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OPINION: I'm Here for the Forest, not for your Noise.

Updated: May 8, 2022

Can I enjoy my quiet, little escape please?

Fun fact: I go hiking or running in the forest at least three times a week.

One of my favourite routes is the Venus Drive to Bukit Timah trail.

I get to start my run slowly along the new-ish board walks at Windsor Nature Park, which elevates above the ground and takes me up to the forest line when I get onto Venus Trail.

Bursting into full speed amongst the full height of the trees then takes me down into the general Macritchie Reservoir area, turning my journey into one on a dirt trail. I am surrounded by greenery and guarded from the sun by the arbor of leafy canopies.

After passing the ranger station and then some more further in, I take a right and get onto Rifle Range link. At a certain point, this is where I'm required to hop across rocks to get across a busy little stream.

This proves to be quite the test, since there have been a few times where stepping on the wrong rock causes my foot to sink in and my shoes to get soaked.

I continue running, passing through some odd-looking ancient stone wells and the occasional fallen tree, where I finally end up on Rifle Range Road.

From there, I speed along a quiet, empty road, where I reach my biggest challenge yet. It's the bit where I have to seek permission from a crowd of monkeys to cross the narrow path along the BKE flyover.

A few more KMs and I find myself entering into the backend of Bukit Timah. After a moment to catch my breath, I switch out of my t-shirt into a clean and dry one, and catch the bus home.

Being in the forest gives me a sense of escape.

In fact, this was something I made time for just yesterday in the afternoon.

It's the feeling that I'm finally out of the hustle and bustle of everyday Singapore life.

Instead of being surrounded by tall blocks of HDB flats and the honking of cars, this quick escape gives me a window of time to slow my life down. It gives me a much needed hour out of my day to appreciate my existence.

I get to enjoy watching the gentle swaying of trees, that line themselves sporadically, going deep into the forest where I cannot go.

I listen in to the rustling of leaves and the proud songs of little insects, chirping away at volumes that are multiples of their size.

My nose gets to appreciate the constantly changing scent, from the smells of dirt-tracks, to the freshness of licky wet grass and moss-covered tree trunks.

I feel liberated as I run, loving the feel of my feet pouncing across rocks, each step propelling me deeper and deeper into the forest.

When the time is right or if I feel like I need a break, I allow myself to stop for a moment so I can really take it all in. In fact, sometimes I like to play this little game with myself where I close my eyes and try to forget that I am a human being in a forest.

Instead, I try to think of myself as a human being that is part of a forest.

When I can visualise this enough and quiet down my own mind, my perspective changes and my mind starts to extend beyond my own body.

I feel myself slowly disappear as I intertwine and become part of the forest, and as part of the forest, I savour the experience that there is nothing more I need to do then simply exist in the world.

Then a different sound comes in.

It's the chatter of two women somewhere not too far away from me. I can distinctly hear the topic of the conversation, which goes along the lines of how busy work has been for one of them lately.

The two women are talking at the top of their voices. Perhaps they didn't realise that I was nearby, and that being in the forest today was my escape from being around other humans.

Their conversation goes on ceaselessly, while I, eager to get back to my earlier tranquil state, start running forward again.

It takes a few minutes before I finally put enough distance between us to drown out the sound of their voices.

For a moment I find peace again, but to my despair, this didn't last very long.

I hear a familiar sound reminiscent of bad karaoke nights coming towards me from the distance.

Looking ahead, I see a man in a sweaty red t-shirt and shorts that are way too short for him walking briskly towards me. In his hand, he held his smartphone, blasting away some chinese song, that's probably by Jay Chou or JJ Lin.

Ugh, why doesn't he use earphones, I can't help think to myself.

I pick up my pace and race past him and manage to get rid of this noisy, sweaty beast, only to run into a group of hikers sporting all manner of colourful clothes just a few minutes later.

Unlike me, these hikers didn't seem like they were here for the forest. It seemed like they were here to chit chat about their lives, just like the two women I had the grievance of encountering earlier.

Worst still, they hogged up the whole track, and I had to exclaim ahead to them "coming on your right!" before they disgruntledly shimmied aside to make way for me.

This wasn't the last of the noisy humans I met in the forest that day.

Along the way there were:

  • A bunch of mothers who didn't seem to mind that their children were screaming at the top of their voices.

  • More people who couldn't afford earphones and were playing songs out loud on their smartphones.

  • A well-dressed couple where the woman wore a dress and heels (why, why?)

  • Many other scores of hiking groups, the ones that comprise of aunties seem to be the worst of the lot.

Of course, there were others who were similar to me, who quietly walked or ran along for the sole purpose of taking in the forest.

Some were also nature photographers, staying absolutely silent for minutes on end just to grab a nice picture to take home.

Yet, looking at the people I encountered, it seems the ones who actually were here for the forest were the distinct minority.

The ones who were actually here for the forest were the rarest of the lot.

I'm here the forest, not for your noise.

Of course, I totally get that everyone thinks differently. It's part of being human isn't it, and something I should fully be aware of, since last I checked, I am purportedly a Psychologist.

Still, I can't quite come to acceptance of this.

My annoyance isn't so much about the fact that people don't seem to be there solely to be in the forest like I am.

I fully understand that they might view it as a social thing, a get together and do something different thing, or take the kids to experience some greenery kind of thing.

Hey I go with my wife sometimes too - but we keep our voices down, so other people can enjoy their quiet time in the forest.

And that's basically my gripe - why don't people have the general respect and consideration for other people in the forest?

Perhaps that we don't actually want to hear your chitter chatter, since we've had enough of it in our normal lives instead?

That we don't really feel the need to be privy to your favourite music playing loudly on your phone?

That the forest might actually serve as an escape from other human beings, and we would prefer not to have to repeatedly seek your cooperation to get past you and your friends crowding up the whole track.

And perhaps, if I'm not asking too much, just for a span of time, that we would highly prefer not to have to listen to your noise.

Because maybe, just maybe, we believe that the sounds of the forest offers way more peace and tranquility than your voices and music do.

And at times, this is much needed peace and tranquility that we need.


The above is actually one of the reasons I've given up going hiking on the weekends.

It's always so busy with troves of people walking about noisily, chatting and playing their music out loud.

I've chosen to go on weekdays instead, where it's not as bad, but still not as peaceful as I hope it to be.

It's sad enough that Singapore only has a limited number of national parks to escape to. Can't we make them peaceful places to be in?

Spare a thought for the number of us who need this time and green space to get away.

To be relieved of the noisiness of humanity and to be part of the forest instead.

Yes, yes, this is just my opinion and you might think differently. But can't you see that I'm already trying to respect your opinion by trying to understand you?

And in the same vein, could you spare a thought for me too?

So if it's not too much to ask, could we all try to:

  • Keep our voices down if we are doing this as a social thing.

  • Know that despite this being a forest, we don't have to let our kids behave like animals.

  • To keep to the left side of the track, so people walking in the opposite direction or want to get past from behind can do so without seeking your esteemed permission.

  • To buy a pair of earphones if you really need to listen to music. They cost a mere few bucks.

  • To be respectful that the other people you're sharing the forest with are there for the sight and sounds of the forest.

There I said it. That's not too much to ask right?

So shhh everyone. Let the forest do the talking instead ok?

Why did I write this piece? Who knows. This is my blog and I feel like I can write what I want - but hey, got comments? Let me know. Take care, Hernping.


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