Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Casting About: Fly Fishing in Singapore

It's tough to be a fly fisherman in Singapore.   Not that it isn't done, here.  It's just mostly illegal to do so.  Or any type of fresh water fishing, except in designated areas.  This March 2009 New York Times piece pretty much captures the fresh water fly fishing scene here.
There are a number of tackle shops in town, but only one shop caters to fly anglers, the Coho Fishing Tackle.  It's clearly a business targeting a niche market, perhaps akin to the speak-easys in the U.S. during the days of prohibition.  If the fly fishing is not so friendly in Singapore, it is not so far from some good fly fishing destinations, for those that can afford it-- the shop can equip the holiday fly angler.  However each time I've visited, the place is busy, and they seem to be holding their own.  It's often the same people that I see in the shop each time--  after all, it's a fly shop, where conversation, story telling, and angler socializing occur more than large volumes of commerce.  Better than the corner bar.  It is a great little shop-- the staff are wonderful, and very knowledgeable.  I've spent a few Singapore dollars there myself, to fill in some "needed" fly tying materials that were absent or exhausted from my kit.
Another fly angling group in town are the Fly Fishing Singapore Forum.   It is mostly a social website, but is frequented by fly fishing enthusiasts that are a splinter group from a larger general fishing organization in Singapore.  Some of the group mebmers have been working with the Singapore government to expand areas in the republic for fly fishing, and champion the economic benefits that might be possible by creating a "blue ribbon" peacock bass fishery in Singapore.  The group has also staffed a few events to educate the public on fly fishing, and promotion of catch and release fishing, a practice that is almost unknown here-- most fish that are caught get invited home for dinner.
As noted, the fresh water reservoirs are off limits to fishing, except in very small designated areas.  Rangers patrol the reservoirs, and I'm told there is a fine when caught fishing in the restricted areas.  The joke is that a reason for using a back cast in Singapore is to force you to look over your shoulder from time to time to spot rangers.  Despite the restriction, I have talked to a few individuals in Singapore who brave the consequences of social disobedience to go after the peacock bass and snakeheads that ply the waters.  Apparently it is common transgression, and possibly the restriction is only weakly enforced.
I have not yet gone after illicit Singapore peacock bass, but I have recently learned that a new, larger species of peacock bass has been brought in and stocked in Reservoir by the local fly fishing faithful.  This may prove to be too much of a tempatation, and a Singapore experience that I should not miss while I am here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bali: Gunung Batur

The north-central region of Bali has several volcanoes which are the genesis of the island.  Several  of the volcano peaks can be seen from some areas of Ubud.  Gunung Batur (Mount Batur 1717m high (one map says 1412m) is one of the larger peaks.  The volcano last major eruption in 1963 causing several deaths.  Lava fields of Gunung Batur can be seen in the picture below, which are now quarried for the lava stone, used in construction and stone carvings.  The stone carvings are one of the export craft products of Bali.

Gunung Batur--  The volcano is 1717m high and had its last major eruption in 1963.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Palou Bali: Balinesian Batik

Bali's major industry is tourism, followed by the creation and export of handicrafts.  Agriculture fits in somewhere.  One of the crafts known for Bali, and Indonesia is batik.  Batik is a means of creating a dyed pattern on cloth.  Both silk and cotton batiks are manufactured in Bali.  While in Bali we toured a small batik mill in the village of Cili (pronounced "Shilli" ) near Ubud.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Palou Bali, Indonesia: Kopi Luwak

