The North East of Singapore has quiet cycling paths past the sea, wildlife and photogenic vintage houses. Let’s go exploring.
A Park Connector in Singapore is a narrow green corridor of plants and pathways between two bigger parks. Part of a network of paths and cycle lanes managed by NParks or the National Parks Board, the five park connectors in Singapore let you walk or bicycle all around the city, without leaving green space.
Fun fact: Park Connnectors are such a bright idea for urban wildlife, that Singapore’s park connector system has been studied by various cities around the work, including Dublin, Ireland, and Toronto, Canada.
We’re headed to the Park Connector named the North Eastern Riverine Loop. One of the most picturesque park connectors in the country, this route takes you on a 26-kilometre journey alongside reservoirs and waterways, and brings you to the open ocean waters of the Johor Straits.
With stretches of coastlines, canals and wetlands, the loop has a colourful variety of birds and a unique range of plant life to discover – plus you can see Singapore’s last surviving kampong, or village.
So follow us along this very scenic Park Connector in Singapore, the North Eastern Riverine Loop.
Things to do at the North Eastern Riverine Loop
1. Rent a bicycle at Punggol Park
Welcome to Punggol Park; a 16 hectare park with a beautiful wide lake as its centrepiece. The nearest MRT train station is Buangkok, about 10 minutes walk to the park’s entrance at the junction of Hougang Avenues 8 and 10. The park is actually located along the borders of Hougang and Sengkang residential areas. So in theory, you can get off at those MRT stations as well. But the walks are much longer.
Besides being a great place for walking and running, Punggol Waterway Park has plenty of cycling lanes. And you can rent a bicycle right here.
GoCycling is a bicycle rental shop with outlets in parks and cycle shops around Singapore. You can also pick up a bike at one outlet, and return it at another. The company has four locations around Punggol. Rates start from $8/hr for adult bikes, and $6/hr for kids bikes. If you have little kids, try out their family bike, a kind of bicycle-powered golf buggy which seats four people, $35/h. On weekdays, your second hour of cycling is free, on weekends, the third hour is free.
Now you’ve got wheels, let’s follow the signs and start exploring!
2. Chill at a cafe, or dine at the Punggol Container Park
Punggol Container Park is a modern hawker centre made from colourful repurposed containers. The alfresco seating only adds to the atmosphere, and at night, fairy lights transform this place into something magical.
Officially known as the Social Entrepreneurship and Eco-Park Development (or SEED), the Punggol Container Park was built to promoting sustainability and innovation. So each container eatery has its own unique social mission — for example by offering employment for single-parents or ex-offenders.
You can relax with a cold beer at Miami Bistro, or head to bistros like Big Fish Small Fish, famous for Dory Fish & Chips ($7.90), or Seoul Good, famous for a massive Korean-style Strawberry Bingsu dessert of shaved ice ($18.90).
If you’re still able to move after your meal, there’s a futsal court nearby.
SEED Park Container Restaurants
Address: 50 Punggol East, 828826
Tel: 6312 6200
Opening hours: 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. (Daily)
3. Take snapshots at Lorong Halus Red Bridge
A stone’s throw away from the Punggol Container Park lies the iconic Lorong Halus Red Bridge. This Instagram-worthy bridge connects Punggol to Lorong Halus, where you can access the town of Pasir Ris. On both sides of the bridge, you get great views of Sungei Serangoon (or Serangoon River).
The bridge is popular with cyclists and urban explorers, and is a great place to watch the sunset in the evening. It also leads to a dirt path where you can access the East Entrance of Coney Island.
Oh, and at times, groups of grey macaque monkeys can be found chilling on this bridge. While they aren’t usually aggressive, give them plenty of space and keep your food properly stowed away.
4. Admire Serangoon Reservoir
After crossing a little river called Punggol Waterway, you enter a lesser-travelled portion of the North Eastern Riverine Loop Park Connector in Singapore. A short wooden bridge leads you right to the water’s edge — here, you can look out over Serangoon Reservoir and spot the Serangoon Reservoir Dam, and Coney Island to its left.
Tip: Because this portion is less-travelled, it’s much more quiet and peaceful than the Lorong Halus Red Bridge, and the sunset here is equally breathtaking. Take in the views of the reservoir and the dam, and give yourself a breather before you continue your journey along Singapore’s northeast coast.
