Southern Ridges

Map of The Southern Ridges

One could probably cannot imagine the blessing of having greenery in his living environment. Many a time, we take these simple things for granted. But for a small and populous country such as Singapore, every available flat land is used for high rise buildings. You see concrete structures everywhere and it’s really a bonus to be able to get close to Mother Nature. The Southern Ridges, in my opinion, is a wonderful project by the Singapore government to blend nature with modern structures.

The Southern Ridges is actually a 9 km nature trail stretching from Mount Faber to Kent Ridge Park. Along the way, there are numerous panoramic view points of the city, especially at Mount Faber and Henderson Waves.

Here’s a list of attractions* at Southern Ridges, from Mount Faber to Kent Ridge Park, and the links to the respective blog entries.

  • Marang Trail
    • Embark on this walk of steps and shaded footpaths that pave the way to beautiful sights and sounds of the secondary forest. Do note that the Marang Trail covers an elevation of 70 metres (or the equivalent of a 24-storey building) if you start from Marang Road. This trail may not be suitable for young children, the elderly and the less fit. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature as you jog or walk on this trail. Listen out for loud chirping sounds of cicadas that break the silence of the forest. At the top of the Trail is the Jewel Box. Chill out with a beer or have an ice cream as you enjoy a panoramic view of the harbour and southern islands. The Marang Trail is deliberately unlit after dark to minimize disturbance to nocturnal life in the forest. Do bring along a torch and take extra precautions if you wish to walk on this trail after dark.
    • Difficulty level: moderate to challenging
      Distance: 0.8km
      Walking time: 15 min
  • Faber Walk 
    • Faber Walk, of which many parts are sheltered, meanders through Mount Faber Park and ends at the start of Henderson Waves. The slopes of this 56-hectare park are covered by dense secondary rain forest, and are home to an amazing array of flora and fauna. The trail, which takes you on a loop around the peak of Mount Faber Hill, offers spectacular views of the southern part of Singapore and the Southern Islands. You can catch sight of passing ocean liners and cruise ships in the far distance. At night, the park is one of the more popular romantic spots on the island. Join several couples and families in enjoying breathtaking sights of the city’s twinkling lights.
    • Difficulty level: easy
      Distance: 0.8km
      Walking Time: 15 mins
  • Henderson Waves
    • Admire the beautiful skyline as you stroll across this 274 metre-long pedestrian bridge that spans Henderson Road to connect Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park. At 36m above Henderson Road, Henderson Waves is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. The bridge is also worth visiting for its artistic, distinctive wave-like structure consisting of a series of undulating curved “ribs”. These “ribs” also double up as alcoves providing shelter to the public. Joggers, couples and families with children are a common sight on Henderson Waves during weekends. The bridge has also become a popular photography location in recent months for wedding couples posing against the scenic skyline. The bridge takes on a different look at night, with the wave-form illuminated with attractive LED light from 7pm to 2am daily.
    • Distance: 0.3 km
      Difficulty level: easy
      Walking Time: 5 mins
    • Read more about it here.
  • Hilltop Walk
    • Hilltop Walk runs through Telok Blangah Hill Park. This park was once a gathering place for trading communities that thrived in the area in the early nineteenth century. Make your way to the Terrace Garden at the top of the park and stop for a moment to enjoy a stunning 360-degree view of Singapore and the decks of bougainvillea at the Garden.
    • Distance: 1km
      Walking time: 15 min
      Difficulty level:
      Hilltop Walk in Telok Blangah Hill Park (easy)
      Terrace Garden (moderate, long flights of stairs)
  • Forest Walk
    • The Forest Walk meanders through some 50 metres through the secondary forest of Telok Blangah Hill and connects to Alexandra Arch. There are two trails on the Forest Walk (just cross over from Carpark 3 to get on either trail) – the Elevated Walkway and the Earth trail. The Elevated Walkway, accessed by the metal bridge, offers you the experience of walking through the secondary forest of Telok Blangah Hill at eye-level with the forest canopy. This is an excellent platform for spotting birds, dragonflies and butterflies. If you prefer a more rugged experience and hanker after a closer experience with wildlife in the area, embark on the Earth Trail. Steps have been built at some parts of the trail in view of the steep terrain. The dense secondary forest found here, the Adinandra Belukar, is home to Singapore’s rich biodiversity.
    • Distance: 1.3km
      Difficulty level: easy (Elevated walkway), moderate (Earth trail)
      Walking time: 20 min
  • Alexandra Arch
    • Conceptualised as a “Gateway to Nature”, Alexandra Arch links Hilltop Walk and Forest Walk. Walk on this 80m long bridge and admire its unique architecture – it looks like an opened leaf across Alexandra Road, with its curved deck intersecting an arch that is tilted at a 70-degree angle. Alexandra Arch is lit up by LED lights at night. The lights change colour at intervals from 7pm to 12am daily, displaying varying shades from the colour spectrum of dusk.
    • Distance: 0.08km
      Difficulty level: easy
      Walking time: 2 min
  • Floral Walk and HortPark
    • At the base of the bridge at Alexandra Arch lies Floral Walk, a hot spot for floral diversity with more than 100 species of flowering shrubs and trees. Beautiful scented flowers, trumpet-shaped flowers with crimson petals, stunning pink flowering clusters – these are some of the interesting blooms you can see here at Floral Walk. Stop here to take a few picturesque shots of flowering plants. This short trail forms the gateway to HortPark – The Gardening Hub, Southeast Asia’s first one-stop centre for gardening-related activities in a park setting. HortPark connects to Kent Ridge Park via the Canopy Walk.
    • Distance: 0.3km
      Difficulty level: easy
      Walking time: 5 min
  • Canopy Walk
    • The Canopy Walk at Kent Ridge Park offers you the experience of walking through a secondary forest at eye-level with the forest canopy. This is a 280-metre long boardwalk that links Kent Ridge Park to the museum “Reflections of Bukit Chandu”. Breathe in the fresh air and enjoy panoramic views on the Walk. Listen out for the sounds of birds and insects that break the silence of the park. Incidentally, Kent Ridge Park has the highest number and species of dragonflies recorded compared to other parks.
    • Distance: 0.3km
      Walking time: 5 min
      Difficulty level: easy

