Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Running routes: Dempsey Loop

After running in my neighborhood for a few years, I’ve explored the areas near where I live in considerable depth.

So I’ve devised a number of running routes centered on these areas. Some I use more frequently than others. Others I use only when I’m bored of my routine and need a little variety. But they’re all good routes.

Today’s post is on one of my routes. It’s what I like to call a ‘fun run’ route. My fun routes are not strictly routes, as they don’t follow a fixed itinerary or roads and I don’t keep track of the distances. They’re more like short runs that I use to add variety to my routine. And they also satisfy my desire to explore interesting areas near where I live. Flexibility is key, so if you’re using this route, feel free to deviate from the route to explore around.

Dempsey Loop

The full route can be found here. My description of the route follows; it helps to have a street directory handy while you’re reading this.

Start at Buona Vista MRT station. Take the walkway from the station exit that leads to the underpass.

After emerging from the underpass, run north along North Buona Vista Road until you see the overhead bridge.

Cross over to the other side. You will now be in the Holland V. HDB housing estate.

One of the advantages of being on foot is that you get to traverse areas inaccessible to vehicles. Cut through the housing estate in a northeasterly direction. You should see the Buona Vista Swimming Complex and thereafter, Holland V. itself.

Run carefully past the inevitable hordes of diners (in the evening) and make your way down Lorong Liput to Holland Avenue. Note the famous Indian magazine seller at the corner.

Cross Holland Avenue over to the large POSB Taman Warna branch. Run past it onto Taman Warna itself. Restrain yourself from the delicacies on offer at da Paolo Gastronomia at Chip Bee Gardens.

Follow Taman Warna northeastwards until it connects with Holland Road. Doing so allows you to avoid crowds and some construction work.

Turn right and run eastwards on Holland Road for a distance. Our objective is the newest and hippest chichi enclave in town: Tanglin Village. Once you’re past Peirce Road and a large carpark on your right, the turn-off to Dempsey Road will be in front.

Turn right onto Dempsey Road and run around Tanglin village in a complete loop, or however many times you like. Marvel at the old warehouses and vehicle sheds converted into fancy glass-fronted restaurants. Take in the assortment of kitschy Hindu Balinese and Xi’an Terracotta statues, the not so environmentally correct teak furniture and the antique shops with pre-aged sculptures sitting in front.

[Overall, Tanglin Village has a tacky feel, which is a pity, considering the potential of the site, which is superior to Rochester Park’s. Rochester Park is, however, classier, which goes to show the importance of execution.]

Above all, note that you’ll probably be the only person in running gear (in the evenings) amid the expatriates and yuppies in black and white office attire. Note also the fleets of BMWs, Lexuses (or is that Lexi?), Benzes, and the occasional Ferrari or Maserati (again only in the evenings). So plan your safari expedition at the appropriate time if you want to ogle at autocandy. After you’ve had your fill of Tanglin Village, take the exit on Harding Road at the back of the village.

Veer right onto Loewen Road, then turn left onto Ridley Park Road. Run straight ahead along Ridley Park Road until you reach Tanglin Road. Along the way, if you live in the HDB heartlands like me, you’ll find it fascinating to see how the upper crust in Singapore lives. The houses in the Tanglin area range from generic McMansions, to the tastefully palatial, to the plain ostentatious. The most interesting house has got to be the one at the junction of Ridley Park Road and Tanglin Road. It’s got ‘em all, the bronze eagle, the terracotta soldiers, and the fleet of Ferraris.

Once on Tanglin Road, run south past the Brunei Embassy and Tisch School until you reach the junction of Tanglin Road and Margaret Drive. Turn right onto Margaret Drive and run west. You’ll see some densely packed HDB blocks, some MINDS buildings, and the Queenstown remand prison. The contrast will be rather marked after the wealth of the preceding area.

Keep running until you reach Queensway. Turn left onto Commonwealth Avenue then run westwards alongside the MRT track. And once you reach Buona Vista MRT Station, you’re done.


Unless you’re intimidated by lots of well-dressed people stepping out of expensive cars and about to sit down to dinner, evenings are the most interesting time to run the Dempsey Loop. That’s when the area really comes alive.

Avoid the Ridley Park area after dark. With the proximity of the old Tanglin Camp and some old pre-war buildings, the place can get seriously spooky at night. Think WWII Japanese Occupation horror movie spooky.

Following Harding Road and then Minden Road will take you to the Botanic Gardens, which is suitable for longer runs. There is another route here created by someone else.

If you’re inclined to, continuing on Holland Road and then Napier Road will take into Orchard and the heart of town. Not that I recommend it, but it’s an option.

The Dempsey Loop is a relatively short run, but can be somewhat difficult as the route generally faces a slight gradient, and you’ll spend a lot of time running on concrete sidewalks (hard on the knees).

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