Saturday, 8 January 2011

Singapore Sights Loop Running Route

Click here for route map
Length: 7.5 km (4.7 miles), terrain flat

Singapore Running Routes:
Main tourist sights  
East Coast Park  
For other running routes, see Routes List.

Pictures courtesy of Google StreetView.

NOTE: Singapore is in the tropics, and the climate is muggy: expect very high humidity, so try to run in the mornings, when the air is coolest.

I love Singapore now, but my first impression of the city/country was, so to say, a bit boring: A downtown full of sterile banking high-rises, but not much life in the streets, everything a well-oiled money machine. It was lacking the funkier evening streetlife that you can find in Hong Kong, and there was nothing there to compare with London's West End for entertainment. It seemed even more suspect to me when I saw how Singaporeans liked to spend their evenings strolling on Orchard Road, which is basically a string of shopping malls. Why anyone would want to spend their free time in a mall has always mystified me.
Cricket Club and Supreme Court
All in all, my judgement was that the breathless redevelopment of the town center had created one new sky-scraper after another, but somehow none of them seemed to touch the elegance and human-proportions of the old, British colonial architecture.

But I had to admit, it was all, well, very pleasant. Landscaping has been lavished on every corner and along every street. There are nice parks and lots of waterfront. Everything is clean, crime-free and, there's that word again: pleasant. Singapore learned from the British to adorn their bridges and public places with flowers, but with a decidedly tropical, exotic flavor. I would have named the place Pleasantville, if anyone ever asked me, not that anyone is planning to.

And now the Singapore city planners have decided to make the town more lively. In the last few years, they have been building new theaters, tourist attractions, stadiums, casinos and golf courses at a furious rate, all concentrated around the waterfront area. The north end of Marina Bay has been built up with the Esplanade theaters and a whole quarter full of modern office buildings, shopping, hotels, etc. along Nicoll Highway. It looks like Lisbon's Oriente quarter, the ex-World's Fairgrounds, and it has been topped off with a London Eye-ish ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer. And the town seems to be genuinely a more fun place to be, but still remaining really pleasant.

It also took me a bit of time to discover that the older neighborhoods to the east and west of downtown have a lot of charm and variety: it's an ethnic mix with a blending of lots of interesting sights and smells. You'll find shops with signs in Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, trendy boutiques, one after the other. There are Tao temples, Buddist shrines, mosques, Hindu temples and churches all in a row.

So, now that I finally learned to appreciate Singapore, here's a jogging route that visits a lot of this stuff, and lets you discover all the pleasantries awaiting you in this very pleasant place.

Singapore Sights Route
We'll do a loop through the city center, from Outram in the southwest to Kallang in the northeast, zig-zagging through the most interesting neighborhoods. And where's a better place to start than in the heart of town, at Bridge Street on the Singapore River. With the parliament building across the bridge, you'll see the line of bum boats (ex-river barges, now tourist tourboats) lined up in the river. Along the riverfront on the right, on Boat Quay, is a line of waterfront restaurants and pubs in colonial-era row-houses, my favorite place to spend a warm Singapore evening.
Bridge Road starting place, Boat Quay dwarfed by downtown in background
Run straight down Boat Quay, with the water to your left, until you come to that great old Victorian suspension bridge, with the grand old Fullerton Hotel on your right. Turn left and run across the suspension bridge. You will run right towards the Asian Civilizations Museum in its restored government building.

On the other side of the bridge, turn left and run along the water to the statue of Sir Thomas Raffles, the city's founder, at his original landing spot. Then turn right and run along the sidewalk between the museum and the old parliament on your left. You'll then run along the backside of the Victoria Theatre.
Raffles' Landing
After the theater, you'll come out onto St. Andrew's Road, with the classical Supreme Court on the left, and the cricket club and its playing fields on the right. Run straight ahead, with the cricket fields on your right, and you'll see the fly's-eye-looking Esplanade theaters and the new Marina Bay development to the right.