5. Refuel at Punggol Point (and spot Malaysia!)
The North Eastern Riverine Loop continues along the coastline until Punggol Point, where you’ll find a pier and some shops. There is a 7-11 convenience store where you can get a drink, or an ice cream. There’s also restaurants serving good-value family dishes with a view of the sea. The dishes are great for family meals and include seafood tze-char, white bee hoon and mookata, a Thai-style pork skillet dish.
At Punggol Point Jetty, Malaysia looks like just a short swim away. But it would be a dangerous swim. The ocean currents in this narrow passage are very strong, and there’s plenty of international shipping moving through here. It’s better to wander along the beach or take a dip at this beach, which is a mix of sand and rocks
6. Get bicycle gears at Punggol Marina Country Club
When you start to pass lots of apartment blocks with views of the sea, you know you’re near the swanky but welcoming Marina Country Club. The club is open to the public and you can enjoy the facilities on a “pay per use” basis. Two bicycle shops can be found here – Wheelers and Scootway. Other than that, you can find restaurants, fishing posts, a rugged gym – and even a dog’s obstacle training course.
7. Chill out on Jewel Bridge
On one end of Punggol Waterway lies Jewel Bridge, where a gentle slope leads you up to the bridge’s vantage point. in front of you is the serene Punggol reservoir, while behind you is luscious Punggol Waterway Park — a 4-kilometre park segmented into four different themes: Nature Cove, Recreation Zone, Heritage Zone and Green Gallery.
Honestly, you can spend a whole day at Punggol Waterway Park. If you’re into fitness, you can jog or cycle on the well-maintained tracks alongside the water, or you can just sit on the many benches placed around the park and enjoy the soothing sounds of the park’s many fountains, waterfalls and streams. With so mnuch water, this park is a great place to spot butterflies and wild birds.
Fun fact: With so much fresh water, Punggol used to be famous for fruit orchards and fruit markets. In Bahasa Malay, “punggol” means hitting a tree branch with sticks, to dislodge ripe fruit. Many Southeast Asian fruit trees are very tall (for example rambutan and mangosteen). For such fruit, punggol used to be the only way to get the fruit down.
8. Recharge at Sengkang Floating Wetlands
And we are back in the residential district of Sengkang! Have you ever seen a giant Mangosteen fruit floating in the middle of the river? Well, you can find one here, in Singapore’s second-largest man-made wetlands. Sengkang Floating Wetlands is an eco-friendly water-treatment plant… made of floating plants.
The water plants are coralled into a pen that floats in the middle of the reservoir. This bioengineering marvel naturally improves the water quality of Punggol reservoir, and it also provides a natural habitat for fishes and birds. Any junior scientists in your family can even sign up for water-testing classes to gain insights into the bioengineering techniques used here.
After you’ve cycled over the reservoir, you’ll find the Anchorvale Community Club, as well as the Sengkang Sports Centre. They are both open to the public and come equipped with a gym, a huge public pool, as well as eateries like McDonald’s and Pastamania. Otherwise, just take some time to relax by the wetlands and enjoy the views.
9. Visit Kampung Lorong Buangkok
The last highlight on the Park Connectors Singapore North Eastern Riverine Loop is Kampung Lorong Buangkok; mainland Singapore’s last existing kampung or village. The village still houses around 30 Malay and Chinese families, living in brightly-painted wooded houses, amidst the towering condominiums and apartments.
You’ll probably want to take photos, and that’s fine, but do be aware that people live here. It’s not Disneyland. It’s real, and it’s a look back into a quieter time in Singapore’s history.
Off the Beaten Trail:
Discover Lorong Halus
Remember the red bridge? After crossing it from Punggol Waterway, you will find yourself at Lorong Halus Wetlands, serving an important along the Serangoon Reservoir. Besides treating the water before it flows in into the reservoir, the Lorong Halus Wetlands is an idyllic location for photoshoots, or just to escape from busy streets. It also has public restrooms so you can stop for a quick toilet break before you continue on your journey.
Get lost in the quiet forests of Coney Island
Have a little bit of time to spare? Explore Pulau Serangoon, also known as Coney Island. At one time, there were grand plans to turn this sandy island into a funfair attraction like New York’s Coney Island. But nothing happened! Now Coney Island is just a quiet little island filled with whispering Casurina trees, flat hiking trails and small sandy beaches that are perfect for a quiet swim. Read more here.
By Derrick Tan, July 2021 / All images by Derrick Tan