My neighbour’s daughter used to go there as she searched for relief from the pain in her joints. That was the first time I heard about Sembawang Hot Spring. I also read in the newspapers that they had done something to enhance the surroundings and make the natural hot spring more accessible and give the place a relaxed atmosphere. I had thought of visiting that place at least once but never did it. Until last month. Out of a whim, I asked Pastor Eng Hwa if he would like to cycle around his neighbourhood, and bring me around.
Soon I was in the MRT with my folded Brompton, traveling from Jurong East station to Sembawang station on the North-South line. I met him there and the first place we cycled to was the Sembawang Hot Spring Park.
I was impressed with what the National Parks people have done. Clean and systematic as the water moved from the hottest temperature at the chest level to the warm temperatures at lower levels where we could soak our feet comfortably. The weather was humid but the waters were inviting. I could not smell any sulphur or minerals but some people came to collect water in pails because the spring water was special in some way.
We did not stay long but dried our feet and continued our cycling to Sembawang Park. I cannot say the ride was very picturesque or interesting but we put in a good distance to our ride before we had lunch and talked about what’s going on in our lives.
We skipped the ride to Ulu Sembawang as the clouds began to look dark. I was glad I went to Sembawang – this journey to the north. It fulfilled a desire to visit the Sembawang Hot Spring. Maybe the next time I will bring some eggs along to boil in those special hot water.
I wonder if it is gradually becoming a monthly affair, this cycling with other pastors? In April, we tried a new route. We met at my home in Jurong East at 8.30am and used the Ulu Pandan Park Connector to get to Ghim Moh Hawker Center, where we had a light break. Most of us had breakfast already, but we sat around with coffee and tea and chee cheong fun. Mostly talking about whats going on in life. Then we connected to the Rail Corridor starting from near the Buono Vista MRT. We cycled all the way to the old railway signal building at Tanjong Pagar, and carried our bikes across some drains, to use the road leading to the Gardens By The Bay.
The return route was new to me. We went back to Jurong East via the West Coast, passing by Harbourfront, the Marina at Keppel Bay, Labrador Park, West Coast Park and linking back to Jurong Circular Bridge and back home through the International Business Park. We reached my home at around 3.30pm, a good day of cycling, exploring and fellowship with pastors. It was a good workout, and fun to visit new places, try a new route, and to connect with one another. Must do another cycling trip, another day.
Ride to Sentosa
Pastor Richard Wong suggested Sentosa, and I never cycled there before, so why not? Others were game too. Furthermore, one of us, Rev Vincent was gifted with a new Brompton, a black beauty, by his wife, and we wanted to see him riding in it. We met early, or at least I was the earliest, at Seah Imm Hawker Center. It is always good to start with warm up with breakfast. I took a bus and was there earliest, and next was Richard. We had our roti prata before the others trickled in. We were impressed with the black beauty of Vincent’s new Brompton, and he certainly looked cool in it!
This trip proved to be eventful. Richard was our guide because he had cycled there a few times. But we were struck with disaster straightaway as Richard’s bicycle chain broke at Harbourfront Centre. He told us to go ahead. Thank God he managed to find a repair shop at Telok Blangah and took a Grab taxi there (another advantage of foldable bikes). We were blessed because Pastor Eng Hwa also knew Sentosa quite well, so we went off and later linked up with Richard at Sentosa beach.
The slopes were not easy for us seniors. Vincent was enthusiastically test his Brompton up the slopes, and frankly, with this new bike, he was faster than any of us. Thankfully our bikes had good gears and that helped. However, at one sixty degree incline I could not continue and sat down to rest with Vincent. By then, Eng Hwa had already reached the top. I have learned through hiking that when you are out of breath and your heart is pounding, its best to stop to rest – which was what I did. You have to admire those who take part in the 23 day Tour de France! For me, I know my limits and live accordingly. We went down after I had sufficient rest.
There is a direct bus for me from Jurong East Interchange to Seah Imm bus stop. Again, I delighted in riding to the interchange, folding my bike, bringing it on the bus, and comfortably arriving to my destination. It was as easy coming home. I love the idea of riding foldable bikes! I do not have to ride all the way to any particular destination. I could take a train or a bus to a location from which I can cycle the route I wanted.