When you cross Bras Basah Street, you'll see famous Raffle's Hotel on the left. (You'll also soon notice that half of Singapore is named after Raffles). The road is now called Beach Road, but continue jogging straight until after you cross Ophir Road. Here, in the Kallang neighboorhood, there are a lot of older, narrow streets full of exotic flair. The neighborhood is also home to lots of backpacker hostels nowadays.
Raffles' Hotel
Turn left on Arab Street, which is famous for its cloth-sellers and clothing shops. You'll soon see the colorful Sultan Mosque to the right. I actually like the street best a few blocks later when it changes its name to Upper Weld Road, and isn't famous for anything in particular, just a normal neighborhood. When you get to Kampong Kampor Road, turn right and run a few blocks to Veerasamy Road, where you turn left.
Little India
You are now in Little India. When you get to the next cross-street, Serangoon Road, you'll find a fantastic Hindu temple. Turn left here and run 3 blocks to Dunlop Street, with its jumble of shops, backpacker hostels and homes, where you turn left and run southwards again. After a couple of blocks, you'll pass another interesting mosque. At Jelan Besar, Dunlop Street ends, so you turn right and run for 2 blocks.
Dunlop Street
When you see a pedestrian bridge over the street, turn left into the lively pedestrian street, Albert Street. Continue to Queen Street, where you turn right, at the spot where all the rickshaws are waiting. Run straight down Queen Street until you hit one of Singapore's nicest parks, Fort Canning Park, located on a small hilltop. Queen Street runs into Canning Rise, where you turn right and run past the state archive building, then turn left and run up the hill into the park.

There is lush vegetation, a small lighthouse (a bit far from the water here!), thick fort walls and a nice spot to run. Loop through the park and exit near the radio tower, running east at Hill Street. Cross Hill Street and run the one block to North Bridge Road, where you turn right, with the new parliament on the left, and run one block back to the bridge where we started, 7.5 kilometers earlier.
Fort Canning Park entrance

After a shower, you should visit this spot again and drink a nice cool Tiger Beer at the riverside!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Singapore East Coast Park Running Route

Click here for route map
Length: 22.7 km (14.1 miles), terrain flat

Singapore Running Routes:
Main tourist sights  
East Coast Park  
For other running routes, see Routes List.  

Pictures courtesy of Google StreetView.

NOTE: Don't be intimidated by the length of this run: you can also take the 401 bus directly to the park. Catch the bus at the Circle Line's Mountbatten Station (CC7). The line runs along the park service road for the almost the entire length of the park, from Fort Road in the west to the jetty in the east. And you can get back on the bus at many bus stops for a ride home.

With all the gigantic construction projects constantly sprouting up all over the Marina Bay waterfront in Singapore, it's nice that there's still a great shoreline run without any highrises and freeways: the East Coast Park.
In East Coast Park
This park is the most relaxed hangout in the downtown area. This 8-km-long strip of beachfront park is a popular get-away for families, bicyclists, in-line skaters, fishermen, campers, divers, sailors and skate-boarders. Ooops, did I forget runners? Well, let's correct that one real quick. A paved bike/pedestrian path plies the whole park, and you can also choose to run along the sand of the many beach stretches. Of course, you can turn around at any time. Plan the length to fit your needs.

The park stretches from the east end of Marina Bay and goes out to Changi. The East Bay Parkway parallels the park the whole way, and the park is serviced by several bus-lines, if you want to ride out there (see note at top).

The Marina Bay shore itself is changing so fast that you'll probably not be able to recognize half of it if you haven't been there in a few years. I expect that there will be a footpath there from the Marina South area sometime, but there's no way yet: just lots of construction.

