Pasir Ris

We’ve started a Mock Trial Team at Singapore American School, and now we need competition — so I spent my morning at the Overseas Family School (OFS) training ten kids from their largely-British law club how to do American trial work.  I’d almost forgotten what it was like to get up on Saturday mornings to go to Mock Trial practice, which was a regular part of my winter life in Baltimore.  It turns out that I still don’t really mind it — Mock Trial continues to be one of the best part of my school career.

The long ride across the top side of the island gave my Uber driver lots of time to talk politics.  He had a few questions for me about Trump, but he was mostly interested in offering a monologue about Singapore.  Here’s a snippet of what he had to offer:

“Under Lee Kuan Yew, our old Prime Minister, Singapore was better.  If you jaywalked, you got a fine.  If you threw away some litter, you got a fine.  Now the government is too soft.  People jaywalk and nothing happens.  Too many government ministers give in too easily to Malaysia.  It’s not safe in Malaysia.  Too many drugs.  Government should be tough.  In Singapore, if you have drugs the size of a fifty-cent piece, you go to the gallows.  Singapore is safe.”

I asked a few questions, but I didn’t argue.

OFS is way up in the northeastern part of Singapore, about as inconvenient a location as you can get from my apartment.  But I was happy to trek over to that part of the island because I’d been hoping to explore Pasir Ris Park, one of Singapore’s larger shoreline parks — and OFS sits just a few short blocks from the beach.

The word “beach” feels like a bit of an exaggeration — “brief spit of debris-strewn sand” might be more accurate.  It’s about twice this long:

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While I didn’t see anyone swimming, you can rent kayaks and tiny sailboats and stand-up paddleboards in this area.

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I opted for a bike rental instead.  Pasir Ris Park is a great place for biking if you don’t want to go too far; it’s not a huge park, but it’s long enough to be interesting, and it’s the emptiest of Singapore’s shoreline parks that I’ve seen.  This is what the bike path looks like for much of the way:

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When you look out toward Palau Ubin, you tend to get a lot of views like this:

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Pasir Ris Park also boasts a small but significant mangrove swamp (significant because there are so few mangroves left in Singapore that every single one of them is precious).  They’ve been replanting the mangroves in some areas:

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I never get tired of looking at the mud lobster mounds:

img_9589I also liked this beginning of what I think may become some kind of a palm tree:

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Mangrove swamps tend to mean lots of wildlife; I saw crabs and monitor lizards, kingfishers and black-naped orioles.  And this heron was sitting on a bridge over a drainage stream…

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…until a cheerful father-son biking team scared it away.

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Pasir Ris Park also has a maze garden, people out flying kites, a few sparsely-populated campsites, and a kitchen garden with this ominous looking warning:

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Because this is Singapore, there are lots of structures, from beach pavilions to boardwalks to a slightly random tall structure (random because it doesn’t look out over anything — you climb up and all you can see are the top sections of the nearby trees).

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I also found an area with lines and lines of soda bottles turned upside-down in the grass.  I have no idea what’s going on here.  Is this art?  Is it some sort of marking system?  Are the bottles protecting something?  If so, why are there so many of them?  I rode all around it and found no answers.

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The next part of my adventure was an exploration of the Park Connector.  When I see the words “park connector,” I think, “place where bicycles and pedestrians can travel peacefully somewhere.”  But in Singapore, “park connector” means “sidewalk between two parks.”  So riding on a park connector isn’t any fun — you’re stopping for driveways and bus stops and traffic lights, dodging pedestrians and scooters and dogs, and not feeling peaceful at all.  You’re mostly on city streets, though sometimes you can ride along drainage streams:

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Still, I found my way to Pasir Ris Town Park, which was a remarkable sight:

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The park is almost entirely taken up by a stocked, manmade pond where you can rent an umbrella and sit and fish all day.  It looks relaxing, but beyond that, I’ve never understood the appeal of fishing (especially in a stocked pond surrounded by HDB flats).  Still, this pond has the added bonus of fake seals in the water — if you look closely, you can see one at the tip of the umbrella in the right foreground.

After I returned my bike, I took an Uber over to Cendol Malaka at Changi Village.  I really love this answer to shave ice!

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Still thirsty, I went and had a cup of earl gray hot chocolate at Chock Full of Beans.  But it was so cute that I almost didn’t want to drink it!

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Today provided me with a couple of interesting signs.  One requires some interpretation (my best guess is, “trash leads to mosquito breeding grounds, which lead to sad, dengue-ridden children”) …

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… and for the other, there’s no translation required:

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