First published on 1 Sep 2010. Updated on 12 Feb 2012.
‘Uncle, can you take me to the real Singapore?’ – adding quickly that he should keep the meter running. Long Say Teon, 59, responded with a slightly bewildered look, but instead of chasing me out of his cab, we began the ascent to Mount Faber.
‘This is a good place for photo-taking,’ he says, having noticed my camera. ‘You can also take the cable cars [across to Sentosa] or walk over the Henderson Waves bridge to Alexandra [Hort Park]. It’s now all connected,’ Uncle told me as he pulled up next to the entrance to the bridge. I paused, hoping for a history lesson or a recollection of times past, but he simply said, ‘I’ll wait right here.’
I returned to him ready to jet off to our next destination – a place he discovered just recently, after 15 years of working the taxi schedules – Lower Peirce Reservoir. ‘When I first saw it I was surprised a place like this existed in Singapore.’ To get there within the hour we had to move fast. He was clearly better with time management than I was.
Along the way he dispensed advice on life, citing his experience as a former bread baker in Hougang, the benefits of having porridge for dinner and what has been causing flash floods all over the world (‘global warming caused by the reclamation of lands and building of roads,’ he offered).
Cruising through busy traffic, I asked if we could stop over for a quick bite at any one of his favourite eating places. Contrary to the stereotype of cab drivers, this one was not a foodie: ‘I can’t be fussy in a job like this,’ he explains. He eats whatever he comes across, so for me he pulled into Longhouse Food Centre (183 Upper Thomson Rd). I was advised to get a fritter or curry puff – I could have it in the vehicle.
We arrived at the reservoir ten minutes short of the hour. He got out of the car to join me this time but left the engine running so the meter would too. He was right – this green spot is one of the hidden gems in Singapore. We walked along the dam-like stone path, far enough for us to take in the entire landscape of one of Singapore’s oldest reservoirs. Again there was no history lesson, but we talked of serenity and more on life. At $28.40 – I embarked on this adventure during off-peak hours – this was possibly my most eye-opening motivational speech session.
This story first appeared in our Sep 2010 issue.