A short excursion to Singapore’s countryside

While most people may have the impression that countryside does not exist in this highly urbanized tiny little red dot, the reality is, countryside is thriving and alive here. Do you know that you can walk in the nature, do bird watching, buy organic produce, and have a kampong-style lunch in a farm, all in a morning without leaving Singapore? Yes! We just did it last Sunday. Where? At Neo Tiew area in Lim Chu Kang, which is located in the northwestern part of Singapore.

Here is our itinerary for a relaxing and joyful morning:

9am: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

This is a Nature Park with 220ha of mangroves, mudflats, ponds and forests. It is also an important wetland for migratory birds.  The reserve has 3 main walking trails. The first is the Coastal Trail that connects the newly opened Visitor Centre (accessible from Kranji Way) to the older Wetland Centre at Neo Tiew Crescent. The second is a short wheelchair accessible boardwalk that starts from the Wetland Centre. The third is the Migratory Bird trail that encircles the Buloh Tidal Ponds.

Map of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve from NPark website.

For this trip, we picked the Migratory Bird trail. The Migratory Bird trail is accessible from the Wetland Centre through the Main Bridge over the Sungei Buloh Besar, which translates into Big Bamboo River in English, literally. We did see quite a few bamboo groves here and there in the park, of which the river is name after. The Main Bridge is a good place for fish spotting. The most common fish we spotted was the Halfbeaks, a type of fish with a long upper jaw. We also spotted a school of fishes with yellow back near the shoreline at the end of the Main Bridge. It might be the Banded Archerfish which can spit water to knock down insects from trees, but we were not sure.

A mudskipper resting in its private swimming pool.
A mudskipper resting in its private swimming pool.

There are several platforms and bird hides along the Migratory Bird trail for bird watching. We met many bird watching enthusiasts, or twitchers, on this trail. They all equipped with camouflage cameras with high power zoom lens, stationing at various spots waiting for the birds. It is definitely a hobby that requires patience and attention to detail. Well, for us, the casual walkers, we simply strolled along. Taking a peak at each of the bird hides and platforms hoping to catch a glimpse of some birds and wildlife. We saw a few types of birds: egrets, sandpipers, and a larger bird looked like heron. I am not a twitcher, so, don’t expect I know the birds. With the hot weather, we also bumped into a few monitor lizards which came on the trail for sunbathing. Along the trail there is also an Aerial Tower that offers a good 360-degree view of the whole reserve. It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to complete the whole 3km trail. Just a slow walk with plenty of stops to enjoy the serenity of the nature and spot some mudskippers. This is not a strenuous walk, but at least we took more than 3600 steps to complete the trail.

10.30 am: Kin Yan Agrotech

We next visited Kin Yan Agrotech at 220 Neo Tiew Crescent, which is less than 10 min walk from the Wetland Centre of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Kin Yan Agrotech is known as a grower of wheatgrass, aloe vera, and mushrooms in Singapore. According the company’s sales person on site, the company supplies 90% of the fresh wheatgrass for consumption in Singapore daily. The company also grows and sells pea sprouts, cactus and Roselle. The wheatgrass farm is open for visitor, for larger groups of visitors, they can also provide educational tour.

Fresh Roselle fruits
Fresh Roselle fruits

We have visited Kin Yan Agrotech a few times, so we knew exactly what we wanted. We went straight into the farm shop for shopping. We bought some fresh pea sprouts, oyster mushrooms, and fresh Roselle fruits, as well as a young aloe vera plant for growing at home. We also bought a bottle of chilled honey aloe vera drink to quench our thirst. Unfortunately, although it had no added sugar, it was simply too sweet that we had to dilute it with lots of water.

11.00 am: Fire Flies Health Farm

We next headed towards Fire Flies Health Farm located at 62 Lim Chu Kang Lane 2. This is a Singapore farm that adheres to the organic farming principles. The farm operates a retail shop selling organic produce from their own farm as well as products from other places. Visitors can walk around the farm freely, accessible from behind the retail shop. We came here to do our shopping. So we loaded the shopping basket with fresh organic produces including Amaranth leaves (苋菜), ginger, rockets, sweet potato leaves, and lettuces. These were all freshly picked from the farm behind. We didn’t stay for long to walk around the farm this time since our stomach started to growl by then. So it was time to head toward our next destination for lunch.

11.30 am: Bollywood Veggies

Bollywood Veggies is located at 100 Neo Tiew Road. It is an educational farm with a bistro. The premise is also well developed with proper function rooms for events and activities. There is a store right at the front entrance of the premise selling the farm produce and potted plants. However, since we were hungry already, we headed straight to the Poison Ivy bistro just next to the front store.  We opted for outdoor dining to get close to the lush greenery. A sense of eating in a kampong (i.e. village in Malay).

Poison Ivy Bistro
Poison Ivy Bistro
Chinese vegetarian platter
Chinese vegetarian platter

Although this is not a vegetarian restaurant, they do serve vegetarian options. We ordered a small Chinese vegetarian platter with brown rice for two to share. The platter came with spring rolls, Moringa tempura, seasoned tofu and vegetables curry. The dishes were simple but nicely decorated with flowers. Overall, I found the Moringa tempura to be too oily; spring rolls were also deep fried and thus failed my healthy meal standard. However, the seasoned tofu and vegetables curry were good to go with the brown rice. It would be better if the flowers were edible as part of a salad on this platter. This would have made the platter a healthier choice. Anyway, with a price of S$15 for two to share, I am not complaining.

After lunch, we had a stroll in the farm behind. Unlike the previous two places that we visited, Bollywood Veggies is not a commercial farm planted with rolls of similar crops. It grows a variety of edible plants scattered around a large piece of lands, which makes it more like a countryside in old kampong days! We took a good 20-minute walk to cover most of the farm before heading towards the store at the front entrance. We bought a Moringa plant from there. By then, I was almost 1 pm and we decided to call it for the day.

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End note

Singapore’s countryside is very accessible. So, if you are looking to get away from the endless scenes of MRT, HDB, shopping malls, and skyscrapers in Singapore, then go for a break in the Kranji countryside to get some fresh air and enjoy the rustic appearance that is so different from the rest of Singapore!

For more info about each of the places above please visit their websites as follows:

  1. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/sungei-buloh-wetland-reserve)
  2. Kin Yan Agrotech (www.kinyan.biz)
  3. Fire Flies Health Farm (http://fireflies.sg/wp/)
  4. Bollywood Veggies (bollywoodveggies.com)

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