Singapore may be a highly urbanised and built-up city, but we do have plenty of outdoor green spaces spread across various parts of the island, a conscientious effort initiated by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew to create a Garden City since 1963. Having written articles on a few nature parks in central and western Singapore previously, I shall now move on to the northeast for a 24km long walk that I recently did in a big group, along the North Eastern Riverine Loop starting from Sengkang MRT.
Did you know that there is one last surviving kampung on mainland Singapore near the Institute of Mental Health in the Hougang neighbourhood? From Sengkang MRT exit A, head west on Sengkang Square and go straight till you reach Sengkang East Road. Turn left at this junction & walk for about 180m before you turn right onto Anchorvale Drive. Continue onto Anchorvale Lane for about 500m then turn right onto Sengkang West Ave. Just walk straight ahead till you see Kampong Lorong Buangkok on the left.
This last-standing kampong (Malay word for “village”) is located amidst the housing estate in Buangkok/ Hougang, a stark contrast to the surrounding modern high-rise flats. Built in 1956, the land where the kampong sits was acquired by a Traditional Chinese Medicine seller called Sng Teow Koon. He set up home in the kampong with his family & started renting out land to people to build homes. The current landlord is one of his 4 children, Ms Sng Mui Hong who continues to live in the kampong with her nieces while the other 3 have all married and moved out of the kampong. In the past, most of the villagers worked in the nearby Woodbridge Hospital and factories and had their own farms to rear poultry. Now, there are a total of 26 families (mixture of Chinese & Malay) who are still living on the 1.22 hectare private land area as they enjoy the slower pace of life that the kampong setting offers. It is said that the rent can go as low as $1 a month, but it all depends on your relationship with Ms Sng. 😉 Check out photos I took of this last kampong in Singapore, feels like you have gone back to the 1960s isn’t it? 🙂
Be careful not to get too excited or rowdy as you tour the kampong, because I’m sure you won’t like strangers making a din outside your house & disturb your peaceful lives too, right? After a short tour here, we made our way towards the Sengkang Riverside Park via the park connector. It’s my first time here but I think the park looks just like the other parks elsewhere in Singapore, with well-defined tracks & HDB flats by the side.
Under the bridge where you can find the murals as seen in the bottom pic of the above collage, we had our picnic lunch. There weren’t many sheltered spots in the park so we had to settle under the bridge for our simple picnic. Nonetheless, it is a great spot for hiding away from the scorching sun after your exercise!
Time to continue our long walk to the latest offshore park in Singapore – the Coney Island – a 45-hectare island located off the northeastern coast within the town of Punggol. We had to walk alongside some construction sites on the way to the manmade island, as Punggol is a new town undergoing lots of development currently. Before entering Coney Island is the Punggol Promenade boardwalk where you will be able to find cafes, restaurants and convenience stores with scenic views by the waterfront. This is also the final convenient stop for water replenishment and toilet break before you enter the island, because the toilets are located on the other end of the island near the exit to Lorong Halus wetland.
Coney Island, alternatively known as Pulau Serangoon, was officially opened to the public on 10 October 2015. Located just 100m away from mainland at its closest point, it is linked to the mainland by two bridges on its western (to Punggol where we entered) and eastern (to Lorong Halus Wetlands near Pasir Ris) ends. The park houses a wide variety of fauna, flora & habitats, some of which are critically endangered, & presumed nationally extinct in the wild. To a certain extent, the lush rustic greenery & towering trees reminded me of Nami Island in South Korea as I entered the park hehe. Pictures speak a thousand words, so here are some photos for your viewing pleasure. 😉
Coney Island Park is an ecologically sustainable park that focuses on conserving energy and water, recycling and retaining of the natural elements in the park. Therefore, even the toilets are operated with the help of solar energy and rain water. Since there is no electricity and piped water on the island, the park only operates from 7am to 7pm daily & on bad weather days, you should avoid visiting the park as it will be too dark for you to explore.
At the Casuarina Exploration area, timber from uprooted Casuarina trees were collected and recycled into park signage, seats, benches, boardwalk, and exhibits too. The terrain is generally gentle except for some rugged parts & it is kept as rustic & natural as possible to preserve the natural habitats. Do note that sandflies are common in the island park so covered footwear and long pants are highly encouraged, especially for those prone to insect bites.
The nearest MRT station to Coney Island is Punggol MRT. You can then take bus 84 from Punggol Interchange just next to the station to Punggol Point Park/Punggol Settlement. Walk about 500m east along the Punggol Promenade Nature Walk to get to Coney Island West Entrance.
We were dead beat after ending our 24km long walk through the last kampong to the newest park addition in Singapore at around 4pm. Imagine walking under the scorching sun for >7 hours in a day! Fortunately the terrain was generally flat & easy. Nonetheless, it was a great & interesting day out exploring north east Singapore, a territory that I hardly venture to!
This was written in Feb'16 after hiking in the area in late Dec'15.