April 14, 2012

Singapore Botanical Gardens - A Runner's Labyrinth

This week, we decided to tackle the pride of NParks: Singapore Botanical Gardens. Because of the central location, there were generally no protests from the Westerners. In fact, marathon girl ran from her place at Jurong East to Botanical Gardens! Hubby Crippled Guy took a train down and waited for her at the entrance.. as usual.
The New Botanical Gardens MRT

On a bright sunny Saturday morning, I performed my usual job as the alarm clock for the group.

PES E Guy," Morning. Who still sleeping?"

Big Bone Guy, "I'm up."

Marathon Girl, "We up too."

Lazy Girl, "I'm up too. PES E, r u driving today? If not I pack light."

PES E, "Pack Light."

Lazy Girl, "OK"

20 mins later... PES E, "Opps, what did I write. Pack Heavy."

BBG, " You sabo Lazy girl leh... Hahaha

PES E, "Brushing teeth. Type Wrong...."

Everyone else packed heavy and left their stuff in my car except for Lazy Girl. For some reason, everyone knew that I typed wrongly except her who took me literally.....

The Confusing Garden...

The first problem we had was to determine the meeting point. The initial meeting point was to meet at the Botanical Gardens MRT. However, the nearest carpark is 400 meters away and there are 9 carparks around the whole BG, so we spent 30 mins trying to marshal the troops. I will strongly recommend runners to park at the Adam Road food center. There are two benefits. First, you can reach the Botanical Gardens entrance easily by simply crossing an overhead bridge to the MRT station where you can meet your friends who travel by train, secondly, you can enjoy a good breakfast once you are done with the run. However, the carpark is extremely small and with everybody rushing for a weekend breakfast, parking may become a chore.

The extremely small carpark of Adam Road Food Center
 The initial idea is to run around the circumference of the park to get more distance out of the place heading towards the Tanglin entrance but once we kicked off from the starting point, the routes started to fork and diverge. Some of us ended up running in small circles again and again before figuring out the way. I had to run with my iPhone and GPS in my hands while trying to figure out which is the best way to go. This is my first time that I had to navigate while using a GPS. It is that confusing for a first time runner!

Along the way, you will see a lot of activities. Exercise coaches leading a group of adults doing workouts, elderly folks doing Tai Chi and dance exercises, kids celebrating Easter by looking for easter eggs hidden by the adults, tourists enjoying the orchids around orchid garden and tons of dog walkers. 

Fan Dance Routine?
The much admired orchid gardens
Sculpture made out of palm leaves? Creative!
I have never seen so many dog lovers out in such force before and there were so many breed of dogs that I came across that I lost count. Wanted to stop my run and take a picture with these grinning, tail wagging cuties but I resisted the temptation!
Doggie lovers, please follow the rules!

If you followed the main path from the MRT station to the Tanglin gate without getting lose, you should be able to clock 2.3-2.4km. There are some pretty steep slopes along the way and for those who are used to even grounds, the slopes might drain your stamina quickly. The side trails are pretty badly maintained with crumbling steps and uneven ground. One of the more prominent feature of the Botanical gardens is the Swan lake. I remembered that when I was young, I used to feed the many swans that lived in the lake. Today, I only saw two unfriendly swans, lazying in the middle of the pond, ignoring the humans in general. The swan population has dropped quite a bit since I was young, so I concluded that swans are probably too expensive for NParks to replace once they grew old and died.
Slopes and more slopes!

Swan Lake. Where's the swan??
Cracks and Steps. Not friendly to runners!
After hitting the Tanglin gate, I decided to explore the side roads along the garden. There were some pretty decent free parking lots along Tyersall Ave. After that, you will see rows and rows of expensive bungalows with high walls and a battalion of security cameras every few feet along the walls. I was quite fearful that some Gurkhas will pounce on me should I stopped and snapped a few pictures. The run along the Tyersall Ave is virtually on the side of the road as there are only small stretches of pavement along the way: Hey, why would you need to have pavements if you are rich enough to travel everywhere by car!?

Touch the Tanglin Gate and you are halfway there!
Free parking here! Woo hoo!
Expensive neighborhood
One of the commendable aspect of the park is the toilet. I love it! It is clean, breezy and someone can ogle at you while you changed your clothes and splash water to clean off the sweat. The guys were shameless stripping their clothes in the changing area but too bad there were no ladies strolling by on that day.
Black marble, Green forest. What else you want for a public toilet!

The most dominant insect in the Botanical garden is a particular species of millipede. These hairy things are everywhere and the ladies are of course pretty grossed out by their hairiness. The worse thing is that they have not evolved to understand that crossing roads are pretty dangerous and you will see many of their corpses littered along the pavements either fully squashed or half flattened with the other half still wriggling. To show respect for those hairy soldiers who died while crossing the road, I will only show a picture of a healthy living one.

The hairy millipede
All in all the botanical garden is a very interesting place to run but it is not very welcoming to first time runners. I will suggest that you bring along a friend who is familiar with the routes so that you will not end up running in circles or trespassing into the property of a Singaporean tycoon or minister. The routes can be nice and flat or narrow and uneven depending on the route you take so the experience is never quite the same for every run. Combine that with all the hustle and bustle of activities around you, it is never boring. One great thing about the botanical garden is that there is few Deadly Kids on Wheels and I understand from my friend that bicycles and wheeled equipments are generally discouraged from the park. Overall, you will need to run a few more times at Botanical Gardens in order to get the full flavor of the most famous park in Singapore  
A nice little knoll to enjoy the view around the park.

Accessibility : Drop off at Botanical Gardens MRT or Orchard MRT and walk towards Tanglin.

Parking: 8 paid carparks and a multi-storey carpark at NParks

Type of tracks: Asphalt, dirt track, concrete pavements

Elevation: Varies from flat to medium slopes
Location: Singapore Botanical Gardens, 1 Cluny Rd, Singapore 259569


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