Singapore Story – A City of Gardens

Orchid Garden FlowersWell if there is one reason to visit Singapore (that is if you aren’t a foodie like me) and that is to visit the gardens. In fact it is amazing that such a densely populated city state seems to have room not just for a few parks and gardens but for some huge ones. Okay, they did cheat when it came to the Gardens by the Bay because it is reclaimated land, however they are not the only gardens that Singapore boasts, and I did not have to time to visit all of them. Mind you, they don’t just plant gardens in the ground, but they also put them in the buildings as well.

Garden Buildings
I wish they would start doing this in Australia

In fact, when you step off of the plane and walk into one of the three terminals at Changi Airport you will immediately be assaulted with plants everywhere. They even have trees growing out of the conveyor belts that bring your luggage out to you.

Trees in the Baggage Hall
See what I mean

Anyway, Sunday morning was going to be set aside to go to church, however I discovered that the service didn’t start until 11:00 am so I used some time in the hotel to do some other stuff (such as writing). I then went and had some breakfast at a cafe that I had discovered (thanks to Google Maps) called The Book Cafe. Being a book nerd any cafe that tries to associate itself with books is going to be one place that I will be visiting, and I must say that I certainly wasn’t disappointed (though the Lolita posters on the wall were a little disturbing – not a book that I have any intention of reading).

So, after breakfast I made my way to the MRT station to discover that getting the train to church was going to be a little more awkward than I expected, but I did make it in time. Mind you, I discovered that the Singapore Botanic Gardens happened to be next to the stop where I would get off to go to church (and it was aptly named Botanic Gardens). I initially was going to have a look around the gardens before going to church, but I decided to postpone it until afterwards. However, as I made my way there I discovered that I was going to be in a bit of a quandry. I walked past not one, not two, not even three, but four churches and a bible college to get to the church that I wanted (thanks to a couple of good recommendations by some friends).

(pic - Story) Singapore Church - True Jesus ChurchTrinity Gospel Church

The True Jesus Church (left) and the Trinity Gospel Church (right)

  Gospel Light Church Bethlehem Bible Presbyterian Church

The Gospel Light Church (left) and the Bethlehem Bible Presbyterian Church (right)

I almost walked into the Bible College but the guy at the gate told me that it was just a Bible College, and when I asked him where the church was he simply shrugged his shoulders. One would have thought that they would know the churches in their local area. Anyway, I have written up about the church in another post so I will move on to my next adventure.

Singapore Bible College
Oh, this is the Bible College

Anyway, as I was making my way to the church I discovered that there happened to be a hawker centre on the corner, so after some pleasant experiences the previous day I knew where I was going to have some lunch. Okay, it may not have been as impressive as the Chinatown Complex, but these hawker centres certainly leave the food halls in our shopping centres for dead (and not only that, but the food is really cheap).

So, after finishing off my lunch I crossed the bridge to go and check out the botanic gardens, which happens to be on the World Heritage List.

Botanic Gardens GateI am glad that I left it until after church because I must admit that this place is huge. In fact you could spend the entire day walking through here simply enjoying the sunshine and the multitude of plants. One thing that caught my attention at the entrance was the picture of a plant called and Anti-Matter. Cool, a plant straight out of a science fiction saga, though unfortunately I wasn’t able to actually find any of them in the gardens. After marvelling at the poster, and setting myself an impossible goal, I decided to enter the gardens and explore. Mind you, it is really easy to get lost, even with Google Maps, so it is quite handy that they happen to have maps pretty much everywhere. Also the gardens aren’t just a collection of plants, they are a collection of entire habitats.

