Monday, 21 January 2013

From the Straits of Singapore to the Straits of Johor, Overland

The Ulu-ness Scale
In the 1970’s most people would have considered Jalan Kayu an “ulu” place. Remember, there were no expressway’s then and the only way there was by the long Yio Chu Kang Road. Also, the initial stretch of Jalan Kayu then was bordered on both sides by rubber plantations, giving it a truly rustic feel.
However, even in those days Punggol was probably considered much more ulu than Jalan Kayu --at least it was to me. I had heard the place mentioned but have no childhood memories of going there and so in Ocober 2012 I decided it warranted a cycle trip before that place was totally re-developed. (Yes, I have heard of Punggol mee-goreng, and have tried the version served in food-courts, but as I had no clue where to try it in Punggol I was not driven there by that desire. But I do wonder if every ulu, or formerly ulu, place has some famous food associated with it J )
The Start
As I was heading for a destination that was new to me, I planned it using and brought along a smartphone so I could consult the map on the go. I found that I could very much stay on park connectors this time.  (All maps and images below are from Google Maps and Street View)

From Marine Parade I headed to Jalan Eunos as before and then turned and kept going up along Jalan Eunos which at some point becomes Eunos Link. The initial stretches are bordered by HDB flats which later give way to industrial buildings and many car show rooms on the left side. (The right side is apparently part of the Kaki Bukit Industrial estate while the left is the Ubi Industrial area).
At the intersection with Airport Road, on the left, is the Driving Centre which looks like it has been there for a long time. Beyond the intersection the road changes name to Hougang Avenue 3. (A place I had ended up on during my return trip from Jalan Kayu). Continuing straight on beyond the intersection with Bartley Road East (a “new” road extending Bartley Road), cycling uphill; one see a SBS bus depot on the right.
First Part of Trip

Defu Industrial Estate
At this point I decided to turn right into Defu Avenue 1 (it more or less runs parallel to Hougang Avenue 3) which cuts through the Defu Industrial estate. On the left is the Singapore Girls Home and after that it is pleasant downhill free-wheeling for a very long stretch until the intersection with Tampines Road.
Defu Industrial estate is an old estate with mostly low-rise buildings and it was in the news recently: It will be upgraded. So catch the scene before it is gone.

Serangoon and Buangkok Park Connectors
After the intersection with Tampines Road, Defu Avenue 1 gets renamed Hougang Avenue 7. Just to the right, after that intersection, is the start of the Serangoon Park Connector which runs along Sungei Serangoon The right facing view along this connector is forested area (not sure how long it will last) while the left has HDB flats and some upcoming condos.

At the intersection of Sungei Serangoon and Sungei Pinang there is a fork in the connector. The left fork is still called the Serangoon Connector while the right is called Punggol Promenade. I took the left path and would eventually return later that night by the right one, completing a very big loop.
So, the Serangoon connector now passes the edge of Punggol Park (although the park is really on the edge of Hougang) and then becomes a trail that passes through a HDB estate, crossing several roads. You have to look carefully for the fading signs at intersections to keep on the official track. At some point the Serangoon Park Connector becomes the Buangkok Park Connector which doesn’t have any parks along it, unless once counts the sprawling grounds of the Institute of Mental Health which it borders, buts eventually it leads to one.
When the Buangkok Connector hit Yio Chu Kang road I recognised the place: I had arrived there by a different route during my Jalan Kayu trip. This time I turned into Gerald Road around the corner and continued that way to join the Punggol Park Connector

Punggol Park Connector
A lovely connector along Sungei Punggol, with lots of pristine greenery on the right side when you start, and much open space (as of writing) on both sides. After a long ride one reaches the inviting Sengkang Riverside Park. This looked like a nice place to explore but since I was determined to reach Punggol Point I decided to skip that distraction (but only after stopping for a snack at the Sports and Recreation centre next to Anchorvale community club.)
Pushing onwards along the connector one comes to another alluring distraction: “My Waterway at Punggol”, which provides a short-cut through this tip of North-Eastern Singapore. I left it for another day and proceeded along the coast, going around the Marina Country Club to eventually reach Punggol Jetty.
Just opposite, the view is of various industries along the Johor coastline. As it was already getting dark I didn’t stay around to explore more of the Punggol beach and jetty area, though there were lots of people hanging around.

Punggol Promenade
Beyond the jetty the trail continues as Punggol Promenade but it is unpaved. On that day it was wet and at places muddy. It was a very long ride along that part of the coast with no developments nearby. However, as along previous stretches of the Punggol Connector, one could see signs that something would someday be constructed not far away.
Eventually the promenade joins up with the Serangoon Park Connector and one completes a loop on the north-eastern tip of Singapore. From here, it was just a matter of reversing through the early part of the journey to get home.
One interesting observation from the Promenade: I noticed bridges to other lands but as it was dark I did not explore those then. On reaching home I checked to find that one of them leads to Lorong Halus and thus provides a short-cut between Punggol and Pasir Ris—an adventure for another day !

Making the loop around Punggol

The whole trip was about 40 km long and took about 5 hours. I managed to cover a larger distance than the Jalan Kayu trip, even though I took two makan stops, because I could go faster on the deserted park connectors.
There is much left to explore along this route, so I will be back!
(In fact, Singapore’s last remaining Kampung is apparently just near Gerald Drive.)

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