Southeast Asia, and in particular Indonesia, is a prime region for growing coffee, or "kopi" in Indonesian.  There are several varieties grown--  Coffea arabica, Coffea liberica, and Coffea canephora, with the latter variety the most prevalent variety grown today.  Coffee is a major export crop for Indonesia.  Perhaps more interesting than the varieties grown are the various means of processing the beans, with none more exotic than luwak coffee.It goes by different names in SE Asia, but Luwak is the name used in Bali and Indonesia.  This coffee is quite expensive to buy, and is to coffee conniseurs what a bottle of a fine rare cabernet is to the wine conniseur.  A single cup of coffee, served in the POSH coffee houses of London have been known to cost as much as 50 pounds sterling.  (About US$79).  Beans sell for US$100 to US$600 per pound.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bali: Ubud-- Eat, Prey, Love (yada, yada, yada)

After leaving Amed, we headed for the central village (actually collection of villages) of Ubud.  Ubud is in the heart of the terraced rice fields and craft centers of Bali.  It is a nice location to use as a base to see many other parts of Bali, while taking in some really good restaurants upon return to base. 
Ubud has also become the rage as the place to visit following the book-come-movie, Eat, Pray, Love.  (Apparently Ubud is the "Love" segment in this trilogy).  Sure enough, there are many tourists in Ubud, and many Westerner expats who have come to Bali to find themselves, or to lose others.  Admittedly I haven't read the book, but the story line seems strikingly similar to that of  "Under The Tuscan Sun", which helped boost the "coolness" of having your own villa in Tuscany.  Ubud may be going down that path too- on the cusp of becoming a resort area for the mega-wealthy and chic, who have villas built in the middle of rice fields.  It is illegal for foreigners to directly own land in Indonesia (we were told), but a common means around this is to find a native Indonesian to proxy ownership for a "sponsor".  We ran into at least two circumstances like this (one in Amed, and one in Ubud).
In Ubud, a wealthy American had sponsored the construction of a vacation villa on the compound of a Balinesian family (our driver in Ubud).  The property had beautiful vistas of rice fields out the back.  In exchange the property, including the housing of the Balinese family had obviously been upgraded with an infusion of money, and was one the nicest compounds in the village (Kampong).  The arrangement appears to work well, but I suspect only when the sponsor is a benevolent one.  It is likely many of the resorts in Bali are constructed under similar sponsorship.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Palau Bali, Indonesia: Amed

After our overnight stay in Sanur we hired a car and driver to take us to the small village of Amed for four nights of R&R, and two days of SCUBA diving.  Amed is a fishing village on the Northeast coast of Bali, and is very much away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities of Kuta, Dempasar, and Ubud.  It is also home to some small boutique resorts, where one can relax and enjoy a pampered holiday on the ocean front.

Our drive took perhaps four hours, and might have taken less had we not stopped a couple of times, including one stop for lunch.  The price of a lunch for the driver is (apparently) part of the fee for the drive--  no worries here, the fee was not great, and we effectively had a tour guide as well as driver for the afternoon.  If you go to Bali, hiring a rental car and driving yourself would not be my recommendation, as driving there is not for the faint of heart.  There are no particularly good maps available,  there are very few road signs, and as near as I could determine, there are also no rules of the road.  Since the roads are relatively narrow, with obstacles along them (stopped cars, motorcycles, chickens, cyclists, piles of dirt, etc) the center line becomes only a suggestion for which side of the road one drives.  Passing slower traffic (requiring driving into oncoming traffic) is continuous, and the horn is used about equally with the steering wheel.  It is used to assert your position on the road, and convey to others you are passing or have passed.  If you are sitting in the front passenger seat watching the oncoming traffic feels like a near-death experience.  Certainly an E-Ticket ride.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (and Lungs)

The Gray Haze--  Our view of downtown Singapore (Chinatown) from our kitchen window.  Air quality has degraded recently with smoke coming from fires in Indonesia.
In recent days the air quality in Singapore has taken a turn for the worse.  It brings on a little home sickness, as it is a reminder of Boise in times when there are forest or grass fires burning in the region.  Not a particularly good reminder, however.  As Boise is located adjacent to mountains, the smoke is drawn down into the valley in the evenings with the cooler air.  It is also reminiscent of the skies of Shanghai, which always had a gray haze in the days while we were visiting.
In Singapore the smoke is coming from the Riau province of Sumatra, Indonesia with the prevailing south westerly winds, where according to the news report, there are currently "80 hot spots".  (Hmm... no kidding.  I guess where there is smoke there IS fire.)  The Pollution Standard Index (PSI) reached 72 today, which places it squarely in the "moderate" category (range 51 to 100).  Seems worse than "moderate" to me.

