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.
It was another pastor, Richard Wong, who evangelized me about the Brompton bicycle. I picked up cycling about seven years ago and it began as my means to get away quickly to the Chinese, Japanese and Jurong Lake parks for prayer and meditation. But I have never heard about the Brompton until Ps Richard Wong began to seed my fertile ground with Brompton seeds. Soon I began to search the internet and talk about it. My grown-up children noticed this and generously decided to buy me a Brompton for my 60th birthday. What a great gift it proved to be: it would give me a feeling of freedom and pleasure. I exercise without strain, and I keep stumbling into small adventures and new friendships.
With the explosion of interest in cycling during this pandemic, the waiting time in Singapore for a Brompton purchase is about a year. You are put on a waiting list. Unless you are willing to buy a second hand preloved one, or an imitation of the Brompton, that is a rather long wait.
Let me share with you the seven reasons why I am so into this bike.
THE BEST FOLD
This is one of the main reasons why the Brompton is the best foldable bike. It folds uniquely, securely, and compactly. Once you have mastered the order of the fold and the unfold, it can be done rather quickly under three minutes. It takes up little storage space in the home or office.
Related to the tight fold is the portability. The basic model is about 9 kg and can be easily carried onto the bus or car boot. In the MRT station, it can be folded and wheeled through the turnstiles and onto the train with ease. You can bring it into shopping malls or leave it near you at restaurants. It takes up less space than a child’s pram or a wheel chair. You wouldn’t want to leave it parked (even with lock) outside or people will be tempted to steal it. You can put it under your desk in the office. Many have even loaded it onto a plane in a suitable luggage, and vacationed with it in a foreign country.
THE UNIQUE DESIGN
Every now and then, the Brompton I ride has turned heads because of its unique design, the way it sits when stationary, or is pushed along in shopping malls. On occasion, a brave or curious stranger would approach me and ask about the bicycle. Sometimes you suspect strangers pointing fingers at your Brompton are telling their companion about how this bicycle was the brand involved in the corruption case of a National Parks executive. This infamy has strangely cemented its reputation as a highly desirable recreational vehicle.
THE SMOOTH RIDE
The Brompton rides well. It is not a road bike, and with its smaller 16 inches tyres, it is tough to catch up with bigger wheeled road bikes. It is also not pleasant to ride on rough terrain, for which a gravel or mountain bike is better suited. It is built for commuting not racing, for leisure riding in the park connectors and pedestrian paths, not for thrilling rides in jungle paths. I have found that the six-speed system of gears sufficient for my rides along park connectors. Slopes of gradient up to 50 degrees are doable but I do not have the fitness for steeper slopes.
Anybody who rides bicycles for some time would have heard of the Brompton. Their immediate reaction would be that it is expensive. Then they will gradually see that it is stylishly unique. They will realise that it is a lifestyle item worth the amount you paid. It is the Mercedes Benz of folding bikes. It is branded. It oozes class. It rides superbly. It is durable.
Unlike other famous brands, the Brompton brand is effectively made viral more by its loyal customers than by the company’s marketing department. These Brompton lovers are highly tribal, voluble and active on social media.
In most countries, the Brompton owners will spontaneously form virtual communities using social media like Facebook. They will organise trips, buy and sell Brompton stuff, get tips and advice, tell their stories and share their pictures. It gives them a sense of community and identity and this gives a nice feeling of belonging. They also get to meet new acquaintances and develop friendships.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Some think its expensive. I think it is good value for money. I got mine at $2,300 during a Christmas sales on 15 October 2015 ($2,780 before discount). It was a 60th birthday gift from my three adult children. This bike will give you good rides for at least ten years. When maintained well, this piece of solid British engineering can last twenty years and beyond. Do the sums and you will see that over 10 years, it breaks down to $20 a month.
See it as an investment in health. So rather then end up paying more than $3,000 for all kinds of medical treatments or hospitalisation due to poor health, pay an advance and enjoy the ride to better health.
By the way, should you want to give up cycling for some reason, you can still sell your pre-loved Brompton for a decent price. It holds its value well, as I have seen in past years, and particularly during this pandemic. Take a look at Carousell and you will see what I mean.
I have seen bikes bought cheaply and the ride became squeaky after a year, and the chains rusted, and the PVC seat showed signs of tear. Such cheaper bikes will break down and add to the many problems you already have in life.
For Brompton, you get excellent design and solid build for the price you pay. You really do get what you paid for.
I first heard about Rowers Bay from Dr Jimmy Tan, a lecturer in Trinity Theological College. I saw lovely photos on a chat group and I decided I must plan a cycling jaunt there. So I enlisted two other pastors in transition to join me Pastor Eng Hwa, formerly of Praise Evangelical Free Church, and Pastor Richard Wong, formerly of Singapore Christian Canaan Church.
ROWERS BAY PARK
We met at Rowers Bay. I parked there and unfolded my Brompton. Eng Hwa rode from his home for 30 minutes to get there. Richard rode his Brompton to a MRT station on the North-south line and stopped at Khatib MRT, unfolded his Brompton and rode to the destination. On the way back, I gave Richard a lift, and two Brompton bicycles could fit into the boot of a Toyota Allion. One of the beautiful things about the Brompton bicycle is its simple, compact, elegant fold that can be transported on the bus, train, car or even a plane.
