NDP 2019: Best picnic spots in Singapore near the heartlands to catch the Mobile Column in action
This is home
We celebrate National Day every year, but for the festivities to extend to the deep heartlands — it has been a bombastic nine years since. And for those years, we could always trust in the quality of the festivities usually held at the Float @ Marina Bay: Steadfast marching contingents, talented artists putting up big flashy shows and, of course, dazzling firework displays that seem to get bigger every year. That said, it's still exciting that they've decided to bring the party closer to locals this year, where the Mobile Column will drive from the F1 Pit Building to five heartland neighbourhoods on August 10 – so everyone can really get into the spirit. Which is only apt, because 200 years of existence is no small matter.
Back up – Mobile Column? Turns out, Singapore is not the only entity commemorating a big milestone this year. The Mobile Column is that thing you see on TV – or on the streets, if you're one of the roadside spectators that homebodies also see on TV – in which a fleet of hardware and various assets from the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force show off their armored prowess to the citizens. And this tradition hits its golden jubilee year in conjunction with the wider nation's bicentennial, having first taken center stage at the Padang in 1969.
If it's any indication by now, there are big celebrations to be had on that long August weekend we're all highly anticipating. But sometimes getting tickets to NDP just isn't in the books, and the activity-heavy pop-up carnivals that will appear in the same heartland spots to be visited by the Mobile Column isn't really your cup of tea. Our suggestion? Have a picnic nearby instead – because nothing screams patriotic more than a leisurely, low-key picnic accompanied with our favourite hawker bites, before catching a glimpse (and a picture or two) of Singapore's military excellence in the flesh.
Picnic spot #1 (near Woodlands pit stop): Mandai Tekong Park
Easy mistake to make, but don't be fooled by this park's name – it isn't the same fabled place at which many NS men go through their Basic Military Training (though we must admit it does fit in nicely with the themes of NDP and the spirit of local experiences). This is a smaller open green space in neighbourhood residential area and made our list because of its well-endowed range of activities that are simple and classic, speaking to the common Singaporean encounter of HDB living – the whole point of celebrating in the heartlands, right? With various amenities (like the option to book a barbecue pit on-site), your picnic can be easily pulled off under one of the many trees in the idyllic space within Mandai Tekong Park's borders. And the Mobile Column will be parked just 10 minutes away on foot – so you can walk off all that grilled meat to check the cavalry out.
Woodlands Drive 50, Singapore 731887
What time you should be there: Late afternoon; the Mobile Column is expected to park at Woodlands at 6.45pm.
Picnic spot #2 (near Bishan pit stop): Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
This one is a bit more of a 'duh' point – who hasn't heard of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park? One of the largest gardens in central Singapore, this park is already a family favourite for many residents, even if they don't live nearby. With water playgrounds and several sandy play areas that'll make the inner children in all of us squeal with glee (along with your actual kids, of course), the lush greenery and expanse space provides the perfect setting to chill out on the public holiday. To catch the Mobile Column drive by, pick a nook by Ang Mo Kio Ave 6, on either side of the main road that cuts through the large park.
1384 Ang Mo Kio Ave 1
What time you should be there: Before 3pm; the Mobile Column headed to Woodlands will pass by abovementioned road before passing Jubilee Square at around 3pm. Otherwise, go in the late afternoon; the Mobile Column to Bishan is expected to park at 6.45pm.
Picnic spot #3 (near Jurong East pit stop): Bukit Batok Nature Park
If scenery is what you're looking for, Bukit Batok Nature Park has luscious greens, footpaths that lead to higher altitude perspectives of breathtaking views, and, tucked in a corner, a quarry backed by tall (and seriously aesthetic) rock formations. Pick a spot along one of the benches littering the many paths, or chope yourself one of the pavilions that are sure to be in high-demand that day.
Along Bukit Batok East Avenue 2 and Bukit Batok East Avenue 6
What time you should be there: Before 5.30pm; the Mobile Column is expected to pass by Blk 298 Bukit Batok St 22 (after Bukit Batok Nature Park) at around 6pm.
Picnic spot #4 (near Wisma Geylang Serai pit stop): Joo Chiat Terrace Interim Park
Joo Chiat Terrace Interim Park summed up in a word: lovely. Another one of the smaller parks, it has everything you need out of getting a little closer to nature with naught but a mat separating you from the earth's elements. The best part? You have a much higher chance of avoiding the public holiday crowds here than at the other bigger and more popular communal spaces. Other than the 8-minute walk to Wisma Geylang Serai where the Mobile Column will be situated, this park is located even nearer to a variety of food places – a fallback plan if you wake up lazy to picnic prep on the morning of August 10.
Joo Chiat Terrace
What time you should be there: Late afternoon; the Mobile Column is expected to park at Wisma Geylang Serai at 6.45pm
Picnic spot #5 (near Punggol pit stop): Punggol Waterway Park
A picnic right by the banks of a river? Yes, please. This beautifully polished park is built around the Punggol Waterway (hence the name) and features separate water and sand play areas – both of which are as large as children's delights when they see the amount of space they have to run amok. If you're feeling particularly sentimental, a visit to the Heartwave Wall will give you a panel-view of Punggol's transformation from fishing village to its current stature as modern town – a little piece of Singapore's history to appreciate on National Day. Needless to say, there's no wrong place to set down your picnic mat here.
Sentul Cres, Singapore 821313
What time you should be there: Late afternoon; the Mobile Column is expected to park at Punggol at 6.45pm