“Not Half” of Punggol

Hot off my exploration of my enthusiasm to see Singapore’s parks and reserves, I decided to start the ball rolling this morning.

The fact that there was no one at home meant I had to settle my own meals, come out of the closet, so to speak. I wanted to start the day early, and was craving for some western breakfast, which strangely, is very difficult to source if you’re outside the city. The only viable “western” breakfast is Han’s, but their outlets aren’t, shall we say, public transport commuter friendly. Anyways, it was out-of-the-way anyway. I decided to choose Punggol because it had the most attractions within the area, and it seemed the most convenient. In addition, there was something “old” and “new” about Punggol – the contrast, I thought, would be interesting to compare. Geez, if Punggol’s considered “old”, what can Singaporeans hold on to?

Located in the northeast frontier of the island, Punggol is quite the place. It is rich in history, but all of that’s being swept under the rug by the fact that Punggol’s been the mooted as the model for suburban towns since time immemorial. Since the late 1980s, the government began actively marketing various undeveloped areas along the north coast, but two decades on, the utopian vision of a town didn’t materialize. “Simpang 21”, a commoners’ version of the ultra-luxe Sentosa Cove vaporized, “Sengkang 21” turned out to be just another Jurong West except it came with an overpriced and ineffectual LRT system, and “Punggol 21” lay largely untouched.

Today, “Punggol 21” is inching to reality, and an important aspect in turning Punggol intothe perfect dwelling is its environment. So, scenery, greenery and other recreational spaces are critical, not just condominium-style units complete with modern furnishing and rooftop gardens. To increase the aesthetics and attraction of Punggol, a meandering river was cut across town, and knolls and hills were created, because to East Asians, scenery and water, a.k.a. feng shui, is very important to living.

The waterway is not just at the periphery like most towns, it comes right into the centre of town! The Punggol MRT and LRT station is just above the vertical wall on the left!

A Punggol landmark, possibly Singapore’s first arch bridge.

What I really dig is that finally, urban planners have realized we’re living on an island. Traditionally, towns have been designed in a way that one forgets one’s living on an island – tropical island living… it’s all around us, it’s not a privilege, but a right, and I’m glad that Punggol’s a first step in giving its residents that.

Residents here should feel very lucky because the waterway isn’t the only place they can go. To the east, Punggol Promenade and Lorong Halus Wetland Park are easily accessible from an LRT station. To the west, well, it’s Seletar East camp but it’s slated to make way for more stuff too, and there’s Punggol Point. My initial plan was to visit all of them, but on retrospect, I realized I had been too ambitious. Punggol Promenade itself, 16 kilometres long, is documented on many blogs as a four-hour hike, the time doesn’t take into consideration a “side trip” to the “temporarily not allowed but people still visit” Coney Island. The weather was okay, with decent cloud cover, but the humidity was just, overbearing. Barely scratching the surface of the waterway, I continued to Punggol Point as the passing showers slowly gave way to badass t-storms.

Punggol Point was interesting to say the least. There were quite a community fishing along the seaside, the occasional joggers, a group of people supervising what looks like a fashion shoot,and two secondary school guys whose behavior was “interesting”, which made for very intriguing people-watching. Donning matching Avenge Sevenfold tees and school pants, the longer I tailed them, the more I felt they were “sapphic” in their interests, but you know what, they’re young and they’re exploring, and if they’re happy, that’s all that matters.

Anyways, at eye level, Punggol Point is a beautiful place, but the narrow sand bar is horribly filthy, with tonnes of dirt swept in from the Johor Straits.

(Below) The landmass to the left is Pulau Ubin, the landmass to the right is Coney Island. The landmass in the foreground is Changi Coast, with Changi Airport’s control tower visible to the naked eye right in the middle.

Pity, don’t you think?

A closer look at the western tip of Coney Island… It had begun raining pretty heavily, so I couldn’t move forward. Plus, without water, I would have been dehydrated.

Guess how long my whirlwind tour of Punggol took? 5 hours, 6 hours if you add lunch.

No joke, I really underestimated Punggol.

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