Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Saturday Stroll

The Park Connector Network is a series of bike and pedestrian-friendly paths that runs around Singapore and connects parks and nature reserves to one another. The network was organized and is maintained by NParks, and is generally structured to be a lot more scenic than walking along sidewalks and streets. I'd never used the so-called PCN (another of S'pore's many beloved acronyms), but I was still getting over being sick and it sounded pretty low-key, so Bryan and I decided to go for a walk on Saturday.

We picked up the Jurong Park Connector near our flat, at the intersection of Boon Lay Way and Jurong East Central, and started walking in the direction of Chinese Garden. It was a blessedly pleasant day for Singapore and there was actually a breeze, which is pretty unusual. The first part of the walk was pretty bland. The trail just goes under the MRT track near the road and there isn't much scenery. As we got closer to Chinese Garden, things got a lot more lush and the trail went away from the road. We stopped a couple of times to explore random patches of forest, and on one of our diversions, I was surprised to spot a young water monitor. I hadn't thought of such big animals living so near our flat! Bryan explored a small patch of forest as I hung back, again feeling like an 8-year-old boy as I devotedly observed a busy little habitat full of snails and fish.

As usual, Bryan and I were playing the lizard-spotting game, and as usual, I was kicking his butt. (To be fair, my eyesight is perfect and he has glasses, so I don't really know that we're equally matched). The score was about 10-6, and we were staring up at a couple of ordinary changeable lizards that I'd just spotted high in a tree. After a few seconds of staring I began to look elsewhere and then jumped back, startled, when I realized that the two tiny lizards we'd been ogling were only a few feet above a GIANT water monitor. Woah! And add another one to my score : )
We stopped at a drink stand for an ice cold Coke and a 100 Plus (an "isotonic drink" available in S'pore, which I have developed a taste for). As we stood on a bridge, sipping away, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was just one of the super common red-bellied squirrels, but as it turned around, I realized that it was a rat! Now I know that most people don't get too excited about rats, and maybe this demonstrates that Bryan and I are kind of weird about loving all sorts of wildlife, but this was totally exciting for us. The rat was up a tree and was moving all around so Bryan had trouble getting a good photo, but he got one that was decent. We sat around with the photo and our wildlife book later and decided that the rat is either a brown spiny rat (aka Rajah spiny rat) or an accurately named Singapore rat, which also goes by the name of the Annandale's rat.

As we followed the rat's progress through the trees, Bryan pointed out a gigantic spider. I wasn't too excited about it since I see the same type of spider (known as the Batik golden web spider) at Bukit Timah often, so I just nodded and went on watching the rat and yet another huge water monitor that we'd found lounging beneath a nearby tree. Bryan continued watching the spider and exclaimed suddenly- as he stood and watched, the spider had caught a huge flying insect in its web, and was now in the process of wrapping it up! He snapped away with the camera, quietly mumbling about our need for a better camera for wildlife photography, as our trusty point-and-shoot has some shortcomings when it comes to things like low lighting and close-up shots of small animals.Not long after the spider in action, we saw a huge bird flying overhead with a fat fish in its talons! But alas, it all happened so fast that we didn't get a good picture. We walked along to a part of Chinese Garden I'd never been to before. Usually we hang out on the opposite side of Jurong Lake, so the views were different from this perspective. The pagodas are generally awesome from any angle though.The whole time we were walking it seemed as though a storm was following just behind us. We kept hearing thunder and seeing lightning, but apparently we were walking just fast enough to beat it. In a very scenic spot along the lake, we found this makeshift little temple. Even though we were the only ones around, there was still a flame burning inside.The temple's in the bottom left corner.These lovely, funky flowers were nearby, and just beyond them was a purple heron!We passed by Lakeside MRT station, and things got a little less scenic for awhile. Eventually we popped up at Jurong Central Park, which is decidedly less cool than the original Central Park. It was all right though- lots of kids were flying kites, and there were plenty more lizards (the score was about 22-16 by this point, and I was still crushing Bryan). The best part of the park is a small little wetlands area. We could hear frogs croaking and we saw tons of little tadpoles swimming around, but didn't spot any full-grown frogs.Jurong Central Park is right across from Boon Lay MRT station and Jurong Point mall, so we went into the mall to get some dinner. But first we went to Billy Bombers to share a yummy vanilla milkshake. Milkshakes in S'pore are one of those hit-or-miss types of things, and Billy Bombers has the best ones I've tasted, but only if you get plain vanilla- the chocolate tastes a little off. Afterward, we walked around for awhile, longingly looking at cameras. We go to Jurong Point every so often for dinner or a movie, but we usually take the MRT. It seemed weird that we'd walked there.The crowds at Jurong Point were overwhelming, so we gave up on shopping pretty quickly. We headed down to Din Tai Fung, the yummy dim sum place downstairs, but there was a massive crowd of people waiting for tables (despite the fact that there were about eight empty tables visible from where we were standing...but I won't get started on the miserable state of Singaporean customer service again). Anyway, we gave up and went upstairs to Anjappar and it was quieter and delicious.

After dinner, we took the MRT back to Chinese Garden and then walked through the garden a little bit. It was weird to be in the park at night, since I'm used to American parks being closed at sundown unless you're camping. The sculpture garden was really pretty at night. Confucius looked even more prophetic than usual.On our way out of the park, I was delighted to spot a couple of toads in the grass!! Of course, I don't know much about amphibians so I don't know what type they are (possibly the common Asian toad?), but they're pretty cute! Bryan also redeemed his low score in the lizard-spotting game by spying a black gecko on a black pole in the dark. It was pretty skillful, I have to admit.After our walk I was surprised by the wildlife we'd seen, considering that we'd been mostly in areas that are mowed and carefully maintained. It made me think of hiking in the Organ Mountains where, even on long hikes into total wilderness, you might go for miles and never see a single animal. I suppose the abundant wildlife here is one of the many perks of living in the tropics, although you have to brave the heat to enjoy it.

So the Park Connector Network turned out to be pretty fun! We saw cool wildlife right near our own flat, we had a really enjoyable walk, and we ate a delicious meal! Plus now I feel like I know my own neighborhood better than I did before. A pretty successful adventure, I would say.

(Thanks to Wild Singapore, a website about all the wild happenings in S'pore, for posting a link to this entry under their "Best of our Wild Blogs"! See the rest of the list at

1 comment:

  1. The "long-necked crane" is actually a purple heron (Ardea purpurea).

    I'd be more inclined to think that the rat is a more "ordinary" urban rat, either Oriental house rat (Rattus tanezumi) or Polynesian rat (R. exulans); Annandale's rat is a possibility, while brown spiny rat is supposedly restricted to forests in the Central Nature Reserves.

    The toads are most likely the very common and widespread Asiatic toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus).

    It's very interesting to read your perspectives on our nature areas!