mandai has such a pretty sound and it usually means the zoo to me. but we were not going to go there, we decided, we’d just start out at some point on mandai road and walk around upper seletar reservoir, singapore’s oldest freshwater lake (i don’t like the word catchment) and then follow the road, see where we land up.
aj, my really understanding personal trainer to whom i can happily say i hate the word gym unless he means a very good looking guy, is really a great walking partner. he knows the city, he has stories to tell, he takes great pictures, but day before i was most grateful to him for his sharp eyesight.
he saw the tortoise first. the moment we stepped onto the road between the mandai golfing range and the reservoir – a high, narrow stretch of asphalt grey, one side sloping down to pretty manicured greens with bougainvillea shrubs turning magenta, the other side plunging straight into the hush of water – aj yelled. i think he said, “wo! look at that! it’s a tortoise!” but i can’t be sure, because i had turned startled at his voice and was staring at the large rock almost the same colour as the road.
then the rock moved. and yes, even though my husband looked at me with incredulous eyes when i was telling him the story, i am very sure it was that big… about a foot and a few more inches long. big guy. as aj said.
of course, we stopped instantly and spent time with the creature who had come out to see us. i wondered if he, or was it she, knew how many times we’d said, no, we aren’t going to the zoo.
the poor tortoise had been ambling along without a care, the moment she heard us she rushed into her shell and went still. that’s when i saw her first. i’ve decided the tortoise is a she, she’s too pretty and dainty to be anything else. we watched her with our cameras ready, she walked a little and then ran back home again. then she did this terribly tortoise thing and i had to make a video.
after that meeting, something felt heady and light right through the walk. it was a slightly overcast, not so hot day, you could hear birds calling everywhere, i decided i was not brave enough to take the path which had several stray dogs. me chicken. then we saw the chickens and the chicks around the post office turned into a pet sanctuary. we were not going to the zoo it seems, hyuk.
this was the second old post office i was seeing which had become something else, the other one is of course, the fullerton hotel, used to be the gpo.
on sembawang road, aj pointed out the way to the nee soon camp, one of the oldest army camps here… i could see he was dying to tell me its tales.
we found a beautiful dark orange flower that reminded me of krishnachura or palash, couldn’t figure out what it was. every once in a way we saw the cranes, the high perimeter walls, the workers, the boards that said, ah another new condo. there was a lovely little mosque where men and women were coming in for their friday prayers, caps on heads, batik shirts, a gently smiling helpful lady with a flowing tudong…
i wondered what the tortoise was doing. was she walking slowly, very slowly? checking out the roads of singapore… another one out to find out what’s there?
this was one of our earliest road to singapore walks.
around the upper seletar reservoir, tortoise coming into view on the right.
the mandai executive golf course
the old nee soon post office is a vet clinic now. and some of the patients were running around the premises. we spotted a row of chicks and clucking mother in the drain by the side.
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 i thought why not see singapore in this landmark year, and celebrate #sg50. aj, my friend and trainer, and i traipse in different parts of the city every week. hope you enjoy the walk talk. you’ll find more in my index. and the walks continue in singapore’s year 52.
think it’s a palash flower. from which possibly comes the name of the town of palashi or plassey in west bengal, india… the famous battle of plassey we all read about, its betrayal, its skullduggery, and the grasping greedy colonisation it set formally in motion.