Exploring the Gardens

So, the big question is where do I start: I guess the beginning is always a good place (though not everybody starts at the beginning, but you have to be a really good writer to be able to start a novel at the end). The thing about botanical gardens is that they really aren’t places that you can simply write about because they are very visual. As such it is probably much better if I actually show you what I saw as opposed to simply trying to describe the place using words. For instance this is what I saw when I first walked in through the gates:

Entrance Lake Entrance Lawns

And these are some of the plants that were around here:

Entrance Shrubbery (pic - Story) Singapore Botanic Gardens - Entrance Gardens 02

Actually, now that I come to think about it, making a video blog would probably have been so much better, however that tends to be really, really time consuming and while you can easily make a video using the camera in your phone, you still have to cut and edit it, as well as creating voice overs (don’t think you can simply talk while making the video because the camera in your phone is simply not that powerful.

Initially I was just going to walk around a small portion of the gardens before heading off to my next destination, however such places tend to have the power to draw you in ever deeper until you discover that you have become lost in the beauty of the artwork (as I have written previously, gardens are a form of artistic expression).

So, as I was wandering around the part of the garden I found an entrance to the Foilage Garden, so I decided to enter and follow the path through to the other side. It was as I was walking through here that I began to appreciate the size of these gardens (and also noting that it is on the world heritage list).

Foilage Garden Entrance Foilage Garden

Mind you, not being much of a botanist I had no idea of what they meant by foliage (it refers to leaves) so as I was wandering through here, without having any idea what I was looking at or what this particular garden was supposed to represent, all that went through my mind was ‘wow, pretty plants’.

Foilage Garden Foilage Garden

So, after emerging from the foliage (or leaf) garden I found myself on another path, so instead to turning around and heading back to the station with a mistaken belief that I really didn’t have that much time to truly appreciate the place, I threw caution to the wind and went deeper into the gardens.

Red Brick Road Red Brick Road

It was then that I discovered I was following a path that was referred to as the Red Brick Road, namely because there were red bricks along the side, though some parts of it were paved completely. The path took me past one of the university campuses (no doubt containing their botany departments) along the top of the ridge where I looked down on some of the other parts of the garden. When I past one of the many maps I managed to get my bearings and continue.

Red Brick Road Red Brick Road

This is probably one of the good things about writing blog posts because you can intersperse them with pictures, unlike books where you generally need to lump all the pictures onto glossy pages in the middle (unless it is a picture book, or one of those large reference books). The couple of travelogues that I have read unfortunately did not include pictures, particularly the Bill Bryson one I read about his adventures through the United States. Then again I guess a good writer really doesn’t need to resort to pictures.

Anyway, I continued along the Red Brick Road past the healing garden. I didn’t really pay all that much attention to it, but I guess it is supposed to be a place where you sit and relax and let the majesty of the garden wash away your anxieties – or it simply could be a collection of herbs that are used for medicinal purposes, I really don’t know.

Healing Garden Entrance Lady taking photos

So, after passing somebody taking close up photos of the plants with a huge camera, I decided to take the next turn off which took me across a bridge. For some reason I always like walking across bridges in gardens, particularly where it crosses a chasm crowded with plants.

Red Brick Bridge Red Brick Canyon

It was then that I discovered that I had taken a wrong turn because the path took me to another entrance to the healing garden, and really not wanting to backtrack I descended some stairs and stepped out onto a service road that took me to the side entrance. All of the sudden, looking at suburban Singapore and all of the cars driving pass, the magic of the garden simply vanished. So, upon finding another map I made my way to the info-centre and then back into the gardens where I discovered a path leading into a rainforest.

Rainforest Walk Rainforest Walk

For some reason I have this romantic fascination with rainforests. Maybe it has something to do with all of those adventure movies that I used to watch as a kid, such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Romancing the Stone. It probably also has to do something with Tarzan, but I haven’t read or seen any Tarzan for ages and the only thing that comes to mind is him swinging through the trees on vines (is that all possible?), wearing a leopard skin loincloth, and him saying ‘me Tarzan, you Jane’ – oh, and apes.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to give up the opportunity to walk through a rainforest, even a manufactured one, so I left the path an dived inside. Mind you, as I was uploading a couple of pictures to Facebook I discovered that Bronwyn Bishop had resigned as speaker, and then over the next few days the infamous tweet of Tony Abbott began to doTony Abbott Tweet the rounds of the internet. Okay, the tweet was taken entirely out of context (he was referring to the resignation of the speaker of the former Labor government) but it goes to show how the internet can be a cruel and untameable beast and how one’s words can come back and haunt you.

