Friday, October 11, 2013

Waterway Park @ Ponggol – Sept 2013

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Ponggol shore
It has been wet, wet,wet for many days straight so this outing was one executed in faith.  Our place of interest was Ponggol Waterway Park , Singapore’s northern suburb,  located at the north eastern tip of Singapore.

It was a long way from where we are in the west. Traveling counter to peak hour traffic gave me a sort of sadistic satisfaction as I see cars crawling on the major expressways in the direction to city. Even so, from PIE to TPE via Mandai Road, it still took us a dreary 40 odd minutes which is already considered a modest speed. We were so close to joining the morning madness where SLE  splits into TPE and CTE. Pity the folks who pay almost $7 in their daily commute to town at a crawling pace.

Ponggol jetty
After we got off TPE exit 9, it was all the way north on Ponggol Road ending at OBS near the Ponggol jetty.  I am no stranger to the voice of the forest since home for me is at the city’s fringe near the base of Singapore’s highest ‘peak’ surrounded by nature reserves and parks. But Ponggol Park blows me over, because the space was liberating. Joggers were scarce and what human activities there were was confined to retired uncles with their fishing rods and angling paraphernalia. The biggest difference between the park at Ponggol and that at Bukit Timah was the sound of waves lapping on the narrow shore around Ponggol jetty. What could  I say ? Priceless !

This public place is good enough for wedding photos
At this point of writing, Watertown construction was still underway but in a couple of year’s time, the waterfront will be fronted by highrise condos with million dollar views of  Pasir Gudang and Straits of Johor. What a pity only a privilege bunch will have the best part of the precious seafront.

9.45 am : We parked at an asphalt area where the few visitors who parked had exercised civic consciousness with their neat parking. At our right was a cluster of cute restaurants ( Curry Gardenn and Bacon and Booze ).  But unfortunately, they are not open on Mondays.

We took a short walk to the lookout point facing the Straits. A tiny police post operated out from under the lookout point. At least 2 police officers were on the watch ( for unauthorized entry into Singapore ?). Anyway, the patrol car nearby provided much assurance to park users in the very quiet park.

Egret on the lookout!
Nothing will dislodge the egret perched there for a much needed rest!

Clean beach
Hubs took photos, as usual , while the attention monger in me wanted myself in every picture possible. Nature and open space has a way of working on me and I became especially animated. There is nothing not to give thanks for – the mangrove plants still heavy with dew, the clear sand and clean water despite the port and ship vessels across and kingfishers of the most brilliant turquoise flitting from tree to tree when disturbed by my boisterous excitement.  

Mangrove flower
Lotus pond near the public toilet !
By 10.30 am and not quite noon, it was already sizzling hot though the sky was slightly overcast. Coney Island, now called Pulau Serangoon , still looks forested despite the developments across the waters at Ponggol’s end. I visited the island while it was still called Coney Island with classmates some 3 decades ago. Memories of that gathering is hazy , for all I remembered was good friends and even better food ) but it still gives warm fuzzy memories of days gone by.

Johor across
A couple of speedboats zipped back and forth, overtaking a police sea patrol boat that was barely making waves.  On a red marine buoy, a heron perched precariously on the bobbing device with total disregard for the activities around it.

We headed down to Waterway Park, a minute’s drive down Ponggol Rd. The park has a manmade lake that is fed by Sungei Serangoon via manmade waterway / canal that snakes past the yet to be built housing estate and light rail station. This is Singapore’s public housing at its best, incorporating flats along the island park connectors, wth water bodies and parks as part of its next generation public housing landscape. For foreigners not in the know, they will find it incredulous that so much expense is put into elevating the standard of living in public housing.

It was not always this calm. Just a couple of weeks earlier, the ST Run in the Park had thousands of people pounding down the Waterpark, Sungei Serangoon and  the coastal front.  

Manicured path. A shame there should be litter nearby.
We explored the Kelong Bridge, its structure resembling the legs of  floating kelongs that dotted the coast decades ago. On both banks of the Waterway, cycling paths and pedestrian footway form an endless loop round park and estate. It is possible to make a 15 km loop simply by walking on the footpaths hugging coast or river. Nparks did an amazing job planting flowering plants, reeds, mangrove and many others that reflected the former ecosystem of the old Ponggol Kampong/village.  My only grouse was that the fish tail palm and fox tail palm were a little out of place because they did not reflect  Ponggol's earlier landscape.

Waterway at Ponggol. Thousands of flats yet to built.
The walkways though beautiful and wide were too carefully manicured, lacking spontaneity. However , on a scale of 10, I would give the park an 8 for the elaborate bridges that bring joggers from one bank to the other every few hundred meters or so. What’s more, there are public conveniences in the middle of the park that takes its theme from the flora and fauna around it.

The last part of the walk at the WaterPark was an  unexpected little adventure. Unable to bear the noon sun, I terminated the walk along the footpath opposite Ponggol MRT station. For the second time in a month, I ‘scaled’ the large slope leading to road level.   A  lookout point at Ponggol Walk was situated opposite the train station but sadly the view was lacking.

Past Watertown condo ( under construction ), we walked along   Ponggol Central, Ponggol Place and Ponggol Drive past  Ponggol View Primary School.  Beyond that, an even more modern Fo Guang Shan temple matched HDB’s uber modern public housing at Treelodge. Stone caricatures dotted the perimeter of the temple’s elevated compound. Hubs was tall enough to capture the adorable stone monks that were contemplating over chess or fetching water from a stony well.

All too soon, we ended at Ponggol Rd, where our car was parked along the roadside. The walk provided a good balance of scenery – from sea to lake, from coast to tiled footpath and mangrove to palms. It is no Gardens By the Bay but still, I am full of gratitude that such a beautiful place beyond the reach of tourist exists for the common man where he lives.