The Top of Singapore

It was hot on Sunday.  Really hot, and really humid.  I feel like Singaporeans need to have more words for heat, the way Eskimos are rumored to have dozens of words for snow.  We have hot with a lot of humidity, and less hot but still humid, and hot and humid with a slight breeze.  Then there’s hot and sunny, and a bit less hot and cloudy, and hot and humid and threatening rain. A linguist could have a field day with this.

I’m sure I could have made a better choice than to start this particular day climbing the tallest peak in Singapore, but my thoughts were as follows:

  • It’s good morning exercise.
  • I’ve gotten used to sweating (an easy thought when you’re sitting under your air conditioner).
  • The summit, at 538 feet, is really not all that tall.
  • The trails to the top were all closed for maintenance when we arrived in Singapore, and they just reopened in late October.  Given that I can walk to the trailhead from our apartment, it seemed like high time to explore.

The trail had its perks.  First of all, there were macaques — lots of them.  I counted about fifteen, including one tiny baby that was clearly just learning to get around the trees.  When we first arrived in Singapore, I mostly thought the monkeys were cute, but they can fight with each other and look pretty scary.  These guys were hissing and squawking at each other yesterday.  Overall, though, I find them fascinating.



There were also some amazing plants:



Mostly, though, there were stairs.  There were wooden stairs …

img_7818… and packed dirt/rock stairs …

img_7830… and metal stairs.  The newest stairs all have rope hand rails so that the out-0f-shape and the elderly can make it up and down more easily.  I think that if the out-of-shape and the elderly can manage this many stairs, they don’t need hand rails.

This trail isn’t especially hard, it’s just brutal, and it makes 538 feet feel like a giant mountain.  But I made it to the top:


Note that this picture was taken only after the friendly guy holding my camera insisted, “fun shot, fun shot!”

There’s nothing to see at the summit — it’s entirely ringed by trees.  But there are multiple trails (and a no-public-vehicle road) that go up to the top, so once you make it there, you can mill about with about fifty other walkers and hikers and admire the transmission towers.


As with almost every park path in Singapore, the summit trail I chose was groomed to within an inch of its life.  So after I came down from the top, I decided to explore a side trail that Prescott and I have taken before.  It’s a narrow, little-used path, and just as I was thinking how happy I was to be alone on an authentic hiking trail, a large (2 1/2 feet long) black snake slithered across my path.

When you see a snake slide by right in front of you, and it’s still visible in the woods just feet from your trail, you pull out your phone to see what you might be dealing with.  Singapore has multiple dangerous snakes, including pythons.  They’re rare, and I haven’t heard of any fatal encounters, but I was still having “uh-oh, no one knows where I am” thoughts.  And sure enough, my quick research suggested that I was staring at an equatorial spitting cobra.

The bad news is that these cobras can spit venom up to three feet; they also have a venomous bite.  The good news is that they’re not aggressive and would prefer to avoid confrontations. This one stayed in the woods on its side of the trail while I kept a good eight-foot distance, and we both went on unharmed.  Definitely more excitement than I’d bargained for.

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