Sep 12 2011
Singapore is constantly changing. Massive new attractions like Marina Bay Sands and Universal Studios open every year and, due to land reclamation work, the island is actually getting bigger. It’s unlikely that Singapore’s founders would recognise what their tropical trading post has developed into, except maybe if you took them to the Botanic Gardens.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens were established in 1859 as a retreat for the wealthy plantation owners and colonial governors who lived in the Orchard Road area. While the other historic sites in this area came tumbling down in the 20th century to make way for mega-malls and condos, the Botanic Gardens survived untouched.
Today, Gardens boasts the title of Singapore’s oldest national park and its themed gardens occupy 183 acres in the heart of the city. Whether you want to smell the flowers, learn about medicinal plants on a guided tour, or just enjoy the open space, the gardens deserve a place on your Singapore to-do list.
The only place in the park that you need to pay an admission fee (S$5 adults / S$1 children or students) is the National Orchid Garden. Singapore has long been a hotspot for cultivating these delicately beautiful flowers and the garden is home to more than 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids. There are so many varieties that VIPs who visit Singapore – from Margaret Thatcher to Ricky Martin – have an orchid named after them. Also within the paid area is the Cool House with orchids and cool carnivorous plants that can’t survive in the relentless heat.
While the Orchid Garden is the biggest attraction (most organised tours visit the orchids and nothing else), the dozen other themed gardens are completely free and just as enjoyable. Highlights include fragrant frangipani, fruit trees, the ginger garden with a walk-through waterfall, and a swatch of virgin rainforest with trees reaching heights over 40 metres. Recent additions include the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden with play structures and the Evolution Garden which traces the history of plant life from fungi to ferns to flowers. The gardens are also a haven for small animals and you’ll see grey squirrels, songbirds and the occasional monitor lizard. You can purchase pellets to feed the turtles and fish that live in the lakes and imported swans nest around Swan Lake.
The Botanic Gardens is open daily from 06:00 to 00:00, which means you can visit outside the heat of the day. Early-risers come to jog on the gardens’ perfectly paved pathways and there’s a morning gathering of tai chi enthusiasts. In the evening the illuminated gardens is perfect for a romantic stroll or fine French dinner at Au Jardin Les Amis. For a casual meal without leaving the gardens, grab a sandwich or pizza from Casa Verde café or a snack from the kiosks at the Ginger and Children’s Gardens.
There is one big change in store for the gardens – the Botanic Gardens MRT station opens on October 8, 2011.
Singapore Botanic Garden: 1 Cluny Road, 6471 7361, www.sbg.org.sg/
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