Walking in urban nature

The best way to get to know any place is walking. Since we moved to Singapore we have walked frequently nearby, but also a bit farther from our home. At the beginning we explored more our neighborhood to locate grocery stores, restaurants, food courts, markets, walking trails, medical clinics, pharmacy etc. After managed to positioning them quite clearly, we started to hop in mrt and hop off somewhere to walk around. What we truly love is walking on nature trails, and luckily Singapore is full of them. And it amazes a bit – Singapore is regarded as financial hub, urban and filled with skyscrapers, but also there is huge amount of nature to explore.

Banana tree
Banana tree
Funnily under the banana tree.
Funnily under the banana tree.

A little while ago my Danish friend, who organizes Walk & talk-tours in Singapore, took us, three ladies to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. At the moment nature park is under renovation, but there is still some possibilities to hike and walk, but one must be aware of mountain bikers, who cycle extremely fast. We had perfect weather to walk, some clouds, no direct sun shine and it started to rain just after our walk. We walked approximately 7-7.5 km. For me Singaporean nature is very fascinating. I used to walk a lot also in Finland, but the nature there is not this exciting, Finnish flora and fauna is not multiform than here in Singapore. World of sound is intriguing – birds and macaques and locusts and so many other voices I cannot even recognize. Well, I am not able to recognize specific birds to be honest, just it is a bird. Some plants I can identify, but not many.

Ant having sweet lucnh.
Ant having sweet lucnh.

To learn more I bought a couple of guide books of Singaporean flora. Although the books are well located in my bookshelf, not in use, yet. Next time I will take guidebook with me! Fortunately our Danish guide is expert of plants, trees and flowers, so we had a lovely tour in Bukit Timah. We saw for instance banana trees, prehistoric ferns, so many blossoming trees and bushes that I cannot remember the names any more. We heard many concerts, but saw not so many animals. One medium size lizard clumped to the forest and some birds flying quickly. Two of us saw also nature drama. Snake has caught a baby frog or it might have been a baby turtle. Noise was awful – I thought first it was sort of bird in distress and when going closer to bush I saw near my feet a snake. A frog or turtle baby in its mouth. Noise was coming from that poor creature in snake’s mouth. Very sad, but in the other hand snake was fed that day. I love to watch wildlife documentary, and it has been fantastic to experience wildlife alive.

Always much of interesting to see.
Always much of interesting to see.
Mangrove, low tide.
Mangrove, low tide.

About a week ago we traveled to Changi Village with my spouse. Our first time there. We had a lovely stroll on seashore. We started from Changi Beach Club (Changi Boardwalk), and ended up to Changi Ferry Terminal. Trail was about 7km, and weather was again excellent. After harsh sunshine it was cloudy and rain was lurking, but didn’t start before we got home. There are plenty to do in Changi Village including swimming, grilling, sailing, boating, just relaxing. We saw many families and groups having fun playing different kinds of ball games, listening to music, having picnic. IMG_6358Lots of fishermen with their hooks and lines, some even throwing fishnets to gather little clams, perhaps fish and crabs as well. We had no picnic food with us, but even it was Sunday we found many places open to feed us. SAF has its own resort there for its employees, but fortunately Beach walk is open to everyone. And if you are plane watcher it is just your place to spend spare time. From Changi Ferry Point Terminal it is possible to take a ferry boat to Pulau Ubin, a lovely Northern island, where you can find mangrove trail, historic relics of past time, good food (as in everywhere in Singapore) and a lot of fauna and flora, what is not found anywhere else in Singapore. My recommendation is first to head to Pulau Ubin, and after the trip to have a lunch in Changi Village.

IMG_6342

No for littering.
No for littering.

Walking is my passion, I love nature and I have found it especially fascinating and beautiful in Singapore. What I am concerned about, how we residents can be cautious and aware to protect and conserve the exquisite nature. It is so heart breaking on trails to observe plastic bags, bottles, even oil cans, buckets etc. in sea, but unfortunately also on mangrove roots, inside the forest. We should know better.

Even though it can be quite pretty on the sand.
Even though it can be quite pretty on the sand.

My recommendations of the week:

FOOD: Many good dishes @ Ding Dong

BOOK: Anthony Doerr: All the Light We Cannot See

PLACE: Nature, anywhere

SOMETHING ELSE: No littering.

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On leisure

Since 19-year old I have worked more or less as FTE. And also studied along the work. On summer 2002 I graduated from the university, autumn before I had managed to pass my marketing degree. From 2000 working hard, long hours has been as a rule. I have no children, so probably it is fair enough to say I have lived for my work or from my work. Spare time has not ever been a problem, basicly because there has been none – to exaggerate a bit.

In mid-October 2013 I moved to Singapore due to my spouse’s permanent job here. Suddenly there was nothing else, but leisure in my hands. All day long. At first it was very peculiar. I had worked over 22 years, no any sabbaticals. Fortunately I have always enjoyed solitude, being at home. But of course all of a sudden being alone at home weekdays needed some time to adjust. Quite many suffer from loneliness, that there is no one to talk with. For me it was not the major issue. But only because I am not totally alone, my spouse comes home in the evening, sometimes earlier, often later. I have option for human communication daily. It is important. But what I am trying to say I can spend whole day without speaking to anyone, and have no complications whatsoever.

