francis Lee Photography