The East Coast Park Route
So we'll start the run at the Stadium MRT Station (subway), just between the National Stadium and the indoor stadium. Run west to the bay, with the sloping roof of the indoor stadium to your left, then turn left at the water and run to the suspension footbridge going south.
Footbridge with indoor stadium in background
Run across the bridge. Then run straight through the open square for one block, where you come to Tanjong Rhu Road. Turn left here and run straight down the road for a kilometer. You'll pass the Singapore Swimming Club on the right side, and then come to Fort Road.

Turn right at Fort Road and run the one block towards the raised Parkway and run under it, straight into East Coast Park. You will quickly see the parking lot and the pedestrian/bikeway going off to the left.
East Coast Park near Fort Road
From now on, just follow the path as far as you feel. The whole park was built on reclaimed land, and the beaches are also man-made, but it's a great thing to have. You'll run by a variety of activity areas spread along the shore.
A narrow spot in the park
First comes a shopping center with playground, then a golf driving-range, then the Goldkist Resort, the Seafood Centre, etc. Make sure you also do some running on the softer beach sand. The Bedok Jetty (pier) is the fishermen's hangout, and has a good view when the air isn't too hazy. The campground and skateboard park are right next to the jetty. The Singapore Sailing Federation marina marks the end of the line in the east, and is the place to turn around. If you keep running eastwards from here, golf courses take over the waterfront, and then the Changi navy base.
The camping area

Turn around here and head back to the stadium the same way you came.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Rome, Classical Treasures Running Route

Click here for route map
Length: 10.8 km (6.7 miles), terrain is a bit hilly

Rome Running Routes:
Classical Sights  
Villa Borghese Gardens 
See the other running routes here

Photos courtesy of Thanks!

Here's another, longer route in Rome that goes through more of the ancient city's greener, quieter areas (see route description for Villa Borghese Gardens). These are located on the south side, and go past a lot more of the ancient ruins: The Domus Aurea, the Colosseum, the city walls, the Baths of Caracalla, the Circus Maximus, the Tiber River and the edge of the Forum. This is definitely more of a tourist run, but avoids the traffic and concrete of many areas.

It includes several hills and goes for almost 11 km. You could cut off the Via Latina loop to make it shorter.

Colosseum, photo by Marc Pojer
Like the Villa Borghese route, this one will start near the Termini train station, but a bit southwest of it, at the tree-filled Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. There is also a Metro station in the plaza.

The piazza itself is worth looking at before you get started. It's dominated by a huge ruined monument, the Trofei de Mario fountains, although you'll find it hard to believe that it was once spouting water. And at its base is the Porta Alchemica, once believed to be a magic doorway into another dimension (Can someone please play the "Twilight Zone" music here?).

Rome Southern Sights Route
Let's start running westwards from the piazza, on Via dello Statuto. In just a block, at the triangular plaza, turn left on Viale del Monte Oppio, where we will run straight towards the Parco die Traiano parkland on the Esquiline Hill. This area is covered with ruins and great views towards the south and west. In ancient Rome, it was a fashionable neighborhood until the fire in the year 64 AD. Then Emperor Nero built a huge, opulent new party villa there, the Domus Aurea (golden house). It had 300 rooms but no bedrooms or toilets, but had huge gardens and a man-made lake, and a ceiling rotated by slaves.

The villa was an embarrassment to later emperors, and they removed the furnishings and filled it in with dirt. Later, Trajan built a public baths on the site, whose ruins can also be seen.

After you enter the park gate, take the first footpath that turns diagonally to the left. You will run straight towards the Domus Aurea ruins, in just 100 meters. Keep running the same south-west direction past more ruins, going downhill towards the Coloseum, which you'll see in the valley straight ahead.
The Colosseum, seen from the Parco di Traiano, photo by thopix
You come out of the park at the Piazza del Colosseo. Run across the street to get a closer look at this amazing antique wonder. Just for fun, lets do a lap around the Colosseum: turn to the right, with the building on your left and run around to the backside, where you'll see Constantine's Arch. Keep going around the Colosseum, with the tree-crowned Nifeo Park on the right.
Constantine's Arch, photo by Renate Bregenzer
Now turn right on the Via Claudia, and the Nifeo Park on your right. Keep going straight for a kilometer, until you come to the big intersection at Via Druso.

