The Straits Times: Night at the parks

Singapore’s many green spaces are often a hive of activity after dark, The Straits Times reports.

Night at the parks

WHEN night falls, courting couples are not the only ones who flock to Singapore’s many parks on a weekday.

At Gardens by the Bay, camera-toting folk come to snap a perfect night shot of the new attraction.

On this particular Monday evening, Mr Jonathan Danker does not simply point and shoot. Instead, he dangles an empty plastic bottle in front of the camera and waits 10 seconds before he fires off a shot.

The result is an out-of-focus but psychedelic night shot of the Supertrees’ reflection in the lake.

It is 10pm, and other shutterbugs there are also in no hurry to go home. But unlike Mr Danker, 26, a professional photographer, they are more content to snap whatever catches their fancy.

It is the novelty factor of the new place, says Mr Danker, whose passion for his craft has seen him photographing Marina Bay Sands for two years.

‘Even though the buildings don’t change, the skies change so my pictures look different,’ he notes. ‘As for Gardens by the Bay, this will be the last time I come here in a while. I’ll be back only when the crowd is gone, so I can take pictures without people wandering into the shot.’

But it is uncertain if he will ever have total privacy, for groups of teenagers have made the gardens their new hip and cool hangout. Among them is Syed Faris, who is celebrating his 18th birthday with two friends along the banks of the scenic Marina Bay, facing the Singapore Flyer and the Marina Bay Sands.

‘It is a quiet and peaceful way to celebrate my birthday,’ says Faris, who is waiting to be enlisted for national service.

It is quiet – until they blast American punk rockers Green Day’s song Boulevard Of Broken Dreams from a laptop.

But the night joggers go about their exertions with a lot more calmness. Mr Daniel Ho, a retiree in his 60s who hardly looks his age, has run for two hours from the Botanic Gardens to the Gardens by the Bay.

‘It is not tiring, especially at night,’ he says, adding that he jogs two to three times a week. His favourite park is the Botanic Gardens near his house, where plants have had time to bloom. ‘But I’m looking forward to the day when the trees at Gardens by the Bay mature,’ he says.

Elsewhere, other community parks are also a hive of activity when night falls. The revamped Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, which reopened in March, is a magnet for couples, who snuggle on the full-body length benches, and groups of people with a hunger for late-night snacks and drinks at the several food outlets.

One lone figure stands out in the dark. The woman, who wants to be known only as Madam Rani, does not want strangers to come close and frighten the 10 stray cats she is feeding.

She introduces herself as ‘Tiger’ and ‘Mother’ to the cats.

She says she stopped keeping cats at home after a neighbour allegedly poisoned her one-year-old kitten, Lakshmi.

‘My heart cannot take it,’ she says in tears.

She adds that her love for cats stems from her mistrust in human beings after she was cheated of her money many years ago, leaving her with ‘not five cents, not even one cent left’.

Over at Bedok Reservoir Park, an eatery called Wawawa Bistro is where a steady stream of patrons gets fed every evening.

The place, which serves Western fare over a mix of Top 40 hits and 1990s pop, opened early this year near a segment of the Berlin Wall that is on display at the park.

‘There is a trend of young Singaporeans chilling out over the relaxed ambience of a bistro,’ says co-founder Chiam Wee Leong, 28, citing options such as Canopy in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Wild Oats in Punggol Park.

‘Dempsey Hill and Mohamed Sultan Road have somewhat quietened down over the years,’ he claims. He notes that families with children visit in the evenings while, after 10pm, the crowds are mostly young working adults.

For Ms Rosamund Tong, a 30-something sales accounts manager who works in the Central Business District, the casual atmosphere at Wawawa prompts her and her friends to visit at least twice a week.

‘It is busy, cramped and crowded in town. Besides, we live around here, and the bistro is a secluded area where we can relax and chit-chat over dinner and drinks.’

A healthy weekday night crowd also park themselves at a park connector called @Punggol that has a cluster of food and drink outlets, pool tables and a fishing spot. There, onlookers and fishermen cheer when a huge fish is caught.

In comparison, a little-known fishing spot nearby is much quieter. Off the Lorong Halus Wetland Park where Sungei Serangoon meets Sungei Dekar, about 10 enthusiasts prefer the challenge of the unpredictable open sea, even as mosquitoes make a meal of them.

Businessman Hazlee Suip, 34, may wait four hours before catching a sea bass that weighs less than 1kg, but that catch is enough of a reward for him.

‘I don’t like the pond. I like the sea as it is more challenging,’ he says, before rushing off to cover his fish bait and thousand-dollar equipment with a waterproof sheet to protect them from the midnight rain.

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