Singapore NEA (National Health Agency) web site shows PM10 (PM10?  Is that "smoke"?) as the major pollutant.  The PSI reached 72 on 20 October.
There is no indication in the news report of WHY there are 80 hot spots burning-- whether these are naturally caused fires, or human caused.  However, according to my brief research the Riau region has experienced considerable population growth in recent years, and significant deforestation.  Fires are frequently set to clear land for palm tree plantations.  Palm oil is a major cash crop for southeast Asia.

FIRMS (satellite web site for fires run by NASA) mapping of fires burning in Sumatra, Indonesia on 20 October, 2010.  These are apparently the "hot spots" causing air quality issues for Singapore.
I suspect anything greater than a PSI of "moderate" will require chewing air rather than breathing it.

Palou Bali: Tropical Paradise

Our good friends Keith and Candy recently [September 9] came to visit us in Singapore from Boise.  It was Candy's second visit to Singapore (a previous business trip), and Keith's first.  We sweetened the deal by suggesting we travel to Bali (Indonesia) together, only a 2+ hour plane flight from Singapore.  This was under the guise of celebrating our respective 20 year anniversaries that happened this year in an exotic location-- their anniversary date separates ours by one week.
Palou is the Indonesian name for island, and Bali, one of many islands comprising the nation of Indonesia is a popular and favorite tropical resort destination.
The trip was great!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ireland 2010: The Gallerus Oratory and Bee Hive Huts

No, we didn't go back to Ireland for a second trip this year-- this post is out of chronological order--  I discovered I had not completed this last draft for Ireland, and just now finished it.  Sorry for the confusion, but this old stone building is incredible-- had to share.  [JK]

Flying over Ireland it appears as patchwork of fields, squared off by boundaries of what appears to be hedges and shrubs.  Upon closer inspection from the ground you discover that the fencing are rock walls or dykes, with an overgrowth of grass and shrubs.  In more barren areas they are clearly stacked stones.  Despite the abundance of stone available, it is mind boggling to consider how long it must have taken to construct so many field enclosures of stone.Many of the earliest structures and dwellings were constructed of stone, and over the ages the stones of ancient structures were probably "borrowed" to construct new ones, or create the pasture walls.  It is therefore amazing that some of the ancient structures have withstood the passage of time.  One structure, the Gallerus Oratory is one of the best preserved examples of this type of structure.  The Oratory or Séipéilín Ghallarais (The church of the place of the foreigners) was built sometime between the sixth and ninth centuries, possibly as late as the twelth century, and believed to be an early Christian church.  The construction technique, known as corbel vaulting, is a marvel-- dry-layed stones, with no mortar, and tiered to form a roof.  The rocks are also positioned and angled so carefully that the inside of the structure is bone dry, even to this day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Singapore F1 Night Grand Prix

It has been quite a while since my last "cast" and one is certainly overdue.  We've been hosting guests here in Singapore, and traveling--  I will be making several posts over the coming days to update our activities and share a few pictures.  For now a short cast--  this weekend Singapore hosts the 3rd annual Singapore  F1 Grand Prix, one of the formula one races on the circuit.

