Bukit Timah Nature Reserve re-opened: the experience

When the Bukit Timah Hill first re-opened, I was not happy with the changes. Some of my favourite routes were blocked by fences. Old routes were re-routed for some good reason that I do not know. The old rugged, uneven, muddy paths had been made straight and flat and staired. Other hikers in the group were not happy too. The muddy and natural hill paths of the past had allowed us good realistic training for what we would find in many tracks and paths in the mountains of Malaysia and other South East Asian countries. Now it looked far from “natural”.

The Visitors Centre was the old one spruced up.
The new restrooms were airy and larger and moved to a better location.

After many months

Now months have passed. I have been hiking these trails again. My feelings of annoyance at the insensitivity and intrusiveness of the park authorities have subsided. I wished they had interacted with and consulted the hikers who used the place frequently. Or at least they would bother to explain why things have been changed, and why they needed to be changed. Maybe an exhibit or video at the Visitors’ Center to explain the why of the changes. Or guided tours by park of rangers for those who want to learn more about the logic behind the changes.  It was a great chance to educate the public about conservation and care of the forests. This was not done as far as I knew. I give them the benefit of the doubt though. They must have thought this through thoroughly.

Straighten the paths!
Make more steps, smaller steps, thousands of steps

There are advantages 

Over the months, I have gotten used to the new trails and find them convenient. On Saturday, we hiked in the drizzle and I certainly appreciated that my boots were not muddied, and I did not slip, and it was very safe to walk even in the drizzle. The new paths made the trails more accessible to more people because they are now easier and cleaner and safer. Most people used the main road to the summit and never ventured out to the side trails partly because they did not know the way, and partly because the paths used to be muddy, and uneven, and had twists and turns. am sure they will venture to the side trails now that they have been upgraded. These side trails are definitely more fun and work the muscles better and exercise your heart more.

Say Goodbye to muddy paths
Old path to the right fenced up. Turn left!
Use of the granite stones add variety to the paths
The greenery did not change. Thank God.
The miniature world is beautiful. God is into the details.

Accessible via MRT

If you have never hiked the Bukit Timah Hill, I encourage you to do so, especially now that it is more accessible by public transportation via the Beauty World Station of the Downtown Line. After you have had a good 1-2 hours hike, you have a good choice of restaurant or hawker food in the many shopping malls and hawker centers and restaurants, all within 5 minutes of the MRT station.

One of the things that puzzled me was why they did not build a multi-storey carpark like they did at MacRitchie. Why? I wonder if you had any questions after your visit to Bukit Timah Hill. Do write them in the comment box below.

 

Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine route free and easy

We toured Japan free and easy from 26 October to 7 November 2016. Travel free and easy is always cheaper and more fun. On average each person spent about SGD$2,800 (food/accomodation and transport – minus shopping)

Day 1: Nagoya

Day 2: Magome-Tsumago Trail

Day 3: Narai- Shiogiri

Day 4: Wasabi Farm & Apple Orchard

Day 5: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Day 6 & 7: Kurobe Gorge & Shinminato Fishery

Day 8: Shirakawago: World Heritage Site

Day 9: Kanazawa Castle & Kimono Photoshoot

Day 10: Of Samurai & Geishas

Day 11 & 12: Hida Takayama & Nagoya

To give geographical context.
To give geographical context.

 

 

JAPAN JAUNT 2016 – DAY 11 & 12: HIDA-TAKAYAMA & NAGOYA

Saturday, 5 November 2016

On the way to the morning market
On the way to the morning market at Hida Takayama

The realization that soon the vacation was about to end slowly dawned on me. I guess that was one of the reasons I had been feeling listless. Yet at the same time there was that desire to return to the usual rhythm of work and prayer I was used to back in Singapore.

We took the shinkansen from Kanazawa to Hida-Takayama a town in the midst of the Japanese Alps. We wanted to visit its old town and its morning market. We would stay overnight there, and then leave for one last evening in Nagoya before flying back to Singapore.

By now I have gotten used to the lack of trash bins in Japanese streets. As a Singaporean I am so used to having bins at hand in many places. It was frustrating from day one when I found the opposite to be so in Japan. I learned that everyone is expected to be responsible for their own trash. I had to keep mine in my pocket or backpack until I could find one in the shopping mall toilet or somewhere else. Most times it ended up in the trash bin in my hotel room at the end of the day.

In the background the morning market looks bright in the late morning sunlight
In the background the Miyazawa morning market looks bright in the late morning sunlight in the background
The crowds have thinned by late morning and it was not congested
The crowds have thinned by late morning and it was not congested
You can step down to the river bank and take a nice walk
You can step down to the river bank and take a nice walk
Beautiful carp feed on the fish food which can be purchased at the morning market
Beautiful carp feed on the fish food which can be purchased at the morning market
A child enjoys climbing the slopes while mum shops
A child enjoys climbing the slopes while mum shops
Buying fruits at the market
Buying fruits at the market

We walked a short distance from the station to the Miyagawa morning market by a river. It was picturesque street market about 1 km in length with shop houses on one side and temporary stalls on the other side. Behind the market were other streets that preserved the old town from another era.

Hide beef at a Michelin restaurant
Hide beef at a Michelin restaurant for lunch (Credits: Judith)
Old street with many snack and souvenir shops
Old street with many snack and souvenir shops
Walking along historically old houses on both sides of the street
Walking along historically old houses on both sides of the street
Beautifully wood grain walls of an old house
Beautifully wood grain walls of an old house

 

At the temple shrine
At the temple shrine
Joy needing a ride from Simon
Joy needing a ride from Simon
Feeling tired and weary
Feeling tired and weary but still smiling and waiting
This was probably our last group photo
This was probably our last group photo

We later traced our steps back and ate Hida beef at a popular Michelin restaurant. Waiting was a hassle but the beef was so tender and that we were satisfied after that lunch. We returned to the tourist area and spent an hour or so exploring other parts of the souvenir shopping belt. I was feeling tired and listless and rested at tiny café with a table and chairs outside. There I sat and observed people and traffic pass me by until I got bored and took out my Kindle and read. Later we got together again and sauntered along a street with san machi old houses on both sides till we reached a temple. I was ready to retire for the day and from the heavy steps of others I knew others felt the same way too.

 

Sunday & Monday, 6 & 7 November 2016

Hotel Country Takayama
Country Hotel Takayama

The Country Hotel Takayama was conveniently located opposite the station but the service and the rooms were average for that price (4,200 yen). Takayama is a popular tourist area and since we were out most of the day it made sense not to pay more for a better hotel. In fact, the hotel in Dormy Inn Nagoya that we had booked would cost 45 yen more but had much better rooms and service. It even had free onsen and ramen in the late evening for its guests.

Nice hotel rooms and comfortable bed (Credits: Judith)
Nice hotel room and comfortable bed at Dormy Inn Nagoya  (Credits: Judith)
Free ramen at the dining area at night around 9pm
Free ramen at the dining area at night around 9pm

The next morning we took the shuttle to Nagoya airport where some spent their remaining yen on more snacks and souvenirs before departure. There was even a special sale on for Hida beef. In the plane, I caught up some movies and took a nap when I could. The flight was pleasant. As I recalled the whole tour I cannot help but give thanks to God for his presence with us in all the many high points of spectacular views, cultural insights, great reasonably priced food, and God incidents. Japan is a lovely, safe and sad place to visit. Sad because I do feel for the cultured well-mannered Japanese people and the emptiness and hollowness of their souls. Lord, have mercy on the Japanese people and pour out your Spirit upon them as You have promised through your prophets. Help Your workers in this forlorn harvest experience breakthroughs in fruitfulness.