07 April 2012


If there was a place that would show me just how truly out of shape I am, it would be Bukit Timah. After watching a television episode where an out-of-shape mom pushed herself to work out and go on a crazy hike up an Oregon mountain with two of her children, I was inspired to find a hiking venue in my hometown. Luckily, I have many options and I decided to start with Singapore's highest peak.

I like to exercise but I have trouble getting motivated and finding free things that I enjoy. Yoga classes and gym memberships are expensive and I would rather spend the money on food and coffee. Classes are scheduled and do not always meet my time demands or preferences.

Hiking is a great option. I can go wherever I want at my own pace and stay as long as I like. And, bonus, there is no fee other than my transportation fare, which this week cost me $28 because of crazy peak hour fees.

I thought I had been to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve before but upon arrival I realized I had not. I was confused from the beginning and almost trekked the mountain bike trail. Luckily I only walked about 20 meters before I realized my mistake and turned back.

I examined the map, picked a trail that would challenge me and made my way toward the highest point in Singapore. Little did I know what awaited me.

Yes, I wanted to challenge myself but I did not expect to get hit with the death hill in my first steps. “What!?” was my reaction to the hill that was steeper than any incline I have climbed before. “Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me,” was my reaction when I turned a corner and saw that the death hill got steeper and had no end in sight. I was so out of breath just walking up the hill that I had to stop and nonchalantly read a sign about butterflies because I was panting harder than a sheepdog in Singaporean summer.

I was actually relieved when I saw my desired colored trail breaking off to the left. “Oh thank God. A break.”

The trails were a little wet and sometimes challenging but I enjoyed the trek. At one point, I stopped in my tracks because I wasn't sure how I would make it any further. Here is what I saw with no obvious trail ahead:

I'm sorry, where am I supposed to walk?

There were a few low-hanging branches…

…some definite muddy patches... 

...and quite a few stairs that had me celebrating conquering a single step. 

This one fell at the bottom of my knee cap.

This step was two inches above my knee! Talk about stretching.

I passed a few people on the way; nearly all greeted me with a “Hello,” or a loud and cheerful, “Good morning!” which truly brightened my day.

I was a little dismayed when I realized that I brought a phone but left my headphones at home. Without them, I could not listen to music on the hike. The experience, however, was great as I listened to the sounds of the jungle.

Only twice did I hear construction and helicopter sounds. The remainder of the hike, I was greeted by sounds of birds, lizards rumbling through the brush, mud squishing underneath my shoes, leaves crunching as I stepped on them and water falling from hillsides.

After making a few stops to catch my breath on the death hill and replenish my water supply, I made it to the highest natural point in Singapore in about 35 minutes. When I got to the top, all 163 meters, I was excited to take in the view. Instead, I got this:

And this:

And this:

The highest view in Singapore and not a single amazing lookout. Not the view I was expecting. 

Disappointed, I headed down another trail and made my way back to civilization. I was relieved to find that this new trail took me to the bottom of the death hill, though it would have been interesting to scale down. Many people I passed on the way up were walking down backwards and I heard one fellow hiker say going down was harder than going up. I don’t know what to think about that.

When I finished my complete hike I was disappointed that I was done less than an hour and a half after I started. I left feeling good about the morning, knowing I could have done more and realizing that the death hill would be my Philadelphia Rocky Steps. And, the hike that awaited me the next day would certainly give me my fill.

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