Singapore Grand Prix 2010

Admittedly I know little to nothing about auto racing, but the atmosphere and intensity of excitement around Singapore has been building over the past days as they have prepared for the race--  it is contagious.  Formula One racing, much like football (soccer) is more popular in most areas of the world other than the U.S.  The race is held in the downtown streets of Singapore, which have been blocked off and lined with barriers and fencing.  The course is a loop of twisting and bending streets, requiring that the cars accelerate and brake/downshift quickly-- it is a broad combination of engineering of high-tech machinery, skilled drivers and crew, and strategy.  The course at one point makes ninety degree turns that pass through narrow roadway to race in front of the Marina Bay grandstands, only to exit a relatively short distance later with a similar ninety degree turn.
It would be nice to catch some of the race action live, but attending the race is not a cheap date, even if tickets were available (it is sold out)--  grandstand tickets sold for S$298.  It appears to be well attended--  I have not seen downtown as crowded as it has been for the race.  The Youth Olympic Games were held in Singapore in August, and it appeared to me that there were far fewer visitors in town for this event.  (Stealth marketing for the YOG--  how many people outside of Singapore knew that this event was occurring?)
I made a trip downtown during a practice session on the track and was able to experience only the audible portion of the race--  the 12 foot fences near the track are cloaked in screening to prevent viewing from areas not sanctioned and ticketed for attendance.  There appear to be many associated events--  concerts, private cocktail parties, and expensive automobiles at various hotels and shopping malls in the race area of downtown.
Singapore F1 Grand Prix sponsor vehicles--  Johnny Walker.
Pit and start area of the course, from Singapore Flyer
Race course near the Marina Bay and AYE
The turn to go into the Marina Bay grand stand area.  A sharp turn followed by another sharp turn--  Marina Bay Sands Resort/Casino in the background
A turn near the pit area

Got the fever?  Lotus cars on display at Millenium Square mall, just off the race course in downtown Singapore, building the hype of the race.  Yours for just a few $$$.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ireland 2010: The Blasket Islands

The Blasket Islands are a group of islands just west of the Dingle pennisula, the western most point of Ireland.  The Great Blasket (An Blascaod Mo'r) is the largest, at about 3 miles long and 1/2 mile wide.  The Blaskets were inhabited (two of them) for several hundred years, apparently by some extremely hardy souls-- there is not a tree or a bush to be found.  Population declined somewhat during the potato famine of 1845-1851, then rebounded to peak at about 120 with 23 families.  (It must have been terribly crowded in these small cottages!)  It began to decline after WWII until 1953 when the remaining residents abandoned the island.  (Many of the young adults were leaving to go to America, sending home money once established to enable another emigrant to leave.  Finally there were too few able bodied souls to sustain life on the island.)  Residents made their living by fishing, lobster trapping, and raising a few sheep.
Today most of the buildings on Great Blasket have fallen into ruin-- although one or two are privately owned as "get aways" (?)  A small ferry runs every hour from Dunquin (weather permitting), mostly bringing tourists to visit the island.
A visitor center has been built in Dunquin that gives the history and culture of the Blasket Islands, and their residents.  Several authors and scholars came to the islands in the early 1900s to rediscover the Irish language and folklore, which had disappeared from much of Ireland, publishing several books.
Dunquin Pier--  This is the pier in Dunquin where the ferry to Great Blasket Island embarks.  The pier is in a small inlet at the bottom of a cliff-- quite a climb out.  The tides in Ireland are large (it's far north)-- at low tide the ferry cannot come into the pier, and passengers must be transported to/from the pier and ferry by a small Zodiac boat.  The ferry passengers must be loaded and unloaded from the ferry using the Zodiac in all tides at Great Blasket, as the pier there is very primitive and small.
The boats on the pier are fishing/lobsterman boats used in this area (for a very long time).  They are constructed of wood framing with canvas stretched over it, then tarred.  In older days the boats had oars and a small sail.  Most of the modern boats have a well to receive a small outboard motor.
Blasket Islands--  Beyond the rock outcropping in the foreground is Great Blasket Island (An Blascasod Mo'r).  You can just make out some of the buildings on it (The village).  Just to the right, is a low lying island of  Beginish (Beiginis).  Behind Great Blasket (the bump) is Inishtooksert (Inis Tuaisceart).  The photo is taken from the beach area directly next to the Dunquin Pier--  low tide.
Ferry "Blasket Queen"--  Blasket ferry passengers Nate, Elaine and Isabelle headed to the Great Blasket Island on tour

