Finding peace and contentment in the present

The Singapore Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong, came out this past weekend to advise us not to expect to travel this side of 2020. 😦 I guess it’s no big surprise, but still a somewhat depressing to hear.

That said, we had a blast this weekend. If every weekend went down like that, we really have nothing to complain about being stuck in Singapore.

  • Kicked it off bright and early Saturday morning with a 15km paddle to Pulau Ubin and back from Pasir Ris. We went with some friends, and with the high tide, decided to venture into the mangroves for a bit of exploration. We all had wide grins on our faces as we sliced our paddles through the still waters, a reflection of the blue skies above. Around us, the sounds of crickets filled the air, and hawks and hornbills flitted from tree to tree as our kayaks glided by. Overhead, we caught glimpses of the fighter jets and choppers bearing the Singapore flag as they flew past, practicing for the upcoming National Day celebrations. Otherwise, in the middle of the verdant oasis, we felt transported into another world, a Singapore of a century past.
  • In the evening, while Jeff caught up with some coworkers for tennis and dinner, I met up with a couple of college buddies for much missed catch ups, drinks and food. So glad to be able to start socialising in small groups again outside.
  • Sunday morning, I watched the streaming of the Santa Fe Opera Gala (bit boring to be honest), and Jonas Kaufmann’s recital in Bavaria, hosted by the Metropolitan Opera (so good, I’m watching it again).
  • In the afternoon, Julia came over again for our usual Sunday routine since Phase 2: tennis, refreshing dips in the pools, dinner (bunless lamb burgers with rosti and sautéed zucchini, and freshly baked almond cake), and board games. Washed down with a deliciously smooth and potent bottle of peppercorn negroni from No Sleep Club.

Life is good.

(Featured image photo from Huey, who took of Shan’s group when they visited the mangroves a day later – I used it because I didn’t bring a camera or my phone out when we went out, but it perfectly shows the serene and beautiful conditions when we went out ourselves the day before)

Kayaking for social distancing

Since I last wrote, the world has completely changed. The financial markets are in free fall, many countries have instituted bans on foreigners coming in and mandating that returning residents and citizens quarantine themselves for 14 days. Travel has essentially ground to a halt, and most companies have instituted work from home policies.

I couldn’t have predicted this a month ago. Then, I’d just come back from a spat of international travels, and still anticipating a couple more kayaking trips to Phuket and Ningaloo over the next couple of months. Then, we’d thought colleagues who decided to skip our work conference in LA as being overly cautious – I could not have predicted that just a week after, the US would shut down travel to Europe etc.

Of course, none of this should have been a surprise to me. Most of China has already been in lockdown since end January. But things only really hit home for me a relative got diagnosed with covid, and all his family and friends who had had contact with him had to go into home quarantine. Then a friend could not come home from Europe to be with her family, who is undergoing radiation. Another friend in the States has early stage cancer, but hospitals have told her they need to delay her surgery, indefinitely, because they need the beds for Covid patients. I realized too, that if anything happened to my own relatives here in Singapore, our family from overseas would be unable to come back.

So, we count our lucky stars that we are still healthy, still with stable jobs. Having to cut down on going out, on traveling, is just a minor inconvenience, in the broader scheme of things.

In the meantime, to practice social distancing, we can still go kayaking. We have our own kayaks that we carry to the beach, and once in the water, we are in our own vessels, plenty safe away from everyone else.

So we did. And it was glorious. We went the week before too, but the water was disgustingly dirty then. Yesterday, it was clean – I’m not sure if less people have been out and about or if the current swept everything downstream, but it was a beautiful paddle yesterday. We did around 20km, and got back to the beach right as the heavens opened up.

At least here, we can still go outdoors. But I did also read articles where some national and state parks are shutting down as well – to reduce the strain on rangers and the impact on local communities. That was definitely more food for thought for how every little action could have vast trickling impacts.

Natalie’s week and a bit in Singapore

Our friend Natalie from Sydney has just left. We had a wonderful time, reminiscing over old adventures together Down Under, and also creating new ones together. We kayaked, hiked, swam, cooked, and ate and drank our way around Singapore and Langkawi while she visited.

Kayaking to Pulau Ubin

It was a beautiful afternoon to be paddling to Ubin. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The rain had stopped and the clouds parted, and the air was fresh and much less humid than usual. Plus – and this is a big plus – the southwest monsoons had washed the usual bits of flotsam elsewhere, leaving the channel the cleanest we’ve seen it.
We paddled up the mangrove, in search of the auntie who sold coconuts by the river bend. But we arrived late in the afternoon, and she’d already packed up for the day.

Walking the Southern Ridges

After a few false starts from West Coast Park, we finally got on the Southern Ridges trail at Kent Ridge Park, and enjoyed the next couple hours leisurely strolling the elevated walks of the Southern Ridges, reveling in the lush greenery.


Given that Natalie was also here for two weekends, we took the opportunity to go somewhere nearby for one of them. Searches on Google Flights yielded reasonable tickets to Langkawi, so off we went.

It’s a such a chill destination. We’d much prefer to rent kayaks or standup paddle boards to go exploring round islands, but we simply couldn’t find any operators that offered that. Rather, available activities beachside were all the motorized variety – jet skis, banana boat rides, paragliding, and island / mangrove tours via boat. Ah well – we contented with splashing in the surf and poolside, and drinking cheap cocktails ($7).

Photo credit: Nat
Hike to Seven Wells Waterfall. Photo credit: Nat

Here’s to many more such memories in years to come!

Leisure paddle around Northeastern Singapore

Last Saturday, I went out paddling with some kayaking friends from our recent Palawan kayaking trip who’d put us in touch with their friends from another kayaking trip (yay more kayaking enthusiasts to befriend!).

Destination: Eastwards from Pasir Ris Beach towards Changi Village, where we pulled up for the group to get breakfast from the Changi Village Hawkers.

Water spout off Changi Beach, Singapore. When we first spotted it, there were 3 water spouts, but just this one left by the time I dug out my phone

Afterwards, we cut north towards Frog Island, a tiny expanse of sand and rocks just off the southern edge of Pulau Ubin. We hugged the coast, going westwards to Pulau Ketam, where we then went upstream into the mangrove swamps of Ubin.

In between short fizzles of rain. We were grateful for the drizzle and the cloud cover, for it helped bring the temperatures and humidity down.
Going upriver
We popped gratefully out of our kayaks to a tin-roofed shelter by the riverbend, where we rejuvenated with icy cold sweet coconuts

Fun times, as usual. 🙂

Kayaking around Pulau Ubin

It was an overcast morning, with barely any pinkish hue in the sky as the sun struggled to break free from the low clouds. But our spirits were high. It’s been a month since our crew last paddled together in Palawan, and we were all excited to be back on the waters kayaking together again, even it was in the murky waters of Singapore.

Our aim – 24 km paddle around Pulau Ubin, just across the channel from Pasir Ris beach. The was nary a breeze in the air, so the waters were glossy and calm, the air somewhat heavy with humidity. But the waters were cleaner than Jeff and my last trip out, to which I’m infinitely grateful for. We still saw bits of flotsam about, which is sad. Still, amidst the plastic odds and ends littering the beaches and mangroves, we still spied plenty of wildlife: herons, a family of 3 wild boars foraging by the waters’ edge, over 2 dozen otters slinking about on the beach, big fat monitor lizards lounging on the sand, an eagle and a hawk soaring overhead.

Photo credit: Shoe
The three Oru paddlers. Photo credit: Shoe
Heron taking off. Photo credit: TS
Exploring the mangroves – the tide was going out, otherwise, we would have tried to find a way across the island via the rivers