Singapore's breathtaking reservoir park

Singapore’s breathtaking reservoir park

Completed in 1986 following the damming of Sungei Seletar, Lower Seletar Reservoir stretches along a 14-kilometre shoreline in the north-east of Singapore. Its importance as an environmental treasure for Singapore canot be overstated, as it contains some 9.5 cubic metres of fresh water.

The reservoir has been open to recreational sailing and sports fishing since the mid-2000's. In 2004 the Public Utilities Board agreed to allow sailing, in collaboration with the Seletar Country Club and the Singapore Sports Council. This was the first time that such an activity had been allowed on Singapore's local reservoirs. Fishing is also permitted in designated areas in the Lower Seletar Reservoir.

The Reservoir Park, lying on the southern shores of the reservoir, has become a magnet for strollers, walkers and wildlife-spotters. For those who prefer even more laid-back pursuits in their leisure time than boating or fishing, there are numerous scenic walks to choose from. Public benches have also been arranged to allow perfect views of the tranquil waters. The area is fully-equipped for activities, with a 1.3-kilometre jogging track, a jetty and restrooms. The park is easily accessible, close by to Seletar Teleport.

Whether trekking along the reservoir shores, or tackling the rainforest canopy walks, the wildlife which can be seen is always breathtaking. Thousands of species of flora and fauna will catch the eye amongst this ancient forest area.

Enjoyment of the area's facilities have been further enhanced with the introduction of a complete smoking ban. Recent tightening of health regulations means that anyone caught lighting up anywhere in the park's three hectares now faces a fine of up to £2,000. This puts Lower Seletar Reservoir Park on a par with seven other Singapore parks as part of a broader initiative to create smoke-free zones right across the city state. As well as the beautiful reservoir environment, visitors can enjoy a nicotine-free experience when they go to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Bedok Reservoir Park, Hort Park and Yishun Neighbourhood 8 Park.

In order to enforce these new positive health rules, a team of volunteers has been raised from residents of Nee Soon South. Promoted as the region's health ambassadors, their task is to go out into the park in order to inform visitors of the smoke-free status. This initiative is seen as particularly positive for the many westerners who visit this area, and might be anticipating the smoky environments that sometimes plague otherwise scenic tourist hotspots in other parts of the Far East.

Singapore's gold medal triumph

Singapore’s gold medal triumph

Singapore's Mok Ying Ren triumphed at the 2013 Southeast Asia Games in Myanmar, winning a marathon gold against the odds. He's now embarking on his journey towards the Rio Olympics 2016.

The 25-year old triathlete achieved some of his earlier successes, including a triathlon gold at the SEA Games in Thailand in 2007, while still a full-time medical student. But to say the Singapore athlete's present success came as something of a surprise is an understatement.

Even as reporters clustered by the finishing line at the Wunna Theidiki stadium, in Myanmar's new capital city, Naypyidaw, word had come from officials on the marathon route that Mok was struggling in fourth place, and still with six kilometres to go.

The national mark of two hours, 24-minutes and 22-seconds, previously set by Rameshon Murugiah at the 1995 SEA Games, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, passed by. Mok's own personal best achievement of two hours, 26-minutes and 33-seconds was the next milestone to come and go as the crowd waited for the front-runners to enter the arena. But, with a flurry of activity, with cameras flashing en-masse and spectators craning to get a better view, one of the athletes was finally seen to make his way onto the track for the race's grand finale. All of a sudden a cry began ringing out: “It's Mok! It's Mok!”

Dressed in his customary bright red colours, his fist punching the air with jubilation, the figure in question was the slight 1.7-metre frame of the Singaporean athletic star. Mok proudly made his way towards the finishing-line, without any sign of other runners creeping up behind to overtake him during those fraught final moments.

Mok's time of two hours, 28-minutes and 35-seconds may not be a world record, but it does put him in Singapore's history books. He is the first male athlete from the tiny Asian city state to strike gold at the SEA Games. His achievement is all the more remarkable because the last Singaporean to earn a medal was female track star Kandasam Jayamani, who finished first in 1983, five years before Mok was even born.

Mok's brave performance what a classic example of triumph over adversity. He himself claimed that the achievement was one of his “hardest marathons ever”. Combating an extreme cough the night before with doses of syrup, he cannot have felt at his prime making his way to the starting block. Amongst the other hurdles he had to face prior to the race even starting was the fact he booked out of a National Service medical officer training course 24 hours earlier. After boarding a plane to Myanmar, he faced a grilling six-hour drive just to arrive in time to take his place at the event.

