Any visitor to Singapore can’t help but be lured by the glitter and buzz of the famous Orchard road. During the festive season ,the country takes their touristic appeal very seriously. The entire stretch of Orchard is decorated with tinsel arches , stars and streamers. Added to that ,the sidewalk at various points are dotted with huge lavishly decorated Christmas trees, beautiful reindeer complete with the sleigh and even a X’mas photo booth. The shops beckon with their beautiful window displays and tempting signs announcing festive sales. A walk up and down this road while munching on gastronomic delights is an experience in itself.
On my recent trip I ventured a few kilometres away from the familiar orchard , to discover the other not so well known sights of this pretty land. Seeing that it was the weekend ,I bulldozed my husband into seeing the sights and got my workaholic cousin to accompany me on checking out an area that was a scant 20 minute taxi ride from Orchard.
The area is called the Southern Ridges. This was the outcome of a proposal put up by the Urban Development authority of Singapore to showcase the open spaces in the country that were left unexplored. The idea was that unique areas such as these would then serve as a sort of green playground that the residents and visitors could relax in.
The ‘park’ as it is otherwise referred to can be reached either from Hyderabad road or from Henderson road. It is a 9km stretch that covers the stretch of rolling hills from Mount Faber Park , Telok Blangah hill park , Kent ridge park and West Coast park. Our cab driver took us to the Henderson road side of the Southern Ridges. There is a wide space that serves as a car park. A map propped on a wide old tree trunk shows the exact location that one is at . On either side of the car park is where the trails start. No vehicles are allowed on those trails . They are meant exclusively for walkers and cyclists.
As we stood reading the various signs ,the name Henderson waves was what caught our attention. Assuming it to be some sort of a water body amidst the trail , we set off in the direction of Mount Faber Park. The trail starts completely uphill , with broad stone steps and charming weathered wooden railings. It forks in several places ,just enough for an interesting exploration and a few minutes later ,you are back on the main path. About a km into the walk a board proclaimed that we had arrived at the Henderson waves. We were in no way prepared for the sight that greeted us. In front of us was a broad walkway that was made up entirely of closely packed balau wooden slats. What made it even more unusual was the undulation of the laying of these slats. This wave like pattern is how the name came about. The information placard states that we were standing on 7 curved steel ‘ribs’ that rose alternately over and under the deck. The deeply curved portions were perfect for fitting in semicircular seating for walkers to take a break and check out the sights. The view from up there was just breathtaking. There are carvings on the slats that mark the height at various points. From the middle point of that walkaway onwards, the trail makes a down ward incline . Just as the wooden floor ends , the road goes up again and leads to Mount Faber peak. From start to this point , the distance covered is around 2 kms.
The walk upto Mount Faber Peak comprises of a length of stone trellises with cascading creepers and flowers. Cable cars that are out of commission are placed strategically on the grass for the perfect photo op ! A splash of vibrant colours meets your eye in the form of steps that lead to the peak.
As the mind soaks in all of this beauty , it hungers for more. Once inside , the cool draft of the aircon has you venturing up more steps to get to the top. There you are treated to an unhindered view of the city sights as well as the thicket of green. Sentosa Island is easily visible on a clear day and the view is peppered with cable cars ferrying passengers and tourists to and fro.
Mount Faber Peak is also the point where one has the option of taking in a bird’s eye view of the rest of the park by riding in a cable car. The cable car station also has a small gift shop and a lovely open space dotted with tables and chairs which is just perfect for unwinding and soaking in the sights.
As we walked around, we came upon a quirky restaurant called Spuds and Aprons. We hadn’t originally planned on stopping for lunch but with a name like that , we just couldn’t resist giving it a try. The décor was colourful and eclectic , just perfect for that space. The restaurant comprised of high glass walls that had you feeling connected to the outdoors. Seating on the deck was also an option but my companions wanted a bit of respite from the heat ! The menu featured both Asian as well as European food. Our palates differed in our selection of dishes. We tried out a simple spaghetti , a turkey sandwich and a traditional sea food laksa . Each dish stood up to it’s individual taste profile and made for a deliciously satisfying meal.
Before getting onto the cable car ,one last roundabout at the peak had us spotting the Bell of Happiness.It dates back to 1909 and has now found residence at the “Faber garden of happy promises”. The word is that when people come together and ring it , they are blessed with everlasting peace and happiness. Well ,that’s just what we did and that was one loud , mighty gong ! My cousin who suspected the extent of my ‘looniness’ earlier was now completely convinced of it, when I had her ring it several times !!!
Having had our fill of not only food but also of exploring this pretty space, it was time to indulge the husband’s aching feet and take a ride in the cable cars.
The cable car journey is priced differently for adults and kids. It’s worth your while to have a roundabout trip and get back to where you got on. The distance seems far but the trip was under half an hour. The festively decorated cable car offered the perfect vantage point for looking at the park , the harbor and other areas of the city.
The hot weather and a bit of rain stopped us from exploring the park further. Every evening the Henderson waves and the Alexandra Arch are lit up with led lights from 7pm to 2 am. Going by the pictures on display it’s a sight not to be missed.
The next time you visit Singapore, take a day to check out sights off the beaten track. Unique experiences such as these are unforgettable.
Other places to visit
Demsey hill for gourmet food stores, variety of eateries and art stores
Haji lane for Persian food and special stores