As usual, I set off from home at 6.00am this morning and took the LRT to the starting point of my morning walk. It was still dark and traffic was light. The little train going towards Punggol MRT was not even half full. The train going in the opposite direction was completely empty. It seemed like any other morning.
I rode alone and got off at Riveria. After descending from the station, I walked past the landscaping plot and the police station. The riverfront dining area was still fast asleep. The restaurants and bistros which must have operated late into Sunday night were still many hours from opening. I descending onto the track and started my long walk down Sungei Serangoon towards Punggol Beach. I knew that there were very few walkers and joggers at this hour. There were more cyclists and one has to be careful of the reckless ones who often assumed that the track was all theirs. My son was once knocked down and injured by a speeding bike.
At this hour, Sungei Serangoon is an eerie body of water separating Punggol from the forests of Lorong Halus and Tampines as it heads towards the brightly-lit dam. There was nothing to see. No birds were singing. As a habit, I would plug into my MP3 player and listen to an audiobook. I try to read as much as I can, so even when I’m walking, I listen to a book being read to me. You may laugh at me, but the power of an “obsolete” MP3 player lasts a lot longer than that of a smartphone. So I was happily listening to how this “maniac” trades commodity futures as I walked at the speed of a slow jog when I spotted a lady about my age walking in front of me. She was positively athletic and even though my pace was rather brisk, she managed to stay ahead of me.
Then, something unusual happened. A cyclist stopped his bike on the track and waited. In front of him, was a snake slithering its way across the cycling track. I’ve often seen snails and millipedes crushed on the cycling track, but this cyclist had stopped his bike and stood there to protect the snake as it slowly glided its way towards the bushes. It was a rare sighting – not just the snake but human compassion. I went over the bridge across the eastern end of Punggol Waterway and continued my walk along the former coastline. The lights of the dam came into full view, casting dazzling waves on the surface of the water.
The lady appeared again and she overtook me. We walked on, keeping Coney Island to our right when she suddenly turned back and headed straight towards me. I pulled one plug out of my ear.
“Yes?” I asked nervously.
“Are you walking all the way?” she asked.
“Yes.” I replied.
“Good. I just want some company.”
I smiled and nodded. She went on walking. I forgot to check myself in the bathroom mirror before coming out this morning, but I guessed I probably looked like a perfectly good guy that morning. I didn’t expect any unusual encounters that morning, but the lady’s intuition probably told her I would be “useful”. About 200m after she approached me, we came across a pack of stray dogs, lying on grass. I was not sure if they recognised me, but I was actually expecting them. The lady bolted when she saw the dogs and ran to hide behind me. The dogs rose and walked towards us. Familiar with such encounters, I walked on nonchalantly, pretending that the dogs weren’t even there.
Soon, there were no dogs in sight. She walked on, a little bit ahead of me. Then, I spotted a rock on the cycling track. It looked like a piece of coral, the size and shape of a large starfruit. Concerned that it might cause an accident to some unsuspecting cyclist, I stopped to pick up the rock and threw it into the bushes. All of a sudden, a cyclist stopped his bike next to me. It wasn’t the same person who protected the snake. He smiled and showed me a thumbs up after seeing what I did.
We soon came to the land bridge joining Punggol to the other end of Coney Island. The sun had not risen but the sky was already bright. Sunrise is normally at about 7.30am but it was a hazy day with no chance of a seeing perfect sunrise. I didn’t bother to stop. We walked on along Punggol Beach in the direction of the jetty, passing shut restaurants which had seen long queues and huge crowds just the night before.
I realised that as a rule, the beach would be dirtiest on a Monday morning, thanks to the Sunday crowds. But there was a difference today. The beach was unusually clean. It was high tide and I could see the rocks through the unusually clear water. The lady turned around when she reached the viewing platform. She smiled and thanked me for the company. I continued my walk towards Punggol Marina. About 200m away from the jetty, I ran into an elderly gentleman coming in the opposite direction. I was sure we’ve not met and I don’t even remember what he looked like now, but he gave me a most friendly smile and I smiled back. It was a great start to the day, the unimpressive sunrise nonwithstanding. Let’s hope we all find and meet the right kind of people on all our morning walks.
© Chan Joon Yee