* Source : http://www.nparks.gov.sg/

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Grand Canyon Rafting (Colorado River)

Grand Canyon

While the formation of the Grand Canyon is highly debated by geologists, its majesty is without doubt. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to see the Grand Canyon from the top and the view/feeling was simply awesome. It has since been my wish to re-visit that place again, but from a different perspective – the bottom-up view.

When it comes to touring Grand Canyon, I am spoilt for choices. I could tour on coach, helicopter, cruise and even mule. I could spend a few hours at the rim or a few days hiking/rafting in the canyon. Any of these options is sure to be mesmerizing and I was lucky enough to experience a full day rafting trip at the Colorado River during my last trip to Las Vegas. It was a marvellous adventure that I would like to share with you.

The tour started very early at 4.30am pickup at our hotel at the Las Vegas strip. We had a very chatty and friendly driver and that helped to make the long journey (three hours) seemed shorter. By 8am, we reached the Hualapai Lodge, where we were transferred to a “school” bus to take us down to the floor of the canyon.

Hualapai Lodge

Our bus to the bottom of the Canyon

Below are some views along the way, including some deserted structures that looked failed space shuttles and some wild donkeys or mules. Sorry, I really cannot tell the difference. 😉 We also stopped by a high ground for some nice views of the canyon.

Wild donkeys spotted on our way down the Grand Canyon

A nice view of Grand Canyon

On our way down to the floor of Grand Canyon

Another view

Starting point of the rafting

We started the rafting at about 9am and each raft can take upto eight people, excluding the experienced navigator. There was nothing much that we needed to do in the raft actually, except to hold onto the rails (for our dear lives). We were told that the rapids that we experienced ranged from grade four to seven (one being the easiest). The first one was a “simple” grade four rapid and by the end of it, all of us were already drenched in the freezing cold Colorado River water! It was quite an interesting experience as the weather was very hot (I guessed it was more than 35℃) and yet the water was icy-cold.

