When I was younger, restless and in need of weight reduction, I used to walk up and down the hilly terrains of Hong Kong. That’s when I fell in love with walking, just walking. I loved breathing the misty air under canopied trees, feeling the winter chill dissipate as the walk grew longer, and singing “Staying alive” in my head to keep the pace when the climb grew hard. [Complete digression – did you know Staying Alive is used as an aid for getting the correct CPR rhythm?]
But back to current days, where I am old, lazy and still in need of (spot) weight reduction – and I don’t walk. My pet excuse – where are the hills? Seriously, a walk in the park that burns barely 60 calories tops is hardly a motivation to get up at 6 in the morning! The lack of challenge, and the lack of winters has kept me away from walking in Singapore.
But then I heard of the Green Corridor. This stretch of land was a railway track that cut through our city – starting at Tanjong Pagar in the south, all the way to Woodlands in the north – to link up to Malaysia. It has been the in the news as nearly half of it is getting redeveloped to make way for the Murnane Pipeline. Try searching the Green Corridor on FB: you’ll find 460+ likes for the page… and 12700+ likes at the sadness of its closure! Of course, my green heart swayed at the thought of never seeing this track again – and off I went last weekend to explore what remains open to the public.
730am (no way I’d get up at 6am!). Two friends and I started out at the Rail Mall next to Hillview MRT [that’s just off the edge of Dairy Farm Road]. Armed with directions from a walking pro, we looked up and found our starting point: a railway bridge right overhead. It was a lovely view, looking down the old iron structure, now rusting, and seeing the early morning traffic whizz below. We turned our backs to it, and started walking southwards, towards Bukit Timah.
The initial stretch was gorgeous. Within minutes, we felt the change in the air and could smell the rain of the night before. Wet earth and sweet plants perfumed the space, and we simply had to slow our pace to breathe it all in. Also distracting us were the photo opportunities: the rails, the greens, the old wood tethering the tracks, the stones, the desire to take photos of people taking photos. This early slowness pretty much set the pace for the rest of our journey.
The path was wide and well used. Morning joggers, serious cyclists, dogs looking to mark their territory, photo-taking freaks [that’s us!] could all share the space without bumping into each other.
After walking leisurely for an hour (or less), we reached quite close to the road. It was a bit disconcerting to see the traffic, but soon after, we found ourselves in the company of monkeys! Why does the monkey cross the track? To afford us photo opportunities, of course.
Across this bridge lies the erstwhile Bukit Timah Station. Definitely take a moment to peek inside: it’s a tiny place – one room houses the long levers that once managed track direction, and another room contains mismatched chairs lined up against the wall. Also still available to see: the bad taste in wall colour, an awful green. [Was that an 80s thing? I distinctly remember an illegally high number of chalk green walls from my childhood.]
The path after Bukit Timah Station reverts back to a picture postcard. It also provides ample opportunity to wonder about real estate prices in Singapore – lovely houses stand guard on one side. Expect to chat on this topic for, say, 30 minutes – before you are forced to exit. Near Holland Road, you’ll find a sign stating that access is closed. Please respect this sign.
We definitely did not disregard it, or climb up a mudpath to circumvent it, or come across befuddled workers who asked us questions about our origins, nor a kind job supervisor who let us pass through. Definitely not.
What to expect (and not to expect) if you are taking this trip:
- You are not far from civilization. There will be birds and butterflies and canopied trees: but the path isn’t far from the main road. So occasionally, expect to see and hear traffic.
- It will be easy. So easy that parts of it are used by dog walkers. Enjoy the flat land and share the space!
- There may be snakes (we didn’t see any ourselves, but have heard so!), spiders and creepy crawlies. That’s a good thing. It means the trail is still alive with the sights of nature.
- Tracks do not run along the entire path – they show up here and there. Likewise, there are only 3-4 bridges through the stretch that we walked in. Don’t let the overabundance of track photos mislead you.
- Use the map below to guide you. The walk from Hillview to Holland Road is approx 6+ kms.
Image copyrights: Anuja Byotra Aggarwal