Hanging out with a starfish – A ride through the remnants of Singapore’s countryside

It has been raining since Friday evening so was hoping for some sunshine this Sunday morning. Alas, the morning drizzle at my friend’s place meant we had to start our ride later (and ended up missing an appointment at noon).

Have been wanting to check out this route for a while: we started from the western trip of the Kranji Reservoir Dam down the undulating roads of Neo Tiew, flanked by the woods and farms. This is a route that is popular with many cyclists in Singapore. Even though it was a Sunday, many lorries roared past us. Parts of the roads are winding. Coupled with the cloudy skies, it was was absolutely necessary to be equipped with lights, bright colour clothing and helmet. At the end of Neo Tiew road stands a sign explaining the origins of its name: Neo Tiew was the founder of the village in Lim Chu Kang. The northern end of Lim Chu Kang road ends with a shoreline facing the straits that separate Malaysia and Singapore. Two countries separated by a mere body of water that can be easily mistaken for a river. Curiously enough, the map on my phone showed the name Sungai China. Anyone here knows the origin of the name?

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Near the jetty at the end of Lim Chu Kang road

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A simple jetty from which the fish farmers disembarked for the “kelongs”, i.e. floating fish farming platforms.

At the wooden jetty, some workers were waiting for stock to be delivered from the floating fish farming platforms, colloquially known as kelongs. Chatted with a friendly uncle who runs one of the fish farms, rearing milk fish and black fish. Most of his fish are actually exported to Malaysia and… the Middle East! If ever I go to the Middle East and have fish, I will think of this small anecdote. The Singapore market only forms a small part of his business. There are some 70 fish farms in the area, he says. Those who choose to live on the kelongs, choose to live a simple village life, he added. Life on a floating platform, far away from the city bustle, simple living.

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Mangrove trees dot the straits bank. Was wondering what the pier-like structure is, and found a pretty detailed write up by another blogger here and interesting comments by other readers. 

As we walked to the end of the rickety jetty, another family got into their boat and headed off to one of the kelongs. This idyllic scene can easily be mistaken for one of the riversides in Malaysia.

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Boat heading off to the kelongs in the near distance. It is said there are about 70 kelongs in the area.

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Photo taken from the pier at the end of Lim Chu Kang road. Next to the pier is the Police Coast Guard Lim Chu Kang base.

Despite the lorries, we both agreed that this is one of the best rides we had so far: riding through the remnants of Singapore’s countryside to reach languid waters gently lapping against the mangrove tree-lined shore.

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Lounging at the pier with starfish, floating above waters separating Singapore and Malaysia.

As those from Singapore may know, the Lim Chu Kang area is one of the extremely few parts of Singapore that grows food. There are a variety of farms in this area, producing bean sprout, sugar cane, organic vegetables, crabs, frogs and ornamental fishes (ok, the last one is not for consumption).  On our ride back to Kranji Reservoir Dam, we stopped by the Sungai Buloh Wetland Reserve information centre, which accepts visits by individuals, families as well as groups. Been there several years ago and would like to go back again some day for a photo-shoot.

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For history and war buffs: Kranji beach was a battle site during World War II. Some explanation on this plaque in the park. Apparently it was one of the few wins during the dismal fall of Singapore. As much as I enjoy history, battle strategies and military tactics just don’t quite do it for me. But if you are interested you could check out this write-up by the National Heritage Board here.

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And that was how we spent our Sunday morning. Am quite glad we persisted with getting up early to go for the ride even with the cloudy skies. As I sit at home typing this now, the heavy clouds have started to unload with trickles of incessant rain.

Looking forward to more outdoor fun next weekend!

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