Australia Diaries – Never Stop Exploring – Mt Ngungun/Strawberry Farm

Another day another hike. Not contended with Lamington National Park and on the suggestion of a friend staying in Brisbane, we went to the Glass House Mountain to climb Mt Ngungun. Mt Ngungun at just 253 m is one of the many weird looking mountain there.

The hike up to the summit is via a very well maintained track with some steps carved in. Good for trail running! It is an easy hike up among thick lush vegetation until the very top where it opened up to a small bald patch of uneven rock fall.

And this comes with stunning 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

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Australia Diaries – Never Stop Exploring – Lamington National Park

Brisbane has a lot of national parks and reserve. And we were spoilt for choices. Finally we settle on Lamington National Park, one of the biggest in the area about 2 hours drive from Brisbane City. However, we took over 2 + hours to reach the place passing by the Gold Coast on the way! Consequently by the time we reached, it was almost noon.

We stopped at the Park Office to check out the trails and because we were left with only about 5 hours of walking time, and knowing our own propensity for taking our own sweet time for birding and taking photos, on the advice of the staff at the Park Office, we decided to just do a short hike that should take us about 3 hours max.

At the trail head, we came across this contraption – a device to sanitise our shoes! So that we don’t carry any unwanted things into the park. How about that. They think of everything. Apart from this minor excitement, the first part of the hike was among thick vegetation and with no view.

We did come across this tree which looks like a face.And can hear many birds but cannot see them.

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Australia Diaries – Brisbane Botanic Garden & Mt Cootha

Another must visit place on my oversea visits is the Botanic Garden in that county. Brisbane has 2 main botanic garden , the City Botanic Garden which is actually within walking distance of where we were staying but we choose the Brisbane Botanic Garden because it was on our way to Mt Cootha.

The Brisbane Botanic Garden is a 56 hectare garden opened in 1976 located in Toowong, a 15 minutes drive from the city. Upon entering the place, the main attraction seems to be a big pond where we sighted a few species of water birds like the Purple Swamp Hen, Pacific Black Duck and Euraisan Coots.

Like most garden world wide, it is divided into different theme areas like the Cactus House, Japanese Garden, Rainforest, etc

But because we came after in the afternoon after our trip to Mt Cootha, we had little time to look at the plants and instead spent the time “birding”. Apart from the water birds, we saw a flock of Bush Stone Curlew, a rare bird in all of Australia but doing well in urban Brisbane. We also has our first encounter of a Masked Lapwing which started to react fiercely when we approached. I think it has a nest somewhere. We also saw a Brush Turkey and of course many small garden birds.

A nice little place to while away the time and explore artificial nature if one is not so incline to go to the nature reserve.

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Toa Payoh Town Park

Took a walk down memory the other day when I dropped by Toa Payoh Town Park previously known as Toa Payoh Garden. In its hey days in the seventies, it was probably the 2nd most popular place in Singapore for wedding photos after the Botanic Garden. Now it is a shadow of its past mostly deserted and frequented only by exercise enthusiasts on weekend morning and Myanmar maids.

Toa Payoh Park is a smallish 4.8 hectares park dominated by a pond with beautiful overhanging willow trees.

Time seems to stand still here. Practically all the iconic landmarks are still there. Good thing is looking at the paintwork, it appear that there has been regular maintenance and everything seems relatively well maintained. 

The restaurant is still there but now it is the famous Oasis Porridge restaurant that used to be at the old Kallang Lesiuredome.

One interesting thing about Toa Park Park is that despite having a small little pond, it has multiple bridges like this nice zig zag bridge

And a similar design but straight bridge

More unique is this stone bridge reminiscent of those traditional Chinese bridge in China

The most famous of all landmark is of course the 25 metre high Observation Tower. There are only 2 other similar towers in all of Singapore – the more famous Rocket Tower at Upper Seletar Reservoir, and the gigantic one at Jurong Hill. Unfortunately the tower is now locked and the public are not allowed to go up to the top for the view not that there is much of a view. A better view can be obtained from the Toa Payoh Hub and other HDB flats around the area.

The tower was given conservation status in 2009 so which means the park is probably going to be there for a long long time to come. Nice little place but probably have outlived its purpose.

Fort Canning Park

Most major cities in the world has a park in the city.  Singapore has several but actually most of them are like giant garden with its manicured lawn, sculptures, nicely trimmed hedges and small puny little trees and shrubs. The only place that come close to being a park in the city is the Fort Canning Hill Park. This is a 18 hectare park situated on a hill overlooking the Singapore River with a very interesting history so interesting that the Heritage Board or whatever authorities had an archaeological dig there and part of the dig site has been left for visitors to view.

In the old days, Fort Canning was also known as the Forbidden Hill where in the early days the Malay rulers were supposingly buried there.  Hence the place became a sacred hill. Even till today, there is a shrine or Keramat of one such ruler, Iskandar Shah.

Interestingly beside the Keramat which is Malay in nature, there is another cemetery on Fort Canning and this one belongs to the European. 

When Sir Stamford Raffles came to Singapore, he set up his base at Fort Canning and Fort Canning became Government Hill and all things associated with the earlier colonial rulers including cemetary sprung up there. In the later year, the British set up a fort there to “defend” against the Japanese. And because it is a fort, naturally there are bunkers Continue Reading →

Windsor Nature Park

Singapore opens another “nature” park – the Windsor Nature Park which is actually what to me used to me part of the MacRitchie Reservoir entering from the Venus Road side. And naturally knowing how authorities’ fixation on clean and neat, what used to be a nice semi-wild trail is now very sadly sanitised.

Like this broadwalk here. Previously it was just a nice trail with railings at the side to prevent people from encroaching into one of the few remaining natural stream left in Singapore. Now there is this nice broadwalk. Oh well, I suppose if it helps to keep the people from trampling all over.

The stream that goes into the forest. When the kids were younger and I was not into this nature protection thingy, we came here to catch the little longkang fish like guppy, mosquitoes fish, cichlids and the occasional barbs. Nowadays, activities like that are forbidden and carry a heavy fine which is good as we need to protect the little bit of nature that we have left although I must said most of the fishes there nowadays are not “local”. 

In addition to the broadwalk from the Venus Road carpark where there is now a Visitor Centre and a toilet, there is another new broadwalk, the Drongo Trail running almost parallel with the old trail adjacent to the SICC road. This broadwalk is above ground level and allow visitors to see at least the mid level of the trees and its inhabitants. This will leads to MacRitchie Reservoir.

From Venus Road entrance, there is another trail called Venus Walk but this is a cemented path and leads to the Windsor housing estate. It does look very nice though and very “runnable” hahaha.

Fortunately, my favourite part of this trail which is now officially known as Venus Loop has been left largely untouched and there is still this beautiful canopy tunnel as well as the winding trails for me to run through.

Overall I must admit Nparks have done a good job of striking a nice balance between keeping the place as natural as possible and yet protecting the environment. The expected popular area have been reinforced with the broadwalk and most of the trees and plants appear to be left untouched.