Family Fun Adventure: Finding Cool Things to Do Around Singapore
by Dulce Zamora
At first, it was hard for my family and me to think of cross-country treks within Singapore. The city-state’s size -- 17 miles long from north to south and 31 miles wide from east to west – made us question if “hitting the open road” was truly possible here.
Was it a real road trip if we could drive by the 120-mile coastline on a little more than half a tank of gas?
Then, there was the chic factor. Motoring west from the MCE to the AYE didn’t have the same allure as getting our kicks on Route 66. (Never mind that the legendary highway from Chicago to L.A. was no longer intact.)
Then, the pandemic happened. To ease cabin fever and to avoid crowds, my husband, two daughters, and I hopped into our car at least once a week to check out different parts of the city.
We passed by valleys of skyscrapers, neighborhoods with various housing styles, manicured parks, patches of forest, animal farms, greenhouses, monolithic factories, warehouses, and abandoned compounds -- all of which promoted rich conversations. We discussed everything from the Lion City’s “30 by 30” campaign for food security, socioeconomic disparities, the plight of migrant workers, human encroachment into animal habitat, local history, and folklore.
We also shared personal stories and family history, sang, argued, laughed, listened to music, and entertained our own thoughts. Over time, our brief jaunts added up to a collection of character-and-relationship-building moments – the kind of stuff that could make long-distance journeys meaningful. Of course, we also had the usual car ride chatter: Are we there yet? It’s hot. I don’t want to go. We’re here already?
We haven’t yet finished our excursions around the island. The more we see, the more we realize there is to discover. Recently, we toured two of the five designated heritage roads in the country: Mount Pleasant Road and Arcadia Road. At the curvy Mount Pleasant Road, we encountered colonial black and white houses nestled within sloping woodlands, with troops of monkeys climbing Saga trees and checking residents’ mailboxes. The side streets emanated rustic, countryside charm. Arcadia Road, on the other hand, promoted an open road feeling with its expansive lanes even though it was only 918 metres long. As we rounded the bend, Rain trees extended their slender, elegant branches toward center and up toward the sky.
The streets’ heritage status has given them extra protection from urban development. This safeguard “adds an element of permanence to the landscape and ultimately contributes to Singapore’s sense of identity, history, and continuity,” say the National Parks Service (NPS) on their website.
This may sound like a lot of official talk, but a recent misadventure highlighted the importance of preservation. In 2015, my family and I participated in a Plant-A-Tree Programme at Bedok Town Park. We had wanted to mark the roots we established here. So, we planted four Olive-bark trees.
Fast forward to this year. We thought it would be easy to locate our trees as we still had the original map of the planting area and many digital pictures showing landmarks such as buildings and palm trees. However, we spent at least an hour trying to orient ourselves. There was a lot more greenery around. The structures and pathways around us had changed. In the end, we think we found the trees. They were much taller than we expected!
Our tree planting and road tripping experiences in Singapore have reminded us to appreciate the present environment, and to adjust when changes occur.
Road trips don’t have to cover hundreds of miles at one time. Meaningful journeys can be had in short spurts.
The rewards don’t need to be immediate. They can happen over time. We’re also not obligated to subscribe to the way things have always been done. We can redefine what’s vogue to suit our reality.
So, no need to fear missing out on something that can’t be done on the island. We can get our kicks on what’s shiok around here.