Only blue skies ahead, or so I've been promised by the meteorological station. It's been a hazy October and Singaporeans discussed the PSI like it was the latest 4D winning entry. At one point, the pollution level crossed the dreaded 300 mark and schools were closed, to the delight of many students. Some of whom turned up in line the next day for the new iPhone 6S release.
Back in the office, 'kiasi' colleagues (myself included) worked in the comfort of air conditioning, further cleaned by a separate air purifier unit parked beside my desk. Needless to say, lunch was often packed in, enjoyed in the sheltered confines of our tiny bubble. When we did venture out on days when the PSI went below 100, taking deep breaths of fresh air was such a luxury.
The entrance to Coney Island from Pasir Ris
On one particularly clear weekend, I took the opportunity to check out Coney Island, also known as Pulau Serangoon, which finally opened to the public in October 2015. This small island at the tip of Punggol, is a beautiful nature reserve managed by the National Parks Board. Connected by two bridges to Punggol Promenade and Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park 6, this rustic reserve has not changed much since I last visited it during an Outward Bound Singapore camp in the 1990s. There was no way then to get onto the island besides canoe.
Today, the island is still lush with verdant greenery and there’s a long gravel cycling path which cuts across the whole length of the island. On both sides of the path, tall lalang swayed in the shadows of Casaurina trees. Besides the crunch of gravel underfoot, there were only the sounds of the birds overhead and the leaves rustling in the wind. But veer away from the main path and you would discover small enclaves carved out for explorers young and old.
Along a stretch of boardwalk, there were carefully cultivated mangrove plants, individually labelled with their scientific names and ecological roles. At the end of the boardwalk was a fish estuary, somewhat man-made but with materials all sourced from the island. It was a live lesson on mangrove habitats.
One of many beautiful bridges along the cycling trail
One of the best parts of this outdoors adventure was the cycle from Coney Island to the surrounding Punggol estate. The entire Punggol waterway is an amazing balance between town planning and environment protection. A long sea channel cuts through the HDB estate with beautifully landscaped gardens lining the cycling and jogging paths alongside. The HDB blocks themselves look nothing like the heartlands but a postcards from some holiday resort. If you don’t believe me, check out pictures on Google.
Better yet, plan a visit when you’re back in Singapore. It should be blue skies ahead for the rest of the year. At most it might be punctuated with some rain and fake snow at shopping malls celebrating Christmas but yes, good clean fresh air.