Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Running routes: Buona Vista Loop

This is my main training route. This training route is long and suitable for more experienced runners, but recreational runners can still use it by truncating it at suitable points.

More frequently called the Ulu Pandan park connector, I’ve extended and adapted this route. My description of the route follows. As always, it helps to have a street directory handy while you’re reading this.

The route starts at the eastern end of the Ulu Pandan park connector, just opposite the Buona Vista MRT station. The park connector is a popular running route and many people use it on most days.

Start running westwards on the connector along the canal. There are distance markings conveniently printed onto the tarmac if you need them. After 2 km, you will reach Clementi Road, which bisects the connector.

Step off the connector onto the sidewalk, turn right, and follow Clementi Road north. As you run, you’ll pass by SIM and Ngee Ann Polytechnic on your left and King Albert Park on your right. Eventually, you’ll reach the massive cross-junction where Clementi Road meets Bukit Timah Road.

Carefully avoid the traffic and continue running north onto Jalan Anak Bukit. The road should then veer to the northwest. You will pass by Bukit Timah Plaza and Beauty World Center on your left. Your objective is the intersection with Hindhede Road on your right.

That’s right, we’re headed towards Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Turn right onto Hindhede Road and follow the road upwards to the visitor’s center. Don’t feed the monkeys! At the carpark in front of the visitor’s center, you will see two dirt trails, one on your right (Senapang Link), and one on your left (Hindhede Way).

They’re both really biking trails, but I choose to ignore that, as do a few other runners. Pick one trail and follow it. The trail you pick will skirt either the eastern or western edge of the nature reserve, and join up with Dairy Farm Pass, which runs east-west along the northern edge of the nature reserve. There will be two exits on Dairy Farm Pass that lead north to Dairy Farm road. One exit is a very close to a large grassy clearing in front of a disused quarry massif.

The other exit is near the point where the cycling trail is bisected by a footpath and blocked on both sides by rails. Keep a lookout for the exits, otherwise you’ll make a complete loop and wind up back at the visitor’s center.

Take either one of the exits northwards and leave the nature reserve to reach Dairy Farm Road. Then turn left and run west towards the intersection of Dairy Farm Road and Upper Bukit Timah Road. Veer left onto Upper Bukit Timah Road and you will see an overhead bridge, the Salvation Army, and further on, the Rail Mall.

Cross the overhead bridge, run south past the Standard Chartered Bank, then turn right onto Hillview Road. There will be a park connector here. Keep running until you reach the circle, then turn left and continue south along Hillview Avenue.

This is a long stretch, and you will pass by several blocks of condos. Once you’re past the Petals condo, Hillview Avenue becomes Bukit Batok East Avenue 2. A short while after this, you’ll run past the entrance to Bukit Batok Nature Park on your left. Your objective is to reach the junction of Bukit Batok East Avenues 2 and 6.

Coming from the north, turn right onto Bukit Batok East Avenue 6. You want to run along the southern edge of East Avenue 6, so you will probably need to cross two traffic lights at the cross junction. Keep running westwards on East Avenue 6 until you reach the junction of Bukit Batok East Avenue 3.

Cross Bukit Batok East Avenue 3. You will immediately see the unmistakable black tarmac of a park connector that runs along East Avenue 6.

Step onto the connector and follow it. It will take you to the PIE and a massive ramped overhead bridge. Note the monsoon drain to your left. It empties into the Ulu Pandan Canal, as we shall soon see.

Cross the ramped bridge and you will see that the park connector continues.

Step onto the Ulu Pandan connector and turn right once you’re off the bridge. The Ulu Pandan Canal should be on your left.

[If you turn left, the park connector will take you to Jurong East and the Chinese Garden. More on that in a future post.]

Follow the connector until you reach Toh Guan Road East. You are now very near to the IMM shopping mall on your right. Retail therapy anyone?

Cross Toh Guan Road East.

The connector continues until it reaches Boon Lay Way. The Chevrons will be on your right. There’s a convenient fully stocked emart for all army goods if you’re a guy still doing NS.

