Tag Archives: heat

Kuala Lumpur vs Singapore: Which is the Best Running City?

by Paul Thompson

On the way back from South East Asia I read this CNN article  comparing the two cities I’d just visited – Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. It made me think how they compared as running cities.  I travelled back to New York from Kuala Lumpur via Singapore – 24 hours in the air and a 12 hour layover in Singapore meant I had bags of time to pen this comparison, using my wife’s categories for the best cities for running created for her recent blog post.

Both are barely a few degrees north of the equator, separated by about 200 miles. Hence, both experience almost identical tropical heat and humidity. This makes them less than ideal for running – as I complained in my last post. This tropical climate drives most indoors to the refuge of air conditioning and treadmills, leaving just the hard core, like former club runners at Singapore’s MR 25  and KL’s (as the locals call Kuala Lumpur) Pacesetters. However, Singapore enjoys the occasional breeze, due perhaps to its proximity to the sea, and cleaner air.

Verdict: Singapore

A view of KLCC Park taken from the Petronas Twin Towers.

Green Spaces
As cities that have grown rapidly green space is often crowded out by people, buildings and traffic. That said, both offer some great running routes in close proximity to the city centre. KL has its Lake Gardens and the adjacent green upscale residential district of Kenny Hills and the government quarter. And right in the city’s core is the running track at KLCC Park: a short circuit but with jaw dropping views of the majestic Petronas Twin Towers. But to get off road you need to head further out to places like Bukit Kiara, offering hundreds of acres of rain forest (sadly slowly being eaten away by condo developments). On the city’s outer fringes there are many rubber or palm oil plantations which offer endless miles of off road running, in the shade, on estate tracks.

Monkeys are a common site along the trails in MacRitchie Reservoir in Singapore.

As I explained in my recent post, Singapore has a number of options including: MacRitchie Reservoir – miles of off road running routes through secondary rain forest; Bukit Timah Nature Reserve – Singapore’s highest point which offers challenging off road running, some through primary rainforest; Bukit Brown – a Chinese cemetery about to be buried by an expressway: East Coast, a long thin strip of green running for miles from central Singapore to the airport (last week I anchored a second placed mixed team half ironman, running a 1:18 half marathon in 90F heat and 90% humidity – I was glad just to finish); and KTM rail line – a recently grassed over rail bed of almost 30 miles from the city centre to the far north of the island.

Verdict: Singapore

Sidewalks (aka pavements)
This is a no brainer. In Singapore you will find wide, level pavements and law abiding motorists. KL on the other hand combines some of the worst pavements anywhere with manic motorcyclists and taxi drivers, making its streets a dangerous obstacle course. KL’s pavements have entered local folklore. A few years back it was decided to pave almost every sidewalk with shiny mosaic tiles. Today many of these tiles are now broken, stolen, and pockmarked with ankle breaking holes. And when it rains  they might as well be an ice rink.

Verdict: Singapore

The Petronas Twin Towers are a stunning sight at night.

Both cities have eye popping cityscapes – stunning architectural buildings, old and new, to take your mind off the heat and humidity. KL has its Petronas Twin Towers  and KL Tower. Singapore, meanwhile, has even more to offer including its Esplanade (its answer to the Sydney Opera House), the Padang (a cricket field surrounded by colonial era buildings), the stunning new Marina Bay Sands, and the world’s largest big wheel, the Singapore Flyer. But while Singapore may have the edge in terms of architectural wonders KL has the vantage points from which to appreciate what it has.

The latest additions to Singapore’s skyline: The Flyer, the Esplanade building and Marina Bay Sands.

Verdict: KL

Bodies of Water
Singapore is a small island so not surprisingly you are never far from water. Even in the middle of the island there is the central catchment area, a cluster of reservoirs, some, like MacRitchie, circumnavigated by trails suitable for running. And then there are the drainage canals, which increasingly are accompanied by paths such as the Ulu Pandan Connector. KL, meanwhile, is land-locked and almost bereft of water aisde from a few small lakes such as those at the Lake Gardens and KLCC.

Verdict: Singapore

Overall Verdict: Both places, as former homes and home to friends and family, I like and miss very much. So choosing between them is hard. But for running at least Singapore wins by a neck.


It’s Still Too Hot Here!

by Paul Thompson

Right now I’m in Singapore, staying with my in-laws. A work assignment brings me back – to a place where I lived, worked, married and ran. The 24 hour flight and 12 hour time difference have left me jet lagged and sleep deprived. No prizes for guessing what I did soon after arriving. I figured it would help revive me – and heavy rain had reduced the temperature to an almost bearable 27C (80F), but pushed the humidity to 100%.

My 6 mile run took me through Dover (a former British military and residential neighborhood), past Biopolis (a research and development ‘hub’ – Singapore loves ‘hubs’), and ended on a drainage canal that forms part of the Ulu Pandan Park Connector. Soon after getting back, and after several cups of coffee, I gave up trying to revive myself and took a nap – for 5 hours, slightly more than the 40 winks I had in mind.

At 10pm later that day I was wide awake, as though it were 10am. As indeed it was according to my body clock. So I ventured out for my second run, a 6 mile loop that took me past Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where I used to teach, and down Old Holland Road where a few skateboarders were all that punctured the late night silence (see this motorcyclists’ video clip complete with Bollywood soundtrack).

It’s now the end of the day after I arrived. It was warmer today, a more normal 32C (90F). The rain had stopped and the sun had poked it’s head out from behind the clouds. I did a 4 mile run this morning, again along the Ulu Pandan Park Connector (this time going in the opposite direction to the previous day), and then a 6 mile run this evening (the Dover run as above but with a circuit of University Town).

The canal along the Ulu Pandan connector with a MRT train passing by overhead.

The last few days have confirmed what I always knew. That Singapore is too hot to be ideal for running – more so when you have just come from 5C (40F) in New York. Still it’s a fascinating place to run in.

Over the coming few days I hope to rediscover my old running routes including: MacRitchie Reservoir, from which MR25 (the running club I used to compete for until I left 7 years ago) gets its name; the Singapore Botanic Gardens, an urban oasis just minutes from Orchard Road, Singapore’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue; and Bukit Brown, an old Chinese cemetery. I also plan on exploring the new running options offered by the closure of the Singapore-Kranji railway line and the turfing over of its tracks.

And to cap it all on Sunday, March 18 I compete in the 2012 Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore – actually as part of a mixed team with Nicholas Fang (bike) and Shu Yin Ong (swim). Nick and I are unbeaten in Singapore – so far! Watch this space.

One of the ponds in Botanic Gardens.