To be able to combine two pleasures is a great blessing. I enjoy catching up with pastor friends and cycling, so to have these two pleasures combined is time well spent. I have had the pleasure of doing this recently in two cycling trips with pastors. One was from Khatib MRT to Labrador MRT following the Round the Island route. A second was from East Coast Park (car park D1) to Changi Point and back.
Khatib to Labrador (RTI)
When National Parks published the partially completed Round The Island (RTI) route, it inspired me and I asked a more experienced pastor, cyclist and YouTuber, Eng Hwa if he would like to do this route. He said yes and we agreed on the date. Later I invited one pastor Paul Loh to join us. Paul was a pastor in charge of logistics in New Creation Church before he began his own regional ministry of equipping pastors and church planting. They both lived in the north, one in Sembawang and one in Yishun. I lived in Jurong East. So I folded my Brompton bike at Jurong East MRT and took the train to Khatib MRT station. It was 23 Feb at 7am when I boarded the train. The ride all the way to Changi Point was predictable with a few familiar scenic places, where we stopped at to take pictures and rest.
At Changi Point we ate at the hawker center and we got to know each other better, lingering over cans of 100 Plus, a necessary isotonic drink for such long-distance rides of over 70km. It helps to prevent cramps.
After lunch we continued our ride and took regular timeouts to rest, drink and chat. We were stuck for about 15 minutes at a bus-stop along the East Coast because of sudden rain. After that we kept going all the way to Marina Bay and passed the many bridges along the Singapore river.
Fatigue began to set in along the Alexandra PCN. From then the going was tough but somehow by God’s grace, sheer perseverance and 100Plus, we finally reached our destination with great joy and a sense of satisfaction. We reached Labrador MRT station at 5.23pm. From there we took the train home with our folded bikes. What an unforgettable trip. I now have a deeper respect for those who do the full round the island route like it was a piece of cake.
East Coast D1 to Changi Point
There were more pastors on this trip because it was organised on a Monday so a still-working Anglican pastor Vincent could join us. Another pastor Richard Wong is executive director of T-NET, a disciple-making ministry. Although he is working, he has a flexible schedule. The rest of us are retired pastors Eng Hwa and Seng Chor and myself. We enjoy doing whatever the Lord bids us to do in this new season of our lives. We have the greater flexibility.
This was not our first pastors cycling trip. We met at a free car park D1 at the East Coast Park. The day was beautiful but according to the weather report, sunny at noon and rainy in the afternoon. It was one of those days when the weather forecast was highly accurate. We had fun riding all the way to Changi Point and chatting over Tiong Bahru chicken rice, and later downed with chendol dessert at another location opposite the hawker center. The talk over the table was about the church during the pandemic, catching up with each other about what’s happening in our lives, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On the way back, the rain hit us in the afternoon, and we had to speed up and ended in the exact same bus stop as during the February cycling trip, all wet from the rain. After a while we decided to ride in the drizzle until we reached the hawker center near the Bedok Jetty. There we loitered for quite a while over hot teh tarik, and left under a drizzle because the rain refused to stop.
I gave a ride to pastor Vincent who lived fifteen minutes from my home. Thankfully we could put two foldable bikes in the car. Although we were drenched, it was an eventful outing, and I enjoyed the ride of 40km, and the camaraderie. This is one kind of environment that helps men to build relationships: doing things we enjoy together and tossing in some meaningful conversations. We are planning another cycling trip, this time from Jurong East to Marina Bay and back.
The morning was cool and cloudy. The weather report predicted rain in the late morning. We have planned to cycle from Jurong East MRT to Coney Island and from there to Yishun MRT, where we would both fold our bicycles and return home by MRT. We met at about 7 am but there was a problem: his folding bike’s brakes were not working well. He had tried to repair it the night before but it did not seem to be good enough. Abort or continue? We decided to continue but with caution. When there were slopes he would dismount and walk his bike. For sure the sole of his shoes would be worn off more than usual.
My mistake was to ride on the wrong side of Dunearn Road. I took the one heading towards the city. I should have taken the route away from town. There were too many streets where we had to wait, and pavement bumps we had to negotiate on the route we used. I believe the other route would be smoother, since it had more institutions and less residential areas.