I was stunned by the blue of the Lower Seletar Reservoir, the cool breeze and gentle morning light. It felt like I stumbled into a hidden lake. I felt I could idle on a bench and bathe in that charming atmosphere the whole morning. But that had to be left to later. My friends arrived and we left for the Hampstead Wetlands Park via the park connector.
HAMPSTEAD WETLANDS PARK
The Wetlands Park was a small lake carpeted with water lilies, and surrounded by lush mature trees. Here I felt like an intruder. There were many birders with their mammoth cameras on tripods waiting patiently and quietly for that timely bird shot. We were a bit too noisy for them I think. They probably resented us. We were ruffling their feathers with our posing and selfies and wefies. It felt a wee uncomfortable and I was relieved (and so were they) when we left for nearby Brompton Road.
I didn’t want to go there there again but it was nearby and pastor Richard wanted to take a lovers’ picture there of his titanium Brompton with the Brompton Road street sign. It seems to be a ritual that distinguishes the genuine Brompton lovers from mere admirers or owners. I didn’t buy that myth but I am easy on such non-essentials, and went along for fun.
Interestingly, we had tea at a vintage attap kopitiam called BOH GEH (Hokkien dialect meaning “toothless”). It serves economical food for the employees of aeronautical companies in the Seletar area. We sat outside with coffee and “tua pau” (big pork buns) and talked about our transitions, sharing life honestly. Five years earlier, I had been there with pastor Richard and I was certain, though he was doubtful. Deja vu. I went to my blog and searched out this blogpost HERE. I saw a picture of a round marble table with chairs and a yellow metal three seater and I showed it to him as final proof that this coffeeshop was the same one we went years ago.
We rode further to visit a bicycle themed cafe called Soek Seng 1954 at the side of a warehouse or factory. I was surprised at the attention that went into the gorgeous interior design of the cafe and took many pictures of the cafe. The coffee and the food there was above average too. Our conversation was dominated by talk about the fall of Ravi Zacharias. Our discussions surfaced the organisational, theological and spiritual issues arising from the sad and shocking moral failures of the world-renown apologist. God willing, I will write something about this. I am still reluctant to read the detailed investigation reports. I don’t have the stomach for reading such sordid stuff. And if I write my opinion without reading the investigation report, wouldn’t I be dismissive of the gravity of the sins?
By the time lunch fellowship ended the sun overhead was bearing down on us intensely and we rushed back to Rowers Bay and from there went our separate ways.
Lord, thank you for a beautiful morning, refreshing friendships, charming parks and wonderful rides. Amen.
This ride had an interesting element. Two of the pastors were new to the group: Jason and Vincent. We wanted to get to know them more, and of course to ride the park connector network from Pasir Ris MRT to Ponggol MRT.
For me it was the first time I would be taking the Brompton bike into the MRT. Now we can do it at any hour. Formerly the bike was not allowed during peak hours. Some friends would be taking the Brompton on the bus from Potong Pasir to Pasir Ris.
I was at the Chinese Garden station at 6.30am. I live in between Chinese Garden and the Jurong East stations. I thought I should be able to get a seat but the train was full, and I was only able to get a seat when the train reached Eunos MRT station!
We introduced ourselves and waited for everybody to be present and then we took off. It was a pleasant ride all the way to Coney Island but after that the sun grew stronger and the Ponggol stretch was harsh.
During the ride we took some breaks and Richard and I were doing some “evangelism” the wrong way. We were trying to sell the plus points of owning a Brompton bike to one of the pastors there. We extolled the great qualities like its compact fold, its engineering efficiency, its eye-catching uniqueness, its smooth ride, its durability and how it can be a great retirement vehicle. However we were too brash and near oppressive in our approach. So likely this friend was left with a bad taste in his mouth.
We were happy to arrive at Waterwaypoint. The coolness refreshed us and we settled at the MacDonald’s at the basement. We got their coffee but bought buns from the Four Leaves bakery nearby. Here we were: Anglican, Pentecostal, Baptist, Evangelical, and Canaanite (haha). We got to know each other better and did what pastors did best: talk shop.
Interestingly we abandoned our original plan to ride to Brompton Road. Everybody had things to do. So we went off in different directions: some rode home to Potong Pasir and Toa Payoh. Vincent and I rode back to Pasir Ris where he parked his car. However, along the way an idea struck us so we tried calling Kenny Fan to see if he was free for lunch. He has moved to Pasir Ris Bethesda Mission Church. We have not met as a group for over a year. This was a good opportunity and we had lunch at Changi Hawker Center and good coffee at a cafe. It was wonderful to touch base as we updated each other on what’s been happening in our lives and pastorates.
Its always good to have friendships with pastors outside of your church or even denomination. There is a richness there, an anointing of life and abundance. How blessed for brethren to dwell together in unity, there the Lord commands his blessing. Do you have pastor friends outside of your church and denomination? Like to hear from you.