Modern. Asian. Cosmopolitan.
I’ve been doing a lot of walking around lately. Too much time on my hands, an uncontrollable urge to wear out my shoes, my Netflix account not working in Singapore – the reason for my sudden wanderlust isn’t all too clear. In doing so though, I stumbled upon, almost by accident, Singapore’s forgotten quarries. Singapore – the epitome of the modern Asian cosmopolitan city has quarries!?
My parents having moved recently to the west of Singapore, I find myself all of a sudden being surrounded three nature parks, a nature reserve and a few lakes here and there. To someone who has spent most of her adolescent life in south Singapore and witnessed first-hand its hustle-bustle and general sleeplessness, my new neighborhood seems almost alien. The tranquility of Singaporean ‘suburbs’ (I guess this is as suburban as Singapore can get!) is quite underexposed and even less under-appreciated.
One of my first walks around the area led me to the neighborhood nature park, located at the end of my street. The entrance was a smooth, narrow walkway lined with trees, creating a shady canopy over the walking path. As I kept walking, the opening between the trees disappeared and the news of the outside world grew faint. It was an early Saturday morning; the only noises on the main street were of the occasional vehicle and a couple of early shoppers. However, as I left those behind me, I grew more aware of the surroundings enveloping me. The life of the park seemed vibrant and electric, even at this hour, or perhaps, especially at this hour. There was a certain pulse in the air, and I immediately felt more energized being a part of it. There were joggers, runners, walkers from all age groups – athletes, families, even elderly couples could be seen breaking a sweat in the morning heat. Yoga mats could be seen on grassy patches, while the fitness equipment was constantly occupied. The chirping of birds created a constant hum, which nicely complemented the ongoing buzz and activity.
I jogged deeper and deeper into the woods till I came across a clearing between the trees, which opened up to face the lake, in the middle of the park. It was quite a sight – the surface of the lake, though by no means crystal clear, created a reflected image of the morning sky, still bathed in pinks and oranges. Towering on the other side of the lake, one could see huge cliffs that fell sharply into the water.
A quick Google search at home later would tell me that this was, in fact, Singapore’s tallest hill, and the cliffs were in fact remnants of Singapore’s granite quarries. More research yielded that the park was built on an abandoned quarry site that was hugely active in the mid-twentieth century but went out of business by the mid-1970’s, when most of the granite production was shifted to the island of Ubin nearby. I thought back to earlier that morning: the sight of joggers stretching out by the lake, dogs bounding about happily, the gym equipment being used feverishly, even a photographer or two. Who would have thought that this little pocket of nature, serene and far away from the clutches of urban craziness could have once been the site of such industrial fanfare? I immediately decided to explore more such nature reserves, most of which, I’m sure now, hide forgotten memories of Singapore’s natural history. McRitchie Reservoir, the Southern Ridges and Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s only existing village, I decide, are high on my list.
Most of my summer mornings back home are spent thus: waking up to a cup of English Breakfast, going for a walk around the neighborhood in anticipation of a new discovery or watching the rain pelt down with yet another cup of tea, depending on the weather. A very different start from waking up in Los Angeles (usually late) and heading for class, and not least of all because of the frequency of rain! Both are enjoyable in their own way, of course, but after nearly nine months of being away from home, I welcome this summer and all it laziness it brings with it. Singapore never ceases to amaze me with how much it has to offer and even after having lived here for nearly a decade, I realize that I don’t know the true limits of its diversity. Not at all the typical Singaporean city life, yet I find myself falling in love with suburban Singapore.