After the beginning I realized, how exceptional and precious option this is. To have a lot of time to think, to revert from work, to explore plenty of new. I have not had any sort of awakening, I don’t praise leisure gods, but I feel that there is time and place for everything. Leisure this degree was exactly I needed. I was happy to work long hours, under pressure, deal not always just pleasant challenges, but work was something I regarded being the very essence of me, my core. I have tried to work hard, full, flat out, not counting hours or my energy. Protestant backbone! When I turned 40, I realized that there must be something else than long hours at work and work-related events in the evening (or on weekends). It was a struggle to break away from it. And soon after I was here in Singapore, having more than too much of time. Well, honestly, time flies by. And I feel very content, more peaceful.

What I have done during these long hours of leisure? Living in a new country guarantees there is no dull moments. How you upload your days it is up to you. What I have pursued is not to fill every second. I want to avoid performing. I love walking – I have done that a lot, many streets and roads are familiar, but only nearby. It is astonishing, how easy it is to integrate in a new surrounding neighborhood. I cannot remember from where I read years ago that people usually move from home to work at the longest, beside that usual daily distance from home is approximately 3-5 km. I truly agree. Moreover I haven’t ever looked after my home in this extent. Most satisfactory is to have time for cooking and baking, which I have really missed yesteryear. Of course I have been able to read more, and to guzzle the news even more.

Finally I have had time to experience funny trends and such. Just to mention a few: for instance diet 5:2, not for me. Or “no poo”: didn’t act on my hair or actually with hair it was just fine, but my scalp as my fingertips hated baking soda. And honestly no poo test was too messy and took a lot of time, which I have enough, but rinsing loads of extra water not recommendable at all. Although keeping your bath tub and  sink clean baking soda is highly recommended. Two new try-outs worked well, still upholding them: water walking in the pool and walking on treadmill in the gym. A bit of variation for standard walking and wandering. Some other experiences I also have had, but cannot remember all of them. At the moment I try to nurture my own bread starters, a couple of attempts already failed, but constantly re-trying. I have managed to bake already one sourdough bread using my own, but still very young starter. Waiting for now it to bubble and keep it alive, then I can really bake my first own sourdough bread. Two other starters growing are tend to bake Finnish rye bread. Rye flour seems to be very sensitive. But if I manage, I will give my bread report then.

Homebaked bread
My first sourdough bread from my own starter

My recommendations of the week:

FOOD: home baked bread

BOOK: Alexander McCall Smith. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (An Isabel Dalhousie novel)

PLACE: Marina Barrage

SOMETHING ELSE: Walk from Tanjong Pagar to Marina Barrage to Marina South Pier, back to Tanjong Pagar.

Friends visiting in Singapore

Last week I was lucky to have friends visiting in Singapore. They landed here after traveling 10 days in Vietnam. Two totally different countries I imagine, more or less. Friend thought Singapore to be such a surrealistic, futuristic place. Very safe, very clean, very warm, very friendly, very easy. Quite many very.

I have lived in Singapore about 17 months now. Every morning it surprises me to notice it is sunny, sky is blue, it is still 30+ degrees. And the most of all city view is still green – trees are always green, blossoming and there are plenty of palm trees. Nothing like in Finland. Well, I love Finnish forests, a lot. But still, fresh greenery every morning, every day. In Finland winter is long, and cold, and no leafless.

Again it was amazing to observe that there are plenty to see, to do, to explore in SG. Quite often I have heard Singapore is tiny, too hot and moist, nothing much to see. The most common question is probably where you fly, when your friends, relatives come here. Well, nowhere, staying here. Very upraised eyebrows, really, staying here, why.

Last week my friends spent five days here. And it was absolutely just too short time. Of course they managed to see Marina Bay Sands, who doesn’t. But what to see really, when there is only a few of days to wander on the streets of Singapore. Merlion is very popular, even though my friends had only a chance to glance it from opposite side of Marina Bay. Is it obligatory to run around quickly to see (all) touristic attractions or is it possible to feel SG atmosphere by its own? We did a bit of both.

We entered Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, had drinks in many places (at Marina Bay, at home, at Chinatown, at 1-Altitude, at Boat Quay etc.), ate a lot of good food, walked in Mac Ritchie Park over 10 kilometers and had picnic there and managed to see many macaque families plus fairly big monitor lizard and lots of turtles of course, went to Sentosa, where my friends experienced also Universal Studios and S:E.A World. Lots of walking I need to say. And that is indeed the best way to become familiar with new places, any places actually. Maybe too much of sparkling wine, but when friends meet after long time no see it is not to be counted, hope you agree. And a twist of Finnish we had sparkling wine at sauna, no snow though, so we were content to have bath in jacuzzi and the view for Chinatown.

Photo by P.Jaervinen
Boat Quay from North Bridge Road. Photo by P.Jarvinen

My memories are full and happy from last week. It was splendid, hope my friends agree. And I truly hope them to return, and explore more. Before that I need to do research, what is true Singapore, I mean for a tourist.

My recommendations of the week:

FOOD: giant oysters @ Boat Quay

BOOK: Mo Yan: frog

PLACE: Mac Ritchie Reservoir

SOMETHING ELSE: Nature and wild life in Singapore