Our rafts

Rapid grade 4 (I think)

See the white box? That was our supply of water and snacks. 😉

Our footwear

Another shot of the raft

The only way is forward …

Take the front seat … if you love splashes

Rapid grade 6, I think

Drenched souls after the rapid

We rafted for an hour and conquered numerous rapids before we stopped by an island for a short hike to a mini waterfall. The above photo was taken by the official photographer, who was stationed on the island (on the left). If you are planning to take this tour, remember to sit on the left side of the raft so that you (and not your back) will be facing the camera most of the time.

All nicely docked …

More rafts

The hike to the waterfall was a rather short one (ten minutes). But it could be challenging for some, in my opinion. You had to go up borders and climb rope ladders as shown in the photos below. But I guess if you are game for rafting, then this hike shouldn’t pose any problem, right? ;-P

It was really very refreshing to be under the mini waterfall on a hot day and if time permits, I wouldn’t mind meditating under this waterfall. LOL. And by the way, if the journey to the waterfall looked daunting, the journey back was not simple either. Again, take a look at the photos below to see what I mean.

After the nice break, we continued with our adventure where we went through a few more rapids, including a grade seven. Seated second from the front, I was shielded from most of the splashes by the guy in front of me. However for the grade seven rapid, our raft was literally lifted off the river and I could feel the free falling of the raft and the pounding of the waves (from the top). In this case, I was in the worse position than my friend who was at the front seat. So I guess life is fair – You won’t get the shorter end of the stick every time. 😉

Once we were done with all the rapids, we stopped by another island for our packed sandwiched lunch. The lunch was simple but we were not complaining. In a hot day like that, all we wanted was water, especially cold ones. Coke had never tasted so good …

Our lunch stop

After lunch, we set off again on the Colorado River for another 30 minutes but it was just a leisure drift from this point onwards. We had plenty of time to get ourselves dried or rather “baked” under the hot sun and at the same time enjoying the beautiful scenery. The rock formation, texture and composition would serve as good and educational geography lessons.

View from the Colorado River

What do you see? Limestone? Sandstone? Shale? Granite? Or Schist?

West Rim, Grand Canyon

Another view of West Rim, Grand Canyon, with a glimpse of the cruise on the lower right

The helicopter was expecting us at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon at around 2.30pm and the helicopter ride back to the top of the canyon was about six minutes. After which, it was another 3 hour car journey back to our hotel. Again, we had lots of fun and laughter discussing about the regulations in different countries – We had Singaporeans, Americans and Spaniards in the van.

Our helicopter

A closer look

Take the front seat for the best view inside the helicopter

Langkawi – Part 4 (Holiday Villa Beach Resort)

Padi field

I have already covered three full days of fun at Langkawi in my previous postings here, here and here. In this blog entry, I shall cover the accommodation, food and the shopping belt along Pantai Cenang.

Let’s start with our accommodation. For five days four nights, we stayed in the Holiday Villa Beach Resort and Spa, which is located at the end of Jalan Pantai Tengah. Our first impression of the resort was rather bad actually. Firstly, the room was not carpeted and hence it felt a little dirty. Then we had somebody who attempted to open our door in the middle of the night. Luckily we have the habit of latching the door and hence that stopped the “intruders” from entering our room. The “intruders” turned out to be some resort guests who had just arrived and were given the same room as us. Although the confusion was sorted out quickly with the front-desk, there was no apology nor any gestures of goodwill from the management. Despite such a big blunder, it seemed to be business-as-usual for this resort. ;-(

Holiday Villa Beach Resort and Spa

Taxis are easily available at a fixed rate.

A huge swimming pool with a pool-side bar

The kids had a good time with each other despite the lack of water features and slides.

Clarissa and her new found friend who doesn't speak English. But I guess toys is the natural communication bridge among kids.

What’s good about this resort is the beautiful beach behind it. Located just right beyond the swimming pool, the beach was really a hidden paradise. The beach was clean and the waves was gentle. As the resort is located quite a distance away from the busy Pantai Cenang (about 15 minutes walk) shopping area, the beach is rather “exclusive” to the resort guests. For quite a while, we were under that the impression that the beach was a private beach for the resort guests only.  😉

The beach behind the resort

Reverse view with the resort in the background

The beach at night

The beach at night

Seriously, the beach got to be the main (and maybe only) attraction of this resort. Like I had mentioned earlier, the condition of room was rather bad though we were not too bothered with it (since we were out most of the time). Hence if your dream holiday is to laze in the room, then I suggest you get a better hotel. 😉

The prices at its restaurants were also very expensive. But luckily there is a nice cafe called “Cactus” just opposite the resort. It serves good local and western food at very reasonable prices.

