On a typical bus trip around town, I decide to make an unplanned stop and walk the rest of the way to the station. On one side of the road appears to be primitive jungle; apartment blocks line the other side. Pathways line rolling mounds, as far as the eye can see; houses line the sides of the parklands and people of all walks of life frolic, exercise and picnic on the lakeside. A huge Buddhist temple is visible in the distance in between high-rise condominiums.
Of course, Singapore is probably the last city a visitor would come to expect such a large expanse of parkland – at least one which has not been artificially manufactured by the government – in the middle of suburbia. And of course, enterprise is never far away – a McDonalds is planted oddly in the middle of the park, somewhat out-of-place – yet Bishan Park is a reminder that the family life of the local fields, recreation and relaxation does exist outside the tourist-catered grounds and in the real lives of everyday Singaporeans.
On either side, the jumble of HDB flats and their roofs is a stark reminder of the pressure and stress of life in the lion city, the hawker centres at their ground levels hallmarks of their embrace of food, and the gated schools with their own athletic grounds symbolic of the youth’s regimented lifestyle. Nonetheless, urban planners have found the space to remind their people that there is still such a thing as relaxation – and now, they are finding the time.