Anyway, enough of Australian politics because there are plenty of other blogs where people write about the political situation in Australia, whether they support or are against the current government, and I have no desire to throw in my two cents worth here – particularly since I am writing about my exploration of Singapore, in particular my travels through the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It was just that sometimes things happen and you always remember where you are when that particular event occurred (such as everybody, who was alive at the time, remembering where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated – my Dad was delivering newspapers). Anyway, here are some more pictures of the rain forest.

Rainforest Walk Rainforest Walk

Rainforest Walk Rain Forest Walk

I exited the rainforest onto another area of lawn, and also found myself back on the Red Brick Road. So I continued to follow the road to the bottom of the gardens (though the thought of finding any fairies did not cross my mind). I’m not sure what I was looking for, but I simply wanted to walk to a lake that was down then and then turn around and walk up the other side. However, as I was wandering along I discovered what turned out to be a really pleasant topiary (if that is what you call them). I noticed that there were a few people sitting in here, including a young lady reading a book. Maybe I should have sat down a read a book there as well, but I decided to simply walk around it and continue on my journey.

Topiary Topiary

Topiary Topiary

I finally found my way to the far side of the gardens (though I guess that depends on where you entered, because if you had entered around here then it wouldn’t be the far side) where I found this strange fountain that was actually a spherical rock being spun by the water. Unfortunately it completely slipped my mind to make a video, so unfortunately I am unable to share it with you (maybe you need to go to the gardens to have a look). I ended up wandering around the lawn areas and then turning around and heading back the way I came. However, as I mentioned, I don’t like backtracking, and since the gardens are huge, I decided to take another way back to the MRT station.

Okay, my trek wasn’t random because there were signs pointing to a bonsai garden. Bonsai are really cool so I wanted to check it out, however to get there I ended up passing through what I will call a hedge garden.

Hedge Garden Hedge Garden

Soon enough though I found the bonsai garden, and as I said, bonsai are really cool. It must take a lot of skill to be able to create these miniature trees. Okay, it was getting a little hot, and I was in jeans, but that didn’t matter because I was simply enjoying the tranquillity of the place. As I suggested, I know very little about bonsai beyond them being miniature trees, but I still think they are heaps cool.

Bonsai Bonsai

Bonsai Bonsai

I guess my next stop was going to be the Orchid Garden, which is apparently really, really famous. I was here so I guess it was worth checking out. However as I was making my way there I passed through what turned out to be a desert garden, namely a garden containing plants that you would probably only find in a desert.

Desert Garden Desert Garden

Desert Garden (pic - Story) Singapore Botanic Gardens - Desert Garden 04

Then I discovered what could only be considered a waterfall garden, namely because there was this waterfall that you could walk behind (with numerous people doing so).

Waterfall Gardens Waterfall Gardens

I finally found the Orchid Garden, and it would probably be much better if I just dump a whole heap of photos here than simply writing about it. Mind you, I never realised that the humble orchid could be so diverse, but from what I gathered from this garden it is. Basically the orchid garden is one huge flower garden that is simply full of orchids. There even have spots call ‘photo spots’ where you can take photos of yourself surrounded by orchids.

Orchid Gardens Orchid Gardens

Orchid Gardens Orchid Gardens

Orchid Gardens Orchid Gardens

Orchid Gardens Orchid Gardens

Orchid Gardens Orchid Gardens

Well, there were probably a few more (actually a lot more) places in the garden that I could explore, but I decided to call it a day and head back into the city for the next part of my adventure.

