Saturday, February 14, 2009

Celebrating Chinese New Year On Treetops

The Chinese New Year celebrations are one of the most colorful events in Singapore. More than just a display of fireworks or the cacophony of pyrotechnics, it's a celebration of the year that has come to pass and the ushering in of the new one, characterized by family reunions and gathering of friends.

In our case, the idea of us getting together over the holidays was brought up by Mel, who unfortunately, wasn't able to make it on the actual day.

For those of us who did make it, we had to wake up early that Monday to be at MacRitchie Reservoir by the time it opened at 8:30. The plan was to take the 5 km hike to the HSBC Treetop Walk, enjoy the crossing of the 250 m-long hanging bridge, find a nice spot to hold a picnic and be well on our way home by noon.

We decided to meet at the Newton MRT station after a slight change of plans. We were about 30 minutes late and having taken the liberty of bringing food, we used the preparation as our alibi. It was partially true, for we had to give it ample time to cool down before packing, lest we risked it being spoiled.

From Newton we took a bus to our destination, which we knew be nine stops away but opted to take the pragmatic approach by simply asking the bus captain to let us off at the correct stop. Uncle driver was happy to oblige. He got thank yous, happy new years and big smiles from all of us.

Breakfast consisted of Gardenia bread, Doritos and ponkan, which we greedily consumed just as we began our trek. I guess the scarcity of our supplies added flavor to our food. At least we made sure we brought enough liquids.

We saw a lot of other people along the way — fellow hikers and joggers, men and women, young and old, locals and foreigners.

My six year-old cousin came with us, complaining from time to time and expressing his desire to go home instead. Bribing him with Doritos worked only in the beginning. Well, he certainly wasn't the youngest, for we came across several other boys and girls. There was the toddler who was being pushed in his stroller by his jogging dad, who also managed to keep a conversation with his buddy. I could see that at that speed — good enough to make 5 km in under 45 minutes — the boy was enjoying his ride.

With several trails of different lengths to choose from, the MacRitchie Reservoir must be a haven for running enthusiasts, who were certainly in abundance that day. The foot paths are never even, sometimes going up, sometimes going down. The canopy provided a comfortable and constant shade, so the heat of the sun was not much of a concern. I'm sure to be back to run in preparation for my goal of hitting 21 km by the end of 2009.

Getting lost is not a concern. Apart from the numerous people you encounter, there are several signs along the way, indicating which way to go. The signs don't tell you just that though, they also indicate distance, which allows you to measure how much you've covered and how much more you need to go. For us, there were always two ways of interpreting the distance, which depended on whether the person speaking was tired or not. Good thing most of us would say "Hey we've covered X kilometers, only Y more to go!", instead of "Oh boy, we've been walking for several minutes now and we've only gone that far!?!?"

We decided to talk a 5-minute break when we reached the Terap Hut. Recharging with the isotonic drinks we brought and resting our tired legs even just for a bit seemed like a good idea. Indeed it was — there was a renewed sense of exhilaration afterward. We were also very near our destination after all.

The call of nature came as a price to pay for those who enjoyed too much liquids during our brief respite. Good thing the ranger's station was just nearby.

But before that, getting a glimpse of the Singapore Island Country Club was inevitable. There were lots of signs warning the general public not to cross the boundary or risk getting hit by golf balls. Just recently I've read in the papers about people getting into an accident, somewhat pointing a finger to the Country Club. If those people couldn't read, maybe the club could put up visual signs depicting what would happen to them if they choose to cross the line. ;)

With its toilets, benches and drinking water, the ranger's station was certainly a good place to take a break. That is, if your idea of taking a break doesn't include eating. Apparently, food-snatching monkeys abound here.

So after another quick rest, we resumed our quest to get the HSBC Treetop Walk. Little did we know that the last 250 meters or so were the most challenging. We should have realized earlier that the only way you get to treetops was to do some climbing.

We got there alright. And everyone agreed it was well worth it. Although we all wished we could have spent a little more time on the walk. Oh well, we can always come back some other day.

We planned to have our lunch on the Petaling Hut after crossing the treetop walk. But it was occupied when we got there. Not wanting to waste any time, we decided to eat somewhere near the ranger's station. We chose a bench under the shade of a tree.

We were able to enjoy our food for about ten minutes, before the first curious monkey saw us and made its way toward us. When it was near enough, it bared its teeth and made no effort to hide its intention.

Soon, several others joined the party, which left us hurriedly packing. What a way to conclude our Chinese New Year adventure.

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At February 15, 2009 at 3:46 AM , Blogger Joe said...

NICE! We have to do something like that next time we visit.


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