The Coast-to-Coast Trail: AMK to Botanic Gardens

The middle section of Singapore’s Coast-to-Coast Trail runs through the island’s heartland and then down to the southern edge of the central catchment area.

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Last weekend, we tackled the northernmost section of the trail, starting in Punggol (the only coastal part of this oddly-named walk) and making our way down to Ang Mo Kio. This weekend, we picked up where we left off: at the lovely and compact Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West:

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From here, the Coast-to-Coast Trail would be more accurately called “the HDB to HDB sidewalk.”

fullsizeoutput_674aYup — that’s the trail. HDBs, or Housing and Development Board apartment complexes, crowd the streets all over Singapore, and here the Coast-to-Coast Trail runs by one set of housing blocks …

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… after another:

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Fortunately, the trail soon hits the long, popular Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park; unfortunately,  the trail signs become confusing at this point. Some of the Coast-to-Coast signs suggest that you have the option of making the walk longer by striking out on a two-sides-of-the-triangle adventure through a series of park areas (including Lower Pierce Reservoir, Windsor Nature Park, and Soo Chow Walk Playground)…

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… while other signs have this same trail option blacked out:

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We found this pretty confusing, but we decided to take the longer (and perhaps nonexistent) trail on the theory that it would lead us through more green space. So we wandered along the eastern half of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, where I played at the water park (which is designed to teach kids how water flow works) …

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… we both admired the park’s many ponds …

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… and Prescott studied the “cleansing biotope”:

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From here, if you follow the dots on the map for the longer trail, you’re next supposed to walk across the street to Lower Pierce Reservoir Park:

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This is a small and attractive park, but be warned: if you choose to visit, you will be walking in the exact opposite direction of the rest of the Coast-to-Coast Trail. And once you’re here, the trail doesn’t make any sort of a loop; you just have to go back out the way you came. So your goal is to walk the Coast-to-Coast Trail, adding Lower Pierce Reservoir will take you out of your way. But we figured that out a little too late.

Continuing south from here (assuming you’ve committed to the longer trail), you walk along Upper Thompson Road:

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This is a busy street, but there’s a lot of greenery for much of the way. Eventually you hit shophouses where you’ll probably want to stop for a drink or a snack (we diverted slightly from the trail to have breakfast at the crowded Roti Prata House, where you can have excellent prata and terrible service). Then we passed the tiny Hai Lam Sua Tee Kong Toa Temple…

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… and turned up past Taman Permata Park and along an unnamed grassy area:

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Again, this is the route laid out by the longer trail on the map, but it’s yet another out-of-the-way diversion (at this point, I began to wonder if someone had covered up the longer trail on half of the maps we saw because someone realized that it was just too circuitous to make any sense). Fortunately, just a few blocks from here, you’re right back on the trail — and you’ll hit MacRitchie Reservoir Park, which is such a wonderful place that you’ll forget any trail-related frustrations (temporarily, at least).

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MacRitchie Reservoir is hugely and deservedly popular with all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts, from hikers to canoe racers to bird watchers and casual walkers. And the Coast-to-Coast Trail runs through a huge stretch of the park — we were walking there for nearly an hour. We strolled over the Zig Zag Bridge …

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… leaned on The Leaning Tree (a jambu laut, or sea apple) …

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… stopped to watch juvenile monkeys stuffing seeds in their cheeks …

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… and walked for ages on the boardwalk that hugs the reservoir’s southern edge:

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One the boardwalk ends, you take a short jungle trail out of the park to Lornie Road. And then the signage disappears. It just vanishes. Actually, that’s not 100% true — there’s one Coast-to-Coast Trail sign sitting overgrown in the shrubbery, but it points you to a place where the sidewalk ends in a pile of rubble. This is hugely confusing; if you’re walking south at this point, there is no good way to know what to do (and if you continue much further in the only obvious direction, you’ll run into the expressway). But after a few sun-drenched minutes of trial and error (mostly error), we figured out that you need to take the newly-built overpass across Lornie Highway (once you’re here, the signage magically becomes great again).

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There’s a lot of construction in this neck of the woods (I’m standing on the trail).

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From here, the trail runs past an old Chinese cemetery that’s tucked into the forest …

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… and then you end up in neighborhood of extremely wealthy landed homes:

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We made a brief visit to a place that advertised “rare orchid plants and anthurium plants for sale” in handwritten letters …

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… and then we stopped for lunch at Adam Food Centre, a hawker center that dates back to the early 1970s. Here, we were pleased to be greeted once again by Phil the Leaf:

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At this point, the Coast-to-Coast Trail skirts the northern edge of the Singapore Botanic Gardens — but it doesn’t actually take you through any of the gardens, which is a shame. Instead, you begin a long slog up Bukit Timah Road. We ended this leg of the journey at the Tan Kah Kee MRT station, one of the stops on the Downtown Line).

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As a concluding note: while animals aren’t technically part of the Coast-to-Coast Trail (though you nearly always see long-tailed macaques at MacRitchie), given the prevailing mood these days, I thought it would be fun to share some of the little beasties that we saw along our journey:

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One response to “The Coast-to-Coast Trail: AMK to Botanic Gardens

  1. Pingback: The Coast-to-Coast Trail: Bukit Timah to Jurong | Traveler Tina·

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