fact is, when i suddenly struck upon this idea of walking all over singapore in the nation’s fiftieth year in a bid to avoid serious exercise and convinced aj, my friend and trainer, to join me in this escape attempt, i had really no idea what i’d come across, see, discover, experience, step on…
i had heard many stories about “last time” as in the past and i could sense and feel what was happening around me right now, but how much there was to come across and be totally surprised by, i couldn’t tell. perhaps not consciously, but back of my mind i must have thought as many do, there isn’t that much here.
i knew the mile and kilometre number of singapore was not huge. the date pad also didn’t take you back to zillions of years ago and flummox all idea of time in your head… no cities of ancient civilizations with baths and streets and temples to be unearthed here and pondered and prodded for centuries by archeologists and historians and tired tourists.
singapore is all about the latest, the best, the kiasu, and many such cliches we all speak of and get comfortable with. what would i possibly find here?
the road took me to many stories and trails most unexpected, however. we’ve done about twenty seven odd walks by now, each one has given me a bit of singapore. and every once in a while, a thrilling reveal.
like that old upper thomson road walk. a beautiful, green stretch of winding road in the heart of the island with homes on one side and thick forests on the other, a length of it minus any buildings, only trees and many hued foliage, somewhere halfway up a lane leads to a placid expanse of water, the lower peirce reservoir; along the way, verdant nature, flowers, rambutan, a sign saying “animals ahead” (i thought that was the high point of this calm cool amble). we’d gone there mainly to do a loop from a well known roti prata shop, starting at the junction of casuarina walk and old upper t, going all the way till we came to upper thomson road and following it back to that shop again.
it was a lovely walk. smooth and easy. pretty roads to the left with happy sounding names… jacaranda, nemesu, seraya. charming neighbourhood with smaller dwellings on casuarina road. seems a well known actress lived around here once. the prata was hot. the teh haliya “not bad” meaning great. my daughter was delighted with her iphone 6 photographs, these are all taken by her.
walk over. i thought, ah, nothing much to write about this one. mentioned to my boss a couple of days later that we’d gone to old upper t. oh, he said, the old race track. i thought, huh? race? horses here? how strange, no sign of the track anywhere.
then i checked the net. not horses. cars.
we’d just walked along singapore’s first grand prix circuit. no, the very fancy f1 night races were not the first time the city saw the speed and swish of motor racing. from 1961 to 1973, it was right here on the thomson road grand prix circuit, which was specially created to host the event, that the cool cars and motorbikes whizzed at the hippest and foremost race of southeast asia. the 3.2 odd mile run was not as easy as it looks on a map or when you walk at a decidedly slow pace. its twists and bends and slopes ended up taking many lives and the races stopped after a point. the lap started with the thomson mile (some call it the “murder mile”), then entered old upper t at a hairpin bend, the route includes the “devil’s bend” and “the snakes”.
and this being singapore, there are many stories of ghosts lurking there too. but the first motor race track and that too back then? i am grinning. do take a look at this film i found on youtube of the 1966 race, the year after independence. credit: uploader.
photographs credit estair auhona robbins, @blinkrejects on instagram
road to singapore, old upper thomson road, casuarina road, upper thomson road, 02/07/2015 #SG50
end of 1997, we moved to singapore from india. in 2015, the country celebrated fifty years of independence. singapore has given me much and i am fascinated by the spirit of this gutsy city state with hardly any land or resources, but oh what dreams and chutzpah (the finest interpretation of the word), the ability to reach big, hunker down and hold and strategise and act and grow. despite my many years here, i haven’t seen a lot of the island, which started out at only 28 miles by 18. now of course it’s bigger, thanks to that spirit i spoke of. so anthony john or aj as i call him, my walking partner, and i decided to do fifty walks in the island to celebrate #SG50. well, we didn’t stop at fifty; couldn’t. there was still so much to see and feel and also how not to let the hot, merciless, climate-change sun not have its way with us. so the walks continue, as does the walk talk. hope you enjoy, try to bring an umbrella.