Slinging in Singapore

I’m told that there is one thing that you have to do when you go to Singapore and that is to have a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel. One thing that I can tell you about the experience is that it is not cheap (it will set you back about $40.00). Anyway, the funny thing about Raffles Hotel is that it was originally established by the Sarkies brothers (who are quite famous in Singapore). Okay, they are probably no relation of mine, however I like to say that they are distant ancestors (and who knows, they probably were). One Singaporean even made a comment on my last name, and when I told him that they were distant relations, he suggested that I was a very wealthy person. The problem is that the Sarkies establishment ended up selling all but one of their hotels in South-east Asia and went bankrupt in 1931.

Sarkies Brothers
The Sarkies Brothers – There is a bit of family resemblance

You can wander around parts of Raffles Hotels, though obviously there are parts that are set aside for guests only (and considering that it is a high class hotel, you do need a bit of money to be able to stay there). However, it does retain a lot of its old colonial charm, and walking through the gardens almost takes you back to the days of the British Empire. You could almost imagine people from Victorian England walking along the terraces. There is even a billiard bar, however it was closed when I passed through.

Raffles Billiard Bar Raffles Courtyard

Raffles Fountain Raffles Hotel

As for the Singapore Sling, well, I’m not a big fan of cocktails, and while having a Singapore Sling at Raffles should be on most people’s to do list while in Singapore, I would hardly say that it is a memorable experience. In the end the seSingapore Slingrvice was quite slow, the bar not all that fantastic, and they fact that they insist on a tip on top of the service charge says to me that there are much better bars to spend your time in Singapore. Oh, there is also a shopping mall along one side of the hotel, though like the hotel, the shops located here are incredibly high class. Anyway, not being a big fan of shopping, I don’t see any reason why I would fly seven hours simply to do something that I can easily do back home. If there is one thing that I do like about shopping and that is haggling, and unfortunately you can’t do that here.

Anyway, after my less than thrilling experience at Raffles, I decided to go for a bit more of a walk, this time to check out some of the bars located behind Raffles. It seems that you have this incredibly high class hotel located across the road from some much more reasonably priced places to have a drink. What I did discover that was of interest was the toy museum. However it happened to be closed, so I made a mental note to try and come back the next day and check it out (not that I am a big fan of toys, rather it was kind of different).

After a much better drink at a much better establishment it was time to make my way back to the hotel. I decided to walk back to the Downtown Core, and the trek took me past the Anglican Cathedral. I must admit that the Anglican Cathedral, made out of white stone (or has it been white washed) was really, really impressive. Unfortunately it seemed as if there was an event going on here so I wasn’t able to enter the grounds.

Anglican Cathedral
I should make an effort to visit this place next time.

As I was making my way to the Downtown Core I passed the houses of parliament, as well as more evidence of the celebrations that were being set up (which is funny because the last time I was in Singapore many of the roads were blocked off due to the Grand Prix). I finally arrived at the river and crossed over to see this very lively restaurant strip running along the river called The Boat Quay.

Boat Quay
I really wanted to spend more time here.

I decided that maybe catching the train wouldn’t be the best thing to do, so instead walked back to the hotel along the river. Unfortunately it did take a bit of time, but at least it I got to see some of Singapore’s nightlife, as well as taking a video of the boats cruising along the river.

Actually, I almost forgot something – as I was wandering along the riverbank, enjoying the sites and sounds of this part of Singapore, I was also looking for a place to grab a bite to eat. Imagine my surprise when I found an Indian Restaurant, so I immediately asked for a vindaloo (I’ve been watching way too much Red Dwarf). I tell you what, that was one of the hottest vindaloos that I have ever had, but then again this was an authentic Indian restaurant. It was a shame that I wasn’t able to find a stall that sold a vindaloo in any of the hawker’s markets.

Creative Commons LicenseSingapore Story – A City of Gardens by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

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