20 February 2006

Garden Walk

Walking in my neighborhood is generally a quiet experience, if not spectacularly beautiful. After 5PM, the workers stop the drilling and tile cutting and all the other bothersome noises. I used to walk out of my building and head off down the street, walking about three blocks before it dead ends.

It is a gravel street and there are streetlamps, but the completed houses are very sparsely placed. One is going up directly across the street from me, and about six others within sight of my apartment. But mostly, it is deserted streets and frogs and crickets make the only real noise.

When I get to the dead end, I turn left and can walk another five blocks. If I turn right at the third block, I enter what can only be described as a Hollywood set, or maybe Disneyland, or possibly the Stepford neighborhood. It is a gated community of attached, row houses, running along narrow streets. By the extent of the growth of the gardens, I am assuming it was completed at least five years ago. The houses are three levels, half of the top floor taken up by a spacious balcony. The entrances of many of the homes are a veritable jungle of flowering vines and well-groomed gardens. It is all very pretty and very safe feeling, yet quite odd. The first time I walked through I got the chills. It was just to ‘perfect’. But by the second or third trip I was hooked. I could picture living there. Maybe.

The only problem with that walk is that it wasn’t long enough so I would head out onto the main street where it gets very noisy and rather ugly. I live on the left side of the giant street/freeway that barrels through town. The other side of the road has many more completed houses and they are of a different nature. After the few, 15 story, dog-ugly apartment blocks, there are mostly gargantuan houses, or very large, side-by-side duplexes. I had thought I had explored it all but the other day I found out that I hadn’t. I came upon the most incredible man-made stream.

It is a kilometer long stream built down the middle of a road. It must be about five meters wide, (but never trust my area calculations). Suffice to say that it is wide enough to have a curving stream run down the middle, flanked by incredible landscaping. The banks of the stream are built with round stones. A path winds up one side, then crosses over to the other, then farther up it returns to the other side, and continues this weaving back and forth the entire way. Sometimes a wooden bridge takes you across; sometimes it is giant stepping stones. Along the way you pass trees and flowers all meticulously and aesthetically arranged. Lilly pads and lotus flowers float on the water. There is even a mini waterfall where the stream crashes over a stone ledge.

You can walk along it at night because there are lights. You can take a rest on one of the benches. And even though there is street on either side, there is very little traffic, although this will probably change as the area is built up. For now, one side is all open land, lying along the banks of a river tributary.

In the evenings, you can see families with kids seated on a bench, munching on snacks. There are also a lot of young couples who park their motorbikes on the side, then side on a bridge or a bench or on the grass. It is a most pleasant place to wander.

Regrettably, I can’t simply walk away from the stream and into my house. There is the short walk back to the main road, past massive construction sites engaged in erecting a block long structure. And then I have to risk life and limb getting across the street/freeway. There is a stoplight, but it doesn’t mean much, especially to the semi drivers who race through red lights while blowing their horns. In fact, the thought of that part of the walk has kept me in at times.

Time for my walk.