Exploring Singapore

2 August 2020

Last week I took a week off work to explore Singapore. It was an odd decision, as almost no one are taking leave these days. As I haven’t been on leave ever since Chinese New Year (back in January), I did really need a break from work. Besides that, it was a good excuse to travel around Singapore.

Ever since I come to Singapore in 2013, most of my earlier years has been confined in Pulau NTU. After I started working, I also don’t really like to go explore that much because these attractions are crowded especially on weekends. That is why this is the perfect time to explore Singapore since all the tourist attractions are empty as there are no tourists from overseas!

If I include the weekends, this means that I’m off from work for 9 days, and I did use them well: 4 days traveling and 3 days of resting 😊

Day 1: The Southern Islands

I started my holiday by accompanying a friend to explore St John’s Island and Kusu Island, which are located on the southern tip of Sentosa Island. It has been almost exactly a year since I first visited these islands.

These islands can be reached by ferry service from Marina South Pier, and we spent the whole day on these two islands. As I visited them before, I didn’t make the same mistake of not bringing food and water.

St John’s Island is the big one, but besides the mangroves and chalets, there’s not much to see here. This island is connected by a land bridge to Lazarus Island and we walked along the island perimeter on the pathway. Note to self to not go down the small stream even though it looks cross-able on low-tide: the rocks are, in reality, very slippery, and I almost fell there.

The shallow stream on low tide at Lazarus Island

I love Kusu Island. Besides the mainstream attractions (the temple, the keramat at a small forested hill, and the turtle pond), I enjoyed one spot of the island where there are no people around. It is really nice since you will not be able to find such park in Singapore where there’s no one around. You can sit down and enjoy the beach. It’s also feels like the edge of Singapore, and you can see the horizon over the sea! (of course, tanker ships are all on the horizon) I know it’s small stuffs, but how else you can see the horizon in Singapore?

View from Kusu Island

Day 2: Rest

The Sunday was spent only on resting and recovering from the long walks from the day before.

Day 3: Museums!

Monday was for museums! I started the day in National Gallery, which are full of paintings and modern arts. The only missing part is the people: it is really empty, and I encountered only a handful of visitors. After spending the morning here, it started raining and I walked to Song Fa Bak Kut Teh to have lunch. It was actually my first time trying and it was quite nice.

Lunch meal set from Song Fa Bak Kut Teh

Rain turned into heavy rain and the covered walkway only lead to Clark Quay Central and Clark Quay MRT station. Because the rain has subsided, I walked past Hong Lim Park and walked all the way south to the Merlion Park area. Alas, the rain was not an issue anymore, but my socks were wet.

I sat under the Esplanade Bridge for a while to rest till the rain stopped completely. After that, I took photos in the Merlion Park with no one around!

Merlion with Marina Bay Sands in the background

I crossed the Jubilee Bridge and visited Asian Civilization Museum on the other side of the Singapore River. I actually liked this museum, as the exhibits are mostly tangible historical stuffs instead of paintings and whatnot. I learned about the culture of the tribes in my hometown’s province (Batak and Nias) more in this museum than from the education system that I received back then. There are also some interesting artifacts on Asian religion exhibition, one of them is a Christian cross with Amitabha Buddha in it. What a twist 😅

Cross with the figure of Amitabha, on display at Asian Civilization Museum

After this museum, I walked to Funan mall and browsed the shops since I’ve never been here since its opening, and I got the impression that it is a really hip mall but not meant for shopping. After a snack break, I walked to Plaza Singapura through Fort Canning Park as the shortcut (not that short, as it involves climbing a hill). At Plaza Singapura, after a short shopping, I had dinner and then called it a day.

Day 4: Jurong Bird Park

Tuesday was mostly spent on Jurong Bird Park. I was an hour early from my entrance time slot, but they let me in anyway. I started the visit on Penguin Coast (of course), getting so excited to see the penguins. I got to feed the penguins too! They are so cute while trying to reach the sardines: they won’t jump, but only crowd around you. I was so excited but slightly disappointed that I got to feed only 4 fish to them.

Feeding the penguins

After watching the two bird shows, I walked around the park on foot and realized that there were many parts of the park where I have never visited. The last time I visited this park was in 2012, and even though I remembered the Penguin Coast, the waterfall, and some aviaries, I totally didn’t remember ever seeing the pelicans up close. It was such an experience to slowly walk around the park and observe the birds.

My favorite spot is the Wings of Asia aviary. Here, you can sit down and listen to the numerous birdsong all day long.