The Great Blasket Island Pier and Port--  This is what served as the "pier" on GBI.  There is a something of a concrete ramp where the people are standing, and a rocky incline up to a cable winch (in the foreground, with yellow rope on it).  To the right of the people there is a sea wall.  We are waiting for the ferry (the LAST ferry of the day!) to come pick us up.  Miss the ferry, and you are camping over night.
Blasket Island Ramp--  Looking up from the lower ramp, the upper ramp and path to the GBI pier is merely stone.  (You can see the winch and rope from the lower ramp picture here)
Sea Wall--  This sea wall added some protection to the small inlet and boat ramp on GBI.  It is about 15 feet tall. It was constructed in the 1920's--  perhaps the unprotected beach was used  for landing boats prior to pier and sea wall construction.
Blasket Ruins--  Skeletons of the houses on Blasket Island.  The one cottage that is in good shape appears to be under renovation by someone-- perhaps a weekend cottage.
Bunny--  The Great Blasket Island has rabbits and sheep (at least)
Inishvickillane (Inis Mhic Aoibhlea'in)island--, one of the smaller Blaskets has only resident.  In the 1970's the Irish government populated the island with red deer.  There are now several hundred deer (visible on the ridge) on the island today.

There are five islands in total in the Blasket chain:

  • Inishtookskert (Inis Tuaisceart)

  • Beginish (Beiginis) (Great Blasket)

  • Great Blasket Island (An Blascaod Mo'r)

  • Inishnabro (Inis naBro')

  • Inishvickillane (Inis Mhic Aoibhlea'in)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ireland 2010: Irish Meals

One of the best things about Ireland is the food-- not always the cuisine, but the quality and freshness of the produce available there.  Butter, eggs, and the fish and meats are all really excellent.

But better than having good produce is having good produce AND to be traveling with a trained and certified chef.  As we were touring the Dingle peninsula I noticed lobster traps along the coastal shores and on the Dunquin pier.  So it seemed fresh lobster should be readily available.  With guests arriving from out of town to visit (friends of Nate's from Edinburgh, Scotland) a major dinner was planned.  Nate and Elaine went to the market, returning with two lobsters, as well as crayfish and a whitefish.

Let the picture tell the story--  it was all wonderful!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ireland 2010: Anascaul and Fly Fishing

As a avid fly fisherman, traveling to Europe, and in particular Ireland, without at least a day on the water would be a disappointing holiday.  I carried along an abbreviated set of fly fishing tackle with the intention of doing some fishing in mind.  The Dingle peninsula is not a major area for fresh water fly fishing but there are loughs and creeks with trout.  The local tourist information center suggested Lough Anascaul (The Irish name is Abhainn an Sca'il), so we planned an outing and picnic to the lake.
The creek and bridge in the village of Anascaul
We have been to Anascaul on previous visits to Ireland, but mostly just a quick stop on  our way.  Anascaul is a small village east of Dingle, with a beautiful creek running through it (flowing out of Lough Anascaul).  The noteriety of the village is due to its most famous resident, Tom Crean who was a member on three Antarctic expeditions, and heroic member of both Robert Scott's British Antarctic Expedition (Terra Nova) of 1910-1913 on the ship Terra Nova and Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Exhibition of 1914-1917 on the ship Endurance.  He was also a member of Scott's failed first expedition Discovery in 1901-1904.  He returned to Annascaul following his naval and exploration career to open a tavern called the South Pole Inn, which is still open today.