I was familiar with the route from Jurong East to Adam’s Road hawker center, where we planned to have their famous nasi lemak for breakfast. However from there on Eng Hwa would have be the guide. I queued thirty minutes for nasi lemak and we had to park our bicycles outside but within sight. My Brompton is expensive so I was relieved that Eng Hwa had a lock and we parked near the entrance where an ambassador assured us he will keep a lookout.
From there we went a roundabout way via Kheam Hock Road to MacRitchie Reservoir, and then to Marymount Road. We did a detour through Bishan Park as the construction diversions and activity along the National Parks recommended route was unpleasant. We finally reached Buangkok Park Connector and from then on it was park connectors all the way to Coney Isaland.
While enjoying our laksa and kway teow mee at Happy Restaurant, a kopitiam, it began to drizzle so we rested longer than usual, and chat about what’s been happening since we last met. When the drizzle was lighter we headed out with raincoats and reached Coney Island. From there we headed to Seletar via the park connectors and reached Rower’s Bay and finally Yishun MRT. It was a 49 kilometre ride. I was not particularly beat. I was surprised I was okay. Maybe it was the cool temperatures and cloud cover throughout the day. Or the many occasions when we had to slow down because of the several slopes along the route.
I was happy and satisfied that I did this. I tried a few times but could never attempt it because of Covid restrictions, or my pastor friends were not able to make it. The highlight was riding through Bishan Park, which I find to be a lovely gem in the heart of Singapore.
My reflection of this whole ride was that if we had allowed poor brakes or rain to deter and defeat us, we would have had regret hanging over our heads whenever we recall our aborted trip. We would always be thinking and talking about “What if we had just gone despite all the obstacles we faced?” Glad we persevered. Sometimes when a major decision needs to be made, one of the considerations can be, “Will I regret this choice on the day of judgment when I stand before the Lord?” Making a choice that brings a smile on the Lord’s face or a “Well done!” from him, will give us the power to persevere even through fiery trials. “For the joy that was set before him”, Jesus endured the trial and suffering of the crucifixion (Heb 12).
It was a cloudy morning, and we were glad for it. Pastor Eng Hwa and myself knew this would be a rather long return ride. Thus when cloud cover and a cool temperature greeted us at Jurong East MRT, we rejoiced and happily went our way to meet the third pastor friend, Rev Vincent Hoon, at the railway bridge near Sunset Way. We rode along the Ulu Pandan park connector till we reached Buona Vista and there we got down the stairs that leads to the MRT station. However, instead of entering an underpass to the MRT station we went the opposite way till we get onto the Railway Corridor that would lead us all the way to near the Tanjong Pagar Old Malayan Railway Station.
The ride was pleasant and we chatted here and there on various occasions, particularly when it rained furiously for about twenty minutes as we got wet, sped up and found shelter under a flyover. My friends brought extra shirts so they changed into dry T-shirts. I had no spare shirt but was wearing a dry-fit, so when the rain stopped and we began cycling again my wet long sleeves quickly dried up. The end stretch was when we got to the old signal station with the name “Singapura” on the building. Here we had to turn to GPS for help and Pastor Eng Hwa, having cycled around these parts, led the way through Shenton Way to Marina Bay.
It was rather quiet at the Marina Bay area during lunch time. We suddenly realised it was because most of the white collar army was probably working from home. The polished million dollar offices must mostly be empty or occupied by very few office staff. This virus has really turned our normal upside down. After lunch, we rode over the Helix Bridge, passed by the staging area for National Day, and headed back via the river banks. I must say, I am always thankful and impressed by the foresight, the millions of dollars, detailed planning and hard work put forth over many decades for the public to have such a beautiful network of parks and paths all over the island. In some countries the taxes would have ended up in public officials’ pockets. In Singapore, we get to see improved amenities with what we paid in taxes. Thankful for good governance. Thankful.
It was a most enjoyable ride. I did not feel tired or exhausted but one of my legs had a near cramp when I reached Jurong. I had more time with Pastor Eng Hwa over tea talking about starting a podcast together. We decided to pray about it before embarking on anything. This ride was done on 11 August but I was waiting for Eng Hwa to do his video of this ride so that I could include it in this blog. He had quite a few creative fun videos of various cycling routes he had done. Please do support him by subscribing to his channel and giving it a thumbs up.