Cactus cafe just opposite the resort

Where we had our daily breakfast

There are two types of night markets in Langkawi. The first is the kind that we know very well where the stalls are perpetually at the same spot every night. These stalls sell souvenirs, shirts, toys and whatever a tourist might buy. You can find a lot of these stalls along Pantai Cenang.

A departmental store along Pantai Cenang

Stalls along Pantai Cenang

These T-shirts were very popular and the kids bought one each

The restaurant on the top right was supposed to be very famous and served good food. However, we didn’t had the chance to dine here and hence if you do, let me know if it’s really good.

This man makes customized name keychains at very reasonable prices.

It took him about five minutes to make one keychain

Happy customers. Happy seller.

Hopefully the above photos gave you an idea on what to expect from Pantai Cenang. Besides this night market which was more “touristy”, there was another type of night market which we found on our tourist map. Interestingly, there was a day (Monday, Tuesday, etc) labelled beside it. After checking with the locals, we then realized that these were the mobile night markets and its location depends on the day of the week. These markets sell stuff that are typically found in a wet market such as fishes, fruits and satay, which may not appeal to most tourists. Below are some photos taken from one of these markets.

As it was a make-shift setup, the ground was quite muddy after a shower

Located about 5 minutes walk from our resort, there was this restaurant by the name of “Fat Mum” which served very good Chinese food. If you travel from the resort towards Pantai Cenang, the restaurant is located on the right side of the road. Run-down as it may seem, the chef (i.e. fat mum) can cook very well. It was so good that we had our dinner there two days in a row.

Road leading to Fat Mum Restaurant

Fat Mum restaurant

Fat Mum's famous "Noodles on Fire"

The other restaurant (Deng Long) that we went to was just a few footsteps away from Fat Mum. Personally, I prefer Fat Mum’s cooking and it had a home-cooked feel. Deng Long restaurant, on the other hand, was more commercialized with waitresses in costumes. The food was ok though it was much pricier than Fat Mum.

So, this concludes our holiday in Langkawi and we are definitely looking forward to our next one – Taiwan in December! Yea!

Bye bye Langkawi

Langkawi – Part 3 (Pulau Payar)

Pulau Payar Marine Park

This is the third part of the Langkawi series (You can read part one and part two here).

We booked the full day tour when we first touched down at the airport and it turned out to be one of the best decisions that we had made. Even if you don’t swim, I would still strongly recommend this tour when you are in Langkawi. Have you ever been swamped by fishes? Have you ever swum with sharks? Or do you like fish feeding? These are the things that you can do when you are on this tour.

There are two types of tour packages (on beach or floating platform) to go onto this paradise. Basically the packages are the same, except that the latter allows you to see the fishes from the floating platform, i.e. without getting wet. As the price was almost doubled, we paid for the beach access instead. Our package included a pre-packed lunch and all the snorkeling gears. We were told that the luncheon was the same for both packages, except that the former was served in buffet style.

We were picked at our hotel at 7.45am and were transferred to a ferry ride for another hour. We reached the island around 10am and were left to explore the island on our own until 2pm, before we were transferred back to our hotel (around 4pm). Here are some advice for you, if you plan to go on this tour.

  • Bring a big loaf of bread to feed the fishes. I learned this from my previous experience in Phuket, Thailand.
  • Bring and apply (generously) suntan lotion. It actually rained when we were on the island but it didn’t dampen our mood cos most of the time, we were in the sea. 😉
  • As we took an air-conditioned ferry and there was proper shelter on the beach, there was no need to waterproof your stuff. Again, I have learnt from my Phuket experience that my stuff will get wet. However, I must say this tour was much better organized.
  • Fruits and mineral water were provided. If you like, you may want to bring along some snacks (for picnic).

Boarding the ferry

Shelters are available for different tour groups. The one at the far end was ours.