Anascaul Lough--  A small lake above the village Anascaul.  The quiet of picnics and fishing here are interrupted only by occasional bleating of sheep on the far shore.
Lough Anascaul is above the village by a few kilometers, below a small cirque.  We stayed only a few hours but had a wonderful picnic and outing.  Isabelle was able to land her first trout--  hopefully planting a seed of enjoying the outdoors and fishing for future years.
Nate trying his hand at fly casting for the brown trout in Lough Anascaul.
Tom Crean--  A monument to Antarctic explorer Tom Crean is found in Anascaul's small park.
South Pole Inn--  Tom Crean's tavern in Anascaul.  The tavern has a beautiful location, on the creek just past the bridge into town.  Of course, we stopped and had a pint of Guinness before making our way back to Dunquin at the end of the day.
South Pole Inn--  There are many photos and newspaper articles on the walls honoring the explorer Tom Crean.
There was a group of locals fishing at the lake as well, using spinning gear.  Shortly after we landed the second trout (both were very small-- see picture below)  I noted that one of the fishermen went to his car and and switched to using a fly rod (he was a good caster too!).  Perhaps the ability to target and cast to rising trout with a fly rod brought him back to his senses!
Irish Trout--  Isabelle with her first catch (assist, anyway).  Not very large but a beautifully colored Brown trout.

I did not bring wading gear with me, and decided to get some "Wellies" while in Dingle.  These worked out pretty well for the lough.  While in the shop, the sales girl, in the best Irish accent asked me, "So are ye plannin' to do some farmin' while you're on holiday here in Ireland?"
Not to be outdone, Isabelle got a pair of her own Wellies, in hot pink,  from grandma.

Ireland 2010: Dingle Harbor and Fungi

One of the celebrities of Dingle is Fungi-- the dolphin.  Some smart, enterprising dolphin wandered into Dingle Bay several years ago and decided to hang around.  Tourists were interested, and voila-- a new enterprise was born--  boat tours to see Fungi.  Of course seeing Fungi is popular with the youngsters, so we took Isabelle on the tour to see Fungi (not her first time though).  The tour lasts about an hour, and comes with a guarantee of seeing Fungi or your money returned. Fungi must be a dedicated and diligent employee on the payroll to make this economic-- apparently he shows up for work regularly. 

The tour boat goes to the mouth of the harbour, and circles about.  When Fungi shows up, the boat will often make a straight run at a higher speed--  apparently this gets Fungi's interest and he follows along side and behind the boat.  The tour boats work together to get Fungi his exercise.

I'm not sure what Fungi's motivation is for this exercise-- he must work a long day with the many boat tours.  My theory is that the boat propeller and motion stirs up and frightens bait fish, which then become chow for Fungi.  I have seen this phenomenon in Florida, where the paths of the bait fish actually fluoresce, and very visible in the water.  And you were thinking Fungi just loves children...
Fungi at work with the tour boats, Dingle Harbour

A bronze monument to Fungi,  Dingle Harbour

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ireland 2010: Dingle and Dunquin

Perhaps this blog should be titled "Casting About Planet Earth" or something more encompassing than Singapore, as many of our "casts" have been beyond the boundaries of the Lion city-state, and in fact are thousands of miles distant. Our most recent travels have been to County Kerry in Ireland in late July-- a repeated destination for us because of granddaughter Isabelle who resides in Killarney. Although I had planned to sit this particular trip out in Singapore while Elaine made the journey, she convinced me that it would be a lot more fun to be in Ireland, and I had to agree.

