Adventure in the West!
“Combining the visual delights and rich bio-diversity of our parks, gardens & nature reserves with thoughtfully-planned recreational activities, we facilitate your communion with Nature.” – National Parks Board, Singapore. Is this true? Marcus Chow goes West and explores the most varied trail in Singapore.
The above quote kind of sums up the Western Adventure Park Connector Network (WAPCN) cycling trail. Interestingly, the WAPCN is the only park connector network in Singapore with “Adventure” inserted as part of its description. According to the National Parks Board (Nparks), there is also a walking trail, where you can take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the lush greenery at a slower pace. That’s not to say you will enjoy the cycling trail any less.
The cycling trail brings you from Bukit Gombak, Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Panjang, into Zhenghua Park, Dairy Farm, Hillview and back to Bukit Gombak. For drivers who are transporting their bikes, the WAPCN offers many parking areas along its route. So, you can basically start off at any point on the map along the WAPCN.
I took a mountain bike to check out this 20km route, though my odometer gave me a 30km reading at the end of it – due to my unfortunate lack of map reading skills while trying to navigate with the map provided by Nparks.
Having said that, a 20km trail is not exactly a Tour de Western Singapore, but it provides connection into Belukar Track and other off-road trails, so for the serious cyclist, this could be used as part of a warm-up leg before hitting the off-roads.
Get connected to the off-road tracks within the Dairy Farm area.
The overall terrain is slightly hilly, but it gets steeper at the Zhenghua Park Connector and there are points where you have to dismount from the bike because of corners that bend sharply with slopes that are too steep. This is mainly due to safety concerns, so look out for the signs!
Within the urban areas, there are several traffic lights that you may encounter, so it could be a case of stopping a few times within Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang. There are also construction works going on at the junction of Upper Bukit Timah and Dairy Farm Road and riders should take caution when approaching this junction.
For nature lovers, there is a host of wildlife that you may spot when you take your breaks in between. I spotted squirrels, birds, dragonflies, butterflies and I’m sure at one point I thought I saw a snake. I also discovered a private herb garden along Pang Sua Park Connector and it is thriving with insects and herbs of all sorts. The old man, whom I politely called “uncle”, explained the many miraculous cures for almost anything. The catch is that this small piece of land belongs to the government and it may be taken back at any time. So, do take home some knowledge from the uncle there before it’s all gone. There is also the Bukit Panjang Community Garden along the Zhenghua park connector, and this place is full of vegetables and plants of various varieties that the good people of Bukit Panjang tended.
Scenic view of Little Guilin as you move along Bukit Gombak
At Bukit Panjang Town Park, you may also find a very serene setting of a stream flowing under a wooden bridge with green foliage all around which reminds me of a scene from a Korean drama. But – remember to bring your insect repellent if you’re planning to stop by there for a rest. Nearby, there is also the calm expanse of a lake, where less insect repellent is required.
Since we are mentioning lakes, my favourite site was Little Guilin at Gombak. A lake surrounded with mountainous features that kissed the skies. No insect repellent required here.
For those who are looking for a bite or some refreshments along the way, you can get them at the coffee shops you see in Choa Chu Kang or Bukit Panjang. Alternatively, you can get them at Rail Mall, just after Dairy Farm Road, where there is a Cold Storage and a selection of eating-places. You may want to clean up before you eat. Talking of which, there are also shower facilities available at a shed just after the Hillview Park connector, before the Dairy Farm Quarry, where there is a car park and public toilet.
A cyclist turning one of the many bends at Zhenghua park connector
The overall journey is indeed one of discovery and adventure, having found some delightful places along the way. The ride was generally smooth, but if you’re bringing your kids, you may just want to look out for the steeper slopes once you enter Zhenghua and the Dairy Farm area.
For difficulty, I would give it a six with 10 being the most difficult. This is mainly due to the slightly steeper slopes at Zhenghua and Dairy Farm, though the slopes do not last very long. Overall, it is a smooth ride.
You can download a copy of the trails from the National Parks Board website at here but my advice is to prepare your route again as the maps provided are more of a guide and is not detailed, especially when you hit the smaller roads and streets within the urban areas in Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang.