With travel restrictions unlikely to be lifted anytime soon, most of us are confined in our little red dot. Unsure of when things would return to its pace, we turn to local alternatives hoping for that splash of novelty as we long the feeling of newness and spontaneity that come with overseas travel. Here are 5 unique locations around the island for that breath of fresh air you desperately needed.
Jurong Lake Gardens: Lakeside Garden
Parks may be no surprise for the average local, but Lakeside Garden promises breath-taking, expansive views of a Fountain grass (Pennisetum) field, nothing like the usual neighbourhood parks seen around Singapore. Spanning 53-hectres wide, this park opened two years back and is the latest addition to Jurong Lake Gardens, featuring grasslands and a solitary tree perched in the centre of the field as the garden’s landmark.
Contrary to what it appears to be, this lone tree is a metallic sculpture made from recycled iron reinforcement bars that were salvaged from the old park’s path – an ode to Jurong’s humble industrial origins. Thus, it is not a real tree. Regardless, it still looks like one and is sure to satiate all your Instagram aesthetic needs.
Besides the grasslands, Lakeside Garden also features tall grass mounds that provide different vantage points of the grass field from afar. If you fancy picnics (with safe distancing, please) or crave a simple reprieve from the demands of city life, this is an ideal location for outdoor get-togethers.
Address: 50 Yuan Ching Road, Singapore 618661
Nearest location: Lakeside MRT Station (within walking distance)
Opening hours: Open 24 hours, free access
Clementi Road: Disused KTM Tunnel
Metropolis Singapore is naught without its humble origins. Many Singaporeans are aware of the age-old KTM railway that extends from the old Bukit Timah Railway Station to the now-defunct Tanjong Pagar Railway Terminal. But a hidden gem awaits at the heart of the preserved stretch and is set to take you by surprise.
Appearing quite intact is the disused railway tunnel located beneath Clementi Road along the forgotten railway line. This tunnel is one of three constructed as part of an industrial stretch planned in the early 1960s, which would transport industrial goods from Peninsular Malaysia into the main line at Bukit Timah. Just as Singapore was on a rapid industrialisation phase, Jurong was gazetted to be the site of Singapore’s industrial estate, but because it was still rural and lacked infrastructure, authorities decided to extend the main railroad towards Bukit Timah. Despite its completion, efforts were left in vain when partnering companies expressed interest to move by road and cargo operations were ceased prematurely in early 1990s.
As of 2018, the tunnel had been restored in conjunction with the newly widened Clementi Road above it. With vegetation sprouting out from the disused line, the corrugated steel tunnel remains unabated to the test of nature, displaying a grit of living history. Do pay a visit to this unique relic and explore the remnants of Singapore’s short-lived railway - hidden in plain sight.
Address: Beneath Clementi Road
Nearest landmarks: Maju Camp (out-of-bounds to non-military personnel), Singapore University of Social Sciences.
Opening hours: Open 24 hours, free access
Directions: To reach the tunnel, take bus 184 from Clementi MRT Station and get off at “12089: Opp Maju Camp” bus stop. The tunnel is located behind the bus stop, down the slope.
Discretion: Please be equipped with appropriate covered footwear, as thick vegetation could pose risks to trekking. Some areas of the railway may also be cordoned off to public. Be cautious of warnings and do not trespass where stated.
Lim Chu Kang Road: Foliage Stretch
What feels like a never-ending strip of barren concrete along Lim Chu Kang Road miraculously leads you to a lush green tunnel flanked by some of Singapore’s age-old trees from days of pre-independence. If you’re a naturalist and yearn a trip down memory lane far off the city, Lim Chu Kang’s foliage stretch promises that visceral experience of natural wonder.
Nestled between Sungei Gedong and Ama Keng Road, this 1.8-kilometre green outback is one of Singapore’s oldest nature ways gazetted by the government to conserve vegetation and heritage and has been left to grow naturally with time. It was constructed in the 1900s and facilitated gambier, pepper and rubber plantations that used to thrive in the village precinct. As time went by, the road served as the main linkway between villagers and city-bound roads of Choa Chu Kang and is left untouched. Today, many cyclists throng the area, albeit off the beaten track, as the road carries less traffic and presents a scenic route for those looking to get back to nature.
As you cruise along the green corridor, notice the tree bends and moments of canopy shyness as crowns of fully-stocked Angsana (Pterocarpus indicus) trees inch close to each other but barely meet. If the day permits, marvel at the rejuvenating sight of spontaneous sun rays scattering between trees as you are momentarily transported back in time.
Address: Lim Chu Kang Road
Nearest Landmark: Sungei Gedong Camp (out-of-bounds to non-military personnel)
Opening hours: Open 24 hours, free access
Raffles Marina Club: Johor Straits Lighthouse
Ahoy, nautical enthusiasts! This is one attraction you should not miss.
Situated at the tip of Raffles Marina Club’s breakwater (quite the tip of Singapore too) stands Singapore’s one and only privately maintained lighthouse that has since been a popular backdrop for many photographers alike. A lighthouse is no common sighting in cosmopolitan Singapore, and the fact that it is still operational today makes this landmark even more special than what it appears to be.
Located at the southernmost end of Tuas West, Raffles Marina Club is probably the closest it gets to Malaysia for now, and for the nostalgic ones who reminisce crossing the causeway into Nusajaya, the lighthouse promenade overlooks picturesque views of the Tuas Causeway from a proximity and neighbouring Johor Bahru across the strait. As it is situated in the west, the pier is also known for its beautiful sunsets.
This lighthouse stands at approximately 12 metres high and flashes a 15-metre beam of light towards the Johor strait every ten seconds. Given the numerous private yachts docked at its bays, the lighthouse serves a crucial function in providing navigational aid for yacht drivers and remains an important asset to the club.
If a journey to the lighthouse is too far a shot, you could also book a table at the club’s restaurant and have a hearty meal before leaving. The club welcomes visitors even if you are not a member.
Address: 10 Tuas West Drive, Singapore 638404
Nearest Location: Tuas Link MRT Station
Opening hours: Opens daily from 7:00am to 10:00pm, free access (with club rules)
Jewel Changi Airport: Hedge Maze
Nothing beats the thrill of hide-and-seek in a life-sized maze, and for the ones who crave that pulse-pounding game of catch-me-if-you-can, Jewel Changi Airport’s very own local rendition of Maze Land in Jeju Island promises a hiding experience like no other.
Part of Jewel Changi Airport’s Canopy Park, the Hedge Maze features topiary walls that are tall enough you won’t be able to peek over. To make it even more challenging, swing gates are incorporated so you can alter your path as you scramble to find your end. And when you actually do, a watch-tower boasting a bird’s eye view of the entire maze awaits. Be the first to reach the end and you’ll be in for a good laugh watching others scramble to find their way out amidst the thick shrubbery.
As the maze is positioned right beneath the transparent acrylic planks of Jewel’s façade, you’ll get just the right amount of sun for good photographs too.
Location: Jewel Changi Airport, Canopy Park
Opening hours: Opens daily from 10:00am to 10:00pm
Price: S$12 for Adults and S$8 for Child/Seniors. Singapore Residents can enjoy 10% off.
More than a physical transportation to a new environment, travel takes the mind into unchartered territory. Albeit a distant reality, we hope these local alternatives will continue to satiate our curiosities as we remain hopeful for a time we can all travel freely again.