NOTE: It's possible to run through Nifeo Park, but the ways are so impossible to describe, that I'll avoid it here. But if you feel like discovering it, give it a try!

Turn right on Druso, and run for 250 meters until you come to another big intersection just before the gigantic Caracalla Baths ruins straight ahead. We'll see those ruins soon, but first turn left on Via di Porta San Sebastiano. The road splits in just 100 meters: take the left-hand side, because there is little traffic on that road, the Via di Porta Latina. Both streets head south to the gates in the old city walls, going past walled-in gardens of wealthy villas. Some of the walls you can see over, and some you can't.

The Via di Porta Latina is just half a kilometer long, and goes past an ancient round gatehouse and then the gate through the old Aurelian city walls. Just outside the gate, turn right and run down Viale delle Mura Latine, following the city walls. You'll soon come to the imposing San Sebastiano gate, which empties out into the famous Apian Way to the left. You could follow it for a while if you felt like doing some extra distance, and it goes through more green landscapes.

We'll keep going straight, with the walls still on our right side. In a few hundred meters the Via Cristoforo Colombo breaches the walls, and we'll turn right here and run back into the city. But after just a few meters, cross the stret and take the small street leading diagonally to the left, the Viale Guido Baccelli, going straight towards the Caracalla Baths.
Caracalla Baths, photo by thopix
The street runs along the back side of the ruins. The road turns a corner to the right to go along the north side of the baths. Keep running straight along the north side on the Via Antonina, with an athletic field on your left side.

You come out onto the Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, a modern, tree-lined parkway. Turn left here and run straight across the next intersection at Viale Aventino, and you'll find yourself in the Circus Maximus, the ex-chariot-racetrack, now a big open lawn. You can run straight through the long field, which once had a stadium that could hold 250,000 spectators. The ruins on the hill to the right, the Palatine Hill, were once the Emperors' palaces.
Circus Maximus, photo by DS
At the far end of the Circus Maximus, keep to the left and run out the Via della Greca the one block to the Tiber River. On your right, you'll pass a church with a real curiosity under its front porch: the Bocca della Verita (mouth of truth), a strange marble disk that nobody quite knows where it came from, but apparently spews out wisdom (Do I hear the Twilight Zone theme again?).

At the river, turn right and then immediately cross the Ponte Palatino bridge on your left, then keep going along the water to the next bridge, with the river to your right. You'll see the Tiber island in the river. After just 100 meters, turn right at the next bridge going to the island. The island is occupied by a monastery-run hospital. Keep running straight over the next bridge (each of the island's bridges is 2000 years old!), and you are back on the original side of the Tiber.
Tiber island, photo by M. Helmich
Here, you keep going straight, with your back to the river, up the Via del Portico d'Ottavia. You'll soon see the portico itself straight ahead: a temple ruins, excavated to expose recent finds. There are pedestrian footpaths built into the ruins to the right. Take them as they lead eastward to the Via del Foro Piscario. This itself goes by some fascinating ruins: houses built into the ruins of another old amphitheater on the right side.

You will come out on the Via del Teatro del Marcello, where you turn left and run up past the Capitoline Hill on your right side. If you feel up to it, you can take a side trip up the hill to the museum. It's open courtyard is full of monumental relics found in the area.
Vittorio Emanuele Monument, photo by D. Jacholke
The Via del Teatro del Marcello runs up to the base of the over-sized white Vittorio Emanuele Monument (I once thought that this was the city hall building). Circle around the front of the monument and continue running down the Via dei Fori Imperiali, with the Forum ruins on your right, running straight back towards the Colosseum.

Run past the Colosseum, then turn left to go up through the park on the Esquiline Hill and return to the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele the same way you came.