One of the exotic birds (sorry I forgot the name) at Wings of Asia aviary

Before leaving the park, I did not forget to get myself a penguin plushie. The last time I was here, back in 2012, I wanted one, but decided not to get it as it was quite costly.

I ended the day after a short shopping and dinner at Jurong Point.

Day 5: Plans Changed

I initially had other plans for this day, but as the weather forecast said that it will rain for the whole day, I changed the itinerary to visit museums only.

I started my day on National Museum of Singapore. I didn’t find it interesting as I’ve been there a few times. There weren’t many new things, so the visit ended very quickly.

Exterior of National Museum of Singapore

It was still raining, so I walked to the Cathay building nearby for lunch. I considered changing the plan again to just relax and watch movie in the afternoon, but after I checked, there weren’t any good movies on show.

I traveled to Toa Payoh to visit Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. Side note: it was actually pretty hard to walk from Toa Payoh MRT station to this place as we need to cross an expressway (KPE) and a river (Kallang River). The crossing was not intuitive as the main road bridge does not have pedestrian path at all. I had to detour to Toa Payoh Town Park for the bridge there.

Kallang River

After I reached the museum, I spent quite some time there, reading the exhibitions and resting. I didn’t find it particularly interesting, since the reason that this museum is here is only because Dr Sun Yat Sen stayed here a few times during his visit to Singapore when he set up a local chapter of his revolutionary organization.

Exterior of the museum

After this, I spent time walking along Balestier Road and found some shop houses with interesting sculptures. As it started to rain again, I rushed to Whampoa Hawker Center and rested there. Finally, I took bus to City Square Mall, where I shopped and had dinner before going back.

Sculptures at shop houses around Balestier Road

Day 6: Bukit Panjang and Night Safari

The day was spent mostly at Bukit Panjang area and night time was at Night Safari.

I started the late a bit late, as it will a long day for me. After lunch at Hillion Mall, I started a hike at Chesnut Nature Park. Wow, it is really difficult to get here by public transport. Even after getting off at the nearest bus stop, I still had to walk around 1 km (~20 mins) to reach the “Chesnut Point”, where all the hiking trails start. I took the Southern Trail (2.2 km) and after some time, I realized that I was there alone in the whole trail. Although the trail was nice and natural, I felt a bit scared after some time (mainly due to the tall grass and fear of wild animal suddenly appearing) and tried to walk faster on the trail. I made it out in around 40 minutes.

Trail view from the resting hut in the Southern Loop trail of Chesnut Nature Park

After this, I walked to Bukit Panjang Hawker Center to rest and get some snacks. I just realized I had ice cendhol four days in a row!

Ice cendhol from Bukit Panjang Hawker Center

Next, I went to Bukit Panjang Plaza, browsed the shops, took another rest (yeah Chesnut was quite tiring), and had dinner.

Then I traveled to Mandai to spend my evening at Night Safari! It was the day the park was opened for the first time after 4 months of closure, and I was one of the first guests to enter the park!

I watched the show and it was really entertaining. After that, I walked around the park and the night animals, which are difficult to spot. The scariest part was the Mangrove Walk where there bats roaming freely, and I was startled when they fly around.

Bats from the Mangrove Walk at Night Safari

After the long walk around the park, the visit wasn’t complete until I took the tram ride. It was a relaxing way to explore the park. It even took you to the parts where they are not accessible by walking. After the tram ride, I ended the visit and rushed back home.

Day 7: Rest

Friday was public holiday, and I decided to rest and not explore.

Day 8: Rail Corridor

This day I met up with a friend to explore the central section of the Rail Corridor. The place used to be a railway that connects Singapore to Malaysia. It has been closed since 2011 and most tracks have been removed, and it is open for public use as hiking route.

We planned to start from the section nearby The Rail Mall, but little did we know that the section was closed for refurbishment! So, we walked along the main road (Upper Bukit Timah Road) and park connector till we reach the old Bukit Timah Railway Station.

The old Bukit Timah Railway Station

After that, we walked further south till we reach Holland Road and took bus to Holland Village for lunch and catch up. We parted ways after that and called it a day.

Day 9: The Final Rest

I woke up early in the morning to get full Singaporean breakfast (kaya toast, eggs, and coffee) before going for a swim. It was a satisfying morning! After that, I took a nap, did chores, and ended the day by taking time time to reflect on the past week.


So yeah, I really had a good week exploring Singapore and also taking a break from work. After I started exploring Singapore, I realized that there are many other places I want to visit in Singapore. I think I will do this again sometime later this year.

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