Brought to you by the Singapore Tourism Board (singapore invites)

Curiosity fuels his bus rides

Bus spotter Bernard Wee at his favourite spot, a former bus interchange in Woodlands Centre Road. The berths are now occupied by private buses and heavy vehicles.
Bus spotter Bernard Wee at his favourite spot, a former bus interchange in Woodlands Centre Road. The berths are now occupied by private buses and heavy vehicles.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

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 fourth of a five-part series, bus enthusiast Bernard Wee shares how he explores the island's hidden gems on public transport.

Some people use mobile apps to find out how to get around by public bus, but Mr Bernard Wee's friends go to him instead.

The bus-spotter, who has explored about 200 routes in under 30 years, has a knack for remembering bus routes after taking them just once.

Mr Wee, 38, fell in love with buses when he was nine. He would pay special attention to the metal plates attached to the outside of old public buses here. Those plates listed the names of the roads on which the bus travelled.

His curiosity led him to travel on various bus routes, taking him to many parts of Singapore. He would also figure out his way home by bus from wherever he was.

One of his favourite places here is Woodlands Centre Road, where some parts of a former bus terminal still stand today. The terminal was one of the biggest and busiest, from where the then Trans-Island buses operated.

LAST STOP FOR OLD BUSES

It's good for him to take photos of the buses now because the next time he comes, he may not see them any more.

MR BERNARD WEE, on his fellow bus-spotter from Hong Kong Brought to you by the Singapore Tourism Board

Buses from the Trans-Island Bus Services (now SMRT Buses) were special to him as they came in a variety of models and had fixtures that were different from other public buses, Mr Wee said.

One unique feature was the way the bus windows opened: upwards, instead of sideways.

Mr Wee visits Woodlands Centre Road twice a month during weekends, reaching the area by a direct bus from his Bedok home.

For an hour, he would observe the buses before having fishball noodles for lunch at his favourite hawker centre on the second floor of Block 4A, Woodlands Centre Road.

"I go there to get a glimpse into how our interchanges used to look like. The berths and parking lots for the buses are still there," said Mr Wee. The parking spaces are now used by private buses and heavy vehicles.

Also in the area is an outlet of fast-food chain KFC that, to him, looks unchanged over the years. The eatery's location gives him a front-row seat to watch the buses go by. "It brings me back to my childhood. It has that nostalgic feel," he said.

Mr Wee is capturing the area's quirky charm through photographs before work on previously announced redevelopment plans for the area start next year.

When he was in the neighbourhood recently, he also had a meal at the hawker centre, where cheaper food options, such as handmade noodles for $3 a bowl, are still available.

Mr Wee did not have time to take a friend from Hong Kong, Mr Frankly Yeung, to Woodlands Centre Road, but they did visit other spots that Mr Wee likes.

Mr Yeung, 22, a designer, is also a bus-spotter. The two got to know each other through a bus-spotting page on Facebook.

They visited the Geylang Bus Terminal, Hougang Bus Interchange, and the area near the Seletar Aerospace Park, which offers an unobstructed view of passing buses, thanks to low traffic.

The Geylang Bus Terminal and Hougang Bus Interchange are where the last of certain SMRT and SBS Transit bus models can be seen.

For example, a bus model called DAF, which SMRT Buses currently operates but will soon scrap, can be seen at the Geylang Bus Terminal.

One memorable experience for Mr Yeung was taking a DAF bus from Geylang to Choa Chu Kang.

"The bus ride was smooth, the seat was comfortable, and the bus captain handled the bus well," he said. In fact, so smooth was it that he managed to take a nap during the journey.

At the Hougang Bus Interchange, double-decker buses that will be retired soon can be spotted. While these buses also ply Hong Kong's roads, Mr Wee took his friend on a ride here to let him experience the differences between the two cities.

"It's good for him to take photos of the buses now because the next time he comes, he may not see them any more," lamented Mr Wee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'Curiosity fuels his bus rides'. Print Edition | Subscribe