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About a month ago, on a sunny Saturday, hubby took me to Taman Jurong to visit the 2 gardens there, the Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden.  Taman Jurong is the place where I grew up in.  If you’ve read my posts Judith Remembers, well, the memories were borne of my childhood in this quiet (well it used to be quiet back then…) town in the west of Singapore.

This pair of gardens includes a Suzhou-style Chinese garden and a Japanese garden sited on two adjacent islands and linked to each other by a bridge. The Chinese garden, Yu Hwa Yuan, is modeled after an imperial Sung period design.  The Japanese garden is designed to be much more quiet.  Koi-filled ponds are spanned by bridges with footpaths leading one around the stroll garden. (http://www.jgarden.org/gardens.asp?ID=415)

I have memories of visiting the gardens, especially Chinese Garden, so exploring the grounds was like home-coming for me.  I remembered having some pictures taken on the bridge at the main entrance of Chinese Garden with my sisters when we was just kids.  What’s more, I had my wedding photos taken there too 🙂

Anyway, back to my expedition.  The day start off very warm with the sun beating down on me almost cruelly.  I kept thinking I was going to get sunburnt as I slowly made my way from Japanese Garden to Chinese Garden, taking pictures with my borrowed digital camera as I went.

The Japanese Garden was really quiet, so quiet that it felt like a ghost town and a little surreal, only it was a garden and not a town.  I only saw a few joggers, mainly Caucasian expatriates who live in that area.  Besides trees, flowers and a resting hall, there were lotus and koi ponds too.  The tranquility and beauty of the landscape soon drew me out of my unease at being in an almost deserted place.

As I made my way further into the garden engrossed in taking pictures, hubby came to look for me with a big umbrella and a cap.  The sun was beating down relentlessly and I could feel my skin burning.  However, holding on to an umbrella would make it difficult for me to take pictures so I declined his offer of the umbrella but took the cap.  That proved to be a big mistake.

Hubby left to go back to the van after taking my picture on the bridge linking Japanese Garden with Chinese Garden and I was on my own again.  I made it across the bridge into Chinese Garden, passed by pavilions were couples cozied up or workers took a break from the hot afternoon sun.

I came upon the Ru Yun T’a (the 7-Storey Pagoda) and climbed up the stairs right to the top.  The view up there was beautiful, unobstructed (well, what do you expect when you’re 7 storeys up?) and I was all alone.  All the while as I was climbing the stairs I wondered if I would meet with some crazy maniacs.  I had my mobile phone ready in case I need to call for help and my senses was on high alert 😛

The climb took its toll on me and I could feel stars circling in my head so after going round the pagoda taking pictures of the views, I sat on the top steps to rest.  Not a soul came up there and it was so quiet it was almost eerie.

Anyway I managed to contain my fear of being alone in that old building (you know what kind of stories come out of old stories!) and went back down the spiral stairs.  Met two Caucasian tourists on my way down.  Phew!

The moment I stepped out of the pagoda, big fat drops of rain fell but it lasted only for about 5 minutes and it was only a drizzle.  I continued on with my expedition, snapping away and fanning myself with the cap.  It was super hot and my skin was burning.  All the while I kept thinking you all had better appreciate this series of photos because I risked my health and possibly my life to take them 😛

I came upon the Twin Pagodas, smaller versions of the 7 level pagoda, but didn’t enter them.  There were some foreigners, possibly Filipinos, who set out picnic mats on the grass patch in front of the pagodas for a picnic.  Nearby at the teahouse and pavilion was a Myanmar Nurses Family Day event being held.

The sky had darkened a little (well, not so little now that I’ve looked at the pictures) but the sun was still hot on my skin.  I went and visited the Koi pond, bought some souvenirs from the shop there before deciding it was time to head back.

Alas, someone up there obviously had another plan for me for before I could even reach the Twin Pagoda, it started pouring!  Pouring with a capital P!  The picnickers ran for shelter in the pagoda but I couldn’t make it there so I ran to take shelter at the worker’s shed just beside where I was.

One part of the shed was made of wood, the other part made of container, ie, metal.  All I had over my head was the protruding roof of the building, possibly only about 3ft of shelter from the wind and rain.

I thought like before the rain would subside soon so I stood there and waited.  I texted hubby to say I was stranded.  Suddenly the siren sounded and I thought ‘oh no, lightning is coming!’.  True enough, the sky brightened with streaks of lightning and roared with thunder and to make matters worse, the rain and wind increased in intensity.

I was drenched despite the shelter from the roof of the small building.  One side of the shed faced the path and another side faced an empty parade square but there was a row of balsam plants that separated the shed from the square so that was where I stood as I didn’t want to leave myself open to any stray lightning (if there was such a thing!)

I looked around, hugging myself to try to ward off the cold, and saw a lamp post a few meters ahead.  There was a lightning rod at the top of it and I wondered how safe was I being so close to the lamp post.  I tried to recall articles I read about lightning strike prevention but couldn’t remember if anything had been mentioned about lightning rods being safe, or if it was safe being around tall trees and lamp post (note to self: pay attention to such articles!)

Hubby then called to ask my location and in the midst of the thunder, the rain and the fear of being struck by lightning because I was using the phone, we had a miscommunication about where my location was.  I squat down (the only sure thing I remembered from the lightning articles), tried to be as small as I could, but the incessant rain didn’t help the rising tide of panic I had.  I didn’t know if standing below the wooden shed with concrete floor was safe.  I even tried the door but it was padlocked.

I went further along the building and realised the other part of it was made of discarded container which was worse than the wooden wall of where I first stood so back to that sentry post I stood, then squat, and prayed and waited.  Twenty minutes turned into thirty and at one point, perhaps from some rising insanity, I thought I blended quite well with my surrounding because I wore a lime green top and the building was painted light green and we were surround by green plants and trees.

At the start of the rain I even posted on FB a picture I took of the scenery in front of where I was hiding from the rain and said I was stranded.  That was before the lightning of course.

It was almost an hour later before I found the courage to run to the teahouse which was about 10 meters away from my hiding place.  I had debated on whether to do that but the constant lightning and thunder and my slippery Crocs slippers prevented me from doing it.

After knowing that my knight in shining armour (well, in Bermuda shorts) was coming to my rescue, I felt calmer.  I paid attention to the lightning (some of them were pretty close!) and after one particular very long strike, I decided to run for the teahouse because I felt it wouldn’t strike again so soon.  I had to pray that I didn’t slip and hurt myself and thankfully I made it to the teahouse safely, though I was all wet (well, I was already wet so what’s a little more rain?).

I stood there for about twenty minutes before hubby called and asked where I was.  He said he had passed the Twin Pagodas but didn’t see me.  By then the rain had let up a little and the sky seemed to have lost its anger because the lightning had ceased, only a distant rumble could be heard now and then.  I walked out to where hubby said he was and taking the spare umbrella he brought along, I followed him out of the park keeping a safe distance behind him.

Boy, was he mad as the Lightning God!

Tips on how to survive being caught in a lightning storm: http://www.wildbackpacker.com/wilderness-survival/articles/surviving-a-lightning-storm/

Photos of Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden to be uploaded soon.