Natural getaway up north

Besides Punggol Ranch, Mrs Mani Shanker has two other stables, one in Pasir Ris and the other called Horsecity in Bukit Timah.
Besides Punggol Ranch, Mrs Mani Shanker has two other stables, one in Pasir Ris and the other called Horsecity in Bukit Timah.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Singapore Invites, launched by the Singapore Tourism Board, encourages residents and people from around the world to invite their family and friends to experience Singapore together. In the second of a five-part series, ranch owner Mani Shanker shares a pocket of oasis that is away from the hustle and bustle of urban Singapore.

Waking up to the neighing of horses and the plodding of their hooves. Watching the beautiful animals graze or even riding one.

Sounds like the perfect getaway to the Wild West? It sure is. Except that all that can be done right here in Singapore.

At the tip of north-eastern Singapore is Punggol Ranch, where visitors can spend the night in wagon-style chalets and take part in almost cowboy-like activities.

Home to 16 horses and ponies, the ranch located in Punggol Road is the brainchild of Mr Shanker R, 50, a trainer and a former professional endurance rider.

His wife, Mani, also 50, oversees the operations of the place.

ANIMAL THERAPY

It's away from the city life. It's peaceful and relaxing. I walk through the stables looking at the horses, communicate with them, and they don't stress you.

MRS MANI SHANKER, on her stables Brought to you by the Singapore Tourism Board

The ranch is more than Mrs Shanker's place of work - it is also an oasis when she needs time out from the hustle and bustle of urban Singapore.

"It's away from the city life. It's peaceful and relaxing. I walk through the stables looking at the horses, communicate with them, and they don't stress you," said Mrs Shanker with a laugh.

And when she has visitors from overseas, such as business associates from Australia, Britain and Canada, the Punggol Ranch is a must-visit for them, even though she has two other stables, one in Pasir Ris and the other called Horsecity in Bukit Timah.

The horses at Punggol Ranch are mostly retired racehorses. The animals, which exercise daily, have fixed meal times and munch on hay throughout the day. Visitors can feed them carrots as a treat or arrange for a tour of the stables, where they can get up close to the horses.

The 2.8ha ranch also offers riding lessons. Apart from the ranch, Mrs Shanker has discovered that Punggol itself has a lot to offer, too.

For a spot of serenity, the mother of two grown-up children goes to the Marina Country Club - about five minutes' drive from her ranch - where boats and yachts are berthed.

While there, she would introduce overseas guests to prawning, or prawn fishing from a man-made pond.

The public can also hire a boat and skipper for a duration of their choice for a short trip out to the sea. It is something that Mrs Shanker has done, and found to be a unique experience.

Another breezy and relaxing place that she likes to visit with her husband for a meal is the Changi Sailing Club. One of the restaurants at the club is open to the public and, from there, the Shankers can enjoy a magnificent view of the sea.

Besides Punggol, there is another place that Mrs Shanker is keen to show her overseas friends: Kampung Lorong Buangkok.

Located near Gerald Drive off Yio Chu Kang Road, it is Singapore's last remaining kampung on the mainland and offers a glimpse into how Singaporeans used to live.

Although some of the 26 homes there have been renovated because of problems such as termite infestation, Kampung Lorong Buangkok still retains the look and feel of olden Singapore. Cats, dogs and chickens roam freely on the 1.22ha space - about the size of three football fields.

Mrs Shanker's staff would often recommend to their guests at the ranch to take a 30-minute bicycle ride to the kampung.

This is so that they can see for themselves that Singapore has a lot more character beyond its bright lights and skyscrapers.

The country is fast-paced and modern, but it can be laid-back and down to earth, too.

"Singapore is not all about being urban and metropolitan," said Mrs Shanker. "Otherwise, tourists may think that all we do is eat and shop."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'Natural getaway up north'. Print Edition | Subscribe