A hero of the riot in Singapore's Little India

A hero of the riot in Singapore’s Little India

When a construction worker was fatally struck by a bus in Singapore late in 2013, chaotic scenes swiftly ensued. A large crowed of his fellow Indian migrants surrounded the bus and a riot situation escalated. As matters worsened, police arriving on the scene found themselves confronted by a large and volatile crowd. Ignoring pleas to disperse, some of the antagonists armed themselves with anything that came to hand. Railings and bottles began to rain down on the police officers. Police cars and even an ambulance were torched.

As the scene deteriorated, local shopkeepers sprung into action, pulling down the shutters on their premises in order to minimize potential damage. But in amongst the disturbing footage that was broadcast to a shocked television audience throughout Singapore and beyond, a far more positive story emerged.

As the rioters turned on the bus unfortunate enough to have caused the original accident, attacking it with a variety of instruments, a lone hero emerged from the crowds. Commendably placing his own safety second, a local electrician named Thangavai Govindarasu defied the mob and went out of his way to stop troublemakers from ransacking the bus. He also pulled the bus timekeeper out of harm's way, preventing the situation from deteriorating completely.

The media of all shapes and sizes have been swift to pounce on this story. While the riot itself was nasty, particularly if any sort of lynching situation was narrowly avoided, it was thankfully short-lived. By the following morning Little India had returned to complete normality, with very little evidence of the tragic events that had occurred a matter of hours beforehand. The police blamed a lot of the violence on drunken troublemakers. Migrant community leaders were quick to condemn the anti-social activities that have blighted the name of a community that has been welcomed in Singapore for a number of years.

The so-called hero of the riot, Thangaval Govindarasu, presents a far more positive image of the way migrant workers have successfully integrated into Singapore's society. The 38 year-old father of one left his Indian home town of Tamil Naidu 11 years ago, seeking employment prospects in Singapore. During that time he has become a successful electrician, and no doubt his new-found high media profile will lead to his considerable skills becoming much sought after.

The Singapore dance scene#44 exemplified by Zouk

The Singapore dance scene#44 exemplified by Zouk

The Singapore outdoor dance festival, ZoukOut, was its usual triumphant success at the end of 2013. The two-day event, which runs annually on Sentosa Beach, has been attracting crowds of enthusiastic revelers for many years.

Zouk has been instrumental in introducing a whole new audience to house music. Amongst the numerous and often bewildering sub-genres of dance culture, house was not widely appreciated in Singapore. What the original wave of DJ's did was to blend house music with more recognizable chart hits from the 1970s and 1980s during a ‘retro' themed night at the Zouk club every Wednesday. This quickly took off, and once the Zouk DJ's had their audience's attention, they began throwing in all sorts of dance variations.

Less of a club and more of a phenomenon, Zouk itself is actually comprised of three houses, as well as the world-renowned beach party. The three clubs are actually interconnected. Zouk, the 'elder statesman' of the trio, has been welcoming clubbers since 1991. It is known for its vast dancefloor and state of the art sound and lights system. For those wanting a less frenetic atmosphere, the Velvet Underground has been catering for chilled-out partygoers since 1994. This is held in a lounge, playing quieter and more laid-back soul music. The third house is future, which has been providing more specialized and avant-garde rhythms since 1996, noticeably trip-hop and broken beats.

Named after the Creole word for party, Zouk has won the Singapore Tourist Board ‘Best Nightspot Experience' award no fewer than six times between 1997 and 2007. As well as this accolade, the highly influential DJ Magazine voted Zouk the club as tenth on a global top-100 three times: in 2006, 2007 and then again in 2010.

But it is the ZukOut beach party that has really been attracting attention. Tens of thousands of enthusiastic partygoers gather at Senotosa Beach to relish the unforgettable atmosphere. Held every year in Singapore since 2000, ZoukOut is one of the largest festivals of its kind on the continent. The range of prestigious DJ's who have performed here include some of the biggest names doing the circuit: Masters at Work, Richie Hawkin, Sven Vath, Peter Kruder, Paul Van Dyck, James Lavelle and the English club legends Stereo MC's. The biggest crowd that the event has attracted has been 2008's phenomenal record of 26,000.

During 2010's Grand Prix season, Zouk ran a special event to commemorate the racing competition, featuring two of the current hottest DJ's, the Canadian Tiga, and the Frenchman Martin Solveig.