Rather than stay in Killarney as we have done in the past, we rented a holiday home on the Dingle peninsula-- in the very small village of Dunquin (or approximate proper Irish spelling, Du'n Chaoin), about 15 kM from Dingle (An Daingean) in County Kerry (Chiarrai'). Dingle is a popular holiday destination for both Irish citizens and foreign tourists. It is a beautiful spot, accessible only by winding two lane roads from the larger cities of Tralee (Tra' Li) or Killarney (Cill Airne). Driving to Dunquin by contrast is accessible from Dingle only by one lane roads which can elevate the stress of skilled drivers, and will completely panic drivers unaccustomed to piloting a right-hand drive vehicle. In high season for tourists (i.e. July and August) the traffic is heavy during the day with both autos and large tour coaches traveling along the coastal road. There really is only one lane in spots, and if you meet one of the coaches, you may need to reverse to resolve the impasse. If you are in the know, you know that by convention traffic goes clockwise along this road, and if you are in the know but forget (as we did), you are reminded quickly with the first tour coach you encounter. Fortunately there is a back road from Dunquin to reach Dingle-- it is no wider, but has many more turnouts facilitating passing and much less traffic.

Another aspect of the Dingle peninsula is that this region of Ireland is fiercely traditional Irish-- in most areas of Ireland road signs are printed in both English and Irish-Gaelic. However some signs in Kerry (Chiarrai) and in particular the Dingle area are only in Irish. Despite efforts of the British in the years of its rule to stamp out the Irish language, it has prevailed and its heritage preserved. A good map, a good navigator, and diligent attention to intersections and signage is recommended for successful travel on Dingle Peninsula.

The weather was relatively favorable for us-- meaning perhaps rain on four of the ten days we were there or in transit. Ireland would not be The Emerald Isle without the persistent precipitation. It was never a major hindrance, and typically only a heavy mist for a few hours of the day. From my standpoint it was a welcome relief from the 90F/80% humidity of Singapore. (The humidity was probably the same but comfortably cooler).

Picture-in-Picture-- Elaine, Nathan and photographer Isabelle

Flowers-- were in bloom everywhere-- the most colorful I've seen Ireland
The creek in Dunquin
The small village of Dunquin (Du'n Chaoin)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Labrador Nature Reserve

Singapore has a number of parks and nature areas, administered under its "National Park" system.  For those in the United States, our vision of a National Park might be one of large expanses of land, such as Yosemite or Yellowstone.  As Singapore is a small sovereign city state, its National Park government agency manages reserve areas that scale from the equivalent of a city park to a very small national monument in the United States.  One of these reserves is an area not far from our flat--  Labrador Nature Reserve.  The area is at the southern tip of Singapore, and was once a fortification that protected Singapore from invaders attacking from the southern waters.  History indicates mostly success with this strategy, however Singapore fell quickly to the Japanese during World War II-- in less than one week.  The invasion came by land through Malaysia in the north, a stunning blow to the British Empire.  The gun batteries at this fortification fired galantly during the invasion, however their primary design and the munitions available for them were more suited to sinking ships than deterring and inflicting damage on land forces.
Today the reserve area has nature walks, beach area, and picnic sites.  A pier left over from a former oil terminal constructed in the mid 1960's allows fishing and nature study.  (It is closed to the public except by permit, primarily for student groups).
Dragons Teeth Gate (Long Ya Men)-- This rock formation, once called Batu Berlayar or "Sailors Rock" in Malay, marked an entry area notorious for pirates. In 1819 William Farquar established New Harbor, later called Keppel Harbor in this area. The British blew up the rock 1848 to expand and deepen the harbor. This is a replica, reconstructed from a painting of the rock from the 1840s.
Fortress Gate-- This brick wall once included a steel gate that guarded access to the gun emplacements on the top of the hill at Labrador.
These fortifications were gun emplacements at Labrador which protected the south end of Singapore from invasion. The guns saw action in WWII but were ineffective in stopping the Japanese invasion of 1942.

Looking down the barrel-- This is one of the 7" Rifled Muzzle Loading (R.M.L) gun that was installed at Labrador in 1896. Later modifications were made to use 6" guns.

The Pier--  at Labrador N.R. was built in the 1960s for a refinery, now closed and taken back by the Singapore government for inclusion in the park.

Even some nature in the nature reserve--  Some large diffenbachia growing wild in Labrador N.R.