Home' Journeys : Apr May 2015 Contents W hen I told my Singaporean friend that
her home has a reputation for being
boring, she laughed. We both did – boring
was certainly not my experience of this
I know people who say all they saw of
Singapore was concrete, shopping malls,
and rules & regulations. Yes, Singapore
does have rules for everything and it is a
very clean and orderly city but there is so
much more to this city that for many years
has been a gateway to South East Asia.
And its reputation is changing. Singapore,
which is celebrating its golden jubilee, has
been listed by Lonely Planet as one of the
top 10 countries to visit this year and it
recently made the New York Times list of
52 Places To Go in 2015.
I came to Singapore to see gardens and
the brightly coloured shophouses of
Chinatown and Little India – and to eat
street food in between. I checked-in to
the Duxton Hotel, a boutique hotel in a
row of converted Chinese shophouses on
Duxton Road, off Chinatown’s main drag.
The other old shophouses in the area have
been converted to restaurants, bars, art
galleries, boutiques, antique shops and
After my first night in Chinatown, I made
my way to Gardens by the Bay, a 101 hectare
park that opened to the public in 2011.
The most recognisable features of Gardens
by the Bay are the supertrees, vertical
gardens up to 50 metres tall; and the two
domes – the Cloud Forest, which houses
a temperate rainforest and waterfall; and
the Flower Dome. The outdoor gardens
include examples of traditional Chinese,
Malay and Indian gardens.
While the supertrees are the largest
sculptures at the gardens, three horses
made from driftwood run across one end
of the Flower Dome. A wooden eagle keeps
watch and stone birds – owls and parrots –
are found throughout the garden beds. The
entrance to the domes features beautiful
wood carvings of lions, crocodiles and
Buddha. East Timorese totems are a feature
of the Cloud Forest.
Gardens by the Bay, while an artificial
creation, celebrates the beauty of the
natural world and reminds visitors that
we must take care of our planet. As water
tumbles down the outside of the Cloud
Forest mountain, the inside is dedicated to
showing the impact humans have on the
environment and how we can take better
care of it.
The beauty of nature is also on display at
the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The 52
hectare gardens were established in 1859
to test potential cash crops. These days,
the gardens include a four-hectare patch of
the rainforest that once covered the island,
manicured gardens, a herbarium and a
library of archival materials dating back to
the 16th century.
Singapore’s National Orchid Garden is also
located within the Botanic Gardens. Here
you can learn about breeding orchids or
just wander amongst the brightly-coloured,
and sometimes unusual, flowers. There is a
section dedicated to orchids named after
famous people and a cool house for orchids
from cooler climes.
Back in Chinatown at the end of a long
day exploring, I climbed the stairs to the
Tea Chapter where the waiter showed
me to the table where Queen Elizabeth
enjoyed a cuppa in 1989. The tables are
secluded and I took my time sipping my
way through a pot of Five Treasures Tea
(a chrysanthemum blend) and eating a
plate of sweet rice balls.
Food is one of Singapore’s great attractions.
Ever y budget is catered for but street
food is my favourite – it’s cheap (even in
Singapore), fast and the hawker centres
are lively. The Maxwell Food Centre is a
short walk from the Duxton and I returned
several times to try different dishes.
If you’re still not convinced about
Singapore, take a walk through Little India.
It is here that Singapore really shrugs off
its boring reputation. I visited mid-week
which is much quieter than weekends,
when workers from India, Bangladesh and
Sri Lanka fill the streets, but the area is
still a colourful, thriving place to be and
is a world away from the rest of Singapore.
Stalls selling fruit and vegetables and
Indian flower garlands line the streets and
women dressed in bright colours go about
I spent my last night in Singapore catching
up with an old friend from university. She
retur ned home after graduation and we
hadn’t seen each other since. That night, as
we ate street food at Mr Teh Tarik on Onan
Road and wandered through the Geylang
Serai Ramadan Bazaar (where she made
sure I stocked up on some sweet treats to
take home) we couldn’t have been further
from the ‘boring’ Singapore some people
speak of. In fact, I managed to avoid that
For me, Singapore is a city of beautiful
gardens, colourful shophouses and
delicious street food. My biggest mistake
was not staying longer.
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