Seaview

What was special about this tour was that you get to swim with and feed the blacktip sharks. Most of them were baby ones (about 2 feet long) and they swam very close to the beach. It was quite an interesting experience to swim with these sharks, or even trying to catch up with them. If you go a little deeper (but still within the safety zone), you may get to get bigger ones. I saw one huge blacktip shark (about one metre) circulating on the seabed. 😉

A baby blacktip shark

See the blacktip? This one was actually quite small (about one foot)

A baby blacktip shark circulating around the seabed

That was how close you could get to the sharks!

For the faint-hearted, don’t fret. There weren’t so many sharks actually and most of the time, you only get fishes around you. And whenever there is a swamp of fishes, these sharks usually won’t go near. What you can do is really simple …. Just take a slice of the bread and dip it into the water and let the fishes do the rest. LOL!

With this much of fishes, I could literally catch them with bare hands. And I did!

Not to mention that some of these fishes were huge (at least to me). Fishes that were larger than my palm were very common. And I must say … They were not camera shy at all!

Fishes, fishes and more fishes

Having a fun time chasing after these fishes

My children can swim but I wouldn’t say they are very good swimmers. In fact, it took them a while before they learned how to snorkel, i.e. breathe through the snorkel. Once they learned the technique, they loved the world underneath the water. Maybe, one day, I could scuba dive again. 😉

Human raft

You can see the floating platform from the picture below (bottom left) but you will have to pay more (almost double) to get onboard them. And of course, you get to eat your lunch in buffet style as well. For us, lunch was a hasty affair as we couldn’t wait to go back into the waters. So, the choice is yours. 😉

This pretty much summarized all the activities that we did in Langkawi. The next, and final, post shall cover our accommodation and food.

[Previous – Part 2] [Next – Part 4]

Langkawi – Part 2 (Cable Car, Seven Wells, Oriental Village)

Langkawi Suspension Bridge

As promised, this is the second part of the Langkawi series (You can read part one here).

On this day we took the cable car to the top of the Machincang mountain range and the suspension bridge was one of the key reasons why we chose Langkawi as our holiday destination. To get to the bridge, you need to take the cable car at the Oriental Village, which is like a themed shopping centre. Besides the cable car, there are other activities such as four-wheel drive and flying fox in the village as well. My advice is to go early for the cable car ride as the access to the bridge is subject to weather permitting. In the event that the bridge is closed, at least you could do the other activities first and then the bridge later. In our case, we reached there around 10am and the bridge was closed due to bad weather conditions. The cable car, however, was in operation. Keeping our fingers crossed, we bought the tickets for the cable car and prayed that the weather would clear for us… And our prayers were answered. 😉

The cable car base station (ticketing booth)

Each cable car can take upto 6 people and everybody just queued in the predrawn boxes. Nice and orderly.

A journey to the cloud

First glimpse of the suspension bridge

There are two stations (middle and top) where you could alight from the cable car. As our objective was the bridge, we didn’t alight at the middle station. Instead we took the cable car all the way to the top. From there, we had a take a short walk (about eight minutes) to the bridge. Despite the short distance, it was quite challenging for some of the older people as they had to take some steep stairs and slopes. Handrails were available though.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of the steepness of the stairs

Tracking to the bridge

The view is simply breathtaking

Reverse view from the bridge

The sky cleared up very quickly (for us). LOL!

Overview of the bridge

Cafe at the Top station

The Top Station

All in all, we spent about an hour (round trip) to the suspension bridge. If I am not wrong, there is a trek up to the suspension bridge from the middle station. Since we didn’t do the middle station at all, I cannot confirm on this. You may want to plan more time if you intend to explore the middle station. Let me know if you do and what did I miss. 😉

Here are some pictures of the Oriental Village.

Oriental Village

Cooling radish on a hot day - Shiok!

After lunch, we proceeded to the Telaga Tujuh waterfall (or more commonly known as Seven Wells), which was just minutes away from the Oriental Village. To be very frank, I don’t think the waterfall was very majestic and I have definitely seen bigger ones. But having said that, it was a rather nice place to chill out on a hot day. Remember to put on a pair of denim shorts so that you can slide down the rocks – The children will love this. There are washing facilities at the top of the waterfall too. Hence have no worries, bring along an extra change of clothes and have fun! 😉

49_DSC8321

The trek up to the top of the waterfall was actually very tough. We spent almost thirty minutes to trek up the slopes/stairs that were inclined at about 40° on average. Check out the photos below for proof …

After the exhausting walk, we finally made it to the top. 😉

Natural water slide

As we made our way down, we realized that there was another trek (around the midway to the top) that led us to the foot of the waterfall. This was definitely a much better place for swimming. Too bad that we didn’t really have much time then and hence could only take a few pictures before we moved on to the next destination. If you like nature, Seven Wells is a good choice and you should allow for at least 3 hours to enjoy the relaxation in the water.

