I helped myself to some nasi goreng at breakfast but the hotel’s version was made with salted fish which had a distinctive strong flavour which didn’t appeal so I moved on to some curry puffs and french toast that was more to my liking.
Breakfast over, we picked up some bottles of water and headed out onto nearby Penang Road for a bus (162/167) to take us to Windsor Nature Park, the start of the MacRitchie Trail tree top walk. Buses on this route run frequently and we only had to wait a couple of minutes for one to appear. Using our phone sat nav we alighted at the nearest stop to the start of the trail which was at the corner of Venus Drive and Upper Thomson Road, the journey taking around 40 minutes.
The tree top walk starts at the top end of the Venus Road car park where there are several National Park information boards and newly built WC facilities. As we didn’t start our walk until 11.00 a.m. and it was a weekday, it was very quiet with the few walkers we came across returning in the opposite direction after an earlier start when it was a little cooler.
The trail is free of charge and is open between 9.00 a.m. and 5.00 p.m. (closed Mondays). It follows a well marked path starting along boardwalks and continuing along shady undulating paths some of which are stony in places. It is is interspersed with long flights of steps leading to the tree top canopy walk.
This 250 metre long suspension bridge can only be accessed in one direction with a maximum of 30 people on the bridge at any one time. Greeting us at the Ranger’s office at the entrance to the bridge were two long tailed macaque monkeys sitting on the railings but they just watched us walk past and left us alone. The bridge connects the two highest points in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (MacRitchie) and we paused several times to take in the stunning views. The tree top walk has been built at the same height as the forest canopy with some mature tall trees towering above.
Rubber trees, ferns and orchids were a common sight with rattan palms climbing around other trees for support. Further along the trail we spotted a small snake with red and yellow markings and around another twist in the path, a monitor lizard.
The tree top walk is labelled as moderate to difficult with an estimated completion time of two and a half hours. We actually found the trail to be relatively easy and completed the circuit in a slightly shorter time by just walking at a steady pace and pausing frequently to look around, read the information boards and take photos.
The 6 km walk was very enjoyable and a complete contrast to the equally enjoyable city centre and I’d recommend adding it to your Singapore itinerary if time allows. I suggest taking a sun hat, wearing sensible shoes and having a bottle of water with you as it’s hot and humid throughout the day.
Returning to the city centre was easy as we were able to take practically any bus from along the main road. The bus we were on stopped at Dhoby Ghaut so we alighted there and found a cafe in Plaza Singapura for a light lunch and some refreshing cold drinks.
After our short rest, we set off on foot to the National Museum of Singapore just a ten minute walk away on Stamford Road. The museum is open daily from 10.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m. with standard adult admission SD$26 (£14.80). Housed in a beautiful building that was formerly the Raffles Museum it recounts the history of Singapore from its earliest days.
Each of the well designed galleries were filled with interesting artefacts, all clearly labelled and with large information boards documenting main events in the island’s history. I particularly liked the ‘Modern Colony’ and ‘Growing Up’ galleries, the latter focusing on Singapore’s early years as a young nation.
In addition to history, in the museum’s exquisite glass rotunda, a spectacular digital presentation was taking place entitled the ‘Story of the Forest’. This commenced at the top of the rotunda and via a gentle downward slope we were slowly led through the enchanting forest where 69 drawings from Singapore’s colonial past to its present day modernity have been recreated into a virtual and visual three dimensional landscape by a Japanese artist.
Before leaving the museum we were interested to view the temporary exhibition in the basement as it concerned photography. The exhibition, entitled ‘In an Instant – Polaroid’ contained a complete range of Polaroid cameras and photographs, one of which I vaguely remembered my parents using. Polaroid was the original instant photo, so different from the instant digital technology we are familiar with today.
After leaving the museum we decided to take a walk through Fort Canning Park which is located to the rear of the building. What we weren’t aware of though was that we could have exited the museum from a rear door on its upper level leading directly into the park. Instead, we went the long way round taking a path at the side of the Singapore Management University (SMU) to finally access the park grounds.
The park covers a large area and is built onto a hillside with some steep slopes and numerous flights of steps. On Fort Canning Green, a festival site was being set up and on a large stage, sound tests were taking place in readiness for a forthcoming event. Reaching the hilltop required quite a lot of climbing but we eventually reached the remains of the old fort which dates from the 19th century.
The hilltop once served as the headquarters of the Far East command centre and British army barracks and where Sir Stamford Raffles had a house built with a beautiful view overlooking the Singapore River. His former home, Raffles House was a single storey wooden building built for him in 1822. The present structure built on exactly the same spot is a brick built structure and was renamed Government House and used as a place of residence for visiting governors and officials. The house was locked but we were able to peer through the windows and it appeared to be currently unfurnished.
Located slightly further down the hill from Raffles House we came to Raffles Terrace, a maritime corner of the park. Standing proudly there is a replica of the Fort Canning Lighthouse which once guarded ships safely into Singapore’s harbour. To its side are a large flagstaff and a time ball, the latter marking 13.00 each day. All three of these navigational aids are reminders of the essential role they played during Singapore’s early maritime history.
It would have been pleasant to follow one or more of the park trails but we decided to leave that for another visit as it would soon be dark. Returning to the hotel we had planned to have a swim but were too late as the pool had already closed for the evening.
A well earned rest in our room followed before going out to eat near Raffles Place. We then decided to head to Merlion Park to view Singapore’s iconic Merlion which is located near the Fullerton Hotel. To our dismay we discovered that the statue was being renovated and was hidden under protective materials.
The only photo opportunity being available was with the much smaller Merlion cub. Still, it was a good excuse to make a return visit to Singapore in the near future when the larger, fountain statue is back in action. Our stroll continued around beautiful Marina Bay and ended with late night ice cream cones and a return on the MTR to Somerset station.