Cross Boon Lay Way. Again, the connector continues, winding behind the International Business Park.

After a short distance, you will reach the AYE. There will be short section of disused railway track that crosses over the canal.

Take the track and cross over to the opposite side of the canal, where the connector continues again. You’ll start to notice lots of people running here.

Continue running (east) on the connector. You will pass beneath two flyovers, one MRT track and one pedestrian overhead bridge (with white tent-like awning).

If you’re interested, the pedestrian bridge will take you into the Sunset Way area and more to the point, the Clementi Arcade, where you can pick up an ice cream cone from the excellent Daily Scoop.

But I digress. If you continue on the connector, you will eventually reach Clementi Road.

Cross the road using the traffic lights on your left, or take the overhead bridge hidden behind the HDB blocks to your right, and you will be back where you were before. Run the last 2 km on the connector and you will return to the start point.

Total distance: approximately 14 miles or 22 km.


The part of the park connector that stretches behind the International Business Park should be avoided after dark. It’s pretty deserted and lots of foreign construction workers frequent the area (empty beer bottles and discarded food).

Like most parks, the nature reserve should be avoided after dark or in the earliest part of the morning, especially for the ladies. It’s best to run with company. See this if you need further warning. That said, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem as the trails are available for use only from 7am to 7pm each day. And lots of cyclists use the bike trails on weekends.

The Nature Reserve Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30am to 6:00pm, although you might see rangers around the center from about 7am to 7pm. Ask for a map from the Visitor Center if you need one. There are toilet facilities and water coolers just behind the Visitor Center.

The trails in the nature reserve do not all conform to what you see in the free map provided by the Visitor Center, or in my description of the route. There are unmarked loops and trails, but generally speaking, as long as you proceed in the direction of the most trafficked route (obvious from the trail condition), you shouldn’t get lost. If in doubt, ask the other users of the trails.

As mentioned above, the trail part of the run is a biking trail, so run carefully as you will be sharing the trail with cyclists. That’s also another good reason not to run before first light.

Due to park regulations, cyclists are allowed to cycle in only one direction: north on Hindhede Way, east on Dairy Farm Pass, south on Belukar Track and west on Senapang Link. Keep this in mind as you will then know which direction from which to expect biking traffic. It’s generally safer to run against the traffic.

Running in the nature reserve is a real pleasure. Yes, you have to watch your footing and the slopes can be steep. But the forest is shady and the temperature within is at least two degrees cooler. Also, the view of the quarry massif is quite magnificent from the western edge of the nature reserve.

This route is mostly flat on the park connectors, but will encounter steep slopes along the bike trails, and also on certain sections such as the approach on Hillcrest Road and Dairy Farm Road. The section of Clementi Road is basically a series of rolling hills.

Feel free to reverse the course of the route. To enter the nature reserve from Dairy Farm Road, run east on the road until you reach the sign that says MOE Adventure Center. Take the first right turn into the vegetation immediately after this sign. You should see the clearing shortly after.

Turn right here after the sign to enter the nature reserve

[In fact, I prefer to run the reverse of this route, mainly because I run in the morning and reversing the route allows me to avoid most of the morning sun.]

There is yet another way to enter the nature reserve, and that is via Rifle Range Trail (just off Rifle Range Road). Rifle Range Trail joins up with Senapang Link along the bike trail. Running along Rifle Range Trail allows you to bypass Jalan Anak Bukit if you are are, like me, averse to breathing in exhaust fumes while running along a major road.

[Rifle Range Road comprises a running route on its own. More in a future post.]

This route is long, and I truncate it for most weekday runs. The easiest way to use this route is to restrict yourself to only the connector. Start running at the start point and follow the connector until it reaches the disused railway track at the AYE, then run back. This also happens to be most popular route for the residents of the area. The roundtrip distance is approximately 9 km.


Jennie said...

...I'm gonna guess that you don't like having people in your pictures and that you wait for them to pass before you take your shot (I do that sometimes)?

mjuse said...

yuppers. but since i run in the morning when there aren't that many people, it's also not a major issue.