That’s all for now. My original intention was to cover the beach in this entry but I think the content is already quite heavy. Hence I will move the beach photos to the last part of the series instead, i.e. together with the hotel and its surrounding. I will work on Part 3 as soon as possible and do check back again cos it is going to be another exciting day – A full day at the Payar Island Marine Park. See you!

[Previous – Part 1] [Next – Part 3]

Langkawi – Part 1 (Makam Mahsuri, Eagle Square, Black Sand Beach)

Langkawi Eagle Square

Langkawi – A small but beautiful island off the coast of Kedah in the Straits of Malacca. That was the place where we spent a good four days together with my sister and her family during the last June holidays. Contrary to what most people said, I think there are a lot of activities that one can do on this tiny island. I will be breaking these down into four blog entries, as follows.

[Part One] – This shall cover our itinerary for the first two days, including Kuah town, Eagle Square, Makam Mahsuri and Pantai Pasir Hitam.

[Part Two] – This shall cover our day three where we visited cable car, seven wells and the beach.

[Part Three] – This shall cover our day four where we visited Pulau Payar Marine Park.

[Part Four] – This shall cover our accommodation and its surroundings, including Pantai Cenang and the beach.

I usually don’t plan for any sightseeing on the first day of our holidays. Instead, we will typically spend the day finalizing our logistics. For this trip, the first thing we did when we touched down at the airport was to make arrangement/booking for the car rental and land tours. Since we booked from the same agent and we were a relatively large group (five adults, three children), we got a good price and a further discount on that. Before the trip, I had read from various sources that it is cheaper to book the car and land tours at the airport. I was quite skeptical initially as I remembered it was cheaper when I booked my land tours at Phuket (Thailand) streets many years ago. However, the initial price that the agent quoted me was already cheaper than I had read from the web. Of course we signed up with the agent on the spot and later, we did verify with some of the tour agencies in the town and confirmed that we had the best rates. 😉

In my case, we didn’t pick up the car from the airport. Instead we arranged for the car to be delivered to our hotel the next day and to start our tour to Pulau Payar Marine Park on the third day. There were some risks involved as we had to make full cash payment upfront but only to collect the car on another day. Anyway, we made our confirmation and got our deal. Everything was smooth and safe. 😉

After collecting our car on the second day, the first place we went was Langkawi Eagle Square (located in Kuah town) and our usual practice was to buy some souvenirs and food for our friends and relatives first. Once that was cleared, we could then enjoy the rest of the holidays (in peace).

Planning our route

Parking in Langkawi is generally free, except for Kuah town

Kuah town

Is Langkawi a shopping paradise? I don't think so ... except for, maybe, this one.

So the first stop was shopping and that was planned for the ladies. Next, we drove to Makam Mahsuri, the grave of the island’s legendary heroine, Mahsuri and this was for the kids. With the same admission, you could also see a Malay house and learn more about Malay culture as well. The kids also had a good time learning about history and even had a go at retrieving buckets of water from a functional well.

Malay house at Makam Mahsuri

Pounding

Another Malay House

Our next destination was Pantai Pasir Hitam (Black Sand Beach). As it was raining when we got there, the kids remained in the car and I had to quickly snap a few photos before moving onto the next programme, i.e. dinner! In fact, I was in and out of that place in less than ten minutes and hence didn’t really had a good feel of the area. Personally, I don’t think that’s a beach suitable for swimming. There are so many better beaches in Langkawi. This beach was rather dirty and without amenities.

Black Sand Beach

Jetty near the beach. As you can see, this part of the beach is not black.

Panoramic view of the beach

It was quite a boring day but these were the standard activities that we (as tourists) had to do, i.e. to buy some souvenirs and learn more about the local culture. The next day will be better, I promise.

[Previous] [Next – Part 2]